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    • God As Idea, By Eric Anderson
      I woke up last night feeling like I was suffocating, because in my dream I was. It began in a church, or an old university lecture hall. Antique. And everyone in attendance was being asked to say little prayers honoring Jesus. Everyone was reciting little prayers that are common among the devout. But when it was my turn, I stood and exclaimed: Jesus was a ph […]
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Multiplying and Numbers

In the last couple of days, I get the distinct impression that I’m talking to myself.  But that’s Ok because what I’m actually trying to do is figure out what makes the religious right tick.  You’d think I’d already know this, having some personal familiarity with the religious right.  But although the fundamentalist believer has a strong need for certainty, absolutes and authority, I think the visibility and ferocity of the fundamentalist religions in America is a like a bubble or the tulip trade.  Back in the 60s and 70s, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ penchant for ultra conservative religious views and eschatological narratives was considered really weird.  Now, a fundamentalist Christian could walk into any Kingdom Hall and feel perfectly comfortable there.  What caused the change?

It’s clear that politics had something to do with it.  But the left has previously looked at the unholy alliance of church and state as if the Republicans were hoodwinking the religious and that the religious voter is a useful idiot.  And it’s not like we don’t know what the Dominionists have been doing lately.  There really are a lot of them having oodles of kids and homeschooling them.  But there’s something even more weirdly eugenic about the Republican-Dominionist alliance.  Take a look a these two videos from Colin and Nancy Campbell.  Well, watch as much as you can stomach.  The important part of the first video comes at about the 2:15 minute mark.  The Campbells are dominionist evangelicals and run an evangelical ministry business called Above Rubies.

And this one is an interview with Nancy Campbell relating how they’re going to carry out this mission:

Nancy’s logical inconsistencies are obvious, which makes the Above Rubies vision all that more fascinating.  Nancy says that the prime directive from God is to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what man and woman were put on the earth to do.  They’re supposed to fill the earth and subdue it.  But then she talks about Muslim women having more children than American women and she makes it sound like a bad thing.  Wait!  How can that be a bad thing?  Aren’t Muslims just practicing another Abrahamic religion?  Don’t they believe the same creation story as told in Genesis?  And if that’s the case, aren’t Muslims also following the prime directive and are being fruitful and multiplying?  They’re just doing what Nancy says is The. Most. Important. Commandment. In. The. Bible.  As Nancy points out, that commandment was never rescinded.  So, Muslims should be commended for doing such a good job.  Obviously, Nancy is no friend of Muslims.  But that’s not the whole of the problem.

But let’s get back to the big deal Nancy makes about Americans not keeping up with the Muslims.  She makes it sound like we’re being overrun with Muslims in America.  But that’s simply not true.  There aren’t that many Muslims in America.  This very recent report says that Muslims in America increased by 30% over the past decade.  That sounds like a lot but it’s not really that much when you only started off with 0.6% or less than 2 million believers.  That’s tiny in a country with 311,519,917 people.  Oh, sure, a few radicals can cause a lot of damage but when it comes to radical nutcases in this country, it’s far more likely that the next deadly nutcases are going to come from the Christian side.  The numbers are just on their side, even without fundamentalist infant agriculturalists.  In any case, even if Muslims kept increasing at 30% every 10 years, it’s still going to be a very, very long time before they catch up with Christians and in the meantime, the Christians can get all evangelical and convert them, or just let nature take its course and they’ll become non-believers.  What is Nancy so worked up about??  She makes it sound like it’s going to happen tomorrow.

And that’s where we go back to the first video.  Colin expresses the concern that pretty soon there won’t be enough godly Christians with “character” and that they won’t be able to elect the people they need. (Note the frequent use of the words “character”and “self-control”.  They mean something very specific here and they are used repeatedly in the Duggar episodes and by the Campbells and another Quiverfull couple, the Pearls.) That’s what they are so concerned about.  And it can’t be the Muslims that are going to cause this to happen because as we saw above, there just aren’t that many of them to make a dent in the electoral college.  No, Colin is worried about their own declining numbers.  It’s not that these Dominionists are breeding to create a more perfect, godly America.  They’re doing it to create a voting bloc.  And maybe this is acknowledged by the people who are actually in the movement.  But I’m thinking that that’s not made explicit to the families that get sucked into this.  From what I’ve read of the women who got out of the Quiverfull movement, the change to becoming full time infant agriculturalists happens so gradually they’re not really aware of it.  The messaging they are getting is all about God, how sinful they are, how obedient they must be, what slackers they are if they’re not filling the earth.

So, in many respects, the Quiverfull/Dominionist and basic ultra conservative religious fundamentalism that admirers are hanging onto is just another form of a business/high control group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  A whole population is harnessed to achieve the secular goals of the small group at the top  but these secular goals of the small group are never explicitly spelled out to the rank and file.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is really just a book publishing company that has a religion slapped onto it.  The religion is used to guilt believers into selling books.  And high control group tactics are used to virtually enslave the believers into this task.  Families are held hostage so that no one tries to leave without a great deal of personal pain.  Similarly, the Quiverfull/Dominionists are using high control group tactics to make sure these families are producing voters.  I’m going to sideswipe Godwin’s Law here and suggest that this sounds an awful lot like Kinder, Kuche, and Kirche of early 20th century Germany that was later adopted by the Third Reich.  Christian patriarchy preaches the same thing.  But in this case, it appears that the conservatives, and by this I mean the politicians, are exploiting what has always been a feature of Christian fundamentalism and now, they’re turning it up to 11.  Or 19.  Or whatever the uterus will bear.

Are the Duggars in on this?  Yeah, probably.  I noticed that Jim-Bob Duggar never fails to mention Jim Sammons’ financial freedom seminars in every episode.  They frequently mention ATI, which is some hyper Dominionist institute started by Bill Gothard.  I don’t know much about this guy but what I’ve read reminds me a lot of the Watchtower Society.  Lots of programs to buy, lots of seminars to attend, lots of money to spend on ATI approved materials and homeschool curriculum.  The Duggars are the walking, talking, breeding advertisements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a financial arrangement with ATI.

But more importantly, the Campbells are in on it.  They think it is vitally important to breed new Christian voters.  It’s imperative.  The future depends on it.  If it were simply a matter of letting God be the master and putting faith only in his kingdom and government, they wouldn’t care about voting.  A true Christian fundamentalist would just put it in God’s hands and fill the earth until it reached some kind of Christian utopia all on its own.  Then, there would be no need for government.  But the Campbells are not putting their faith in God to take care of things.  They’ve decided to create an army of voters who will do what, exactly?

I can see why Nancy Campbell would have a certain appeal to the senior social conservative.  She’s intense.  She reminds me of Kathryn Kuhlman, remember her? She could experience religious ecstasy over a ham sandwich. Nancy has the flaming red hair and has mastered Kuhlman’s style to the point where it’s unnatural.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence.  And she taps into the psyche of women who have a certain ambivalence about motherhood. She is emotionally manipulating them to turn that ambivalence into certainty about the fulfillment of motherhood.  That’s unfair to the target of this manipulation who shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling trapped by or being cut out for the responsibilities of parenthood.  In Campbell’s world, your personal feelings are unimportant.  In fact, you should feel guilty for having them.  But children will know whether you’re sincere or just trying to choke it down to get God’s approval.

The Campbell’s vision is one of blissful family dinners, fulfilled mothers and protective fathers.  It’s the Quiverfull’s version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World where lions and children play together and sex is something that ungendered stay at home daughters do not even think about.  It would be pointless to tell these people that it’s unrealistic.  It’s what they want more than anything else in the world.  It’s what they want more than the world itself.  And the Campbells are going to use that unquenchable thirst for purity and hand it over to politicians.

None of this is necessarily new information but it is fascinating to see where it’s all coming from.  It’s also fascinating to me that there are so many people who keep falling for the same shtick in different disguises.  They’re going to be disappointed again.

Reason Resources

Freethinking is rising.  I’m sure that the right wing is already aware of this but maybe the left isn’t yet.  In the past couple of weeks I have been astonished at the sheer number of websites, podcasts, authors and youtubers who have come out of the closet as atheists, agnostics, panentheists, freethinkers, pastafarians, etc.

Now, I’m not here to convert anyone.  In fact, you believers of mainstream churches like the Presbyterians, liberal Catholics, liberal Christians, Methodists, Quakers, reformed and conservative Judaism etc can relax.  I think you guys have your heads on straight and there’s no reason to change, that I can see.

But woe to you more conservative and fundamentalist sects.  You guys are in big trouble.  Because the most vociferous, adamant and irreverent new atheists seem to come from your side of the Judeo Christian tradition.  You might have taken away a lot of the mainstream believers in recent decades but it’s my sense that those the mainstream churches retain are theirs for a lifetime.  *Your* people reach a breaking point, usually right about the time when they’re deeply involved in the strict lifestyle they’ve been forced to lead.  They go beyond what is considered humanly possible to be the perfect Christian.  And then, it’s usually one conversation or one thing that they read that pricks their curiosity that leads to a complete unravelling.  In that unravelling, they shoot right on past mainstream Christianity and wind up rejecting the whole damn thing, church, bible and god.

Some of the podcasts I have been listening to feature quite a number of pastors of fundamentalist Christian sects.  After awhile, the pastors didn’t find joy in damning people each week for all too human faults.  They questioned and they researched and they rejected.

The reason I think it is important to follow this trend is because it may explain why the right has been so rabidly hysterical about “religious liberty” this year.  There are still a lot of believers in the US, indeed, they are going to outnumber freethinkers for a while.  But the rapid growth of the freethinking movement, especially when lead in some cases by the very people who used to be deep into Christian fundamentalism, must have them very, very nervous.  The apostate has their number.  He or she knows just what makes these churches tick and after their research can refute their arguments with devastating precision.  And the numbers of deconverters may start to impact the politics of the right wing tribe as well.  If you are in organized religion and you hitched your wagon to the right wing movement conservatism, you know that your days are limited.  Likewise, the right wing political arm knows that there will be a tipping point where they won’t be able to marshall the fundamentalist christians to do their bidding because there won’t be enough of them.

It’s not just the impending mortality of their senior base that has the right wing worried.  It’s the rapid rise of the freethinkers, and those people who cut the cord with television and their churches, and who are finding each other on the web.  Last night, I tuned into The Thinking Atheist podcast and found that Seth had thousands of active listeners, waiting to be patched in to talk to him.  Over and over again, they thank him for letting them know that they’re not alone and that there are many others like them having the courage to deconvert and unbaptise themselves.  Almost all of them have a thorough knowledge of the bible and are appalled by what they find in it.  Forget Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, the evangelicals and fundamentalists  should be scared to death of regular average people who used to be in their churches.

I could be wrong but it feels like a backlash against fundamentalist christianity.  These people don’t hate God.  They don’t believe in him so there’s nothing to hate.  But they sure don’t like the way they were raised or the lives they were forced to live.  And they are no longer afraid to speak up.  Before the internet, these people would have been outcasts and loners, disinherited by their friends and families and used as an example by the religious as what will happen to people who don’t toe the line.  But with this recent explosion on the web, these people are finding out that there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re normal and there are many people who are going through the same thing and want to get together and talk about it.

The trajectory of the freethinker movement may be different here in the US than it is in Europe.  In Europe, it may be no big deal because freethinkers are a significant population.  But European culture is structured differently as well.  There is more interdependence, more public squares and meeting places.  You don’t have to make too much of an effort to find people to talk to and form a sense of comaraderie.  Here, with the American emphasis on rugged individualism and community through faith, coupled with suburbanization where everyone around you is a cookie cutter of everyone else, it has been a lot harder to be the first one on your block to be an atheist and still have a social life.  I’m going to predict that freethought will take on a more organized flavor in the US.  It will have to be if the numbers keep increasing and freethinkers get increasingly disgusted with being second class citizens to the religious.

While I’m still collecting data, I’ll keep my other thoughts to myself.  There are definitely some emerging trends that should keep the political operatives up at night.  I have no idea how they’re going to spin or try to disrupt The Reason Rally coming up on March 24, 2012 but I have no doubt that they’ve got plans to either media black it out, mute it or are currently data mining and formulating talking points to minimize its impact.  But this genie is out of the bottle.  The non-believers are finding their voice.

Here are some places where you can hear them:

The Thinking Atheist : Seth, the son of two evangelical theologians, takes your deconversion stories and provides a sympathetic ear

Living After Faith : Former Pentacostal pastor Rich Lyons and his wife Deanna discuss deconversion to atheism with other former evangelicals and fundamentalists

No Longer Quivering : Ever want to know what’s like to try to live like Michelle Duggar?  Vyckie Garrison and her former baby farmer friends tell the truth about Quiverful.

Evid3nc3: This youtuber documents his deconversion from devout Christian to atheism in well produced, thoroughly researched and compelling videos.

CStheApostate: What happens when you try to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses and find out you can’t take your family with you?  Phineas explains it all.  (His first Thanksgiving video will make you cry)

The Out Campaign: Encouraging atheists to come out of the closet.  It must be working.  BTW, one of our blogroll favorites, Blue Lyon, is out as an atheist.  She has the scarlet letter symbol on her sidebar.  Something to look for if you’re into looking for such things.  I’m not quite there but would consider myself in the freethinker camp and their symbol is a pansy: