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Odd duo worked together to form faith-based prisons..Doug Coe and Chuck Colson.

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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 02:00 AM
Original message
Odd duo worked together to form faith-based prisons..Doug Coe and Chuck Colson.
I never realized that The Family's leader was so involved in the business of faith-based initiatives. Chuck Colson of Watergate fame, and The Fellowship's Doug Coe, worked together to form faith-based prisons. Doug Coe worked hard for the early release of Colson. From page 232 of The Family by Jeff Sharlet:

Once Colson was in prison, Coe and Hughes worked hard for his early release. It worked; Colson ended up serving less than seven months of his one to three-year sentence for his role in Watergate. It wasn't hard time. "If you think what you've done was done for the right reasons," he boasted shortly before he began his sentence, "then the consequences are easy to live with."

Doug Coe, in a letter to the board dated one day later, wrote that Colson's freedom was necessary so that a group of Christian men could put him to work on a program for "reaching youth" in juvenile delinquent homes. Upon his release, the two men collaborated on who would become the model and inspiration for what may well be a generation or more of "faith-based" governmental activism.


Together they founded Prison Fellowship, the largest ministry for prisoners in the world. Colson brags about the souls he has saved. He seems to forget it is has often involved the government's money saving those souls.

...Colson founded it with Coe's help and the Fellowship's money shortly after his own release from prison in 1975....Say what you will about Prison Fellowship's fundamentalist Jesus, the story goes, but Colson's Christ "works." He saves souls. And more important, he transforms rapists, murderers, and thieves in to docile "followers of Jesus."

And yet Prison Fellowship, indeed, compassionate conseratism writ large...is implicitly political. Colson sees it as a bulwark against "moral decadence," he told me, and even as an almost governmental institution.


The paragraphs continue that the evils that most concerned Colson were first black radicalism, and next "Islamofascism." He wanted to use the prisons for conversion of evils.

Other fundamentalist groups have been involved in the movement of forming more religious prisons, and in other articles the name of Bill Gothard pops up.

Beyond the God Pod

Alternet March 10, 2005.

The nation's biggest private prison corporation is forging strong ties with a fundamentalist Christian ministry, blurring the line between church and state and harkening a new turn in corrections toward Christian-based programming.

....."Ramirez greets fellow correctional officers and inmates alike as she walks in and out of classes, workshops and prison pods. An early stop includes a visit to two segregation pods where a few dozen women are locked down 23 hours a day in small, dark solitary confinement cells. Ramirez, who used to work in the segregation pods, acknowledges that segregation "can be very stressful" for the inmates who do not have contact with the outside world let alone other inmates for months or even years on end.

But there is one area of the prison that stands in particularly sharp contrast to the bleak desperation of the segregation pods: the God pod. Officially this is the Life Principles Community/Crossings Program. It's a program officials consider the real "success story" within the confines of NMWCF. As a housing pod, Crossings has been around for four years with the enthusiastic support of the prison administration and Chaplain Shirley Compton. More recently, CCA picked Crossings as one of eight sites nationwide to pioneer a new partnership with a fundamentalist Christian ministry named the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).


I believe other prisons, not considered faith-based, offer a choice of religious housing and call them God Pods. The treatment is much better, and much more is demanded.

The materials used in some of these prisons are based on the teachings of Bill Gothard. More from Beyond the God Pod.

Bill Gothard, the 71-year-old unmarried real estate mogul at the head of the Illinois-based IBLP, has been in the business of American evangelism since 1964. Originally named the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, IBLP officially changed its name in 1990. All totaled, IBLP boasts that at least 2.5 million people have attended IBLP's seminars and ministries in the U.S. and many other countries, including Russia, Mongolia, Romania and Taiwan.

Gothard has not only gained success both through his religious education programs and training centers, but also through a secular instruction program, Character First, that is in wide use in public schools across the U.S. but does not publicize its origins. The IBLP, on the other hand, makes no claims whatsoever of secularism, or even respect for other world religions or worldviews.


From Gothard's own website, his views on discerning God's will.

5. Discern Gods will

Since God has given the father of the girl the responsibility to protect her purity (see Deuteronomy 22:15) and the father of the young man the responsibility to evaluate his sons wisdom (see Proverbs 10:1), Gods first line of direction will be through them.

However, even though all of the parents give their blessing, the marriage may still not be Gods will. For example, if one party is an unbeliever, marriage to that person would violate Scripture. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14).

Also, if the son or daughter has been called by God to more years of single service, an appeal should be made to their parents for their blessing. In any case, the parents cannot force a marriage, because the individual has the final say. (See Genesis 24:58, Matthew 19:1012, I Corinthians 7:2537, and Isaiah 56:18.)

If one party has been married and divorced, and the previous partner is still living, it would not be Gods will for that individual to marry another person. (See Luke 16:18, Romans 7:13, I Corinthians 7, Malachi 2:1316, Mark 10:112, Matthew 5:2732, and Matthew 19:112.)


There was an excellent article last September in Salon concerning harm done by Gothard's controversial teachings.

The teachings have bubbled beneath some disturbing events. Matthew Murray, who shot two people at a Colorado church last December, blamed his troubles on his authoritarian home-school curriculum from IBLP. Gothard denied that his curriculum played any role in Murray's dysfunction.

In Indianapolis, a City of Character, an IBLP-run juvenile center -- housed in the same building where Palin attended the April 2000 conference -- was embroiled in an investigation of child abuse, including spanking and restraining children and committing them for days to the solitary confinement of a "prayer room" without food. The center was cleared after a state investigation in 2004, although it did abandon the practice of spanking while under scrutiny, according to news reports.

Through its Character First training seminars, IACC has spread its gospel of character to local government officials like Palin as well as to Fortune 500 companies, law enforcement agencies, federal government agencies, and the private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America, which uses the character training in its prisons. Character First principles are taught in hundreds of public schools across the country.


The brothers Bush have been influential in continuing the rise of these prisons. I believe Florida has seven now, not sure about Texas. But jails not considered faith-based have living arrangements based on religion, and they have baptisms in the jails.

A critique of faith-based prisons

"The spread of faith-based prisons is due primarily to the influence of Bush and his ideological twin brother, Jeb. In 2003 "Jeb" Bush proudly dedicated the first faith-based prison in the United States.. a 750-bed medium security facility for males in Lawtey, Florida. Lawtey is a city in Bradford County, Florida. Like his brother in the White House, he claims that the only way to achieve real rehabilitation of criminals and reduce recidivism is to "lead them to God." Florida advocates of this program claim that the prison consists entirely of 700 to 750 male inmates with a professed desire to be rehabilitated who are being voluntarily led to achieve this goal by committing their lives to a god of their choosing through Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. In April 2004 Florida opened its second faith-based prison for more than 300 female inmates in the Hillsborough unit in Riverview.

...Texas and Florida are the leading wagons in the train of faith-based programs for prison inmates. Other wagons include Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas, Maryland, California, and Ohio. And, not surprisingly, Corrections Corporation of America
the United States' largest owner and operator of private prisons, based in Nashville, Tennessee and motivated by the smell of fresh state and federal dollars--has joined forces with the Chicago-based Institute in Basic Life Principles. IBLP was established by Bill Gothard for the purpose of introducing people to his brand of Christianity, and is dedicated to the view that only Jesus Christ the Son of God can change lives."


Gothard's rigid beliefs would fill another thread completely. Here is more about his beliefs and those who adhere to them.

What worries me is the way they will be able to claim success while only having the best behaved take part. While concentrating on converting inmates to Christianity, and rewarding them with special treatment...other programs may go lacking. I have not heard the results of these two lawsuits. From the Alternet article above:

But the voluntary nature of these programs has become the looming question for organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which has filed two lawsuits challenging religious prison programs in Iowa and Pennsylvania. In the Pennsylvania case, filed in mid-February 2005, both the state chapter of the ACLU and Americans United are challenging the right of a county jail to use tax dollars to fund a Christian-centered job-training program. That program is the only vocational program in the county jail, and hires only Christians to work within the program. (Federal legislation is pending to allow such programs to discriminate in hiring based on religious background.)

"You have to be willing to convert to (Christian) fundamentalism, or put up with attempts to convert you," says Robert Boston, a spokesperson for Americans United. "These programs have come in and offered something of a substitute for the real educational and vocational programs that have disappeared."


Last I heard faith-based hiring and firing had not been addressed by the new administration, though I heard it would be addressed soon.

I found this blog that covers just about everything "faith-based". The title is a little scary, and I fear quite true. This is from 2001.

Transformation from Secular to Religious Government

Under the Bush administration, our country is experiencing a major transformation from a secular to a religious government. The President's faith-based initiative is central to this transformation and raises serious questions about church-state separation. "Slouching toward theocracy. President Bush's faith-based initiative is doing better than you think," by Bill Berkowitz, 2/6/04 provides an overview of this transformation.


Also from that link...more about faith-based hiring and firing. I am not at all sure this has been addressed under the new administration.

On February 4, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for provisions in a social services bill that allow religiously based job discrimination in publicly funded programs run by churches.

How Much Money?

How much are taxpayers paying for what Barry Lynn, Executive Director of American's United calls "federally subsidized employment discrimination?" According to Daniel Zwerdling who produced two programs on faith-based initiative for Bill Moyers TV show NOW in September, 2003, "administration spokesmen say they can't break down how much money has gone so far to religious groups .. they claim they don't keep that information."

The March, 2004, issue of Church and State reports that the "Faith Czar" Jim Towey announced to reporters that $40 billion dollars was now available to religious charities.


I often mention my taxpayer money that is going to private religious schools here in Florida in the form of vouchers. It is giving public money to religious organizations, just as wrong as the hiring and firing based on religion. Private groups making profits from public taxpayer money.

A man's prison time was cut short with the help of a leader of a behind the scenes group called The Family so that he could teach men in prison about Jesus.

The faith-based programs are continuing now, and I think Bill Berkowitz said a mouthful when he said we were "Slouching toward theocracy."




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grasswire Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 02:53 AM
Response to Original message
1. I have very close knowledge of this situation.
I believe that Colson did a "limited hangout" by pleading to a charge very early on in Watergate so that further public examination of himself would be quashed. He and Coe concocted up this scenario that took him out of prison and to a position of enormous power among evangelical America. Colson has been like a rock star among fundies. I've seen it first hand. His power base included a daily radio broadcast, bulletins in churches, speaking engagements, various publications and books, etc. Nearly every speaking opportunity begins with him saying: "When I was in the White House....." Millions of Americans donated tens of millions of dollars annually to Prison Fellowship.

I have always been concerned that Colson had the power to start a race war via his depiction of black men in prisons falling into Islam. It would be simple for the wingnuts to start this. A little fearmongering, the fuse.
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 03:05 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Too many of the Watergate criminals gained hero status with the right wing
I never did figure that out.
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 05:06 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. That's very interesting. Thanks.
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Mari333 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 03:16 AM
Response to Original message
3. Not ONE DIME of our tax money should be spent on these wackos
hello? we have a DEM in the WH and DEMS are a majority in the house and senate..why the fuck are these faith based assholes still around?
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 01:15 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Faith-based aid is unconstitutional, not sure how much money goes to the prisons.
This is an interesting summary by Susan Jacoby. I think Bush's faith-based initiatives are unchanged in this administration, even the faith-based hiring.

From Newsweek WP

Faith-Based Aid Is Unconstitutional, Period

Dozens of major religious groups and denominations are urging Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to renounce a Bush-era memo that allows faith-based charities that receive federal funding to discriminate in hiring. Should religious charities that receive federal grant money be allowed to discriminate in hiring?

Absolutely not. But this question cuts to the heart of the unconstitutionality of all government-supported faith-based programs since Bill Clinton inadvisedly opened the door to a violation of the First Amendment that would have been inconceivable in earlier periods of American history. George W. Bush expanded the program to bolster his standing with the religious right, and President Obama is just as beholden to the religious left. To require any religious institution to hire people who do not agree with and represent its principles is absurd. That is why the government should not be in the business of funneling money for social services through any faith-based organization, whatever its hiring practices.

This is not only my position as a secular civil libertarian. It is also the position of honest religious leaders, like the Rev. Albert H. Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For Mohler, it is unthinkable that Baptists should compromise their religious principles--such as their mission to proselytize for Christianity--in order to receive federal grants. Therefore, understandably enough, he opposes the acceptance of government aid by churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints has taken the same position.

But a lot of faith-based groups want to have their federal cake and eat it too. Charles W. Colson's prison programs bombard prisoners with fundamentalist propaganda in return for certain privileges, such as access to big-screen televisions and the possibility of early parole. Many homeless shelters require the hungry to attend worship services in return for food and a bed. I don't blame them for this, by the way. There is no reason to expect the Roman Catholic Church to sponsor pregnancy counseling programs that advise girls about contraception and abortion rights. There is no reason to expect right-wing churches dedicated to the proposition that homosexuals are going to hell to hire someone who supports gay rights for an AIDS-prevention program. That, again, is why such programs are unconstitutional, although they will never be declared unconstitutional unless we get a fifth person on the Supreme Court who respects the separation of church and state.


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Torn_Scorned_Ignored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 07:22 PM
Response to Reply #6
12. Bush brings faith to foreign aid
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 11:25 AM
Response to Original message
5. Some posts from a forum of those using Gothard tactics....scary indeed
This was posted here last year by kath, here are just two paragraphs. Stuff she found from a Gothard forum. The post is quite long, just a couple of quotes.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...

"When my children were younger I did school in the morning and work in
the afternoon and then playtime. I would work while they played but found I
was irritable and grouchy from working too much. I realized this wasn't
good so When my youngest was 4 he washed all the dishes, sweep the kitchen
and wipe the table! We set a timer for 30 minutes and after awhile he was
able to do it within the time. Now that boy really loves to work!
And now I really think it's important that if I'm working that my children
should also be working.

Jerri Dee-OUr children dont' have much free time either. WE have found that
our children are more joyful when they are serving and working. OUr 7 and 11
year old have about an hour to play in the afternoon. During that hour they
do have to watch the little ones and play with them also. We also take naps
in the afternoon. I had heard once that a house ful of 7 or 8 year olds could run the entire
household."

"We learned about spanking babies. WE learned about disciplning a child
with a rod at the age of 6 months, when the weeds are very little we pluck
them out. We use a 1/4 inch wooden dowel when they are 6 months. If you
ignore those weeds then by the time they are toddlers you have to do
something drastic. WE learned that if we started when they were babies, they
were so much more obedient in coming and sitting and being quiet. OUr goal
was that they be able to sit quietly for 2 hours on Sunday morning. Now
it has been a joy.
I have learned that just one whack on a baby's bottom is not enough, it is 5
or 6 whacks. I found I was spankiing my children a whole lot less when I
did it right the first time."


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PatSeg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 02:07 PM
Response to Original message
7. I just finished reading "The Family" two days ago
My head is still reeling, as if I've been living in an alternate reality. They have not only infiltrated our government and military, but have been operating internationally as well, a global theocracy, American Style. Bizarre and scary as hell.
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-30-09 12:57 PM
Response to Reply #7
13. It's a very hard read.
I am reading it piecemeal, by topic.

There has not been anything on the air about them recently, at least not on the shows I watch.

Those materials in the Billy Graham archives at Wheaton must be fascinating.
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Tsar_Bomba Donating Member (194 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
8. This doesn't surprise me.
A criminal robs places with money. The clergy does the same, they go anywhere they can get easy money.
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 04:54 PM
Response to Original message
9. The quintessential "Captive Audience"
with the added cachet of providing entre' into the corridors of power and manipulation of the rubes once released for "good behavior".
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 05:56 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Well said. I was thinking of that aspect also...
maybe connections once released for good Christian behavior. Like its founder Chuck Colson.

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evenso Donating Member (113 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-29-09 06:03 PM
Response to Original message
11. This is frightening....another reason to stay out of prison.
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Anakin Skywalker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-30-09 08:25 PM
Response to Original message
14. What a Bunch of Scumbags!
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NBachers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 12:31 AM
Response to Original message
15. I've seen it from the other side, and I can tell you that these programs help people inside
I've posted some pretty extreme anti- republican and anti-kkkristian rants here on DU. I spent part of my adolescence in the Kennedy years, and have been a politically-aware, far-left Democrat since the late sixties.

I've also spent my time in the joint, and I've seen inmates respond favorably to Prison Fellowship. I myself participated in the Kairos program and other spiritually-oriented programs: sweat lodges, Sufi, a Christian Science practitioner, gospel choirs, Catholic mass, meditation classes, etc. They all helped me rebuild my shattered life.

After you've been beat into the system (The United States of America vs. you) you need some warm and uplifting people around you. The various Prison Ministry programs help with that. I've seen some real hard-core lifetime cons express respect for Colson for coming back inside and helping people. I'm not talking about the "I've been saved by Jesus in the joint" types, I'm talking about the tough guys.

The Kairos program I was in had some of the most real people I've ever seen come in to spend time with us. I've never been so surrounded by love and uplifting vibrations as I was there. They weren't nuts; they weren't kooks; they were real people who gave big time and were there for us.

I'm not saying that all the facts and information in the post are bogus. I am saying that, when you're inside for a long time, it helps to have positive influences reaching out to your life and your soul. I'll give Prison Ministries and other prison-related spiritual programs credit for coming in and working with inmates.
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-01-09 12:39 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. This is not an anti-Christian rant, and Coe works with Democrats as well.
It is a concern about the tactics used in some cases, and it is a concern about favoritism to those who chose the way of Christianity. It implies it is the only way.

I am quite sure it is helpful to some. I don't like that The Family is behind the movement, plus Chuck Colson.

My concerns are not that I am against Christianity. I am concerned about turning this country into a theocracy while we turn our heads.

I was a Southern Baptist, raised there, so were our kids. We left the church when they called Iraq a holy war.

I don't post bogus facts, but I do have very strong opinions. I am glad for the ones who are helped by getting better living quarters and better treatment....but it should not be based on religion.

There are many good people who are kind and warm-hearted and generous, and they are not Christians.

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MikeH Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-02-09 04:12 AM
Response to Original message
17. I read Chuck Colsons book Born Again in the 1970s
And I still have the book (more for historical interest than for any other reason).

At the time I first read the book Born Again I was serious about Christianity, and had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, in the hopes that doing so might make some kind of difference in my life. I wanted to believe that maybe Chuck Colson was an example of somebody being changed by Christ, that Christ was working through Chuck Colson, and was transforming him from a scoundrel into somebody who was becoming right with God, and thereby was able to be a force for good in the world. I wanted to believe that maybe Christ could actually change peoples lives, and if this were true then Colson would be an example and a test case of this happening.

I read Colson describing his involvement with Doug Coe and the Fellowship, and particularly his becoming friends with then Senator Harold Hughes, who had previously been a political enemy. From reading Chuck Colsons book the Fellowship sounded just like any fellowship group that any group of Christians might become involved in, that I myself was involved in when I was a Christian. I could not have guessed from reading Born Again that there was anything sinister or underhanded about the Fellowship that Colson was involved in.

I found in books by Colson subsequent to Born Again that he has said some things that are believed by fundamentalist Christians that I really have trouble with and cannot accept. For instance in his book Life Sentence he described one time when he was speaking to a group of Jewish students, and was asked if he thought that only Christians would go to heaven, and he answered yes. He felt he had to go by what the Bible teaches. Oddly enough he did not get cries of protest. And in his book Loving God he has a chapter titled Believing God, by which he means taking the Bible literally as being the Word of God.

Say what you will about Prison Fellowship's fundamentalist Jesus, the story goes, but Colson's Christ "works." He saves souls. And more important, he transforms rapists, murderers, and thieves in to docile "followers of Jesus."


I think according to Colsons beliefs the rapists, murderers, and thieves will go to heaven, while any unsaved victims of any of the murderers go to hell, which was one of the things that really bothered me and that I was really worried and upset about when I myself was serious about Christianity.


Actually Chuck Colson has always been one to blindly follow authority; I think he would be an authoritarian follower, and now specifically a religious fundamentalist authoritarian follower, according to Bob Altemeyers classification of the authoritarian personality. Conversion has not changed him in the least in that regard.

With his conversion he just happened to switch his allegiance. Before his conversion he was willing to do whatever Nixon said he should do, without question. After his conversion he now unquestioningly goes along with the authoritarian, arbitrary God as understood by fundamentalist theocrats, and with whatever the Bible says.

Colson did not dare question Nixon while he worked in the White House, and now he does not dare question anything in the Bible, or the fundamentalist theocratic understanding of the Bible.

And Colson was obsessed with enemies when he worked in the White House, and considered enemies of Nixon to be his enemies. And now he regards Islam, secularism, and moral decadence in our society as being enemies of his God and of Christianity (his version of Christianity), and of the Christian society that he thinks America ought to be.


So I dont think Chuck Colson is at all a better person for having converted to Christianity, and for having accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Incidentally I myself did not find that being a Christian, and supposedly having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, had at all helped me in enabling me to better deal with anything that was a source of pain, frustration, or unhappiness in my life. I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, and I feel as certain as I do of anything that it was the right and healthy thing for me to part company with the Christian faith, and with any duties and obligations specifically imposed by the faith (as opposed to duties and obligations incumbent on any good or moral person).
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