Category Archives: Fundie Stuff

I was raised in a funadmentalist Christian group that on nice days I call ‘a small insular church’ and on nasty days I call a ‘cult.’ Sometimes this means I have a really weird intersection of faith-based experiences or stories about my past, or translations of current events based on that.

The Mormon Shelf

The first thing you learn about that’s a problem for your faith, you can put it aside. It depends on how it gets put aside; sometimes they’re solved, sometimes they’re explained, sometimes they’re harrumphed, sometimes it’s a thing you’ll get around to later. The point is, you have a shelf, you have a place for all those doubts, all those ideas that you know are a problem and that have never been satisfactorily dealt with. Eventually, the shelf becomes overburdened, it creaks, and then…

One day, when you put something new on it…

It breaks and it all comes tumbling down.

An icon of an empty shelf

This is about doubt.

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Fundie Fucking

Imagine you have a jar for jellybeans. I want you to imagine this jar, and it starts out empty. Now, what happens, when you get married, right, is that the first time you have sex, you put a jellybean in that jar. Then, the next time, you put another jellybean in. Another, and another, and another. You keep this up for the first full year of marriage. And then, in the second year, whenever you have sex, you take a jellybean out. You do that for every single time you have sex after that first year.

By the time you die, you won’t have emptied that jar.

an icon of a mason jar

Content Warning: I’m going to talk about things I was taught about sex as a Christian fundamentalist.

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The Fundamentalist As Liar

Earlier this year I wrote about Michael Winger, a truly awful stain of a man with a more successful Youtube channel than mine so who’s so big and smart now huh and I wrote about that man’s particular tendency to claim sight unseen the illegitimacy of positions against him. What this usually means is that he argues that Atheists aren’t really Atheists, because,

then he presents a list of unconvincing reasons and eventually cooks down to ‘they just want to sin.’ Like, one of the favourites of this position is the idea that look, all the things you want to say about the arguments that have convinced you, those things aren’t that important because they’re just a smokescreen, a rhetorical assertion that stands in place because there’s a real, simple, emotional demand: I believe this because I want to believe this.

an icon of a book with magical sparkles

And I think, based on experience and reading a lot of these ding dongs’ writing reaching back two centuries, that uh, that’s because that’s how their worldview works, so they assume it’s how everyone’s does.

The Fundamentalist Christian is a liar who believes everyone believes lies.

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Fundie Divorce and Other Dramas

What god has put together let no man put asunder, goes the line. And since judges are men, and laws are written by men that means that divorce, if you’re a Biblical literalist, seems? Bad? I mean a Biblical literalist might look at all the times that people in the Bible married multiple women and also had concubines as well, and there were laws about doing a divorce but Jesus said it was only because of sin and then Paul said it’d be better if you never got married in the first place but this is only useful for spherical christians in a vacuum.

How do you think fundamentalist churches handle divorces? Setting aside the way that, as human beings in a social setting may actually handle something like this sensible, the fundie environment is one with a lot of its own special traditions and rules. Rules like how to absolutely mishandle a complex topic like a divorce.

an icon showing a pair of linked rings

And just to be clear on this one by the way, I am 100% pro-divorce. I think divorces are good. They suck to experience, I don’t think anyone goes into a divorce going ‘eff yeah, time to be divorced!’ but I think if a relationship is collapsing or failing nobody should be trying to stick around and force it into working when it doesn’t. Which is why an environment that makes this hard decision worse uh, sucks. And it sucks because of techniques liiike…

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The Unutterable Smugness Of Being

A complaint I heard a lot, about ten years ago, was that Online Atheists were ‘smug.’ This was seen as a major complaint about us, which didn’t really do anything to bring our attention to the very real problems we had with misogyny and racism and transphobia and islamophobia, but it also worked as a really good kind of social brush to tar a group with because even now, you’ll hear the word used like it’s an automatically necessary descriptor: ‘smug internet atheists.’

an icon of a fedora hat

Good news, I have no desire at all to ask you to change your mind on internet atheists, because there sure are a bunch of them who seem to be complete tools. Again, the ones I think of as tools, I would probably recommend that it’s much more important to confront them on, again, the racism and the misogyny and the transphobia and the islamophobia and then on the misogyny again because that… that sure is the actual problem, but I’m not seeking to claim unsmugness.

Just, like, what does ‘smug’ mean?

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Decemberween ’23 — Technology Cult Documentaries

About a month ago now, I had a chat with a peer at work. We were talking about the way that one of our cohort had started research into the NFT Marketplace, and it was a rough place to be because he had to open every talk and presentation with ‘I know, but,’ and that was just fundamentally rough as a place to be as a researcher. We got talking about it and I mentioned, offhandedly, how all of the conversation around these things were obviously fake to me, and something like this followed:

Haven’t any of these people seen a cult before?”

“No, uh, I do think that that’s really a you thing.

And this stuck with me. I know about cults because I was in one. I had to dismantle the experience for a long time to get a handle on it. And right now, the way that cults had formed in digital spaces, meant that that kind of weird social experience might be so decontextualised people might not even notice them.

Fortunately, Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has done some great documentaries about cults that coagulate on the internet.

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Decemberween ’23 — Mormon Histories

Last year I spent a chunk of time listening to a Rabbi explaining the differences between Tanakh and Christian translations thereof, and that was really interesting. Despite all this, though, I never quite turned the corner and decided that actually, dude was in the right and it was time to convert to Judaism but in the process, I still learned a lot and enjoyed what I learned. Notably, though, that was an active participant in a faith with real, meaningful scholarship about actual historical events and real translations to work from, exploring and expositing the truth of them as best he understood it. That was really interesting to me.

When we talk about Mormonism, those tools aren’t going to be useful.

a stylised icon of a hat, like the one Joseph Smith used to find gold that gnomes hid

This is because Mormons are absolutely founded on complete nonsense.

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Getting Sick And Noticing It

I haven’t gotten sick much lately. Not in the ways that I’m used to thinking of it as ‘getting sick.’ I know for a lot of people ‘getting sick’ can include things like hitting mental health limits, gender concerns, long-term conditions worsening, or just, y’know, suddenly your ears stop working the way you thought they did for literally no determined reason. What I mean though, isn’t that stuff, not because I have had those happen, but because what I meant by ‘getting sick’ is colds, flu, minor infections, things you pick up on the bus, and those other things, things like depression or being emotionally overwhelmed to the point where you’re vomiting or can’t get out of bed, those aren’t the kind of thing I think of as ‘getting sick.’

 And that’s screwed up, huh?

Content Warning: Pandemic! Illness! Religious abuse!

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Christian Martyrdom and Suicide Denial

Oh boy howdy are we going to need to content warning this one.

Content Warning: SUICIDE. I am going to talk about suicide a lot! I’m going to talk about it and martyrdom but really, importantly, I’m going to talk about suicide and also, suicide denialism, which, you may think that’s not a thing but it really is. I also mention some transphobia and climate anxiety.

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Who Rules You

I’m not trying to make every consideration of my fundamentalist history this year focus in some way on The Locked Tomb but it’s just very helpful, and since it’s what put it in my mind, I figure it’s what I’m going to be using as my lens. Particularly because as I engage with that fandom I hear people, totally normal and regular people, react to things in the book that reveal to me more ways in which my upbringing was in fact, completely and utterly horseradished.

Let me talk to you of John Gaius, the Emperor Eternal, God with a soft G, and his part in my upbringing.

John Gaius, Jod for short going forward, is a major character in the story of The Locked Tomb. It may constitute a spoiler to inform you that those books feature a character with that name and that title and that he’s, like, a dude who shows up in those books and is kinda a dick, but I don’t think that’s the kind of spoiler for a book series that merits a serious warning. However, in my effort to be nice to people who are big crybaby wenuses about this kind of thing, I will say, here and now, beyond this point, I’m going to talk about a character in a book. I’m going to imply that the guy who became the God-Emperor of Mankind and the Undying Necrolord may have done some fucked up shit.

You will cope.

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I Got My Library Card!

And it made me feel silly!

I got my first library card so long ago that it actually referred to me as ‘Master Governmentname Familyname.’ Like, master, what a ridiculous thing. That, you might not realise, is an archaic term used for a young unmarried man, which means that if you’re one of those holdouts going ‘Ah, Talen is secretly trans, but the type of trans he is is a trans dude‘ there’s some contraindicating evidence. Anyway point is, when I was very young, I loved my library card.

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The Sin Of Pride

It took me more than a little time to unpack my resistance to the idea of Pride Month. Enough so that I had to first interrogate my entire relationship to the idea of Pride, and where that came from. A large part of my life, the whole idea of Gay Pride month felt wrong and evil and sinful to me — terminology that wasn’t really popular in my upbringing. I mean, a Pride month is obviously a bad thing, right, because Pride is obviously bad, right?

I think in my case it ties into, of all things, the Care Bear Cousins.

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Magic Words, Magic cards

The evangelical christian mindset is, despite all of its protests to the contrary, deeply magical. Mystical and fantasist, it’s a worldview that requires a constant concept of the magical, both as a power god extends to you and an ever-present foe. Every day you are surrounded with the never-ending intercession of God into your reality, with some perspectives believing that God is literally the force of the laws of physics themselves, and that every lapse of judgment or timing or memory is a byproduct of god interceding in reality on your behalf. No evidence is too thin, no result too minor, for the Evangelical Christian to not think, in the social pressure cooker of trying to find a miracle to talk about, that hey, this’ll do.

This is why Evangelical Christians can seem so unreasonable. You can’t convince people of things if their actual literal world view of things that really exist includes fucking mind-reading magic. Today as I read this, a major Evangelical Christian voice with political power and authority argued that the church itself was corrupted, because people in that church were too nice to immigrants. What other people said they were doing, and the reasons they said they were doing them, isn’t important, because what they really mean is…

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KJV Supremacy And Antisemitism

If you ask an American Christian (in this case used to refer to the type of Christianity, not the type of American) about the conception of ‘Christianity’ you will usually see a definition of Christianity that is unconsciously structured around a set of concentric circles, where each layer in you progress, the more and more legitimately Christian the remainder is, depending on what the current threat is. If you’re looking at things where there being lots of Christians is a good thing, ‘Christian’ includes everyone who even says ‘god damn’ at some point, even if the last time they went to church was inhaling near a parson on the train. If it’s important to exclude people (because of, say, their disagreement with you on whether or not gay people should be burned alive), then suddenly, the mindset wants to pull back, across different boundaries of ‘really’ Christian.

Some of these boundaries are obvious and some of them are less obvious. People who never attend church, they’re not really Christian, even if they claim to be. People who attend church very rarely, they’re less Christian, but they are in a different layer to the first group. And you can go further and further into the layers of this horrible onion and find really specific nitpicky things that legitimise the American Christianity of a person, you’re going to find one particular boundary that’s been set up is about choice of Biblical translation. What’s more, amazingly, the translation that seems to centralise this mindset the most, and one of those dog-whistles that shows you’re dealing with the Shithead Brigade is a deference and reverence reserved for one, particular, correct translation of the Bible: The King James Version.

Man, America loves its kings.

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The Tiny God Of Christianity

I spent fifteen years in a fundamentalist Christian space, and another five trying to recover from that, reconciling what I was with what I was being shown was okay. In this time, I fervently, aggressively, desperately tried to believe in it, tried to make it so it worked for me because I was terrified of the alternative that was the reality I was slowly coming to terms with.

It was in this time, I keenly began to feel pinched at the edges by the desperate smallnes of the god of the infinite and untouchable universe.

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Fundamentalism Is A Grift

It’s not that fundamentalist christianity is itself fundamentally a grift, it’s just it’s a space that’s always, always, always going to feature some variety of grifters. I don’t have an explanation for why, this isn’t a scientifically researched position or anything, it’s just me noticing a pattern with the same thing, every single time, every single time I stumble into it anew.

It’d be easy to extrapolate that this is related to power dynamics. If a fundamentalist group are all people who defer to a specifically limited interpretation of some source text or ideological position, it almost always expresses as refusal to engage with, or accept, things outside that position. It’s not necessarily the same thing as being big on ‘fundamentals’ per se — I don’t imagine there are mechanics who refuse to fix brake pads because they’re too committed to the fundamental principles of the lever or anything. The basic idea I’m talking about here are ideological communities, usually ones like my fundamentalist evangelical christian background.

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Decemberween 2022: Rabbi Tovia Singer

Oh yeah, Decemberween, when I recommend a bunch of free, online content that I find enjoyable so you can partake of it in this period of Everything Being Busy, what kind of fun cool interesting media are we talking about today? Well, extremely deep Tanakh scholarship from what amounts to the internet version of a conservative Jewish call-in show.

Look, when I recommend media, you know I’m not recommending media veganism. I don’t think that Rabbi Singer is in any way going to line up with me on almost any front. I tolerate a pretty high level of what I’d call ‘coot factor’ when it comes to religious scholarship. I imagine, I assume, that say, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who lives In Israel probably has some pretty cruddy views about oh, you know, maybe that country they’re living in called Palestine, and I’m not asking you to make exception to that.

Matthew corrupted Jewish Scriptures to craft a preposterous Christmas story - Rabbi Tovia Singer

Still, I have been listening to a lot of this guy this year, because of a specific area of scholarship where he’s been working very hard since the 1980s. Singer is an aggressive and constant opponent to the idea of Messianic Judaism.

Messianic Judaism is the idea of Christians trying to convert Jews. This is typically done by claiming that Christianity is compatible with Judaism, or that Judaism has been Christianity all along. There’s also a lot of imagery nonsense, like trying to use The Wordless Book style storytelling over the Seder to show that hey, doesn’t this bread remind you of Jesus?

What I’ve known for a long time is that the gospels are inconsistent, and this should be a problem for people who claim that the gospels represent divine literal truth. What I didn’t know is how much the New Testament is inconsistent with the Old Testament, where phrases that I knew didn’t line up are demonstrated changes in the text, rather than what I, an English language speaker thought growing up, that they were just translated differently.

Immanuel's Mother was No Virgin! Matthew Corrupted Isaiah – Rabbi Tovia Singer

Anyway, Rabbi Singer defends his position and his faith and his values, and provides a perspective on Christianity from the position of someone who knows it very well and who knows the faith it claims to own. I find these talks and these long form textual conversations about specific wording changes in the two components of the Christian Bible super interesting. What’s more, they’re just going to come at things on a different footing. Me, an atheist, pointing out how Christianity does feature ritual cannibalism and a human sacrifice, get eyerolls because of course I’d just ‘not get it’ because I’m not religious. But when someone who is religious brings those same ideas to task, that position looks very different.

It’s interesting to me, and Rabbi Singer seems to have an extraordinarily strong grasp of all the concepts. When he talks about Dispensationalism and Evangelical Christianity, his mastery of the topic aligns with what I know, and he justifies what he knows from texts that I can go look up (even if I have to trust others translating Hebrew). Some of it is still Preacher dialogue, and I’m familiar with that, but it’s still really damn interesting to me.

Happy Hanukkah.

Decemberween 2022: Yale Divinity School Lectures

… I promise I’m not the most boring man in the world.

Hebrew Bible Interpretation 1, Lecture 1

You know Yale Divinity School? I understand a Yale is a pretty important thing. Yales are famously important school related things. Anyway, you know how there’s that thing where schools put their lectures on Youtube, and you can watch them, for free? You might ask ‘who would do that?’

Well me.

Me, I did that.

Today.

I watched all 26 hour long lectures (at increased speed), which is looking at the Hebrew Bible, an examination of the Old Testament as a document that was made by people and for its own purpose, before it got hijacked by Christianity with that there dang New Testamenty thing.

Something I particularly like about this lecture series, and I know this is a small point, but something I genuinely really like, is that to my amusement, Dr Baden pronounces the Hebrew names in a Hebrew way — and even teases and makes fun of the Americanised pronunciations. Why’s that a big deal? Because I had no idea that I was hearing Americanised pronunciations!

I really like Dr Joel Baden’s delivery, I find him fun to listen to, I like his delivery style and I really enjoyed watching these lectures, and I learned a lot. It’s free. Check out the full playlist here!

The Alex Jones Readings

Yesterday, I talked about Alex Jones, but I did so with references to specific examples of the man’s behaviour from his show. You might wonder, Talen, do you watch his show? And the answer to that is no, no, I don’t.

Alex Jones’ work is one of those things people mostly experience as a few short viral moments; infamously, there’s the Turn The Frogs Gay clip, or some similarly ridiculous moment that people meme on.

The dude’s got the same basic DNA as a dozen other types of grifter from my own past. These days they’ve moved to ‘supplements’ rather than ‘cures’ but in the end it’s people selling you overpriced horse piss as ‘snake oil.’ I didn’t feel the need to delve into him because I kinda knew what I was looking at when I first saw him. Moment to go viral, pivot to an ad. Promote a weirdo to get their audience engaged with you, pivot to an ad. Frame the world as scary and doomed and dying, pivot to an ad.

When John Oliver did a segment explaining Alex Jones, he noted this exact structure:

Alex Jones: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

But this is still a surface overview of the man and his process. It’s still something that Alex will claim ‘takes out of context’ the work he does, in general. If only there was someone, you wonder, who isn’t on Alex’s side, who say, watches the entire show and can provide exhaustive proof that no, he’s not being taken out of context, these things don’t get better with more information, and the figleaf of denial that Jones uses is just a tactic.

Well, what if I told you there’s someone who does?

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The Five Stages of Alex Jones

Alex Jones is scum.

This isn’t a complex, researched, authorial notion, this is my opinion, and my opinion is that the guy is scum. It’s based on observing him over many years, and from how he clearly replicates the patterns of a lot of guys exactly like him, who just weren’t as successful at monetising their particular variety of scum.

Of late, I’ve been seeing more of his stuff, more of his particular set of tactics, and I wanted to offer you an easily remembered, simple set of instructions as to understanding What Alex Jones Is Doing. This is much like with young-earth creationists, operant on the idea that Alex Jones is literally never a good faith operator, and that everything he does, in every single context should be regarded as acts of manipulation. I’m sure there are some people he’s honest with but his reputation is so fundamentally broken that you can’t treat him as if he is.

Alex Jones presents the illusion of being opposition, of being able to argue, to fight with people, but if you listen to him, if you pay attention to the process, you’ll realise there are five things he does, and they largely never relate to what he’s being told, not really, not as part of a meaningful conversation with points that can be considered. Everything is instead, smoothed into one Greater Fiction where Alex was Always Right.

What then, does Alex Jones (And His Ilk) do when confronted with dissent?

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Remembering The Queen

When I was about eight years old, my older cousin excitedly showed me the little .wav file he had of an excerpt from a Pop Song, which he had reversed in windows sound editor. When played, it made a little weird yelp which he informed me was the phrase “It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana.” This was proof of the danger of that kind of music.

The excerpt was a snippet of Another One Bites The Dust.

Queen - Another One Bites The Dust (Live)
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The Great Disappointment

Been thinking about Qanon a lot lately.

Hey have you ever heard of William Miller? He was this really weird dude from the 1700s, a land-owning preacher who started out as a Baptist, then read some books and became a Deist, then got scared about the fact he would die and became a Baptist again, a trajectory that’s kinda familiar to me. Anyway, he got really scared about the fact he was going to die, and then that meant he wouldn’t be alive, and that got him back into being a Baptist and from there, an obssessive reading of the Bible resulted in him getting all het up about Biblical numerology, the sudoku cousin of normal Biblical prophecy’s cryptic crossword.

Content Warning: Me, talking shit about Christian faiths!

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Velikovsky

There is a concern in the sciences of the idea of demarcation. The demarcation problem is the question of how do we tell the difference between science and non-science. This can represent a challenge when dealing with propositions that struggle with replicability or extremely complex systems – think like psychology versus physiology, or even whether there’s a scientific methodology that can be applicable to fields of art, literature, and religion.

The whole fundamental question of demarcation kind of lives in the space of where you can say science doesn’t apply here. The general idea for a time there was that you can’t use scientific methods to grapple with questions of religious belief, a position that was forwarded by Stephen Jay Gould with his framework of non overlapping magisteria. Notionally, science looks at facts while religion looks at values and therefore, these two things should not be seen as competing with one another, and should not be seen as threats to one another.

A problem immediately arises, then, when religion seeks to make fact claims; such is the problem with Young Earth Creationism or fundamentalist Christianity which uses fact claims to justify rules they demand people outside their faith. This can apply on big, important, political ideas like who gets to guide the country and by what rules, and therefore is of specific interest to me; another area it’s important is when you consider who does or doesn’t get to have a voice in a community of ideas.

Demarcation can be seen ultimately as a question of who gets to speak and where.

What if someone had an idea outside your field that made a whole bunch of complicated questions work

… but nobody in that field would ever listen to their ideas?

Let’s talk about Immanuel Velikovsky.

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David And Jonathon Were Gay Right

Content Warning: I’m going to talk about a Biblical figure who I think is probably a historical figure, but whose story was probably nothing at all like what we’re presented with, and also, is possibly very important to fundamentalist and orthodox visions of that Biblical history.

I’m going to talk about a Biblical character and there are people who find that personally offensive. If you think ‘I’m going to get mad about what he says about King David’ then you read it anyway, then uh yes, you have fallen for my elaborate trap where I told you not to read it.

POINT IS I’m gunna bully a dead king and you can’t stop me.

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