WEEK IN REVIEW: The Club Q tragedy and the Christian aftermath
A controversial Yule festival, injustice in Bangladesh, BYU-Idaho's religious extremism, and more!
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Happy post-Thanksgiving! Over the past couple of weeks, two stories I covered got additional media coverage, highlighting Christian extremism. In one case, it put conservative Christians on the defensive. In the other, it may have prevented things from getting worse.
The first one came shortly after the Club Q massacre in Colorado Springs, when Christian hate-preacher Aaron Thompson celebrated the mass shooting, saying that it was a “good thing” five people at the LGBTQ club were murdered because it means “they’re not here anymore to molest kids.”
This clip received over 1.2 million views and was later covered by The Columbian and Religion Dispatches.
Thompson quickly scrubbed that sermon from his archives before YouTube took him down permanently.
Then, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, I wrote about how a planned “Festival of Yule” (including an opportunity for a picture with a large statue of Krampus) was getting backlash from some Christians who believed their city had approved a “pagan festival.” They intended to complain at a city council meeting, hoping to get the permit rescinded.
Not only did the permit remain in place, one of the most vocal complaints came from a man who cited my article… and then committed an own goal when he claimed Christians had the right to circumvent the law.
The festival is scheduled for this Saturday. Those Christians weren’t able to convince anyone that they cared about the law.
As always, I appreciate your support through Patreon and Substack, which allows me to pursue these stories while working on other articles and projects. This would be an ideal time to subscribe if you haven’t already!
Aaron Thompson wasn’t the only person downplaying the Club Q murders. Jenna Ellis, the former legal adviser to Donald Trump, said on her eponymous radio show that her main concern was that the five victims weren’t openly Christian… which means, in her mind, they’re burning in Hell.
On the flip side, days after the shooting, vandals defaced the large “Focus on the Family” sign outside the Christian ministry’s Colorado Springs headquarters. “Their blood is on your hands,” said the spray-painted words. “Five lives taken.”
My first instinct was to denounce the vandalism… but the more I thought about it, the most I felt it was justified. At the very least, I felt it was defensible. Because that still feels weird to say, I explained my thinking here.
By the way, the shooter’s conservative Republican Mormon dad wants you to know he’s just glad his son isn’t gay.
Look! Some good news! For the first time ever, Christians in England and Wales are in the minority, according to the latest census results.
Between 2011 and 2021, the percent of people calling themselves Christian fell from 59% to 46%; during that same period, the “No Religion” group jumped from 25% to 37%.
It’s never been easier to predict the future. It’s no longer a question of if Christianity will become a minority religious group, but when.
Many Americans are finally waking up to the fact the Supreme Court is basically another arm of the Christian Right. At least the ones who aren’t part of the Christian Right.
A new survey released by the Pew Research Center found that 74% of atheists, compared to only 20% of white evangelicals, say the Supreme Court is “friendly” toward religion. (14% of white evangelicals reject that idea, presumably thinking the Court is just making legally sound decisions… that happen to benefit them.)
The people who say the Court is friendly toward religion, across the board, mark a huge increase from just a few years ago.
The best time to expand the Court was years ago. The second best time is now. The more people who recognize that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority functions as an extension of the GOP, and are not above partisan politics, the sooner we’ll be able to fix the problem.
Yet another injustice against freethought has taken place in Bangladesh, where two men sentenced to death for murdering an atheist author and his publisher were able to escape police custody.
In 2015, atheist author Dr. Avijit Roy was hacked to death as he and his wife were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka. Several months later, his publisher, Faisal Abedin Dipan, was also slain.
Now, two of the men sentenced to die for their involvement in those murders are no longer in police custody after their colleagues apparently pulled off a scheme to help them escape as they were being taken to court for a separate matter.
This is the kind of church/state separation we need:
Right-wing pastor Lucas Miles told a right-wing TV host that many students at Bible colleges are becoming atheists, getting jobs at churches anyway, then preaching “wokeness” from the pulpit. And all of this stems from the idea of a transgender Jesus.
Good luck connecting those dots.
For what it’s worth, there’s no evidence—none whatsoever—of students shedding their faith at a Christian college, then still getting a job as a pastor in order to become a Trojan Horse for atheism. The idea that someone with nagging religious doubts would purposely choose a career dedicated to preaching the Gospel just doesn’t make any sense.
A Virginia pastor was convicted of fraud after government officials uncovered his multi-year, $740,000 scheme to supposedly build a Christian theme park called “Miracle Mansion.” Michael Mandel Baldwin wasn’t actually building that park, though. He was pocketing the cash.
I guess the miracle is that he’s actually been found guilty of fraud. He now faces up to 40 years behind bars and fines of up to $5,250,000.
Adnan Oktar, a Creationist preacher in Turkey, was sentenced to 8,658 years in prison for a variety of crimes including running a criminal organization, sexual abuse, torture, and abduction.
If that seems a bit excessive—I wouldn’t have given him a day over 8,000 years—keep in mind that some of this is politically motivated: Oktar had run-ins with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before. At the same time, though, when you learn about his creepy sex cult, rife with alleged abuse, any sympathy you might have will disappear.
At least two instructors at BYU-Idaho, an affiliate of Brigham Young University in Utah, have been fired for not receiving “ecclesiastical clearance.” In essence, they were fired for not being Mormon enough. But they are Mormon… and they had endorsements from their Mormon bishops.
So what was the problem? The Mormon Church won’t say, but it appears that both instructors made the mistake of questioning—merely questioning—the LDS Church’s anti-LGBTQ beliefs. That display of concern, however, may have tipped the scales against them.
While it’s a disappointing result for the professors, it’s a reminder that religious bigotry affects even people inside the bubble.
The people who want bibles in schools also want to torture your kids.
Christian hate-group leader Tony Perkins is one of several extreme Republicans who have been tasked with explaining why the GOP didn’t see a “red wave” during the midterms. I’m guessing their answer will inevitably be: We need to go more extreme.
Be sure to keep an eye on this…
Happy After School Satan Club Day to all who celebrate:
You think Christian Nationalism is bad? Wait until you meet Catholic Nationalism.
I made a video about the IRS, the Johnson Amendment, and why so many pastors who endorse political candidates from the pulpit are getting away with it.
In the previous newsletter, I wrote about all the questions I had about this gelato shop in Alabama…
Naturally, I went down the rabbit hole.
Turns out the owner of Villaggio Colafrancesco gives all post-tax profits to the Caritas of Birmingham ministry, which is not recognized as legitimate by the Catholic Church and which is also often referred to as a “cult.”
Watch where you spend your gelato dollars, is all I’m saying…
The truth has been spoken:
Fundamentalist Christian grandmother Lori Alexander, a.k.a. The Transformed Wife, has no concept of how marriage and sexuality work in the real world, but she’ll go out on a limb to defend the worst people.
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity and right-wing preaching:
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Numbers 29: It's time to learn about every festival known to man, and how everyone has to celebrate every day of each one of them. FUN!
AND Numbers 30: This chapter, like so many chapters, is all about who controls a woman's wishes. (Answer? Whichever man she's closest to at the time.)
I spoke with my co-host Jessica Greiff about many of the stories in this newsletter during this week’s podcast:
Finally, if you’re in Georgia, please go vote for Sen. Raphael Warnock ASAP:
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You forgot to mention that the current Supreme court is illegitimate and all its decisions should retroactively be re-examined once we restore legitimacy by removing the religious zealots.