Monday, August 24, 2015


"There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking."
--Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great

At times the phrase "methinks thou dost protest too much" doesn't even scratch the surface of a person's hypocrisy. At times one's hypocrisy is so massive and throbbing that it drips into the realm of comedic irony: it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. This seems to especially be the case for religious idealists who seek to shove their subjective faith-based morals down the throats of other people, while simultaneously breaking the very moral code to which they wish to force others to ascribe. This is most distressing when shoved down the throats of children.

I have written about evangelical pastor Ted Haggard a few times. For years the Colorado Springs mega-church pastor railed against the "gay agenda" in very public ways, while flaunting the moral superiority of his particular sect of Christianity. His career as a preacher abruptly stopped when it was discovered that he had been regularly meeting with a gay prostitute to engage in gay sex and get high on meth (it was the gay prostitute who exposed Mr. Haggard in order to stop Teddy from further hurting the gay community).

Don't feel too bad for Pastor Ted, however. He went to a Christian counseling facility and through a few weeks of prayer has cured himself of his sinful gayness (surprise!). His wife even wrote a book about how she has forgiven him and their new ministry is stronger than ever (despite being significantly smaller). It seems that god truly does help those who receive direct financial contributions from gulli-believers.

Well, such painful and public irony has reared its ugly head among god's favorite sexually-repressed sect yet again. A few months ago it came to light that Josh Duggar, an "ex-reality TV star" known for TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" and a leading member of the Family Research Council (an anti-gay lobbying group with significant clout among credulous anti-science sheeple), had sexually abused several of his younger female siblings and at least one female friend when he was a teenager. The wake of the scandal nearly caused the network to cancel the show.

His parents, also victims of self-perpetuating sexual-repression, waited over a year to intervene. Their rationale was that they thought it was a phase and that he would stop as he matured. Fine. Honestly, I can't say that I would immediately jump to criminal charges against my own child either. However, the thing which really boils my noodle is that when Josh's parents did decide to intervene they did not go to a licensed therapist or to an accredited treatment facility run by doctors, but to a Christian prayer-based rehabilitation program run by preachers. 

As an aside, the director of this program also fits the category of "sanctimonious hypocrite" since his conviction for child pornography and pedophilia.

Josh has been set up to fail from the start. His parents are part of the "quiver full" movement, which approaches childbearing like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Their take on sex education is that abstinence is not merely the best option, but the only option. Education about reproductive health, contraception, and family planning are all schemes from the devil to thwart god's plan (as if any thwarting of a plan devised by an omnipotent and omniscient being is even possible...). Any mention of STD's should be made only as a scare tactic to encourage abstinence.

Furthermore, one should not engage in any sexual activity until marriage--an ideal most assured through ignorance--and once in a life-bound commitment with someone equally ignorant, one should not use any contraception at all to ensure the most babies possible being born into this lifestyle of perpetuated ignorance.

With all of these cards so neatly stacked against Josh, is it any wonder that, in his ignorance about sex, he acted out sexually?

I heard a podcast a while back where it was mentioned by a social worker or therapist of some kind that in their professional experience there are two types of people who grow up to be sexual aggressors and abusers. The first is victims of abuse. This is fairly self-explanatory. Victims perpetuate a cycle of abuse because this is what they were taught.

The second type of abuser is one which has been sexually repressed and their only reference for sex is the bible. Think about this. Think about the implications of only learning about sex from the bible. King Solomon's sonnets about tower shaped boobs are only the tip of a rather perky biblical ice berg.

Remember the story of Lot? Remember when he threw his virgin daughters to a mob of horny men so they wouldn't rape his angelic guests? Remember when his daughters got him drunk so he would get them pregnant? All of the concubines, the sex slaves, the incest, the virgin girls given to warriors as a prize for conquest, the mosaic laws favoring the rights of rapists over the rights of women--all of it paints a picture of that women are less than men, and that sex is a form of control and a symbol of power.

If this is the only place a young Christian boy learns of sex, his sexual acting out, although reprehensible and scary, becomes understandable. Young boys (and girls, for that matter) who are born in to this unrealistic and repressive lifestyle do not really stand a chance at becoming healthy functioning adults. They are victims.

This is why it is a bittersweet experience for me to learn that Josh Duggar--a leading member of a political organization which seeks to legislate their own warped view of morality on to our children--has been found to have multiple accounts on the Ashley Madison website (a website which allows paying customers to seek out extramarital affairs). On the one hand, I revel in the irony. People like the Duggars have more political power than they deserve and do more harm than good with their anti-science idealism. Their hypocrisy deserves to be exposed, if for no other reason than to sap them of their influence.

On the other hand, Josh is a victim of circumstance. He had no choice but become a pretentious hypocritical sexually confused bigot. He was given no proper education about his sexuality and had no sexual outlets. When his hormones began to rage and he had no healthy way to process or contextualize his budding libido--not to mention the changes happening to his sisters and female friends--he lashed out in his confusion. I honestly think that he had no idea what he was doing.

But he is an adult now. He should know better. He should have been educated and sent to a therapeutic facility to learn how to manage his sexual urges appropriately, but his parents failed him. He is now lobbying against the rights of others because he was mistakenly taught by his ultra-conservative politician father that this is behavior becoming of a decent person.

And to think that Josh's parents are now in the process of pitching a new cash-cow TV show to "The Learning Channel" in which they, the creators of the monstrous hypocritical mess of a man that is Josh Duggar, will advise others on matters of sex and relationships. I have no punch line. These people terrify me. My only solace is that TLC has not accepted their offer. 

FSM help us. 


Roy Zimmerman singing about Ted Haggard:

Friday, August 21, 2015


"In March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being "a disorderly person and an impostor." That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith,
who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad golddigging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or "necromantic" powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the "Book of Mormon."
--Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great

Remember that one time when the Mormon Church apologized for excommunicating church historians who exposed various unflattering aspects of the church's history? Remember that other time when the church admitted that Joseph Smith married underage teenage girls by threatening them with the eternal damnation of their entire families, and that he shipped off men to the other side of the world so he could steal their wives? Remember the time the Mormon Church admitted--finally--that the reason they bought the fake historical document "The Salamander Letter" (wherein Joseph claimed that the angel Moroni appeared to him in the form of a salamander) is because there exist legitimate historical documents detailing Joseph's claim that the angel Moroni appeared to him in the form of a toad?

Yeah, me neither...

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I heard that the Mormon Church would be releasing a photo of the fabled "seer stone" which Joseph tried and failed to use to find buried treasure and claimed to use to "translate" the gold plates.

I first heard about this magic rock while on a two-year Mormon mission. I didn't believe it. I thought it was a hoax. The other missionary assured me that their seminary teacher knew for a fact that stone existed, but I could see no reason to believe it. It was one of my first moments of religious skepticism.

Traditionally Mormons have taught that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim (small clear stones attached to a breastplate, often described as primitive glasses, which is yet another example of technology of Joseph's day bleeding into his version of the ancient world) to translate his mystical plates.

For over a century the scene has always been described in church meetings and in published paintings and drawings as Joseph sitting at a table looking through the Urim and Thummim reading the gold plates word for word (the idea was that the reformed Egyptian on the plates would appear in English when looked upon through these magical spectacles). A cloth partition separated Joseph from his scribe (a position filled by various people who had a vested interest in the success of the Book of Mormon) so that they could not see the plates, which Joseph was quick to remind them was coupled with a curse: should they look on the plates without god's permission, they will surely die and go to hell. Considering the credulous culture in which Joseph's scribes lived, it is no wonder that none of them ever saw the plates with out a cloth cover (with the exception of 3 of Joseph's most superstitious patsies, none of which were qualified to verify the authenticity of the record). To a thinking person, this is a gigantic red flag.

With the admission of the existence of the magic treasure seeking stone comes a whole new story about the translation process. Joseph would put the stone in a hat (to block out light) and read the illuminated words on the stone. Ya know, like a magical iPad. Often the gold plates were not in the same room as Joseph. In other words, it turns out the scene of Joseph Smith doing this folk magic in South Park's episode "All About Mormons"--a scene which many Mormons dismissed out of hand as a preposterous, slanderous and "anti-Mormon"--was correct!

One of the more concerning aspects of this admission is that the Church has had this stone for at least several decades, and yet, until now they have done nothing to correct the misconception--which they helped to create--that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates directly. Apparently, all the ancient artifacts which Moroni carefully preserved and then directed Joseph to, were not even necessary for Joseph to translate the plates!

On the other hand, now that the seer stone is public and the top 15 leaders of the Church claim to be seers, we now have an opportunity for them to put their claim to the test! You see, one of Joseph's more gullible scribes, Martin Harris, was tasked to a take a scrap of paper with some of the characters from the gold plates to a linguist, Dr. Charles Anthon, to verify that the language was authentic. The story goes that Dr. Anthon wrote a certificate of authenticity for the paper, but upon learning of the supernatural origins of the paper, he torn up the certificate and demanded to see the gold plates himself.

For over a century Mormons have claimed that this story proves that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient record, while critics have claimed the opposite. Well, here is the test. Give the seer stone--the same one Joseph used--to one of the Mormon leaders and have them translate the paper given to Dr. Anthon (which according to his account, is nothing short of gibberish). Once we have the characters decoded, which would have a chapter and verse citation for comparison, we can finally understand reformed Egyptian (the language which Joseph claimed to be on the gold plates, and which modern linguists claim is not a real language).

This kind of linguistic support would surely bolster the claim that the Book of Mormon is an authentic historical record. The fact that the Church has had the characters from the Book of Mormon, several men who claim to be "seers," and a seer stone for at least several decades and no one has done this test reveals quite a bit to me about the Church's confidence in their bald assertions.

This appears to be an attempt by the Church to distance themselves from the hokey folk magic Joseph practiced. Unable to bury the connection between the origins of their religion with superstition and crude magic which educated people generally dismiss as ignorant--in large part due to the advent of the internet--the Church is now being forced to face their history. Of course, now some Mormons are claiming to have been forthcoming on the subject of magic rocks all along.


Flackerman discusses the Church's history on the seer stone (among other things):

South Park explaining the translation process of the Book of Mormon: