Thursday, September 4, 2014

R.I.P. Joan Rivers

It's official: Joan Rivers has died. (Obit in the NYT here)

I learned the word "afterbirth" from Joan Rivers. ("After I was born the afterbirth came out and the doctor said Twins!") From her, I learned that a woman could be funny and headstrong and still be a woman. I learned that you could break a taboo without setting something on fire. Yet nothing was sacred, and you could set fire to words. I loved that irreverence.

Irreverance ... in a woman??? Yes! When all of us women had to decide between being docile Barbie Dolls or ballsy feminists, Joan Rivers offered us another route: She was a ballsy Barbie Doll!

I wear pink. I love pink. I fuss over my hair. I have too many shoes. Yet I'm nobody's fool (I hope), and I stand my ground in a most un-feminine way when the situation requires it. Even my atheism charts that course between docile believer and feminist social justice crusader. Or maybe it's that we have both lived in Brooklyn. You can't live in Brooklyn and be a doormat. It's just not possible. I brought some of my Brooklyn with me to the Midwest, where people still expect women to be doormats. I never say those things out loud that Joan said for me, but my inner voice sounds a lot like hers when it says "Up Yours."

Yes, Joan's gone, but her legacy lives on.

Here's a classic interview on the Tonight Show:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Is it Immoral to have a Baby with Downs Syndrome?

This is the question that is going around the internet thanks to Richard Dawkins' latest twitstorm:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-on-babies-with-down-syndrome-abort-it-and-try-again-it-would-be-immoral-to-bring-it-into-the-world-9681549.html

Once again his flippant responses on Twitter have gotten an outsized amount of attention.  His claim: it's immoral to bring a Down Syndrome child into the world, so abort it and try again.  I agree with him (though I still disagree about the wisdom of discussing morality on twitter)

But... I'd like to use it as an example of how his earlier twitstorm over quantification of moral wrongness should be handled.  Is it more wrong to abort because of a genetic defect than for another reason?  In my opinion it's never wrong for any reason, (though India is now feeling the effects of the higher numbers of aborted female fetuses than male fetuses -- making it stupid rather than wrong)

Down Syndrome, a.k.a Trisomy 21, has been declining since abortion was legalized.  An extra copy of all or part of chromosome 21, causes all kinds of havoc in the affected body, including the brain.  It is more common when the parents are over 30, and since more parents delay childbearing, the decline of the condition indicates quite a few of them are choosing abortion.

So let's establish our sliding scale of moral rightness or wrongness:

One one side:  Abortion ewww  or My Down Syndrome child is a blessing and I love him/her

On the other side:  Down Syndrome children suffer so why bring them into the world? or I can't deal with a disabled child so I'd abort to prevent having a child that I would have to give up for adoption or would be a terrible failure as a parent

Let's eliminate "Abortion ewwww" because it's not rational.  Abortions don't cause suffering to the fetus, and the stain of original sin from Eve means they are not innocent.  Mere repugnance, which is in my opinion the true root of anti-abortion sentiment, is not a basis for a rational judgment.

Let's also eliminate "I can't deal with a disabled child" because that person shouldn't have a child at all.  In essence, an infant is disabled.  When they're first born all they can do is cry and shit and sometimes they have to be taught to eat.  (Okay, yes they can also pee and breathe...)  If someone can't deal with a disabled child they can't deal with a healthy child in infancy and they can't deal with that healthy child after it breaks its neck on the playground and becomes a quadraplegic.  That person should not be a parent for any reason whatsoever anyway.   At the very least they should do some volunteer work to see if they can rise to the occasion before jumping into it.

That leaves the question of whether the suffering the Down Syndrome child experiences is so extreme that fetal euthanasia is the more humane choice even for people who don't like abortion, or whether the child has a sufficiently rewarding life for it to be worth living.

There are other genetic diseases that can be diagnosed in utero, so the morality of abortion in those cases could be determined based on the same questions.

First, the question of suffering in the abortion itself:  does a fetus have a right not to suffer?   Since they can't really "suffer", the point is moot.  Abortion does not cause suffering except to the woman who may have some physical side-effects.... but these side effects are negligible compared to the side effects of pregnancy so that's also moot.

To what extent does the Down Syndrome person, their parents, their family and community suffer?  Are they a drag on those around them?

Besides the obvious facial features and intellectual disability, they do suffer medically.  Their organization's FAQs downplay these, as if the ability to treat heart conditions, leukemia and breathing problems obviates the question of life expectancy, but what quality of life is that?  Assuming they survive their multiple hospitalizations and have parents who are willing and able to play nurse at home, they can now live a normal lifespan.

This means that they will outlive their parents, who play a huge role in enabling them to have a somewhat normal life.  So ... the great news is that instead of suffering young and dying young, they now suffer young and die old.  In the meantime, they can sometimes experience joy of a sort, but who takes care of them after their parents die?   If the parents' funds haven't been sapped by the child's needs, there may be a trust fund ... that other siblings can kiss goodbye.  Or society cares for them.  Even if they can support themselves financially by working a menial job (as most who work do), they will still need help with life skills.

The DS organization has a series called "Great Story of the Week."  Most of the "great" stories are written by parents, and of course the parents are sure they've done the right thing by having that child.  This is classic cognitive dissonance -- I have invested a helluva lot into this child so it can't have been a mistake!   The organization itself has cognitive dissonance, or else it would also have a series called "Horrific story of the week."

There is a meme amongst parents of disabled children:  that the child brings them so much joy.  *barf*   This is downright selfish.  This gives the child a job in life beyond just learning how to tie his shoes.  He has to make his parents happy, too!  He's a hero!  With a helluva burden!  Here's a snippet of one "great" story:
I was walking across the yard today with Seth.  We were strolling more than walking as he had wrapped his arm around my waist, and was looking at me as if to say "this is nice."  I asked Seth, "Did you have a good day?"  I know he can't answer me with words.  So much of what Seth and I say to each other does not happen verbally.  We have a connection that transcends speech.  
I have this same kind of relationship with my dog.  Where is the humanity in this exchange, not to mention the morality?  You can believe your mute kid is "saying" anything to you.  It reminds me of Teri Schiavo's desperate mother imagining that the random movements of her brain-dead daughter's eyes actually meant something.  I don't have anything against people with Down syndrome - they do the best they can, but this kind of treacle does not help their cause.

Even if this mom is right about what her kid is feeling, her boastful final statement proves that the relationship is self-serving:
I owe so much to this child.  I am often told how lucky Seth is to have us.  I always reply with something like "We're the lucky ones."  ... Life is much more beautiful when I slow down and look at it with Seth.  I am so grateful that Seth has taught me to walk slowly.
Walking a chihuahua will do that for you too.  Why is this woman praising herself or her kid?  She only values walking slowly because she doesn't have to.  At one point she says her son walks slowly "probably because of his physical limitations."   She can rush through the grocery aisles at the last minute to get ready for a party if she has to.  Seth can't.  Seth will probably never have that choice, even if he develops the intellectual capacity to plan a party.

"Seth" can't tell us what he'd like in life.  Would he like to walk faster and not have to hold onto his mom for balance?   I bet he would.  Would he like to have a career in the future in something more financially rewarding than menial labor (assuming he can even do that).  Probably.  If he understands the concept.

Imagine "Seth" at age 50, still unable to walk normally, but now with arthritis from joints moving the wrong way, and no mummy to hold onto.   He has a very tiny 401k from his job sweeping the supermarket floor.  He tries to be the smiling happy retard he was as a child, but he is in pain and he's not in the mood for the happy face.  Making other people happy gets old after awhile.

I have known adults who developed debilitating physical and mental (which are really physical but I digress...)  limitations in adulthood.  Having known both conditions, they don't like their new circumstances one little bit.  They will hang onto normalcy with their fingertips, but not because they're heroes.  They do normal things because they want to be normal!   If they complete a triathlon by having a family member push them in a wheelchair the whole way (it recently happened in Indiana) are they doing it to teach us a lesson in perseverance?  No!  They just don't want to give up the trappings of a normal life.  Who would?

Suffering in others should be part of our moral equation, too.  What if there is already a disabled child in the family?  What if there's a disabled parent?  What if both parents have to work to sustain the family and they won't have time to give the child extra help learning?  Not to mention taking time off if the kid develops leukemia or needs open-heart surgery.  What about siblings?  The disabled child(ren) rob them of their parents' attention.  You never hear about these kids resenting their circumstances -- naturally they love their siblings -- but it's undeniable that they are neglected.

If we ever get to the point of allowing assisted self-euthanasia (a.k.a. suicide), it will probably still be illegal to help someone who lacks the intellectual capacity to understand it.  The average IQ of a person with Down syndrome is 50 (average for normal people is 100).  The definition of mentally disabled is an IQ of 70 or lower.  You can teach sign language to an ape, but apparently "Seth" can't learn it.  Chimps are smarter than kindergartners, but is Seth?  Could he be trusted to make a life-or-death decision for himself when his body breaks down at 50 or 60?  If he's below the average for Down syndrome definitely not.  Who decides that?  They are probably just as likely as anyone else to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.  They will think they're more competent than they are.

On the other side, adults with Down syndrome can be happy.  According to the Down Syndrome organization, they can also develop depression.  Just like anyone else, you can't predict who will be afflicted but for them it's just one more burden in a life that's already difficult.

So the gray area gets a bit grayer -- does one abort a fetus that will never be smarter than a chimp but let one with a lesser disorder come to term?   The amount of DNA damage can now be determined via amniocentesis.  If you can tell whether you're carrying a Seth or a high-functioning Chris Burke where would you draw the line?

This is why Dawkins has been getting crap from the Twitterverse.  Some people with Down Syndrome can manage relatively normal intellectual and emotional lives.  These above-average examples are used to shame people who envision a less bright future for their fetus.

Just once I would like to hear the parent of a disabled child say "I wish I had my child's disability."  They never do.  Deep down they know it's an unfair fact of life for their child and they wish it had been otherwise.

This brings us to another recent news item:  Robin Williams's self-euthanasia, a.k.a. suicide.  He was depressed, but he wasn't stupid.  His diagnosis of Parkinson's disease had to have been a huge blow, and he may have known people with the disease.  Most of us do.   After decades of a career based on quick-thinking did he see the disease take that away from him?  Did he fear losing that ability?   Did he decide to make a rational decision before dementia took even that away from him?  I was sad for him until I learned of his Parkinson's diagnosis.  He chose his time and place and he wanted to "leave them laughing."  Good for him!  If he didn't want people to see him as a cripple that was his choice.   If he didn't want to be a hero, that's okay.  Let Michael J Fox keep that title.   He may have responded to medication for depression and continued on with life for whatever years Parkinson's would give him, or he may not have.

Self-euthanasia is often considered a selfish act by those around the person who does it.  I lost one friend that way and I was very angry with her for a good while, but it was her life.  She didn't have to live it for the sake of other people if she didn't want to.  In another case, an elderly acquaintance (who was an atheist) took matters into her own hands when the pain of arthritis and osteoporosis became unbearable and untreatable.  She had all of her faculties, and made her choice, acting alone because our society is too backward to let her pick her time openly.

How often have we heard "When you have your health you have everything?"  Is the corollary that when you don't have your health you have nothing?  How can society send the message that health is important and then try to shame someone like Dawkins for advising termination of an unhealthy fetus?

My judgment on the continuum:  if you can prevent suffering, and especially if you can prevent suffering while the issues are simpler, then you should do it.  Robin Williams made his decision while he still had the mental and physical faculties to carry it out.  And in the case of fetal euthanasia, more suffering is prevented than created.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's Talk About Morality

The latest atheist community dust-up pits Richard Dawkins against a bunch of people who take exception to something he said about sex crimes.  He tried to clear it up on Twitter, which of course reaches only the people least likely to give serious thought to a subject.  If a person can't be bothered reading more than 140 characters, how thoughtful can s/he be?  (Remember, the first four letters of twitter spell "twit.") Then he tried to clear it up on his blog.

The essential facts:  He broached the topic of taboos in atheism then proposed a hypothetical discussion of two hot-button sexual topics: pedophilia and rape.  As if to prove his point and disprove it at the same time, the interwebs blew up in a hot second.  Here are the tweets that are being tweeted around the world:


He disproved his point when a jillion people (I wouldn't know - I don't follow twitter, tweets, twits, or interweb dust-ups closely enough to count) discussed pedophilia and rape, and why he was wrong to say those things.  With so much discussion, I think it's safe to say that those topics are not "taboo."   He proved his point that emotion rules the discussion, though.

Well, of course it does.  Sex is highly emotional, highly personal, and sexual offenses are attacks on basic human dignity.

Unfortunately instead of engaging in a rational discussion -- which is what he presumably wanted to do -- he has insulted the people who took issue with his examples.  This just fuels the fire against him and changes the topic.  It's trollish behavior, at the least.

On his blog he summed it up perfectly:  "I didn’t know quite how deeply those two sensitive issues had infiltrated the taboo zone"  Well, those are clearly not taboo or else nobody would have responded, and I'm surprised if he's surprised.  He followed up with his implicit definition of taboo as "off limits to reason and logic."  

He digs himself deeper here:
That, then, is why I chose rape and pedophilia for my hypothetical examples. I think rationalists should be free to discuss spectrums of nastiness, even if only to reject them. I had noticed indications that rape and pedophilia had moved out of the discussion zone into a no-go taboo area. I wanted to challenge the taboo, just as I want to challenge all taboos against free discussion.
Nothing should be off limits to discussion. No, let me amend that. If you think some things should be off limits, let’s sit down together and discuss that proposition itself.
I would love to discuss these things rationally.  Unfortunately Dawkins didn't set the tone for rationality.  He was accusatory, and mistook emotional response for irrational censorship.  In his follow-up blog post he mentions his revelation of an incident from his childhood.  Digging himself deeper, he sets up a straw man, and then suggests that "We need to look more carefully at exactly who is belittling what."

Well, let's not belittle anyone or anything.  Let's start fresh and be rational.  In a rational discussion of sex crimes or other "taboo" topics, there should be some elements of rational discussion, such as:
  • Definition of Terms
  • Definition of Goals
  • Research Findings about the Topic
  • Quotes from the World's Most Well-Respected Thinkers
  • A Few Proposed Solutions
  • Testing of the Solutions (with thought experiments)
  • Discussion of Results
  • Rational Decision of Best Conclusion
You can't do that in a tweet, or even a series of tweets.

Dawkins's proposed quantification (?) of the badness of sex crimes is only one way to come to a conclusion about sexual morality.  It's not even an original way, because the court systems of every country have done this.  Even sharia law has done this, in its perverted way.  The fact that they all disagree means it's fertile ground for discussion, but coming to an agreement will take a long, long time and requires open mindedness on all sides, including his.

In the old days of the Internet Infidels Discussion Board (iidb), there was a section devoted to "Moral Foundations and Principles" and I was one of the moderators.   I wasn't personally interested in the discussions about pedophilia (we had few discussions about rape or other sex acts) but I kept an eye on them.  So yes, I can say unequivocally that atheists can discuss difficult topics rationally because I have seen it happen.  For what it's worth, these were the foundations and principles that a rational person would bring up:

  • What should be the basis for judging morality of a sex act?  The consensus was that consent was an imperative.  Any sex act that was not consensual for both parties is immoral.
  • How does one determine consent?  The consensus was predictable:  adult, not mentally compromised
  • How old should someone be to consent?  There was no consensus here thanks to pedophile trolls, but there isn't any consensus in the world, either.  The trolls tried to make the case that because some children & teens are more mature they should be considered able to consent, just as some "retarded" people, i.e. people who mature more slowly, shouldn't be able to.  How do you test such a thing?  Well, my personal view is that someone who appears to be mature for his/her age is actually still maturing.  The pre-frontal cortex is not fully formed until about age 25.  A person who has a genius intellect at age 12 may still be socially and psychologically underdeveloped.  et cetera.  They are like a hamburger that's been browned in a fry pan before being put into the oven: still raw on the inside and should stay in the oven for awhile.
  • What about painful or injurious sex between consenting, mentally capable, adults?  That didn't come up much but I would question the mental competence of someone who would permit themselves to be hurt during sex or at any other time.
  • Are there exceptions to these "rules?"  What about necrophilia?  A dead person can't consent, but they don't really "own" their bodies and they won't suffer any repercussions.  My personal opinion is that the family generally owns the person's body, unless other arrangements have been made.  It could also be injurious to the person doing it, though I admit that I have not had the curiosity to investigate the details.
Dawkins wanted to create gradations of "wrongness" but he didn't offer much in the way of specifics, nor suggest the potential consequences (such as differences in sentencing).  One of the big problems with the penal system is inconsistency in the way crimes are handled:
  • Some miscreants don't get caught  
  • Their crimes are noticed but go unreported
  • They confess to someone who covers for them
  • Their crime is reported but the police and the victim don't pursue it
  • Charges are filed and then dropped
  • They are found innocent or found guilty of a lesser charge
  • They get released on a technicality, escape. or otherwise get out of jail
  • They commit their crime in a jurisdiction that doesn't consider it a crime
There is a large body of literature on criminal justice, and I haven't read much of it.  Neither has Dawkins, I would guess.  From cases I've followed, it seems that the theoretical underpinnings that create something like gradations of "badness" have to do with intention of the perpetrator and consequences suffered by the victim.  Sometimes there is also the factor of number of offenses together. I think the dichotomy that seems to offend Dawkins, in which all rape is rape and all pedophilia is pedophilia, is appropriate, based on the principles that I listed above.  If someone has not consented to penetration, penetration is a crime (or any other sex act).  "No" means "no."  Likewise, if you drive the wrong way on a one-way road it's the wrong way whether the speed limit is 30 or 60, or whether there are children in the vicinity, etc.  A cop has discretion whether to issue a ticket or a warning, based on whether the driver is white rational principles (we hope).  But the wrongness of driving the wrong way is not in dispute.  What might be in dispute would be the extent to which we are morally repulsed:  someone whose wrong-way driving results in a car wreck would be charged with a felony, while someone who happened to drive on the wrong way on a street with only a cop car on it might just get a ticket.  The crimes are the same, but the results are vastly different.

For an opposite take on gradations of badness, Atheist vlogger Joe Dixon, who is black, argues against hate crime laws in his stand-up act:  He points out that John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln because he hated him.  Selena was killed by a fan because she loved her.  Which one is more dead?  Dead is dead.

Theft is one crime that I think has been graduated in the wrong ways and would make for a much more fruitful discussion.  It's a felony if you hold someone up at knifepoint on the street and rob them of $20.00.  The perpetrator may spend decades in a harsh prison, and in many states will be disenfranchised of his (or her) right to vote for life.   But if you steal someone's life savings of $250,000 in a Ponzi scheme, you'll go to club Fed if your lawyer isn't crooked clever enough.  The person who was held up at knifepoint may feel insecure about walking alone at night afterward, but the person who's lost his or her life savings may become homeless or commit suicide.  Bernie Madoff never used a knife or laid a hand on his victims, but he was sentenced to 150 years in prison.  His attorney asked for twelve years!  If he hadn't bilked NYU's Law School, Sandy Koufax and other high-profile investors he might have gotten off easier.   I hope that his case has set a precedent for other "white collar" criminals.

Note that this blog post has more than 140 characters.  I am a fan of brevity in Hemingway, but he couldn't have squeezed even his most brilliant work into a tweet or even a series of them.

If I were to compose a brief question posing a moral conundrum, I would choose two things that are more closely related and ask readers to comment (Have at it, readers!)  My thought experiment is this:

Which is worse, and why?  Raping a victim and then killing him/her?  or Killing him/her and then having sex with the corpse?

********************************

If I haven't bored you with my response to the twitstorm, here are some other responses from around the web (titles/summaries mine):





The Dawkins Disillusion:  young atheist disappointed in Dawkins, whom she admired greatly


Dawkins isn't as logical as he thinks he is

Dawkins is a troll, an ignorant wanker, and a moral coward, and he should be ashamed of himself

Studies show that in the U.K. attitudes toward rape affect victims

Dawkins is using his own experience as a yardstick for judging others' experiences.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Theology of Disproportionate Retribution

There will never be peace in the Middle East until both sides drop their theology of disproportionate retribution.

In the U.S. we have an expression: "The punishment should fit the crime."

Not so in the Bible.  One of the few sermons I remember from church-going days was an explanation of "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" as an attempt to dial back excessive punishment.  Instead of wiping out an entire town for the actions of a few people, that line in the Old Testament urges restraint.

Apparently only Christians have read it, but not many of them.

Even Christians who have read it misunderestimate the punishment.  Just after 9/11 I was talking to a Christian who was fuming with anger at the A-rabs who perpetrated the crime.  He said we should "nuke them all.  An eye for an eye!"  ... as if nuking millions of people was a suitable punishment despite killing millions of innocent people who had nothing to do with the al Qaeda terrorist attacks ... that weren't even launched from the Middle East - they were based in Afghanistan.

Our wonderful president and his "neo" Conservatives apparently felt the same way.  They punished Iraq for the actions of a group of people that secular Saddam Hussein actually had no use for.  The neo-cons had planned ahead of time for this, and then waited for a suitable trigger to set their plan into motion.  They started talking about it on September 12, 2001.

I suspect something similar happened in Israel.  Three teenagers were murdered, and rather than track down the individual(s) who did it, Israel launched an attack on Hamas itself. ... along with the innocent people who are either human shields or collateral damage, depending on your point of view.  The targets were too specific and too sweeping to have been chosen just recently.  This is a well thought-out campaign designed to bring down their (rather horrible) enemy.  The everyday people of Gaza won't blame Hamas for this, though.  They will blame Israel because people who had nothing to do with the murder of those teens are dying by the hundreds, leaving behind relatives with nothing left but their anger.

Most of what I've seen and read misses the point, I think.  The point is that both parties practice disproportionate retribution.  Just like the deity they worship, who supposedly wiped out the entire population with a flood (including innocent children and fetuses), and ordered genocide after commanding his people not to kill, they feel justified taking out their anger on large numbers of innocents.

Israel should not be building settlements so close to Gaza.  Palestinians shouldn't take it out on the residents of those settlements, because they're not the ones who are defying Palestianian sensibilities.  Those settlers could settle elsewhere.

And then when Palestinians take it out on the residents, Israel can't retreat.  That would be a sign of weakness!  They can't move the settlers to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.  They can't not bomb schools if they are being used to house both children and bombs. They can't cave in to the human shield because everyone would start using that tactic!

And Palestinians can't just take the bombing laying down.  There is nowhere for them to run. Egypt won't take them in, because they get too much money and arms from the U.S. in exchange for not waging war on Israel.  Jordan won't take them back because Jordan is not interested in them.  (They screwed them as far back as the 1940s)  Britain won't take them because although their colonization of Palestine is the reason the Palestinians were displaced to make room for post-war Jews, they are joined at the hip to the U.S.  When you can't take flight, you must fight.

And the U.S. can't let any of this change because Christian dominionists believe Israel's renaissance fortells the coming of the Lawd.  As long as Israel exists, the Lawd will come and take them to Paradise (because apparently the Lawd can't change his mind and blow off prophesy and just do what he wants, when he wants to)

And the Christian Lawd's retribution for not believing in him, or in believing in the wrong version of him, or for believing in some other deity, is disproportionate indeed.  A 13-year-old atheist will burn in Hell for eternity for a year or two of apostasy (assuming that children get some break for not being of an age yet).  A sincere believer in Catholicism, or Pentecostalism, or Methodism (take your pick) will burn in Hell for eternity for missing the mark, even though they've lived an ideal life.

If Christian dominionists didn't believe in the Rapture, if Jews didn't believe in a god who regularly ordered them to commit genocide, if Muslims didn't believe in a god who orders girls to marry their rapists, or apostates to be executed, or thieves to have their hands chopped off, then perhaps there might be something resembling peace.

You know, when a crime happens the criminals are punished, in proportion to their crime, and everyone else is left alone.  That's how secular people behave.

You know, morally.

Until then, the Middle East will continue to be the big mess it was as described in the Old Testament, with warring tribes committing genocide because that's what their deities would want.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Today's TED Talk: Muslim vs. Muslim Terrorism

Karima Bennoue is a law professor at the University of California - Davis School of Law and the author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.

In this TED Talk, she speaks about the devastating impact of fundamentalist violence on people who don't share their vision of Islam.  She makes the point that fundamentalisms are dangerous, not just certain ones, and celebrates the courage of those who refuse to be repressed. I think her own successes should also be celebrated.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Well Organized Protection of Pedophiles isn't just a Catholic Thing

I have run across random references to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement, but the word "independent" seems to give the stories of abuse in these churches some kind of pass for the other churches. But people who have been following them have revealed that there is indeed an organization of sorts underpinning their abusive practices, and that the abusive pastors, members and churches are not isolated incidences.

This story called A Christianity to Make Satan Proud at a Christian Patheos blog gives a chilling account of the power that men of this movement wield over women and children, and how they manage to avoid the long arm of the law.

In this post, a letter from a young woman who was sexually abused by her father for years, shows that denial and victim-blaming is endemic in this movement. Here's just one part of her story:

When I started to try to tell the pastor—my pastor—and his wife that my father had been molesting me since I was three or four years old, he stopped me. “Don’t tell me,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it! If you tell me, then I am required to call the police and report this. You don’t want your daddy going to prison over a misunderstanding, do you?”

Misunderstanding????   Children are indoctrinated into believing they can only trust insiders of their church, that all outsiders including others who claim to be Christians, are not to be trusted, and then what happens when they confide in their authority figures?

These horrible people make up about 2.5% of the American population.  There are probably some near you.

Notable points in her story:
  • Her pedophile father was moved to a different church in another state. Hmmm are they sure they're not Catholic?
     
  • Her grandparents were in collusion with her father and the church, sending her to a re-education camp (not the infamous Hepzibah House but it sounds similar) after she came forward with accusations of sex abuse.
     
  • She was instructed to visit her step-father in prison (there for other offenses) to tell him she forgives him.
     
  • She followed her family tradition of attending Bob Jones University, where denial and victim-blaming were just as institutionalized as in her local church.  BJU is the wellspring of the movement and the university that grants "degrees" to the Bible Church pastors perpetrating abuses around the country.
     
  • Her PTSD nightmares were so bad her dormmates' sleep was disturbed, and yet her accusations were dismissed. (How many people are dishonest in their dreams?)
     
    This isn't an isolated instance at all, just an incredibly well-coordinated suppression of the truth. The TV show "20/20" covered an equally egregious instance, in which a 15-year-old girl was sexually abused by her father and raped by a man in her church.  She was forced to confess in front of the entire congregation, then sent away to have the rapist's baby.... which the church forced her to give up for adoption to a "Christian" family.  They interviewed the pastor, who now works in Indianapolis, and he stuck to his guns.  Incredibly, after the 20/20 episode the creep kept his job! 

  • (God, however, was extremely pissed off and used a bus wreck to kill the pastor's son, daughter-in-law, and her fetus.  Note what they say on their site: "On Saturday, July 27, 2013 at around 4:30 p.m., the Lord allowed a bus accident to take Pastor Chad and Courtney Phelps and their unborn baby (see below) and Mrs. Tonya Weindorf (see below) home to enjoy Him in His presence forever")


    More sites:
    Baptist Deception: articles on the theological problems and abuses of the movement
    Bruce Gensner, a former IFB pastor, on the rise and (hopefully) decline of the IFB movement and on its cultish attributes.
     
    Sheldon, of the Ramblings of Sheldon blog, on the IFB as a guest blogger.  He also has a series on Exposing the IFB.