Oprah Made Me Do It

Listener Essay

Posted July 19th, 2015

Scott is joined by Matt, Micah, and Anissa to discuss Anissa’s excellent Listener Essay “Oprah Made Me Do It.”

Trigger Warning: This episode contains frank and detailed discussions of topics that illustrate the problem of evil and the issues the panel members were forced to consider. These issues include the evils of child pornography, child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. It is an excellent discussion. But it also pulls no punches.

Matt

Scott

  • EE

    Great discussion! and Anissa you rock!!! To TBM whisper for a sec — The evil you discussed in the podcast just proves how much the World needs the Church because if everyone had the Gospel these terrible things would not happen. (My mother is a convert who grew up in home with awful domestic abuse and credits the church for bringing stability and peace to her life so she totally believes this line). What do you say to that?

    I used to clerk at a federal court and worked on child pornography cases and that evil is nightmare inducing. I can completely relate Matt and Anissa to your discussion about the loss of innocence. Those awful child porn cases definitely started me on my path to atheism (where I am now). I have never discussed this with TBM family though because instead of saying Fuck God like me, they will just say, “it just proves how much The World needs The Gospel.”

    • Anissa R.

      Hi EE. When I believed in God I would believe it was because of agency, or I would believe it was evidence we need God too, so I get that mentality. Now my response to your TBM whisper family members is, that is a pretty ineffective and awful plan, or method. AND that he/she seems to be an inept God. It makes much more sense when studying human behavioral sciences, social sciences, and evolution. Satan causing the suffering in the world and needing a God to spread good…. is an awful way to view the Gods (SATAN and God)… just sick puppeteers. And it blows the “agency” theory up.

      • Dan

        I’m like you Anissa, I had issues with the capital G “God” before I ever had issues with Mormonism. I became a skeptic but held out some small hope that the church would eventually bring me back to belief. Trying to study my way back proved a hilarious but interesting endeavor. My TBM family and friends love this idea of a “Plan” and can’t see how weird it is when I ask similar questions to the one you pose.

        Now it blows my mind that I ever believed in the plan and taught it to others. How is it possible that the complexity of our entire existence can be explained at all, let alone drawn out on the back of a piece of paper with simple words like, agency and atonement. My counter to the plan of salvation discussion now is Richard Dawkins TED talk “Why the universe seems so strange”.

        http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_our_queer_universe?language=en#t-675938

        • Anissa R.

          I saved this TED talk. I can tell I will like it. Thanks.

  • Tim

    My faith crisis happened when I started listening to the people who were evil. I’ve helped care for and save the lives of murders, rapists, and child abusers. Those who commit these horrible acts are sometimes psychotic and respond to a distorted reality in their minds. Sometimes they have their own horrible past or PTSD. Sometimes they are sociopaths, born without empathy. I don’t believe anyone sets out to become a child sex offender. And that’s the other part of the problem of evil — that God not only allows these atrocities, but he creates the criminals. Call me crazy, but I feel compassion for the criminals for the people who become monsters because I lost my belief in free will.

    And why doesn’t God strike them down before they commit these acts? The answer of “agency” (revised from the previous “free agency”) falls flat when one considers how God struck down Onan and Lot’s wife for their petty crimes; how He intervened in the lives of Alma the Younger and Saul/Paul and even Laman and Lemuel to stop them from beating Nephi. Why will he stop some from ruining their lives and allow others to destroy their own lives along with innocents?

    Did I use that semicolon correctly? I’m really insecure about my semicolon usage.

    • Heather_ME

      I worked in corrections for 2 years in a special post-sentencing recidivism deterrence program. I personally worked with hundreds of women in those two years, helping them develop basic employ-ability skills (like workplace ethics, communication, job seeking, etc). The experience totally opened my eyes and I also came away with compassion for those who commit crimes. I was fresh out of college and not quite on my feet at the time. I had a couple of life hiccups (car repair type things) come up and my parents helped me pay for them. To then go back into the prison and work with women who had no such support structure really humbled me. Out of the hundreds women I worked with, ONLY ONE was there out of sheer inexcusable bad behavior. The rest were there as a result of poverty, addiction, mental illness, and those types of things. (Though, I can’t help but wonder why kind of problems might be underlying the seemingly “good life” of that one woman.)

      I didn’t lose my believe in free will until years later. But I have definitely gone through a transformation in the way I think about crime and our justice system.

      (As a side note: I grew up staunchly conservative. Most of my family remains so. It drives me crazy that I am now viewed as a bleeding heart liberal who is to be teased and ignored when subjects like crime and punishment come up in conversations at family gatherings. None of them have actual experience with the system and none of them have ever been touched by serious crime in any way. Yet they somehow have the informed opinion and I’m just a ninny. It drives me nuts.)

  • Thomas Moore

    I worked for 3 years with a “Safe House” for battered women. I’ve seen a lot of horror stories of wives being raped, incest rape, batter immigrant women (mail order brides being beaten/raped), etc… Yet we also ran other programs like RPEP which is to teach teens about date rape, drug/alcohol abuse and rape during unconsciousness. We would have a 60 minute presentation for the H.S.’s and would also work with the local community college. The area was predominately Mormon and one of the local town’s principal refused us to give a presentation. He believed that it would put thoughts and ideas into the teens minds. “Besides, ” he said, “We have mostly Mormon kids so we don’t have to worry about things like date rape and under-age drinking.”
    Luckily I had already gone through my faith crisis and had resigned yet I was still hopeful that there was a God. This was just one more piece to show me that God isn’t directing anyone or any one church. This attitude could of been said by a Baptist principal in the Southeast or any other towns. The people think that God will protect and direct everyone; and if you give Satan just one little opening, people will take those ideas for evil.
    Anissa, You’re essay was excellent and I hope to hear more from you.

  • alta_parent

    nice interview.

    I remember my last sincere prayer…full of tears, full of angry f-bombs, full of yelling…pleading with god to strike me dumb because then I’d at least know that it was all real…my last sentence…”It was good enough for Korihor, why not me!” I told my father about it years later and he was frightened for me. Told me to be careful. I just laugh and shake my head at my formal self.

    faith or repackaged fear (as I’ve come to call it) is pretty powerful and pretty hard to recognize.

    regarding your activism…do you any have advice of activities, or mantras or whatever that you can do, not to get discouraged by how powerless you can feel? I guess I’m admitting my own discouragement.

    • Anissa R.

      I have to pay attention to success stories as well as the bad ones. I also always remember that I can’t help everyone, so I have to feel good about the little I can do. The star fish story is one I lean on. http://www.esc16.net/users/0020/FACES/Starfish%20Story.pdf

    • Matthew A

      alta_parent, your last prayer was almost exactly the same as mine!. I asked for the same thing. I didn’t even care if a deadly rain of fire came down on my head, as long as I knew it came from God. I got nothing but silence. That was it for me.

  • I really enjoyed this essay and Anissa’s interview! Anissa seemed very smart and pleasant to listen to.

    However, I feel compelled to respond to the feminist elements.

    Recent studies have shown that sexual violence isn’t the gender issue we once thought it was. Although 1 in 5 women in college will be the victims of sexual assault or ATTEMPTED sexual assault, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 college MALES will be the victims of sexual assault, overwhelmingly at the hands of a female. Here is a National Geographic article about the research showing women are about just as likely as men to sexually assault someone of a different gender http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131007-sexual-violence-rape-teenagers-sociology/ here is one by Hannah Rosin, founder of Slate’s XX blog and author of The End of Men http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_are_sexually_assaulted.html

    (in addition, the 1-5 study purposely uses different criteria for males and females. if it used the same criteria it shows a gender parity.)

    The same holds true for domestic violence. Once thought to be a male on female crime, we now know it is pretty much gender neutral (in fact, women are slightly more violent in relationships than men. Here are over 200 studies on the subject http://web.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm )

    Part of the reason this info is not well known, is feminists activists have actively sought to suppress anything that goes against the feminist doctrine of women=innocent victims and men=privleged abusers.

    Consider Erin Pizzey, She founded the first domestic violence shelter anywhere in the world, in the 1970’s in the UK. She should be a household name a hero to women everywhere. Yet, she came to be hated and demonized by the feminist movement…why? Because she quickly realized that many of these women were just as violent as their husbands. She sought to discuss this info and open shelters for abused men. This led to her being hated, protested and demonized by feminists. At one point, she rescieved so many bomb threats from feminists, that the bomb squad suggested she have her mail forwarded through them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erin_Pizzey
    Or this feminist researcher who studies female pedophilia. Feminist actiivists show up to her lectures and shout people down, pull fire alarms etc. to prevent her data from being made public. (the number of researchers this has happened to are several. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQhEv9Ov7nQ in fact, my disillusionment with feminism has been not unlike my disillusionment with mormonism, the discovery that there is an enormous amount of information out there which is being actively suppressed in order to support a specific narrative.

    My problem with contemporary feminism is it grossly exaggerates the benefits of being male, grossly exaggerates the drawbacks of being female, while completely ignoring the downsides of being male and the upside of being female.

    For example, did you know that men are actually far more likely than women to be the victims of random stranger violence? Meaning, Anissa’s husband is more likely to be physically harmed by a stranger than she is. (it broke my heart when she spoke of being afraid to even go to the end of the block. I remember feeling that way as a kid and it is awful! It is especially heartbreaking because it is such a needless fear that has been enhanced by feminist fear mongering)
    http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/2009/05/who-is-most-likely-to-be-a-crime-victim.html

    As Norah Vincent, the lesbian feminist who spent a year living as a man, and writing the book ‘Self Made Man’ said:
    “Men are suffering. They have different problems than women have, but they don’t have it better.
    “They need our sympathy, they need our love, and they need each other.”

    When asked if women understood what it is like to be a man she replied: “Not at all, no clue…no idea.”

    When asked if she liked being a woman before being Ned (her male alter ego) she replied:
    “I did, but I like it more now, because I think it is more of a privilege.”

    As for #notallmen, it should be #notmostmen. And it exists because men are increasingly fed up with being demonized by feminists who completely ignore the fact that women are also harmful and abusive to men, albeit in different ways. We are tired for men being blamed for the actions of a tiny minority of the worst of humankind. Anissa said, men should speak up so the men in our lives don’t cat call or grab someone on a train or whatever. Well, the men in my life don’t do those things.

    This is what a friend of mine wrote in response to those who disparage not all men rhetoric:

    “What saying “patriarchal violence” does:
    . refuses to acknowledge that violence isn’t gendered
    . takes the focus off of women who are violent
    . leads even good people to exacerbate the problem
    . makes the conversation about men as monsters and women as victims rather than people as human beings

    What saying “patriarchal violence” does not do:
    Give any benefit whatsoever to actual victims of either gender.”

    P.S.
    Not long ago on the subway, while sitting, a woman standing beside me was intensely grinding her genitals against my shoulder for at least 10 minutes. It made me really uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure what to do.

    Imagine if I tried to induce guilt into all women for my having been sexually assaulted by that individual woman on the train? that is what feminism is like for men.

    P.s. Here is a list I made of the myriad issues currently impacting men and boys which are not receiving public attention (and help show that the entire concept of ‘male privilege’ is grossly misleading.)

    http://genderallies.org/issues-impacting-men-and-boys/

    • Thomas Moore

      I heard stories… I helped male victims. Here’s a video which I think everyone should watch and learn from.
      https://youtu.be/Ikd0ZYQoDko

    • Dave

      I’m a male, and I was physically abused for almost 5 years by my first wife. I’m 6’1 and 210 lbs, and was raised in a non-violent family. (My father has never laid a hand on my mother in 56 years… great male example.) My ex was 5’2 and 135lbs… she literally hit me with pots and pans, metal and wooden objects, often slapped me, etc… once I felt so overwhelmed during her physical abuse, I threw a pillow back at her in a rage. She called the cops on me. Of course my side of the story explaining her violence was “not credible”. I finally left. It was a life of pure hell. I’ve since remarried and have been in my second marriage for more than 13 years… a healthy marriage without violence.

      • Anissa R.

        That is awful! I am glad you are in a better place! Thanks for being brave and sharing your experience.

    • Joshua Wart

      Thank you for saying this. I had to pause the episode when she started talking about being on her guard at all time, even in her own home with family members.

      • Dan

        I don’t know, I thought she did a good job of explaining why she felt that way. I understood it to mean she doesn’t automatically and unconditionally trust people who are in a position to do her harm or harm her loved ones. Seems reasonable even if at times it hits that threshold of seeming hypervigilant. Why did that bother you?

        • Anissa R.

          Thank you, this is what I meant. I just didn’t have the time to elaborate.

      • Anissa R.

        I wish I could have clarified better. I am hyper-vigilant at times. Which I am aware of now as a symptom. It
        was meant that even when among friends and family members I will have
        intrusive thoughts of “what if?!”. I just don’t assume everyone I love is
        incapable of abuse. A family member who is a priesthood holder and
        father and someone I deeply trusted was sexually abusive. I want to
        fully trust people, but I know that those who do are not going to
        announce themselves. So, I just pay attention more than others will when
        I am in group settings. Is this a better explanation?

    • Tim

      Science is an indispensable tool in eliminating/minimizing biases to clarify reality. The concept of testing a cultural assumption like the unilateral nature of sexual violence perpetrated by men against women is clearly an excellent question to test.

      I was skeptical of the articles you cited, particularly the national geographic news article which reports on an article in JAMA Pediatrics. Lay press news reporting tends to distort study results, particularly large surveys, cohort studies, and retrospective studies as often appear in medical journals like JAMA and The Lancet. These studies are excellent studies to trigger further research. But the methods and conclusions are easy to misread. The misinterpretation of association as causation is one of the most common errors and a common subject on my Facebook feed. I also frequently see people read the article titles and the conclusions without examining the methods. I think that’s the problem with the article report in NatGeo News.

      From the Methods section of the article in JAMA Pediatrics:
      Sexual violence perpetration was queried using 4 items. Three items were modified from the Sexual Experiences Survey26,27 and are consistent with the Bureau of Justice Statistics definition of rape, which can include “psychological coercion as well as physical force.”28 Youths were asked about how often they had ever done the following: (1) “tried, but was not able, to make someone have sex with me when I knew they did not want to”; (2) “made someone have sex with me when I knew they did not want to”; and (3) “gotten someone to give into sex with me when I knew they did not want to.” The language to convey lack of consent (“I knew they did not want to”) is developmentally appropriate for the age of survey participants and is similar to that used in a national survey of adults, which used the phrase “against their will.”29

      Sexual assault, as defined by the Department of Justice, refers to “unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender… [which] may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling… [as well as] verbal threats.”28 Our fourth item, which queried sexual assault (referred to as forced sexual contact in this study), has been included in the Growing Up With Media survey since wave 1. This item, created specifically for this study, read: “In the last 12 months, how often have you kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?” To more closely align this measure with the time frame of the other 3 sexual violence perpetration items (ever), youths who re- ported forced sexual contact at any of the 5 waves were included as perpetrators.

      My issue is that the article equates perpetration between the sexes, but the types of perpetration are significantly different. In this study, perpetration by physical violence to force sexual penetration is equated with perpetration by unsuccessfully trying to convince someone to have sex which is equated with coercion of a kiss. While I acknowledge the importance of addressing all of these incidents, physical violence with sexual penetration suggests a greater need for immediate attention and urgency. It’s basic triage.

      I think violence, sexual or otherwise, against any human being deserves attention. But I don’t think feminists have to give equal or any voice to sexual violence against men, just like I don’t think the Susan G. Komen foundation should have to put a blue line down their pink ribbons to show that men get breast cancer, too.

      • Dan

        Nice takedown.

  • Pink-lead

    ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon
    them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
    This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
    and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
    for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
    writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
    its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
    Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
    And abide the end.’

  • Dan

    wow. What a great episode. You all really get to the heart of a big issue I have with belief. I’ve mentioned on this site before that just like you Anissa I went from zero to atheist pretty quickly and it was over something similar. As one of my best friends helped me understand recently the church arms us with this kind of fucked up model for addressing anything problematic in life. We just take the situation and then make sure no matter how unsatisfying it is we argue it out so the church comes out on top. Except every now and then the solution finally misfires.

    Child abuse and sexual assault is common in conflict zones and I would see it up close but couldn’t do anything about it. In the end it became a part of the larger picture that eventually helped me walk away from belief. I was overseas, pulling guard duty and had all this time to think and it just played out like this in my brain after a particularly fucked up day:

    God loves me. He’s no respecter of persons. He loves all his children equally of course. It’s just that at the same time I’m special. Even though it’s dangerous here I’m protected by my belief, my righteousness, this cool Army brown magic underwear, the prayers of my family (especially those ones in that little white shaving kit they use in the temple). Plus I’m guided by the holy spirit so I’m pretty certain I wont drive us into an ambush. I’m so certain I continually volunteer to take the point vehicle on each patrol. I mean after all my patriarchal blessing has all this stuff that’s supposed to happen to me like getting married and working in the temple someday. I don’t die. God loves me.

    You people? Oh you’re fucked. You we born in the wrong place, to people who worship this counterfeit religion. You and your entire family and generations before and after will live, suffer and die without ever hearing the name Joseph Smith. Yeah you’ll have to wait for the millennium
    or something. I mean when you think about it the vast majority of people who live on this planet are born into the same conditions. In fact, basically anyone who’s ever been born on earth was born into conditions that would make it functionally impossible to ever hear and accept the gospel. It’s all part of the Plan of Salvation. See Jesus saves everyone by creating this trap that we’re born into then helps everyone by placing his one true church in this obscure location with a membership so statistically insignificant that it is invisible to humanity at large. I mean, sure if he wanted to create a plan that was going to save the maximum amount of his children he would have made the true religion to be Islam, or Buddhism but you know instead he lets those religions cover the earth so his one true, teeeny tiny church can be accessed by this really super white minority of special Americans and fuck all the blacks, Asians, middle Eastern people who he also created and totally loves. I mean, eventually the church is like a stone that’s cut out of a mountain and fills the earth…except the earth is pretty fucking big and that stone is rolling like super slow, and in the mean time all these people sure do seem like they live in some fucked up situations that are totally not necessary and the suffering, it gets to seem kind of gratuitous sometimes. Like maybe god is into those Saw movies and he justifies it by having this escape clause where he comes in and says, it’s cool it happened to me to kid so quit complaining…Oh. Oh wait. I see it now. I’m an idiot. God’s not a total dick. He just seems like a dick because he’s probably not real.

    Fuck. that makes way more sense. I should probably stop volunteering to take point.

    tl:dr – I relate to Anissa’s story about becoming an atheist. Then I tell a war story. sorry.

    • Anissa R.

      I like what you shared! I am glad to find people that can relate!

  • Abe

    Anissa, I loved hearing your thoughts. I think you should come back for more discussions. Thanks for your essay and interview.

    • Anissa R.

      Thank you! ahem, hear that infants?… 🙂

  • Matthew Bryde

    Wow…I was in tears many times listening to this podcast. I often use the example of starving children in Africa dying every minute of the day as evidence of no God. Now I have a more horrific (if that’s possible) example. Sexual abuse of children and infants that are not dying daily from starvation, but instead, continue to live abused lives (and yet, our Father in Heaven loves us!)

    I NEVER swear…but FUCK YOU God!

    • Anissa R.

      Right?!! It is rough to think about. I almost wish I could believe so I could yell at that God again!! And have some source I have power to yell at. But, then I just want to find a way to help someone. At times, it could be someone you know….

  • Belcher Fink

    I just listened to the episode. Anissa, your belief-in-God switch that went off was just like me! Other things added to my deconversion, but I became an atheist in a similar “ah-ha” moment. The world and its problems became crystal clear in light of the fact that there is no one in charge, and what we experience is a crap shoot. Women’s issues have always weighed heavy on me, and I want to help. But it’s hard to know where to start sometimes. I can be over skeptical about non-profits and doubtful that charitable donations actually do any good. But I want to help. What are you involved in at the moment? What do you recommend?

    I would also like to tell you of a project that is in its infancy, but I have big hopes for. jess.d.belcher@gmail.com

  • I really appreciated your essay and the discussion, Anissa. I particularly love that you talked about how once you consider the awfulness of things people do to each other, every faith-promoting story becomes a faith-destroying story because it makes God look absurdly arbitrary and totally uncaring about huge suffering while he wastes time finding other people’s keys.

    Great episode!