Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids

From: AlterNet

By: Kristan Rawls

“In recent weeks, homeschooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s homeschooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of homeschooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some homeschooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.

While the practice of homeschooling is new to many people, my own interest in it was sparked nearly 20 years ago. I was a socially awkward adolescent with a chaotic family life, and became close to a conservative Christian homeschooling family that seemed perfect in every way. Through my connection to this family, I was introduced to a whole world of conservative Christian homeschoolers, some of whom we would now consider Quiverfull” families: homeschooling conservatives who eschew any form of family planning and choose instead to “trust God” with matters related to procreation.

Though I fell out of touch with my homeschooled friends as we grew older, a few years ago, I reconnected with a few ex-Quiverfull peers on a new support blog called No Longer Quivering. Poring over their stories, I was shocked to find so many tales of gross educational neglect. I don’t merely mean that they had received what I now view as an overly politicized education with huge gaps, for example, in American history, evolution or sexuality. Rather, what disturbed me were the many stories about homeschoolers who were barely literate when they graduated, or whose math and science education had never extended much past middle school.

Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”

“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”

At the time, Garrison was taking parenting advice from Quiverfull leaders who deemphasized academic achievement in favor of family values. She remembers one Quiverfull leader saying, “If they can do mathematics perfectly but they have no morals, you have failed them.”

The implication, she says, was that, “if they’re not doing so well academically, well, then they can catch up on that later. It’s not such a big deal. It was a really convenient way of thinking for me because I wasn’t able to keep up anyway.” This kind of rhetoric, Garrison notes, provided a “high-minded justification for educational neglect. I would not have gotten away with that if I’d had to get my kids tested every year.”

Over time, Garrison lost faith in her fundamentalist ideology and became aware that her children’s education was being neglected. Eventually all but one of her six younger children ended up entering and excelling in the public school system.

Why did she stick with homeschooling for so long, despite her difficulties? “We were convinced that it would be better for our kids not to have an education than to be educated to become humanists or atheists and to reject God,” Garrison says. “We became so isolated because the Quiverfull lifestyle was so overwhelming we didn’t have time or energy for socialization. So the only people we knew were exactly like us. We were told that the whole point of public school was to dumb down the children and turn them into compliant workers – to brainwash them and indoctrinate them into this godless way of thinking.”

Garrison believes that homeschooling has become so popular with fundamentalist Christians because, “there is an atmosphere of real terror among some evangelicals. They are horrified by the fact that Obama is president, and they see the New Atheist movement as a vocal, in-your-face threat. Plus, they are obsessed with the End Times, and believe that the Apocalypse could happen any day now…They see a demon on every corner.

“We homeschooled because we wanted to protect our children from what we viewed as the total secularization of America. We listened to people like Rush Limbaugh, who told us that America was in the clutches of evil liberal feminist atheists.”

*

Just how common are stories like Vyckie Garrison’s? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. The federal government only maintains very broad demographic statisticsabout homeschoolers in this country; federal data only keeps track of what kinds of people are homeschooling and why. You can find plenty of information about homeschoolers according to race, family income or highest education obtained by the parents. But as regards neglect related to homeschooling? The government cannot tell you — and there is no systematic state-by-state record of the percentage of truancy convictions (possibly the best measure of educational neglect at present) that involve homeschooling families versus those involving enrolled students and/or their parents.

Capturing that kind of data is essential to understanding the scope of this problem, but getting real numbers will always be complicated by the fact that many homeschooling families choose not to comply with the law by submitting to state homeschool regulations, or even report their homeschool activity to the state. While it’s possible that some forget, others intentionally fail to report because they fear too much government intervention in their lives. For many conservative Christians, this is a key aspect of their decision not to report.

Given the scarcity of numbers on this issue, the best one can hope for at this point is anecdotal information about the problem. But because homeschooling is such a highly politicized issue, it is often difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening from homeschooling parents themselves. And because many parents see themselves as advocates of homeschooling, they are not always very eager to discuss potential gaps in homeschooling education.

Luckily, more than a few adult homeschool graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of homeschool-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what homeschool advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

Erika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A homeschooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.”

The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.”

Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.

As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.

“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.’”

Melinda Palmer, 29, is another homeschool graduate who is forthcoming about the problems she encountered as a homeschooled child. She had no experience of public education, and quickly came to fear it. Her father cast the local school as a corrupt example of the dangerous world outside the home. The family’s isolationism created an environment in which everyone was so terrified of the outside they saw no choice but to submit to her father’s abusive rule for many years. She says they had come to believe that the tyranny of their father was preferable to what might await them on the outside.

The oldest of eight children, Palmer grew up in an extremely conservative family that ultimately went entirely off the grid. They lived in a rural country home in Vermont without running water or electricity. Though she says homeschooling started out with good enough intentions, it ultimately fell by the wayside, in part because of the sheer amount of work it took to subsist in Vermont without basic amenities while also maintaining the large family’s produce and livestock. It took so much time and energy to complete each day’s chores that they rarely had enough time to study.

Though she says all of the children in her family are literate, she tells me that, in math, she never made it past the start of pre-algebra, and that she has not yet obtained her GED. Since leaving the Quiverfull movement, she has found success as an artisanal cheese-maker, but many opportunities remain unavailable to her because of her upbringing. She speaks hopefully of continuing her schooling at some point, but feels self-conscious about working toward the GED at 29, when some of her younger sisters have already earned theirs. “I study and read things all the time,” she says, “but I haven’t done anything official yet.”

Palmer insists that her family was not alone in homeschool neglect. Among the various fundamentalist families that ran in her family’s social circles, she says, “I knew several families whose children were not very literate.” Moreover, she points out, education is “more than just learning math and science and the facts of history – it’s learning how to interact with the kids around you, and figuring out what different kinds of personalities bring to life.

“You can do homeschooling right if you’re very careful,” she acknowledges. “Know all the ways it can go wrong and guard against these; have outside interaction; get help with what you need help with and use a decent curriculum.” But most homeschoolers, Palmer points out, “are woefully lacking in every area” of their education.

Palmer sends me a note after we talk that reads, “I know of a family right now in pretty much the exact same situation we were in back then. They reported [their homeschooling status] to the state once, eight years ago, and never after that, to my knowledge. The state never caught on… They are one of the families I know whose children are functionally illiterate. Their 18-year-old daughter can read, but can barely write a paragraph… and the education goes significantly downhill from there. Her youngest brother, almost 11, has barely learned to read.”

I follow up to find out if anyone has reported the family to social services. She says they have been reported, but very little has changed.

*

Still, this is not to say there aren’t many homeschooling parents who are doing an excellent job of ensuring that their children receive a quality education. Most parents realize they are taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility when they commit to homeschooling a child, so I am not surprised to find many – secular and religious – who are doing well by their children.

Maria Hoffman Goeller is one of those. A lifelong family friend, Goeller is a homeschool graduate raised in a conservative Christian home, where she never lagged behind in academics. Now she has a son with special needs in the California public school system but educates two other school-age children at home. “Part of the reason we homeschool is because I’m choosing what worldview or what subjects I want to introduce my child to,” she says. But she understand the limits of her own skill, which is why she placed her special-needs son in public school. “While I can teach my children reading, writing and arithmetic, I am not trained in special education,” she says. “I want my child to have the best education he can get, which at this time is public school.”

Though she considers herself conservative, Goeller does not demonize public schools as some families do. And contrary to stereotypes about Christian homeschoolers, Goeller is adamant that she will not sacrifice academic rigor, or shield her children from views different from her own. In fact, she says she would welcome more opportunities for them to interact with public school students, for example, in sports and even in certain classes now and then.

Certainly, Goeller is not alone in the care and thoughtfulness she takes with her children’s homeschool education. But in light of what Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer tell me, it seems irresponsible to assert, as many homeschooling parents do, that homeschooling neglect is just a fringe element in the homeschooling world. And getting a straight answer about the scope of the problem from people who champion the cause is difficult at best.

Take Kelly Hogaboom, a secular “unschooling” mother who maintains a popular homeschooling blog called Underbellie, and boasts of having “two terminally truant children.” Hogaboom is an advocate for homeschooling and “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling that often foregoes curriculum in favor of more child-directed education. She is dismissive of the cases of neglect that I bring up, saying, by way of shutting down my inquiries: “Like yourself, I too had…a deep fear of religious fundamentalism and an erroneous belief state institutions could and should stamp it out.”

Of course, her response misses the mark; the issue of “stamping out” religious expression isn’t the point here. The issue at stake is educational neglect — which is, as the anecdotal evidence shows, an actual problem. My hope is that by looking to homeschooling parents for insights, they will be able to provide an honest assessment of their own successes and failures — in order to paint a more textured picture of the actual potential for neglect.

But in the end, Hogaboom declines to discuss the topic at all, urging me instead to read alternative theories of education she thinks I may have missed. And just in case I don’t understand that she has dismissed the concerns I raise, she concludes our email discussion by saying: “I get a laugh [at] how many grownups enjoy talking amongst themselves about what’s best for children” – and following it up with a smiley emoticon.

Though I am frustrated by her failure to engage with me, on some level, I understand her irritation. Homeschooling parents are probably called upon to apologize for neglectful homeschoolers quite a bit. But apologies are not what I’m looking for. I want to know about their experiences – positive and negative — as a way of understanding how to better prevent neglect.

Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system.

*

Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, confirms that there are legitimate reasons for being concerned about a lack of oversight among homeschoolers. She acknowledges the diversity of the homeschooling movement, but notes, for example, that, “among the Quiverfull community, there are families that homeschool in such a way that education begins to diverge between boys’ education and girls education around the time they hit puberty.”

Sometimes, Joyce says, girls, “stop receiving the same education as their brothers and are trained instead to fulfill the role that they’re going to have, which is to be a Quiverfull mother and a submissive wife.”

She recalls an anecdote from Quiverfull leader Geoffrey Botkin, who suggested that girls should be taught to use the tools of the laboratory they will inhabit: the kitchen and the nursery. Girls’ education should prioritize “learning how to be mothers, learning in the kitchen, helping their mothers – not merely as chores that are a part of growing up. Rather, the point was that this should be a key part of their education because this was going to be their chief role.” Though Joyce says many homeschoolers go on to do exceptionally well once they go to college, she has also encountered problems with basics like literacy.

Given these sorts of issues, I am unconvinced when Rachel Goldberg, a secular homeschooling mother from Charlotte, North Carolina, echoes what I hear from homeschooling parents of every stripe on the subject of government oversight. “I don’t think there should be any regulation of homeschooling,” she says. “I’m not a libertarian or a conspiracy theorist, but I am fiercely protective of my kids and my choices about how to raise them. It’s none of the government’s business how I teach them. Just as I wouldn’t want the state to require me to submit menu plans and quarterly nutritional assessments (even though I believe nutrition is vitally important), I don’t want the state to require curricula plans, portfolios, etc.”

According to Joyce, among extremist Quiverfull families (quite unlike Goldberg’s) there is often “a sense of persecution” when it comes to oversight; many families that refuse to report their activities do so because they fear state intrusion. But their fear may have very little basis in fact. “Often, people have to look outside the United States, to countries like Sweden, where homeschooling is much more heavily regulated, to make this argument,” Joyce notes. “There isn’t as much evidence that persecution is happening here, but I think they get a lot of organizing value and activism mobilization out of the argument that they’re persecuted.”

Erika Diegel Martin, whose parents were anti-government extremists, agrees. Her parents did not report their first year of homeschooling to the state out of fear, but because she lived in a small New Hampshire town, the neighbors eventually noticed when the children weren’t in school. Finally, a truancy officer showed up to inquire, and as a result, the family reported their homeschooling status. “Look, any other parents [in] a public school would be charged with truancy if their kids didn’t show up at school,” Diegel Martin points out. “Why should it be any different for a homeschool family that isn’t reporting their children? It’s our government’s responsibility to make sure that our children are getting a proper education.”

My old friend Maria Hoffman Goeller is a bit more cautious about the need for oversight. With one child in the public school system and two learning at home, Goeller insists that she has not experienced over-regulation in California, one of the more tightly regulated states. But she is always on the alert, she says, for any government mandate that might try to determine “what I can and cannot teach.”

Goeller tells me that her apprehension about over-regulation stems from the arrests of homeschooling parents she knew during childhood, before homeschooling was well-understood in the United States. She remembers at least a couple of parents being arrested for truancy, and she remains unconvinced that they deserved this. Some families she knew opted not to report because of these cases. For those children, this meant not answering phones and hiding in the house if a stranger knocked on the front door.

No one I speak to who is homeschooling today mentions that this sort of oppressive regulation is a reality for current homeschooling families. Instead, they say that today’s regulation consists mostly of bureaucratic paper-pushing – hardly the kind of homeschool persecution some fear. It may be annoying, but so far as I can tell, it’s not trampling on anyone’s rights – though that doesn’t keep homeschoolers from worrying.

*

Ultimately, the women who report neglect in homeschooling want their experiences to serve as a warning that either greater restrictions on homeschooling are needed, or states need to do a better job of enforcing existing regulations.

For 18 years, Vyckie Garrison says, she continued homeschooling even though it became increasingly evident that “we should not have been homeschooling. It was a really bad idea for us, but we believed firmly that it was our obligation, that it would be sinful to send our children to public schools, which we called ‘Satan’s indoctrination centers.’” She tells me that yearly testing requirements “would have made a huge difference for our family. It would have either convinced us to quit homeschooling, or to do a much better job of meeting those minimum requirements.”

I don’t believe the answer is to end homeschooling altogether, and neither do any of the women I talk to, no matter what their experience with homeschooling. But neither is it acceptable to allow more homeschooled children to fall through the cracks. And since no one should be deprived of an education, we have a duty to listen to those who were overlooked.

Melinda Palmer has become a vocal critic of homeschool neglect since leaving her home about six years ago at the age of 22. She cites “the grace of God” as the reason for her survival, as well as the support of her mother and siblings. She is still a Christian, but says her family believed in a “warped understand of God.” Today, she is no longer a fundamentalist and no longer afraid of living out in the world. She has also gotten involved in advocacy on behalf of better homeschooling regulation.

Of all my sources, Palmer has the most concrete ideas about what needs to change in order to make homeschooling safer for all kids. “First,” she says, “we should not reduce the oversight. Second, we need to make sure every child who is not in a public school is either on a private school roster or is on the homeschool watch list. I know of many in Vermont right now who are not even registered as homeschoolers, and no one pays attention…When kids are far below grade level, it should raise red flags, and someone should be looking into it.”

Furthermore, as a sister to several children with cognitive disabilities, Palmer highlights the particular attention that homeschooled children with special needs deserve. “If kids have disabilities, the government needs to make sure that the disabilities are being addressed either by the parents or by an intervening agency.…A child with disabilities,” she notes, “has as much right to an appropriate education” as any other child.

Just before we hang up the phone, she makes a final request: “Please spread the word that it is really necessary for the government to make sure children aren’t being robbed of an education… Kids have rights too, and one of them is the right to an education appropriate to their age and ability.

It’s an important point, and I conclude with it because it is one of the more incisive analyses I’ve heard on this topic yet. There is simply no justification for allowing cases of educational neglect – wherever it exists – to go unchecked. We need not imprison more parents to make sure this happens, but improving state and local oversight of those who opt out would be one step in the right direction. As Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer acknowledge, better checks on their own home education would have made a vast difference for them. This is why, they say, they will continue to speak out.”

Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154541/barely_literate_how_christian_fundamentalist_homeschooling_hurts_kids?akid=8417.123424._5-AR3&rd=1&t=2

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15 Ways the Bible Is Used by Christians and the GOP to Control and Malign Women

from: AterNet

By:Valerie Tarico

“Why can’t GOP politicians trumpet their religious credentials without assaulting women?

Because fundamentalist religion of all stripes has degradation of women at its core, and fundamentalist Christianity is no exception. Progressive Christians believe the Bible is a human document, a record of humanity’s multi-millennial struggle to understand what is good and what is God and how to live in moral community with each other. But fundamentalists believe the Bible is the literally perfect word of the Almighty, essentially dictated by God to the writers. To believe that the Bible is the literally perfect word of God is to believe that women are tainted seductresses who must be controlled by men.

Listen to early church father Tertullian: “You [woman] are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die.”

Or take it from reformer John Calvin: “Woman is more guilty than man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading to all perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame.”

Both Tertullian, a respected Catholic theologian, and Calvin, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, took their cues on this matter straight from the book of Genesis:

To the woman [God] said, I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. –Genesis 3:16

No matter how outrageous Santorum and Gingrich may seem to secularists and moderate people of faith, they are right on target for an intended audience of Bible believing fundamentalists. If you have any doubt, check out these 15 Bible passages.*

1. A wife is a man’s property: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17

2. Daughters can be bought and sold: If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do.Exodus 21:7

3. A raped daughter can be sold to her rapist: If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. Deuteronomy 22:28-29

4. Collecting wives and sex slaves is a sign of status: He [Solomon] had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 1 Kings 11:3

5. Used brides deserve death: If, however the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. Deuteronomy 22:20-21.

6. Women, but only virgins, are to be taken as spoils of war: Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Numbers 31:17-18

7. Menstruating women are spiritually unclean: When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water….

…The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge. You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them. Leviticus 15: 19-31

8. A woman is twice as unclean after giving birth to a girl as to a boy: A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.

If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. Leviticus 12: 1-8

9. A woman’s promise is binding only if her father or husband agrees: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. When a young woman still living in her father’s household makes a vow to the Lord or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand.

But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the Lord will release her because her father has forbidden her….

…A woman’s vow is meaningless unless approved by her husband or father. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will release her. Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. Numbers 30:1-16

10. Women should be seen and not heard: Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 1 Corinthians 14:34

11. Wives should submit to their husband’s instructions and desires: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18

12. In case you missed that submission thing…: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24.

13. More submission – and childbearing as a form of atonement: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2: 11-15

14. Women were created for men: For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.1 Corinthians 11:2-10

15. Sleeping with women is dirty: No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb. Revelation 14:3-4

This list is just a sampling of the Bible verses that either instruct or illustrate proper relationships between men and women. In context, they often are mixed among passages that teach proper relationships with children, slaves and foreigners. The Bible doesn’t forbid either contraception or abortion, but it is easy to see why Bible-believing fundamentalists might have negative feelings about both.

As futurist Sara Robinson has pointed out, traditional rules that govern male-female relationships are grounded more in property rights than civil rights. Men essentially have ownership of women, whose lives are scripted to serve an end—bearing offspring. It was very important to men that they know whose progeny they were raising, so sexual morality focused primarily on controlling women’s sex activity and maintaining their “purity” and value as assets. Traditional gender roles and rules evolved on the presumption that women don’t have control over their fertility. In other words, modern contraception radically changed a social compact that had existed for literally thousands of years.

Some people don’t welcome change. Since the beginnings of the 20th century, fundamentalist Christians have been engaged in what they see as spiritual warfare against secularists and modernist Christians. Both of their foes have embraced discoveries in fields as diverse as linguistics, archeology, psychology, biology and physics — all of which call into question the heart of conservative religion and culture. Biblical scholars now challenge such “fundamentals” as a historical Adam, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and the special status that Abraham’s God gave to straight males.

Fundamentalists are fighting desperately to hang on to certainties and privileges they once saw as an Abrahamic birthright. If they can’t keep women in line, it’s all over. The future ends up in the hands of cultural creatives, scientists, artists, inquiring minds, and girls. It’s horrifying.

*All verses are quoted from the New International Version of the Bible, a favorite of evangelicals. 

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154466/15_ways_the_bible_is_used_by_christians_and_the_gop_to_control_and_malign_women?page=entire

Why Are the Corporate Media In Denial About the Right-Wing Terrorist Threat?

From AlterNet, by Bill Berkowitz

“It was a little over a month ago that the Norwegian Islamophobic Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik, wreaked havoc in Norway, killing 77 and injuring many more, and more than seven months since a bomb planted along the route of a march honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was discovered.

After the initial flurry of reportage, analysis, commentary and punditry, for all intents and purposes the Breivik story has disappeared into the ether that is the American mainstream media.

Maybe it is thus because it happened in far off Norway, maybe it is because our attention span is disastrously truncated, maybe it is because – like in so many of these cases — he has been too easily dismissed as a madman acting alone.

Perhaps, too, the connective tissue between Breivik and homegrown Islamophobes is too hot to handle.

Interrupting the ‘March of Time’

These days, we’ve pivoted on to other things: the debt-ceiling fiasco; the daily vicissitudes of the stock market; anguish over more U.S. troops being killed in Afghanistan and the increasing carnage in Iraq; Rupert Murdoch’s serial scandals; Rick Perry’s prayer-fest followed by his celebrated tossing of his hat into the Republican presidential ring; and, of course, the devastation of Hurricane Irene.

As Keith Olbermann exclaims on his nightly “Countdown” program at the end of the zany videos segment; “Time Marches On.”

The Spokane syndrome

In a engrossing essay in the August issue of Esquire titled “The Bomb That Didn’t Go Off”, Charles P. Pierce interrupts the march of time, hopefully for more than a short rest-bit as he revisits the site of a bomb that didn’t explode. Pierce takes a close look at the events of January 17, in Spokane, Washington, and places them within the borders of the question: Why has a series of right-wing-initiated violent actions in the U.S., including bombings, plans for bombings, and assassinations, have not gotten the attention they deserve?

To recap: On January 17, a bomb was discovered on a “bench in the corner of a downtown parking lot at the intersection of Washington Street and Main Avenue,” a spot that was on the route of the hundreds of marchers expected to take part in the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.

The bomb was discovered by “three maintenance workers [who] were sprucing up the perimeter of the parking lot at Washington and Main, shining up the route of the march.” Police came, the area was cordoned off and evacuated, the bomb, that was discovered to be an IED, was robotically disarmed, the march was re-routed; no bomb went off, no one was hurt. Eventually, Kevin Harpham was arrested and accused of planting the bomb.

And, as the Reverend Percy Happy Watkins, who has delivered a reenactment of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Spokane for twenty-five years or so, pointed out: “We just forgot about it, that’s what we always do.”

Pierce writes: “That the events of January 17 largely have faded from the news has nothing to do with luck at all. That is all human agency – how a fragmented country gathers the pieces of an event like this and tries to construct from them, not necessarily the truth of what happened, but a story that the country can live with, one more fragment among dozens of others that the country has remembered to forget.”

As we move deeper into an age of misinformation, disinformation, and superfluous information, maintaining our collective memory will more and more depend on honest information brokers; storytellers, journalists, investigative reporters who pursue a story with a passion and hunger for truth.

Circling back to Breivik

Thanks to some heady research and reporting by Jason Boog of GalleyCat (“The First Word on the Book Publishing Industry”) and others, we have learned that in his 1,500 page manifesto titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence Breivik, the Norwegian Christian fundamentalist accused of killing 77 people in a car bombing and the subsequent murder spree at a youth camp, had “outlined plans for attacking writers, journalists and literature professors.”

Breivik, who has claimed that there were more people involved in his actions and who is currently being held in isolation, suggested that “revolutionaries consider attacking both ‘literature conferences and festivals’ and ‘annual gatherings for journalists,'” as they appeared to be soft targets.

According to Boog, Breivik wrote in his manifesto that: “in Norway, there is an annual gathering for critical and investigative press where the most notable journalists/editors from all the nations media/news companies attend … The conference lasts for 2 days and is usually organized at a larger hotel/conference center. Security is light or non-existent making the conference a perfect target.”

He also earmarked literary festivals as being target rich environments: “This is where many cultural Marxist/PC authors … meet and socialise. Prioritised target groups make out the bulk of the participants who attend certain literature conferences and festivals: Writers (90%+ of these individuals support multiculturalism and usually portray their world view through their works), editors and journalists in cultural Marxist/multiculturalist publications, [and] a majority of individuals related to various “cultural Marxist/politically correct” cultural settings and organisations.”

Boog pointed out that Breivik accused authors and academics, including Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno, of spreading political correctness and multiculturalism: “The thing is that many of our political and cultural elites, including politicians, NGO leaders, university professors/lecturers, writers, journalists and editors – the individuals making up the majority of the so called category A and B traitors, knows exactly what they are doing. They know that they are contributing to a process of indirect cultural and demographical genocide and they need to be held accountable for their actions.”

Seeming to take a page from Lynne Cheney’s National Association of Scholars, Breivik claimed that college reading lists were also particularly suspect: “Unfortunately, that has not stopped the cultural critics from indoctrinating this new generation in feminist interpretation, Marxist philosophy and so-called ‘queer theory.’ Requirements for reading Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and other dead white males are disappearing, to be replaced by options to take studies in ‘The Roles of Women in the Renaissance’ (an excuse to lament the sexism of the past) or ‘The Bible as Literature’ (a course designed to denigrate the Bible as cleverly crafted fiction instead of God’s truth). The reliable saviour of the intelligentsia is the common man and his common sense.”

If Breivik’s prolix rambling sounds mad, that is because there may be madness present. But, does any of his toxic notions sound madder that some of Ann Coulter’s book titles (Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right), a typical headline at Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged website, the Islamophobic writings of Ryan Mauro, or the radio stylings of the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer?

As Charles Pierce pointed out in his Esquire piece about the incident in Spokane, “A political act of madness is still a political act. We use the madness to separate the events so that we don’t have to recognize the politics they have in common. The madness of each individual act enables us to distance ourselves from the politics that burn under the polite society we’ve created like a fuse looking for tinder, like a bag in search of a bench.”

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.”

Emphasis Mine

see:

Standing up to Christian Fascists!

“What Happened When I Yelled Back at the “Christians” Calling My Wife a Murderer

These people aren’t used to being confronted. They prey on the weak and they pounce on the wounded. But I chose to fight back.

“You’re killing your unborn baby!”

That’s what they yelled at me and my wife on the worst day of our lives. As we entered the women’s health center on an otherwise perfect summer morning in Brookline, two women we had never met decided to pile onto the nightmare we had been living for three weeks. These “Christians” verbally accosted us—judged us—as we steeled ourselves for the horror of making the unimaginable, but necessary, decision to end our pregnancy at 16 weeks.

After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival.

I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will neverforget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again.

Across a crowded street, two people with “God Is Pro-Life!” signs and pictures of torn-up fetuses managed to drive the blade in even deeper. Again, I was left trying to console the inconsolable, feeling even more helpless this time, because I wasn’t allowed into surgery with her.

Running on pure adrenaline, and without even a hint of a plan, I grabbed my cell phone and crossed the street. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, I just knew I wanted to make public the cowardice of these protesters. The video’s below—they didn’t disappoint.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

I learned a few important things from this encounter. First, these people aren’t used to being confronted. They prey on the weak and they pounce on the wounded. It’s easy to berate people and shame them when they’re too beaten down to fight back. But I chose to do just that, and you can see what happened.

They spout the same tired rhetoric passed out at rallies and subway stations. They don’t have one salient response to any of my questions.

The most telling thing about their cowardice is when the woman on the right gets upset that I’m recording the conversation (which is perfectly legal) and then threatens to call the police. The irony is rich. She wanted to call the police because I was peacefully expressing my opinion on a public sidewalk and exercising my First Amendment rights, which is exactly what she was doing. But I’m not on “God’s side,” am I.

She also claims the women at the clinic are suicide risks. Even if she believed that were true, does she really think yelling at them and shaming them in public is going to encourage these women not to kill themselves?

♦♦♦

After I took a walk and calmed down, it was time to pick up my wife and go home. When we pulled out of the clinic, the protesters were gone, and a police cruiser was parked nearby with the lights flashing. My wife, still groggy from the surgery, managed to crack a little smile, and asked, “What did you do?”

I have no idea if it was my interaction with the protesters that got them to leave. I doubt it was, but my wife was convinced that was the case. At first, I didn’t think of it as a big deal, and I actually felt a little foolish for getting so heated.

My wife, suddenly serious, pointed out a women entering the clinic. Within minutes, she said, that woman would be making a serious choice. Whether she kept her baby or not, it didn’t matter—what matters is that she can make the decision that’s right for her. And she can make it without people screaming at her.

My wife and I wanted our second child. We loved her. We even had a name for her, Alexandra.

You never know the circumstances surrounding this kind of decision. Consider this my plea: stop terrorizing women. Stop adding trauma to their trauma. If you’re able, stand up to these bullies in nonviolent ways. Speak out. And if you have a camera, use it.”

by Aaron Goveia.

emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/148607/what_happened_when_i_yelled_back_at_the_%22christians%22_calling_my_wife_a_murderer/

Five myths about atheism

An article well worth reading by Susie J: no matter hard hard they try, religionists wouldn’t be able to create a schism in the ranks of FreeThinkers!

Susan Jacoby:

“I was somewhat taken aback recently when I found myself on a list of “kinder, gentler atheists”–most of them women–compiled by a religious historian attempting to distinguish between socially acceptable atheism and the presumably mean, hard-line atheism expounded by such demonic figures as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. This nasty versus nice dichotomy is wholly an invention of believers who are under the mistaken impression that atheism is a religion in need of a good schism.

The list of “kinder” atheists was compiled for USA Today by Stephen Prothero, an On Faith panelist and professor of religion at Boston University and author of “Religious Literacy” (2007), a lively and incisive account of Americans’ ignorance about religion in general and their own religious history. Pleased as I was to find myself on a list in the company of such other spirited atheists as Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of the witty, recently published “36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction,” and Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of “Doubt: A History” (2003), it is nevertheless slightly insulting to find your name used not only to place female atheists in a special category but as a foil for a mythical enemy known as the New Atheists. The latter consist, in Prothero’s view, mainly of Angry White Men who believe that all religious people are stupid and that “the only way forward is to educate the idiots and flush away the poison.”

I don’t mean to pick on Prothero, whom I greatly respect as a scholar of religion (this must be the sort of observation that he considers kinder and gentler), but his piece is a perfect example of all of the distortions of atheism cherished by anti-atheists.

Myth No. 1: The “new atheism” is a phenomenon that differs radically not only from atheism as it has existed since antiquity but from the views held by forerunners of modern atheism, including deists and Enlightenment rationalists, like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who played such a critical role in the founding of this nation. Try as I might, I find little in the works of Dawkins, Harris et. al.–apart from their knowledge of modern science–that differs significantly from the views of secular thinkers of earlier eras. What is different is that today’s atheists are not hiding behind other labels, such as agnosticism, in order to placate religious sensibilities. It is this lack of deference, more than anything else, that has outraged religious believers–particularly those on the right–in America. Most have confused their constitutional right to believe whatever they want with the idea that the beliefs themselves must be inherently worthy of respect.

Myth No. 2: Atheists think all religious believers are stupid. It is true that Dennett coined the unfortunate term “Brights” to describe atheists–which does imply that he considers believers dimwitted. But I disagree with Dennett on this point, and so do a good many atheists I know (some of whom didn’t even make the “kinder, gentler” list). I am quite prepared to concede that there are a fair number of intellectually challenged atheists, and I have no interest in arguing about whether the proportion of dunces is higher among the religious. As for the intelligence of religious believers, I doubt that many educated atheists would consider Aquinas, Abelard, or, for that matter, Prothero stupid. What we do think is that their ideas are wrong and irreconcilable with the laws of nature.

One point, however, is indisputable: there is a strong correlation between simplistic fundamentalist beliefs, relying on a literal interpretation of sacred texts, and lack of education. As the level of education rises, the number of people who believe in materially impossible tales such as the creation of the universe in six days; the literal resurrection of the dead; and the Virgin Birth diminishes. That is why fundamentalists have been tireless in their efforts to inject religious teaching into public schools. So it is generally true (although there are of course many exceptions) that the less people have learned about science, history, and different belief systems, the more likely they are to cling to a rigid form of faith.

Nevertheless, education and intelligence are hardly identical. Holders of doctoral degrees, whether in philosophy or biology, are less likely than high school dropouts to believe in the supernatural, but plenty of people with more than 16 years of formal education are quite susceptible to a wide variety of non-supernatural but equally muttonish notions dressed as lamb. One need only consider the number of grownup atheists who are still as entranced as 15-year-olds with the sophomoric Ayn Rand, whose basic philosophy, as expressed in her turgid novels, is that the only proper relation of one human being toward another is “hands off.” History is filled with atheists who have embraced every crackpot notion from eugenics to the desirability of eternal life facilitated not by God but by science. Of course, there have also been a great many religious believers who find that their godly philosophy include racial superiority and the inferiority of the poor. (Let’s not forget the most recent example of a stupid Christian politician, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who thinks that free school lunches encourage the poor and stupid to reproduce.)

What ultimately distinguishes atheists from religious believers, however, is that no intelligent atheist can ever claim that his or her ideas constitute absolute truth.

Myth No. 3: This brings us to the most common false stereotype about atheism–that it is a religion and, furthermore, that “atheist fundamentalism” is as intolerant as conventional religious fundamentalism. Prothero uses the revealing word “genuflection” to describe the supposed attitude of atheists toward the writings of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Other critics of atheism have described these writings as “sacred texts” for atheists. I hate to break it to the anti-atheists, but another crucial distinction between us and them is that we have no sacred, authoritative texts. Dawkins gave me a very generous quote for the jacket of the British edition of “The Age of American Unreason,” in spite of the fact that I have often written (and wrote in this particular book) that I do not agree with him or with Harris about the dangers of “moderate” religion to the body politic. Dawkins is not the Pope, science is not God, and all of these purportedly gentler women in the ranks of atheists are not handmaidens of the Lord. (I should add that Prothero did provide a separate list of “kinder, gentler” male atheists, whose chief qualification seemed to be that they had all struggled to free themselves from unquestioning faith. As someone who, as far back as I can remember–certainly from around age 12–never accepted what I was taught in Catholic school and suffered no pangs of conscience when I realized that I did not believe in God or in any religion, I probably qualify as a “hard” rather than a “soft” atheist.)

Integral to the myth of atheism as a religion is the false proposition that atheists claim to “know” there is no God. Robert Green Ingersoll, the 19th-century orator dubbed the “Great Agnostic,” put it succinctly in 1885 when asked a question by a Philadelphia reporter who was trying to get him to denounce atheists. “Don’t you think the belief of the Agnostic is more satisfactory to the believer than that of the Atheist?” the reporter asked. Ingersoll replied, “There is no difference. The Agnostic is an Atheist. The Atheist is an Agnostic. The Agnostic says: “I do not know, but I do not believe that there is any god. The Atheist says the same. The orthodox Christian says he knows there is a god: but we know that he does not know. He simply believes. He cannot know. The Atheist cannot know that God does not exist.”

Today, as in the past, atheists can say only that on the basis of the available evidence, we don’t think an omnipotent deity has anything to do with either the ultimate origins of the universe or the ethical dilemmas that human beings confront every day. Indeed, we do not “know” how the first particle of matter came into being any more than believers “know” how God came into being. We admit this. They don’t.

Myth No. 4: Atheists believe that science explains everything. No. We believe that science offers the best possibilities for explaining what we do not yet understand. Science–in contrast to religion–is a method of thought and exploration, not a set of conclusions based on unchallengeable assumptions. Science is always open to the possibility that its conclusions may be proved wrong by new evidence based on new experimentation and observation. Monotheistic religion’s bedrock assumption is the existence of a god who always was and always will be. Atheists (at least those with a scintilla of scientific knowledge) would never claim that the universe always was and always will be.

Myth No. 5:
Atheists deny the possibility of “transcendent” experience. They can’t see beyond the material world. This stereotype is partially true, but it all depends on what you mean by transcendent. If the concept is understood, as it is by many religious believers, as an experience that goes beyond and defies the usual limits of nature–including time, space, and the flesh-and-blood essence of human beings, then atheists do not accept the transcendent. But if the word is understood as something that pushes us beyond our everyday experience–that enables us to scale previously unknown heights of love, creativity, or wonder at what other members of our species have created, how could any man or woman of reason deny the possibility? We simply believe that such experience lie within, not outside of, nature.

As an atheist, I highly doubt that my subjective experience differs qualitatively from that of a religious believer who thrills to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Michaelangelo’s David, Leonardo’s Adoration of The Magi, or, for that matter, the immensity of a night sky. I do not have to believe in God, or any supernatural entity larger than myself, to feel overwhelming awe upon holding a newborn baby or upon experiencing the reciprocal, passionate love that comes rarely–the kind of love, as Nietzsche observed, that “compels me to speak as though I were Two.” But I do interpret these experiences differently from a believer, because I do not ascribe any mystical or supernatural character to them. Such transcendent experiences do not make us greater than ourselves; they help us realize our best selves–the best of which our species is capable.

I see very little difference between the religious believer’s insistence on the existence of an immortal soul and the insistence of some secular philosophers and psychologists on the existence of a consciousness or a mind that is, in some inexplicable way, independent of our physical corpus. I do not consider the fruits of our love and labor–which will outlast our finite existence–less valuable because they depend on functioning neurons and because the neurons that produced them will eventually die. This insistence on an independent consciousness, mind, soul, or spirit is a product of human limitation and human arrogance. Because we are the most intelligent animals on the planet, we can imagine our own extinction. We hate that knowledge–atheists and religious believers alike–so we invent a variety of non-material concepts to explain away the inevitable end of a consciousness that depends entirely on our physical being.

Speaking only for myself, I find that awareness of my inevitable extinction enhances rather than diminishes my life. This awareness makes me want to leave something behind, if only a piece of scholarship that will be useful to some seeker of knowledge in a library of the future. I will admit that I am deeply disturbed by the possibility that libraries may become extinct, although the digital world offers a kind of eternal life that neither an atheist nor a religious believer could have predicted when I was a child. The novelist Milan Kundera has written about a number of developments the Creator never imagined–among them surgery and humans’ relationship with their dogs. To that I would add the internet. The digital world, because it is a product of human intelligence, is a part of the nature (for better and for worse) of which men and women also comprise a finite part. To fill our portion of the universe with the best achievements possible, through our love and our work, is purpose enough for a lifetime and requires no transcendence of nature and no afterlife.

see: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/spirited_atheist/2010/02/atheists_–_naughty_and_nice_–_should_define_themselves.html

emphasis mine