Duggars, religion, sex, slut shamers

Partial repost: There’s something “fishy” about this logic…

Here’s a partial repost from March 2018. It’s only a “partial” repost, because I have matured a bit since 2018 and feel the need to be slightly less vulgar and obscene. Also, it gives me some time to think about today’s “fresh” content. I’m sure I’ll be wanting to post some fresh content after writing about this subject. Or maybe I’ll just want to take a shower.

A few days ago, I saw this photo posted in my Facebook feed.  Someone had shared it in the Duggar Family News group. Here’s a link to an article about this, which led the original poster to get quite a “grillin'”.

Mmmm…. appetizing!

I almost wonder if this little object lesson is satire.  At the very least, it’s completely tasteless and not even really true.  Besides, if every woman on the planet decided to stay virginal until marriage, I think there would be a lot of frustrated men out there who would make terrible husbands.  Not everyone is cut out for marriage. On the other hand, now that all of the totally intrusive and sickening abortion laws are being proposed, perhaps a massive sex strike is just what some of the men need in order to get their priorities straight.

Personally, I did wait until marriage before I lost my virginity.  It wasn’t because I was concerned about how tight my twat was, though.  In fact, I vividly remember worrying about what that first experience would be like, since I didn’t have any sex before I got married.  In my case, being a virgin was less because of a sense of morality and saving myself, and more because of practicality.  I simply never found anyone with whom I wanted sex who also wanted sex with me.  I will admit that I didn’t try very hard.  And Bill, who was a lapsed Mormon during our engagement, wanted to wait until marriage, too. I figured I’d waited that long, I might as well wait for our big day… and then we waited another couple of weeks, because I started my period right after the ceremony. 🙁

 

I know how Ginny felt… actually, I didn’t need muscle relaxants. Aunt Flow was kind enough to wait until after we were at our B&B.

I truly don’t regret waiting for marriage, but I realize that’s not a choice everyone will want to make.  Moreover, I would much rather people have sex while they are single, than get married simply so they can finally fuck each other.  I can personally attest to how awful and complicated divorce can be, not just for the person who gets divorced, but also family, friends, and significant others.  I am for people being responsible about it and taking precautions to prevent pregnancies and disease transmission.  Then, by all means, have your fun.

That’s right!  It could simply mean that you have a really small penis.

I have not yet seen a post encouraging men to wait until marriage, even though I’m sure that’s encouraged among the religious.  On the other hand, guys like Josh Duggar preach about family values and living the fundie Christian way.  Then they go out and hire strippers and prostitutes.  The truth later comes out in a big scandal.  I suspect that a lot of fundamentalist Christian males are massive hypocrites and liars.  I feel sorry for Josh’s wife and kids because I’m not sure he’ll ever live down what a hypocritical scumbag he was revealed to be. (ETA: remember, this was originally posted in 2018– three years before the world found out how truly vile and disgusting Josh Duggar really is! I feel even more sorry for his kids today, although my sympathy for Anna is slightly less now…)  

If you’re LDS, that could take awhile…

I think it’s pretty gross that the person who made the first post used fish to illustrate how tight a woman’s vagina is after multiple sex partners.  I mean, did that person choose fish on purpose, realizing that a lot of sexually transmitted infections can cause that part of the body to take on a fishy odor?  What’s the old saying?  Fish and visitors stink after three days?  

And what’s with wasting perfectly good fish on an object lesson?  That fish died so the world can get a graphic representation about how women who have sex with many men might make them too “loose” for a man’s pleasure.  There are people starving in the world… people who would love to have fish for dinner.  And finally, the idea of a woman’s genitals being akin to a cold, slimy, fleshy, malodorous piece of fish.  I’m surprised anyone would feel sexy after seeing that.  But I guess that was the point.  

This fish business is even grosser than using licked cupcakes and chewed gum to teach girls about purity.  At least gum and cupcakes are appetizing.  Using raw fish, especially when illustrating a woman’s vagina, is just nasty and disrespectful. 

And just to make this more topical in 2021… I have been stumbling across more and more news pieces about fundie males who turn out to be total deviants and perverts. I am convinced that a higher number of creeps are hiding out in fundamentalist religious cults than in the regular population. If you think about it, those types of very legalistic religiously based groups with high levels of control and power over members are especially ripe for abuse. Females are usually taught in those groups that they are to submit to men at all costs, and if they suffer from abuse or mental health issues, it’s because they aren’t “right” with God and need to repent and pray.

Every day, when I read about these kinds of situations, I am more and more grateful that my parents did not raise me in a cult. I went to a mainstream church, where there was no weirdness and no intrusive interviews about my sexual habits or preferences. No one ever shamed me for what I was wearing. And I was only expected to be in church for an hour (two, if you count Sunday School) a week.

Speaking of Josh Duggar… looks like his most recent court case involving his evident issues with downloading videos and photos of CSA is heading south at a rapid pace. The federal judge keeps turning down his desperate requests to suppress evidence. I think he’s going to regret not accepting a plea deal, because I have a feeling that at the end of his trial, he’s going to be going away for a very long time. I’m generally not a fan of putting people in prison for years on end, but I do think it’s probably appropriate in his case.

In any case, the fish object lesson is particularly disgusting. I thought the wadded up gum, licked cupcakes, and wilted roses used to discourage girls from being “handled sexually” were yucky, but none of them compare to using tuna to demonstrate the condition of a woman’s nether regions. Eeeeew! The guy who made this ought to be ashamed of himself… and he should enroll in an anatomy class, pronto.

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religion, videos

Repost: The Children of God cult…

Here’s another repost from the original blog. I wrote this in January 2019, just before the old blog went “poof”. I am reposting it as/is here, since I recently reviewed Not Without My Sister, a book about sisters who were raised in the Children of God cult. This was the first post I wrote about this cult; I first heard about it on the A&E series mentioned below.

Having now exhausted Leah Remini’s Scientology episodes, at least for now, I moved on to another A&E series hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, called Cults and Extreme Belief.  Since yesterday afternoon, I’ve seen three episodes.  The first two, about NXIVM and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were disturbing enough.  But the third one, about the Children of God (now known as The Family International), made me stop and blog.

Before I watched the show, I had heard a little bit about this religious cult, founded in California in the 1960s by a charismatic preacher named David Berg.  Originally called “Teens for Christ”, this group mostly consisted of runaways and hippies, and preached to each other about salvation, happiness, and a coming apocalypse.  Creepy founder, David Berg, was frequently known by the alias Moses David, and gave himself the titles of “King”, “The Last Endtime Prophet”, “Moses”, and “David”.  His first wife, Jane Miller, married him in 1944 and divorced him in 1970, two years after he started his cult.  Berg married his second wife, Karen Zerby, in 1970.  She is currently leading The Family International, since Berg died in October 1994.

One thing that struck me about this cult is that it was full of musically talented people, children in particular.  One of the children involved was Berg’s granddaughter, Merry, who was also known as Mene.  Merry, who died in her sleep in December 2017, was fifteen days older than I am.  She was musically talented and very ethereal looking, with beautiful blonde hair.  Merry was featured on musical recordings done by Children of God, as well as videos. 

Merry Berg…

Other talented children were also used to make songs about love and sex, and some were also forced to do strip teases.  Aside from that, there was rampant sexual abuse.  Merry was one of the most victimized of the bunch, having endured multiple forced exorcisms as well as extreme abuse on all levels.  She was forced to live in different places, locked in a closet for six months, whipped, tied up, and screamed at by her grandfather, who claimed she was possessed by the devil.

The whole story was very disturbing to me, but I think what really captured my attention was the way these kids looked.  Here they were, maybe ten or eleven years old on these videos from the 70s… a lot of them are probably my contemporaries.  Most of them were attractive and musically gifted, singing so beautifully songs about love.  But the love they sang about was inappropriate and forbidden because it involved sex.  Indeed, these children were commanded to go “flirty fishing” to entice new people to join the cult.  The flirty fishing was more than just flirtation; in fact, it included sex.  David Berg preached sex.

Creepy!

As I watched the above video, I was eerily reminded of the beauty pageants that used to be so popular in the 1980s.  The lyrics sound so wholesome, yet all of the singers look like they’re in a trance.  These teens in the video were likely born into the cult and knew nothing else.  It’s all about worshiping their sick leader, who was supposedly an alcoholic and may have also suffered from mental illnesses.

This clip is from 20/20… a young girl is very upset and repeatedly insists that there’s nothing wrong with sex.

As a child of the 70s and 80s myself, I am also aware of the late actor, River Phoenix, who was extremely famous and much beloved by people of my generation.  Phoenix died in 1993, having overdosed on drugs at The Viper Room in Los Angeles.  He and his similarly talented siblings were raised in this cult when they were very young.  Phoenix once claimed that he lost his virginity at age four, but later said he was kidding.

And A Current Affair also covered this group, explaining “flirty fishing” more.  Imagine the kind of people who were enticed into this group by watching young girls behave sexually.  It sounds like a nightmare.
A 20/20 episode about Children of God.  Not the same one I watched this morning, but also worth viewing.

David Berg unofficially adopted Ricky Rodriguez, nicknaming him Davidito.  He was born in the Canary Islands, the son of Berg’s second wife, Karen Zerby, and a man she “flirty fished”.  In 2005, when Rodriguez was 29 years old, he murdered a woman who had been his nanny and sexually abused him.  Then he killed himself.  Rodriguez was forced into inappropriate sexual relationships when he was a child and developed deep seated resentment toward Berg and Zerby because of the abuse he suffered.

Megyn Kelly speaks to Children of God cult survivor, Christina Babin, who speaks about how difficult it was to be in the cult and how most of the children never got more than a sixth grade education.

I know I heard of this cult before I watched Elizabeth Vargas discuss it this morning.  I remember hearing about River Phoenix and his siblings being in a religious cult when they were young.  It’s tragic how many youngsters were affected by this cult, which was considered a “religion” and granted special privileges.  Many who were raised in The Children of God later committed suicide because they had no foundation from which to launch their lives beyond the cult.

It’s amazing how many cults there are out there and how people get caught up in them.  It’s tragic that children grow up in these organizations and are left with nothing when they come of age.  I may have to find something a little lighter to watch later.

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condescending twatbags, religion, stupid people, TV

Jim Bakker NEEDS your money or they’ll cancel his show!

I remember back in the 1980s, when televangelists were all over the news for various scandals involving sex and fleecing their flocks. Jim Bakker was, in those days, a charismatic leader of the PTL network. He, along with his ex wife, the late Tammy Faye Bakker, had a vision to create a Christian utopia in Heritage USA, a Christian theme park and housing development that never quite came to fruition.

Bakker was later busted by the feds for defrauding his followers. I clearly recall how he went into a fetal position and had to be committed for a psych evaluation while he was on trial for fraud. He was originally sentenced to 45 years in prison, but the sentence was later reduced to eight years. He was paroled on December 1, 1994, after serving almost five years in a minimum security prison in Georgia. A few years later, he met his second wife, Lori. By 2003, he and Lori were back in the televangelism game, having launched a new program, which still runs today.

You’d think people would be wise to Jim Bakker, after his very public sex scandal and fraud case in the late 1980s. But no, he’s still got a platform, and he’s still peddling shit to the gullible. I don’t make a point of keeping up with what he’s doing, although I have to admit, he’s kind of a fascinating character. Below is a very disturbing video, complete with hilarious music, that shows Jim Bakker combining talk of the apocalypse, championing Donald Trump, and selling buckets of slop that can double as toilets or furniture.

You have to see it to believe it. What a fucking charlatan!

In the 1980s, I was kind of dimly aware of what was going on, since I was a teenager at the time. I avoided religion like the plague. But I do remember that Jim Bakker wasn’t the only daring televangelist in those days. In 1987, televangelist Oral Roberts told his followers that he was going to begin an intense prayer and fasting vigil that would last until he raised $8 million for a medical scholarship program. In a letter he sent to his flock, Roberts wrote that God had ordered him to raise the money by the end of March 1987, or he would die. According to an article from the Washington Post dated February 28, 1987:

The evangelist wrote that he will ascend the Prayer Tower at Oral Roberts University to begin praying and fasting.

“If I go from there to Jesus, I will see you in heaven. But I believe that won’t happen, because I believe our God will do this mighty thing and at the end of March, you and I will know the miracle has happened and the Gospel will go to the nations,” he said.

In the end, Roberts managed to raise $9.1 million. He died on December 15, 2009. At least Oral Roberts was raising money for a decent cause, even if the way he did it was highly manipulative and controversial.

Jim Bakker, like Oral Roberts before him, is also looking to raise a lot of money. This week, he told his followers in a panicky tone of voice that his show would be canceled if he didn’t pay what he owes his network. He says that he owes about a million dollars. According to DEADState, Bakker said:

“We’ve lost millions in finances due to the legal battles we’ve fought, losing our ability to receive donations by credit cards for over a year — has left us in a desperate state… But what the Devil has tried to do is silence our voice.”

Bakker continued,

“I’m asking you as a friend and longtime supporter of this ministry, valued partners, will you help us? Turn this wolf away from our door.”

Oh dear! What will we do without Jim Bakker’s show?

Regardless of what I think of Jim Bakker and his sleazy fundraising tactics, I’ve got to admit the man has a lot of moxie. And even though I think he’s a swindler, he does have charisma and a knack for appealing to a certain segment of the population. He’s even entertaining as he pulls the wool over people’s eyes. One of the funniest parts of Vic Berger’s Best of Jim Bakker YouTube video, posted above, is when Bakker tries to convince people that the slop in the bucket is delicious. He’s definitely game for peddling bullshit, and there’s something to be said for that. A lot of fortunes have been made by people who can sell ice to Eskimos.

I think televangelists are a fascinating lot. So many of them push the prosperity gospel, selling the idea that personal wealth is a sign of God’s favor. The whole lot of these evangelists wear expensive clothes, have coiffed hair (or in the case of the late Ernest Angley, outrageous wigs), and wear jewelry. They live in fancy homes, drive pricey cars, and never flinch as they demand “love gifts” for their bogus ministries. So many people buy into the fantasy that all they have to do is pray and send money and they will somehow be “blessed”. Mark Knopfler even wrote a fabulous song about this phenomenon, which his band Dire Straits recorded in 1991…

A beautiful song by Dire Straits… but people often miss the real meaning of this song and take the lyrics seriously. This song is sarcastic, and it’s about evangelists who rip off the gullible. People think that by sending money, they’re buying a “Ticket to Heaven”.

Here are the lyrics to “Ticket to Heaven”

I can see what you’re looking to find
In the smile on my face
In my peace of mind
In my state of grace

I send what I can
To the man from the ministry
He’s a part of heaven’s plan
And he talks to me

Now I send what I can to the man
With the diamond ring
He’s a part of heaven’s plan
And he sure can sing

Now it’s all I can afford
But the Lord has sent me eternity
It’s to save the little children
In a poor country

I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
I got a ride all the way to paradise
I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
All the way to paradise

Now there’s nothing left for luxuries
Nothing left to pay my heating bill
But the good Lord will provide
I know he will

So send what you can
To the man with the diamond ring
They’re tuning in across the land
To hear him sing

I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
Got a ride all the way to paradise
I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
All the way to paradise

As far as I’m concerned, Mark Knopfler is a god. I would much sooner follow him than Jim Bakker. What’s especially funny, though, is that a lot of people think “Ticket to Heaven” is a beautiful song that is literally about going to Heaven. It’s not. It’s an indictment against people like Jim Bakker and his ilk, cheating poor, ignorant, lonely, God fearing, people out of their money. When you think about it, Jim Bakker has a lot in common with Donald Trump. In fact, he is one of Trump’s admirers.

Eeew.

I only watch televangelists to ridicule them and be mildly entertained by their antics. Sadly, a lot of people think these so-called religion peddlers can help them. It’ll be interesting to see if Jim Bakker manages to save his show from oblivion. It’s kind of inspired that Jim Bakker peddles buckets of food and shovels to prepare for the apocalypse… they make handy receptacles for all the bullshit he shovels. We really should start taxing these fake religious motherfuckers.

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book reviews, religion

Reposted review of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes

Here’s another reposted book review. It was written for Epinions.com on June 14, 2010, and appears here as/is. I’m still thinking about today’s fresh content.

eBay has changed the face of American commerce, making some rather unconventional methods of earning money available to people smart enough to come up with a clever gimmick. Hemant Mehta is one such clever guy. In January 2006, when he was 22 years old, Mehta came up with a very interesting moneymaking proposal. An atheist since he was 14 years old, Mehta held an auction to get eBayers to send him to church.

His proposal read as follows:

I’m a 22-year-old from Chicago. I stopped believing in God when I was 14. Currently, I am an active volunteer for a couple of different national, secular organizations. For one of them, I am the editor of a newsletter that reaches over 1,000 atheist/agnostic college students. I have written several Letters to the Editor to newspapers in and around Chicago, espousing my atheistic beliefs when Church/State issues arose. My point being that I don’t take my non-belief lightly. However, while I don’t believe in God, I firmly believe I would immediately change those views if presented with evidence to the contrary. And at age 22, this is possibly the best chance anyone has of changing me.

So here’s my proposal. Every time I come home, I pass this old Irish church. I promise to go into that church every day– for a certain number of days– for at least an hour each visit. For every $10 you bid, I will go to the Church for 1 day. For $50, you would have me going to mass every day for a week.
 (15)

Mehta continues by promising to go to church willingly and keep an open mind, yet not saying or doing anything inappropriate. He offers to volunteer with the church and interact with the people of the church and do his best to learn about the churchgoers’ beliefs. He also promises to maintain a diary, take photos, or secure any other type of proof the winning bidder desires in order to uphold his end of the bargain.

Proving that Americans love a good gimmick and are willing to pay for it, Mehta was successful in finding someone to pay him to attend church. The winning bidder of his auction was Jim Henderson, a minister from Seattle, Washington, who paid $504 to get Mehta to attend church. Mehta donated the money to the Secular Student Alliance, one of the organizations Mehta was involved with when he was a student.

Instead of just attending the old Irish church, however, Henderson opted to have Mehta try a variety of different churches and maintain his impressions on Henderson’s Web site, http://www.offthemap.com. And Mehta did make good on his end of the deal, visiting churches in four different states that ranged from mega-sized to small and intimate. Mehta’s eBay experiment led to his decision to write his 2007 book, I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes.

My thoughts

This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be when I decided to buy it. I was under the impression that Mehta’s memoirs of an atheist sitting in church would be about just that… sitting in church. But it turns out I Sold My Soul on eBay is also about what makes an atheist tick. He offers some commentary on the atheist movement, as well as some insight as to why he gave up Jainism, the faith Mehta grew up in.

Mehta’s eBay experiment led him to attend some very well known megachurches, to include Ted Haggard’s New Life Church and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Mehta offers his observations of what it was like for him as a non-believer. While I’m no atheist, I can understand where he was coming from, particularly when he writes of his experiences in the megachurches, a burgeoning American phenomenon that I personally find a big turn off. That being said, not all of Mehta’s observations are negative. He has good things to say about Joel Osteen, going as far as to quip “I may be an atheist, but I love Joel” (123). Based on Osteen’s constant presence on television over the past few years, so do a lot of other Americans.

Toward the end of the book, Mehta offers his thoughts on both what works and what’s wrong with typical Christian church services. I didn’t agree with all of Mehta’s insights; for example, he says he wishes there was less singing. I don’t attend church regularly anymore, but one of the one things I do enjoy about church services is the music. Mehta also complains that a lot of Christians have an intolerant attitude toward atheists.  I can agree with that statement.  On the other hand, Mehta also observes that a lot of churches offer valuable community outreach, which he claims to find commendable, and some of the pastors he met made sure their messages were very relevant.  The pastors who kept their messages useful to Mehta today stood the best chance of getting him to change his mind about religion and go back to church.

At the end of the book, Mehta writes an interesting chapter about what it would take to get him to convert. He writes that he still has unanswered questions about Christianity, though at this point, he’s still a devout atheist. As I was reading this chapter, I started to wonder why it should matter to most people whether or not Mehta chooses to believe in God. But then it occurred to me that for many devout Christians, it really does matter. And so, for those people, Mehta’s last words may be the most compelling in the book. I’m sure former teen heart-throb Kirk Cameron, who has famously become a devout Christian and even ambushed Mehta on a radio program, would want to know how to get him to believe and be “saved”.

This book includes a guide for discussion groups. I’m sure the guide is very useful for those who want to read this book as a group and toss around some ideas afterward. Mehta also offers some notes at the end of the book with clarifications and more resources, along with an invitation to join his personal blog, http://www.friendlyatheist.com.

Overall

I liked this book. I guess I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on just the eBay auction and was written more like a story instead of a progress report, but I did find Mehta’s observations intriguing. Mehta has a friendly, honest, engaging voice; he’s intelligent and seems to have an open mind, and that’s very refreshing. One thing potential readers should know is that Mehta mostly confines his church attendance to Protestant denominations, which may or may not have affected his opinions.

I would recommend I Sold My Soul on eBay to those who are interested in learning more about Atheism, as well as those who find religion stimulating. I will warn, however, that this book takes a broader approach than I was expecting. It’s not as much as a memoir as I was thinking it would be, which may or may not be appealing to other readers.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, religion

Reviewing Not Without My Sister– an absolutely appalling book on many levels…

Here’s a very serious trigger warning. This book review is about a story that includes discussion of child abuse on all levels. If you are particularly sensitive to such content, please consider moving to your next Internet station.

Last night, I finally finished a book I’ve been struggling to finish for the past few weeks. The 2012 book is titled Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted. It was written by Celeste Jones, Juliana Buhring, and Kristina Jones (I’m assuming her name was Jones at one point– she is an author, but wasn’t noted on Amazon). Obviously, based on the title, I knew the book wasn’t going to be particularly light and uplifting. I decided to read it because I am fascinated by weird religious cults. The three authors of this book, half-sisters who had the same father, Christopher Jones, grew up in a very sick and abusive sex cult. Their parents were followers of David Berg’s Children of God cult, now known as The Family International.

David Berg founded the Children of God in Huntington Beach, California, back in 1968. He originally called his group Teens for Christ, and it mostly consisted of young “hippie”, “lost youth” types, many of whom were musically talented drifters. The group eventually changed its name to Children of God, and communes were founded all around the world. Members of the cult would busk, sell tapes and literature, and collect donations. The members would build their memberships by engaging in what they called “flirty fishing”, using sex to hook new people. Basically, they would bring in “hormonal converts”, a tried and true way for religious organizations to get more bodies.

Interview about a Children of God Survivor. This lady is also very graphic about what she went through.

By 1972, the Children of God cult had 130 communities around the world. By many yardsticks, that number of communes meant that the movement had achieved great success. However, the members were living in squalor, and the poor children who were born into the cult suffered horrific abuse on every imaginable level. That horrific abuse is basically what Not Without My Sister is about.

Celeste, Juliana, and Kristina were three sisters who were lucky enough to sort of know each other on some level. Celeste’s and Kristina’s mother left the cult when she was very young, so Celeste grew up missing her mom and barely knowing their dad. Juliana, and another half-sister Mariana (by a different dad), were daughters of Christopher Jones’ next wife, a German woman named Serena. Celeste didn’t like Serena, at least at first. As she grew older, she realized Serena wasn’t all that bad. Their father had other children, too. He had a Greek daughter named Davida that he barely knew, and a son named Victor who was passed around to different couples to raise. In fact, all of the children were taken from their parents and shuffled around to different people or training “schools”. They were forced to call their minders “Auntie” and “Uncle”, or if they had new foster parents, they had to call them “Mummy” or “Daddy”. To not do so would result in severe beatings that would leave their backsides bruised and bloodied.

As disturbing as all of that is, I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of the story. (and here’s where you might want to stop reading) I mentioned that this is (or was) a sex cult. That meant that adults were having sex in front of children… sometimes huge crowds of them. And it also meant the children were forced to engage in those relations with each other, even when they were extremely young. And when I say young, I mean barely out of diapers, baby teeth young. But the leaders and other adults did not refer to that act as anything sinister. It was called “making love”. And the children had to do it, whether they wanted to or not. They were often filmed, and the videos were sent to David Berg. In fact, they were even expected, as very small children, to choose “dates” for nap time. One of the authors was very chagrined, because she was almost never chosen for a “date” (keeping in mind that she was a very young child). Sometimes, she had to “make love” with the teacher.

As the children got older, there were unintended pregnancies. However, Berg, who was called Mo by his followers, eventually did make a ruling that there could only be “lovemaking” for girls who were under age 12 or over age 16. There was an emphasis on religion and learning the Bible, and it was coupled with extreme abuse of all kinds. I will warn that the sisters do write about the abuse quite graphically. It was enough to make me very uncomfortable, hence the length of time it took for me to finish this book.

Schooling was haphazard, and discipline was rigidly and violently enforced. The children had very little time to play and were often forced to do hard work, usually as punishment. Sometimes, the children were forced to be silent, and no one was allowed to speak to them. They would wear a sign that said something like “Don’t talk to me. I’m being punished.” At one point, duct tape was used on the mouths of children who were deemed willful. They had few things to call their own, which caused them to want to hang onto things that most people would prefer to discard. The sisters write about how two of them fought over a pair of their father’s underwear and his holey socks, because they missed him so much and thought of anything belonging to him as “novel”.

Anytime cult members were sick, they were assumed to be sinning. They mostly rejected medical care, save for worm medication. The children were lucky if they got one hour with their parent for an hour at a time, one hour a week. Celeste writes that she often missed her hour with her father because she had to make music videos for the cult. The sisters were also forced to change their names on a regular basis. Celeste changed hers at least three times. This was to keep the authorities from finding them.

A 1972 documentary about the Children of God.

Celeste got to know a “friend” named Armi. I’m pretty sure Armi was profiled in a televised special about the Children of God cult, which I watched on Apple TV.

Why is this book so appalling?

Obviously, I think it’s appalling because of the subject matter. It blows my mind that so many children were born into this cult, where they were so horribly abused. Cult members got away with it because they lived in places where authorities tended to look the other way. Although there were communes worldwide, the authors of this book lived in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Japan. On occasion, they would go to Europe. At one point, Kristina’s mother, who lived in England, managed to “kidnap” her daughter and got her out of the cult. The other two authors stayed in the organization for a bit longer. The three of them are about my age, so they’re in their 40s.

Another reason I think this book is appalling is because I think it needs a massive overhaul. There are so many people involved in this story that it’s hard to keep everyone straight. There’s so much disturbing, distressing, and graphic information, that I found myself skimming a lot. And it’s also over 400 pages, which makes it a very long and convoluted read. I was definitely ready for the book to end, and relieved when the end was finally in sight.

And yet… even though I think this book won’t appeal to a whole lot of readers, I am glad I read it. If anything, it proves just how dangerous religious cults can be, and just how many defenseless people are caught up within them. My heart broke for the authors of this book. They are definitely resilient, and I commend them for sharing their story so candidly and bravely. But a lot of what they’ve shared is just shocking and horrifying. I can see by the Amazon reviews that a lot of people had the same impressions I did.

I think if this book had been streamlined a bit, and the more graphic parts toned down somewhat, Not Without My Sister would be a much better read. On the other hand, I do know more about The Family International now, and there’s something to be said for not sugar coating things. This book simply verifies other stories I’ve read about this cult. Some famous people have been members, which is not surprising, since it started out as a musical ministry. The Phoenix family were members in the 70s, as was the actress, Rose McGowan.

David Berg died in 1994, and his second wife, Karen Zerby (aka Queen Maria) is now in charge. I’m not sure if they’re still doing things the way they did them in the 70s. I sure hope the hell not!

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