Fundamentalists Anonymous and a Question

Friday, March 26, 2004

"Debra" writes:

Dear Mr. Babinski,

I found your name on the webring and hope you don't mind my contacting you. I am a graduate student in a distance learning program at Goddard College. My thesis is about religious addiction and recovery. I would very much like to dialogue with you, either by phone or via email, about your work and fundamentalists anonymous. I have been in recovery from religious addiction since about 1995, after 24 1/2 years as a born again, fundamentalist, Pentecostal thus my interest in the subject.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Debby T.

P.S. I ordered your book from amazon and look forward to reading it. :-)

Thanks for writing Debra,

Part of my own past experience was Charistmatic/Pentacostal in nature. (I still cringe recalling that I used to donate 25$/month to the 700 Club.)

Here's some quotations that you may have already seen at the website...

Feel free to write back.


Loresa Goodly filed a lawsuit in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, in November for injuries she incurred just after she had received the Holy Spirit at a tent revival meeting and passed out on the floor. Moments later, another woman received the Holy Spirit and fell on top of Goodly before ushers could catch her, breaking three of Goodly's ribs.
- Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, Nov. 18, 1995


After different occurrences of televangelist Benny Hinn's famous antic "slaying in the Spirit," during which crowds of people fall over, one young girl's leg was badly injured and an elderly woman died from complications following a broken hip. Her family sued for $15 million; Hinn settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Hinn has been fooled more than once during his crusades by hired actors who pretended to be handicapped, then pretended to be healed -- despite Hinn's past promises not to televise healings until they had been medically confirmed. Other people who really were sick had been pronounced healed and were televised as such. Reporters discovered, in case after case, that no one followed up on them and that none of them had really been healed. This included a half-dozen AIDS patients, several deaf or blind children, a quadriplegic teen and a woman with cancer, who quit her chemotherapy and died two months later. Reporters could not find a single verifiable healing, although in one chilling interview, a woman with multiple sclerosis serenely announced that she had discontinued her medication because she believed, thanks to Hinn, that her healing would arrive at any moment.

Hinn has also claimed -- each time on record -- that
1) He conducted services in a hospital overseas and healed so many people the place nearly shut down (a reporter checked up on this and the hospital categorically denied it).

2) Someone videotaped him raising a man from the dead in Guyana (this was also refuted and ultimately retracted by a ministry spokesman).
- Information drawn from The Many Faces of Benny Hinn (a video and book of the same title that summarizes a host of investigative reports on Benny Hinn), produced by The Door Magazine. "Even the most credulous, faithful followers of Benny Hinn would be hard-pressed to explain why so many national TV newsmagazines and local stations, from Chicago to Orlando to Dallas to Sydney, Australia, keep uncovering the same damning facts year after year."
-- Gregg Hartman
See also Matthew Barry, "Adventures in Faith Healing," Freethought Today, March, 1998


Reverend Tony Leyva, Pentecostal TV-evangelist who used to wear a Superman costume and carry a Bible, nicknaming himself "Super Christian," and who was in the Guinness Book of World Records (for four years) for preaching the longest known sermon (72 hours straight), and who was hired by a Georgia television station to replace Jimmy Swaggert's show, was arrested by the FBI, along with three of his fellow fundamentalists, on charges of transporting boys across state lines for the purposes of prostitution or criminal sexual activity. Reverend Leyva railed in public against "filth" and "smut." In private he sodomized more than 100 church boys, and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 1989.
- Mick Echols, Brother Tony's Boys: The Largest Case of Child Prostitution in U.S. History


Police in Vinton, Louisiana were surprised when a driver wearing only a towel got out of a car, then got back in and sped off. They were dumbfounded when the car hit a tree and disgorged 20 people wearing nothing at all. There were fifteen adults in the interior of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am and five children in the trunk. The driver of the car, Sammy Rodriguez and his brother, Danny, both said they were Pentecostal preachers. They made statements that the devil was after them. And their hometown, Floydada, Texas, was going to be destroyed if they stayed there.
They fled Floydada in five cars, but wound up abandoning four of them, along with the family's clothes, pocketbooks, wallets and other belongings because "the devil" had "gotten into those things."
- Associated Press, "Cops Chase Car With 20 Naked Passengers," Aug. 20, 1993


An unemployed maid and mother of seven burned a winning $60,000 lottery ticket because her minister at an Assembly of God church in Fortaleza, Brazil, said her plane would "sink in sin in hell" if she went to claim the prize money. "Destroy the ticket -- the devil's work -- to save yourself from hellfire," Preacher Wagner said, as the congregation chanted, "Burn, burn, burn." So Maria Banoiza Nascimento returned to her one-room shack (where she lived with her unemployed husband and her four seriously ill children), and burned the ticket. Then, for good measure, she burned her identification card and her children's birth certificates as well.
- Associated Press, 1995


A devotee on her knees in some abysmal and mysterious cathedral while solemn music echoes, and clouds of incense come down the wind, and priests in luxurious, operatic costumes busy themselves with stately ceremonials in a dead and not too respectable language -- this is unquestionably beautiful, particularly if the devotee herself is attractive. But the same devotee aroused to hysterical protestations of faith by the shrieks and contortions of a Pentecostal preacher, her knees trembling with the fear of God, her hands clenched as if to do combat with Beelzebub, her lips discharging hosannas and hallelujahs -- this is merely obscene.
- H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy


One summer night Louie and Mel set to over the issue of speaking in tongues, Louie arguing that this manifestation of the Spirit was to be sought earnestly, Mel holding that it was a miraculous gift given to the early church but not given by God today. I forget the Scripture verses each of them brought forward to defend his position, but I remember the pale faces, the throat-clearing, the anguished looks, as those two voices went back and forth, straining at the bit, giving no ground -- the poisoned courtesy ("I think my brother is overlooking Paul's very clear message to the Corinthians.," "Perhaps my brother needs to take a closer look, a prayerful look, at this verse in Hebrews.") as the sun went down, neighbor children were called indoors, the neighbors turned out their lights, eleven o'clock came -- they wouldn't stop!

"Perhaps," Grandpa offered, "it would be meet for us to pray for the Spirit to lead us," hoping to adjourn, but both Louie and Mel felt that the Spirit had led, that the Spirit had written the truth in big black letters -- if only some people could see it.

The thought of Uncle Louie speaking in tongues was fascinating to me. Uncle Louie worked at the bank, he spoke to me mostly about thrift and hard work. What tongue would he speak? Spanish? French? Or would it sound like gibberish? Louie said that speaking in tongues was the true sign, that those who believed heard and to those who didn't it was only gabble -- what if he stood up and said, "Feemalator, jasperator, hoo ha ha, Wamalamagamanama, zis boom bah!" and everyone else said, "Amen! That's right, brother! Praise God!" and I was the only one who said, "Huh?"
- Garrison Keillor, "Protestant," Lake Woebegon Days


Anyone interested in the phenomena of "speaking in tongues" should try a google search ( ) on "glossolalia" and read about some of the scientific studies on the subject. Or you could try going to the Discovery Channel's website and searching there on the term. I recently saw a documentary featuring a linguistic expert who has studied people speaking in tongues all over the world in many different religious settings. He said that it is all gibberish, not anything akin to a genuine language, and that it is also all remarkably similar in tone and sound. He played examples from several Christian groups, some voodoo and vodoun practitioners, and some Hindi festivals and some Polynesian religious rituals. The sounds were all remarkably similar in their use of vowels and consonants but none of the examples fit the definition of actual language. His theory is that the similarity is accounted for by the human subconscious producing certain sounds when an individual is in an auto-hypnotic state. [My theory is far simpler, you let some air out of your mouth and start repeating the first nonsense syllable your tongue naturally forms, rolling it over and over again on your tongue, until another syllable is added, and keep repeating them as more syllables arise, as they will, naturally. Anyone can be taught how to do it without "auto-hypnosis." I can still speak in tongues just as I did as a Christian. -- E.T.B.]

I used to pray in tongues when I was a Pentecostal. I can do it now anytime, on demand, it was just freeing the subconscious and spouting whatever gibberish came into my head. If this was truly a "gift from God" I certainly would have lost the ability when I gave up Christianity and became a Witch.
- Pat


For the last 20 years, between 7 and 9 percent of Americans have spoken in tongues -- but almost the same percentage said the practice is evidence of demonic possession.
- Bernard Katz, "Quoteline and Commentaries," The American Rationalist, July/Aug. 1998


Michael Trofimov pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of his father. Trofimov, who had recently joined a religious group, was found was his hands around his father's neck "speaking in tongues and screaming for God." His uncle said, "He was a good young man and then he started going to these [religious] meetings."
- Chuck Shepherd, John J. Kohut & Roland Sweet, More News of the Weird (1990)


True story: A young Pentecostal girl dared her girlfriend in church to shout out some nonsense syllables just to see if someone would stand up and "interpret the tongue." So the girl shouted, "coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola" and a church member promptly stood up and "interpreted the tongue" as a message from God.

Years later, I read that when the Coca-Cola company tried selling their brew in China, they discovered that the Chinese symbols that were pronounced, "Coca-Cola," meant literally, "Bite the wax tadpole." So maybe you can get a "message" out of "coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola," albeit a stuttering and meaningless one.
- E.T.B.


As a former tongue-speaking Christian it wasn't the repetitive nature of many of the syllables I spoke that raised doubts. It was the fact that people in our group would sometimes "speak in tongues" a long time yet the "interpretation" could be quite brief. Or they would "speak in tongues" briefly and the "interpretation" came out long-winded. Folks who loved the King James Bible naturally "interpreted tongues" in Elizabethan English, while those who loved other translations of the Bible delivered less Elizabethan-sounding "interpretations." And the messages received via this miraculous discourse were as trifling as the simplest cares and woes found in the Psalms with which everyone in the congregation was familiar -- as if God didn't have anything more relevant or specific to say to us. Yet it seemed to me that if God was going to give people miraculous linguistic and translation abilities, He'd have found far better uses to put them to.
- E.T.B.


Rob Berry: I've heard that a trained listener can tell the difference between a New Yorker and a Southerner speaking in tongues, so the "tongues" spoken by an individual reflect the normal language of that individual. And a Japanese person speaking in tongues is not going to have any "L"s in their babbling.

David O. Miller: Actually this is true only for those Japanese who have never studied English. Those who have, consistantry have "L"s whele the "R"s berong and "R"s whele the "L"s berong. And that could totally change the meaning of the babbling couldn't it? Obviously, "uga-bali-raka-fulu" and "uga-bari-laka-furu" are two entirely different things, right?


I used to speak in tongues. Now it only comes in handy when I perform cunnilingus.
- E.T.B.


An evangelical Christian once told me, "Only Jesus Christ can save man..." (What about woman, I wondered? Oh, well, one does not expect semantic sophistication from literalist Bible believers) "... and restore him to his lost state of peace with God, himself and others." Yeah, sure, and only new Pepsi can make you feel really happy, and only our brand is better than the competition, and only our country is the best country. It is truly amazing to me that people can utter such arrogant nonsense with no humor, no sense of how offensive they are to others, no doubt or trepidation, and no suspicion that they sound exactly like advertisers, con-men and other swindlers. It is really hard to understand such child-like prattling. If I were especially conceited about something (a state I try to avoid, but if I fell into it...), if for instance I decided I had the best garden or the handsomest face in Ireland, I would still retain enough common sense to suspect that I would sound like a conceited fool if I went around telling everybody those opinions. I would have enough tact left, I hope, to satisfy my conceit by dreaming that other people would notice on their own that my garden and/or my face were especially lovely. People who go around innocently and blithely announcing that they belong to the Master Race or the Best Country Club or have the One True Religion seem to have never gotten beyond the kindergarten level of ego-display. Do they have no modesty, no tact, no shame, no adult common sense at all? Do they have any suspicion how silly their conceit sounds to the majority of the nonwhite non-Christian men and women of the world? To me, they seem like little children wearing daddy's clothes and going around shouting, "Look how grown-up I am! Look at me, me, me!"

There are more amusing things than ego-games, conceit and one-upmanship. Really, there are. I suspect that people stay on that childish level because they have never discovered how interesting and exciting the adult world is.

If one must play ego-games, I still think it would be more polite, and more adult, to play them in the privacy of one's head. In fact, despite my efforts to be a kind of Buddhist, I do relapse into such ego-games on occasion; but I have enough respect for human intelligence to keep such thoughts to myself. I don't go around announcing that I have painted the greatest painting of our time; I hope that people will notice that by themselves. Why do the people whose ego-games consist of day-dreaming about being part of the Master Race or the One True Religion not keep that precious secret to themselves, also, and wait for the rest of the human race to notice their blinding superiority?
- Robert Anton Wilson


Many evangelical Christians boast that they have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. What makes it so "personal?" Well, they say, we have the words attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels. But there are so few of them, a couple thousand. You could fit all of Jesus' words into a small 16-page booklet. And they are subject to interpretation.

Well, they say, there are "answered prayers." But again, that is a matter of interpretation, because no matter what happens, an evangelical Christian interprets it as "Jesus' will," even when bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Whenever I have a "personal relationship" with someone it does not consist of a few thousand words spoken two thousand years ago, recorded accurately (or inaccurately) by someone else, and which require interpretation from third parties for me to "truly" understand them (especially when the third parties disagree concerning the meaning and intent of those words).

Neither should a "personal relationship" depend on me having to interpret the results of every prayer uttered. And the range of interpretations covers every conceivable outcome: "strongly positively answered," "weakly positively answered," "strongly negatively answered," "weakly negatively answered," or even, "try again later when you have more faith."
- E.T.B.


Question: What's the difference between a trained psychologist and a born again Christian?

A trained psychologist can read a person like a book, but a born again Christian reads a book like it's a person.
- E.T.B.


Psychotherapists will tell you that in dealing with an addict, you have to understand that the person's primary relationship is with the drug.~The drug has the ability to control the addict's thinking to a remarkable degree, and you must understand that any relationship you may feel with the addict is a distant second to the one they have with their drug.

Fund-geli-costal Christianity (conservative hard-line Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Pentecostal Christianity) is open and unabashed about this. The relationship with Jesus is supposed to be the primary relationship in a believer's life. There is even a scripture that goes something like, "Not unless you hate your mother and father blah blah." The interpretation of this scripture I've heard from believers is that it isn't absolute hatred, but relative. In other words, you love your mother, but you should love Jesus so much that it in comparison it's like you hate her. Doesn't this sound an awful lot like a drunk's love for the bottle?

It may be helpful when trying to have a relationship with a believer to remember that you and their relationship with you means very little to them compared to their need to continue in their thought addiction. Kind of interesting that "true believers" will happily sacrifice a relationship with their own children in order to cling to the comfort of belief.~
Comfort is a poor choice of words really because anybody here can tell you being a fundamentalist is anything but comfortable.~ They promise you comfort, security and power just like the ads for alcohol promise sex, power and a rippin' good time, but it sours fast with either addiction.
- Saint Vilis


(The 'Methodists') demonstrate to secure, contented, happy mankind that it is really unhappy and desperate, and merely unwilling to realize that it is in severe straits it knows nothing at all about, from which only they can rescue it. Wherever there is health, strength, security, simplicity, they spy luscious fruit to gnaw at or to lay their pernicious eggs in. They make it their object first of all to drive men to inward despair, and then it is all theirs.
- Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison [Bonhoeffer is a famed moderate Christian minister who was imprisoned by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler. His book, The Cost of Discipleship was once widely praised and read in Evangelical Christian circles, though perhaps less so today.]


The church must stop trying to act like a "spiritual pharmacist" -- working to produce acute guilt, and then in effect saying, "We just happen to have the remedy for your guilt here in our pocket."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Evangelical Christianity = Being made to feel sinful and guilty for not having felt sinful and guilty, in order that one might experience release from sin and guilt; Like donning lead boots and walking about in them until totally exhausted in order to have the exhilarating experience of taking them off again.
- Conrad Hyers, Once-Born, Twice-Born Zen [Hyers is a moderate Evangelical Christian and former Chair of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College]


According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught, "If you see a woman and lust after her, I say that you have already committed adultery in your heart." In other words, even if you don't commit adultery "in the flesh," you've committed it just by lusting after someone. Now suppose you see someone in need, who needs some cash or a kind word, and you yearn in your heart to give it to them (but don't do give it to them "in the flesh"). Does that mean you have "already committed charity in your heart?" Think about it. If a lust-filled yearning is evidence of the depravity of the human heart, then what about the yearnings people feel to help and support one another? Is that not an indication of goodness in people's hearts?

Gandhi, the famous Hindu peace-activist, taught that people should seek out what was best in their own religions and hearts. Even Jesus put a positive spin on "the heart" when he taught that "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart" (Luke 6:45 & Mat. 12:35), and when he taught that people ought to "Love God with all their heart," (Mat. 22:37). How is that possible if the heart is merely "wicked and deceitful?"

No doubt the "wickedness" of "the heart" expressed by Jeremiah 17:9 ("The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked") applies to some people at some times when they do certain things, especially when they are at their lowest and weakest points. But to take Jeremiah's hyperbole and bake it in an oven until it becomes as dry and hard as a brick of dogma, and make that brick a cornerstone of your theology takes a heart dry of compassion and lacking in honest appraisals of others' beliefs and actions.
- E.T.B.


Kano V.: In my opinion Man is innately evil.

David Worrell: Then feel free to kill yourself. Think of it as one less evil person in the world.


One of Christianity's chief offenses is not that it has enlisted the services of bad men, but that it has misdirected the energies of good ones. The kindly, the sensitive, the thoughtful, those who are striving to do their best under its influence, are troubled, and consequently often develop a more or less morbid frame of mind. The biographies of the best men in Christian history offer many melancholy examples of the extent to which they have falsely accused themselves of sins during their "unconverted" state, and the manner in which harmless actions are magnified into deadly offenses.
- Chapman Cohen, Essays in Freethinking


I regard revivals as essentially barbaric. The fire that has to be blown all the time is a poor thing to get warm by. I think they do no good but much harm; they make innocent people think they are guilty, and very mean people think they are good.
- Robert Ingersoll [America's "Great Agnostic"]


Some people have an instant "conversion" to alcoholism.~They take their first drink, or have their first good drunk and understand (in the words of a very young alcoholic client I once had) "This (drinking) is what I was put on this world to do."

For some people their religion is an illness they are trying to recover from and the recovery process is more difficult than recovering from alcoholism.
- Saint Vilis


In the days of my youth, ministers depended on revivals to save souls and reform the world. The emotional sermons, the sad singing, the hysterical "Amens," the hope of heaven, the fear of hell, caused many to lose what little sense they had. In this condition they flocked to the "mourner's bench" -- asked for prayers of the faithful -- had strange feelings, prayed, and wept and thought they had been "born again." Then they would tell their experiences -- how wicked they had been, how evil had been their thoughts, their desires, and how good they had suddenly become.

They used to tell the story of an old woman who, in telling her experience, said, "Before I was converted, before I gave my heart to God, I used to lie and steal, but now, thanks to the grace and blood of Jesus Christ, I have quit 'em both, in a great measure."

Well, while the cold winter lasted, while the snows fell, the revival went on, but when the winter was over, the boats moved in the harbor again, the wagons rolled, and business started again, most of the converts "backslid" and fell again into their old ways. But the next winter they were on hand again, read to be "born again." They formed a kind of stock company, playing the same parts every winter and backsliding every spring.
- Robert Ingersoll, "Why I am An Agnostic"


Were it true that a converted man as such is of an entirely different kind from a natural man, there surely ought to be some distinctive radiance. But notoriously there is no such radiance. Converted men as a class are indistinguishable from normal men.

By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry ideals with which an inferior intellect may inspire him, a saint can be even more objectionable and damnable than a superficial "carnal" man would be in the same situation.
- William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience


One Sunday afternoon my cousin and I were eating at a restaurant. He paused, and started pointing at people. "He's a Christian . He's a Christian . So is she and she and that other guy." I asked how he was so sure. His reply? "I was a hard-core evangelical Christian for a few years, remember? It's not hard to see once you know what to look for. Look for someone who looks like they're wearing clothes just a little bit nicer than they're comfortable in, that have a smile on their face. It won't look like a happy smile, it'll look kind of contrived and forced, like they're trying to convince themselves they're happy and rich."
- Justice McPherson


Two evangelical Christians at the door: May we come in and share some good news with you?

Me: Don't you mean, "May we blatantly disregard your privacy for a few minutes in order to further our own personal goals?" Tell me, which denomination do you belong to, and when was it founded? That's Protestant, isn't it? I bet the Pope has rings older than your denomination. I bet your denomination numbers a couple million at most. Catholics number far more. In fact, if you added up every member of every Protestant denomination on earth, the Catholics equal or exceed that number. You say that's a logical fallacy, truth is not determined by sheer numbers? That's what all small denominations say. Heck, maybe you're knocking on doors because you're bored seeing the same faces in church or you fear your heaven won't have enough folks in it to form a decent choir. I have a hot tip for you, you'll be happier if you seek out people whom you admire -- and things you enjoy -- on an individual basis, rather than try to pour yourself and the whole world into a "one size fits all" religious Jello mold.
- E.T.B.


I believe part of the appeal of the evangelical religion is for offering certainty, not faith, certainty about what is doctrinally correct. I think one of the dangers of religion is to believe we have got God all buttoned down. I believe just the opposite. I believe in the freedom and mystery of God that doesn't allow us to be certain but allows us to be loving. To put it in street talk, I look more to how people live than what they say they believe.
-The Rev. Albert Pennybacker, a Lexington, Ky.-based pastor, is head of the Clergy Leadership Network, a new, cross-denominational group of liberal and moderate religious leaders seeking to counter the influence of the Religious Right and to mobilize voters to change leadership in Washington.


Evangelist = A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


I once heard an Evangelist warn, "Santa is just Satan misspelled!" If that's true then maybe "Evangelist" is just "Evil's Agent" misspelled? And maybe, "Fundamentalist Christian" is "Filthier Mad Cunts in Satan" misspelled?
- Source unknown



Maybe "God Bless America" is "Assbead micro gel" misspelled?

Maybe "House of Worship" is "Whore of his opus," or, "Whore sushi poof" misspelled?

Maybe "Christian Fellowship" is "Lisa, his elf porn witch," or, "Elf porn with ass chili," misspelled?

Maybe "Assembly of God" is "Bloody fag mess," misspelled?

Maybe "Praise Jesus" is "Jesus is rape," misspelled?

Maybe "Pensacola Christian College" is "Gil selects a choice anal porn," misspelled?

- Darin Boyd ( )


A nifty slogan to have printed on a T-shirt before being dragged to an evangelistic rally by your friends: GOD DAMNED ME TO HELL AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT.
- E.T.B.


When Gary told me he had found Jesus, I thought, Yahoo! We're rich! But it turned out to be something different.
- Jack Handey, The Lost Deep Thoughts

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