Former Westboro hate mouthpiece on leaving the church

We have a winner. I grant you one Internets.


I’m sure i remember her on that louis theroux doc he made on them. She seemed the most likely to jump that festering, rotting ship. The last days of fred phelps being the icing on the cake - i had no idea. :smile:

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I think starting a non profit is an incredibly high bar to set. Child soldiers aren’t asked to make amends in that way. Actually, that’s a good analogy - she’s been brainwashed and indoctrinated from birth, egged on to commit horrible acts and rewarded for it. It’s not easy for somebody to break free of that.

As for making amends, if you read the full article in the New Yorker, she’s already started speaking at conferences and working with Equality House. That’s a whole lot more than most people do to advance equality and peace. Apologies only work if we are ready to accept them. It appears that many people she railed against are ready to accept her, and speaking personally, that improves my faith in humanity.


Theroux was talking about that when he was on Richard Herring’s podcast recently.

The one that he thought would leave didn’t.


i read that earlier this week, and it is well worth it. the ending blew my mind.

We haven’t forgiven you; why should we forgive her?


kinda gave up 20% thro the newyorker article. Why are we interested? We should just be bored. I guess we’re all attracted to extremism. Did she ‘see the error in her ways’ at the end? Should we forgive her? I know plenty of good folk who never preached hate in their lives. Lets see some articles about these people.

Are we really supposed to feel bad for this narcissistic quasi-sociopath?

Sure. She’s a human being that has grown and deserves forgiveness.


Well, the tragedy that was t-day 2004 was pretty unforgivable.


I think there are other positives they offer. For example, Westboro members get to be God’s special messengers. And they get to experience joy in things that other people would find sad or hateful. Those sound pretty awesome if you can manage to buy into them. But I imagine the latter is pretty hard to buy into if you’ve ever experienced normal human emotions and social interactions, which probably one of the big reasons why they’ve never managed to attract more than a handful of members from outside the Phelps clan.

Wow yeah…not sure what i’m most surprised at, those girls becoming more indoctrinated, a guy going over there wanting to marry into that or a previous documentary maker joining the cult. :frowning:

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Well, he said with a shred of compassion and some feigned empathy, it’s not like you made that NPR cranberry-onion relish, did you?

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Beth Hansen is writing about a recipe, which I have read on NPR for the past 127 years: a venerable Thanksgiving recipe from my late mother-in-law for a tart relish with cranberries, sour cream, sugar, onion and horseradish — a recipe which sounds terrible, but tastes terrific (even though it does end up the color of Pepto Bismol).


Really when it comes to people who have taken part in aggressive confrontation with others and who have used social media not only to promote hateful views but also for the kudos that the self publicity brings them, my own feeling is that the proper way to make amends is to STFU and let others do the talking. She has left Westboro but she is now, in effect, leading her own church. In a way, she continues to get self-validation through her association with Westboro, whereas the proper thing to do is to bury it in silence and to seek self-knowledge.

[edit - perhaps I should clarify that I don’t mean that women should be silent and their voices should not be heard! I think it’s a given that they should be speaking out against various forms of oppression and misogyny. This is a special case of someone who identified with an oppressive régime ( I think it can be called that) as a result of indoctrination, but who obviously has a strong narcissistic streak that led her to promote their views on social media. Do we really need ex-cult members to tell us that cults are bad? It would be nice to think that she could live the rest of her life without constantly revisiting the Westboros, because there is evidence that reliving traumatic events does not, in fact, help to overcome their effects.]

I read the piece within the context of this recent siege of terror violence and the groups which commit them. This is a case study in how ideology can take over lives, one generation after another, how a group forms and builds and begins its collapse defined by its self-righteous outsider status.

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[quote=“ben_ehlers, post:20, topic:69575”]
In religious circles, being told that you are wrong is a test of faith, not an opportunity for stoic reflection and considered doubt.[/quote]

It’s really worth highlighting this. All cult groups have this mechanic at the core. Interestingly, It’s also an observed phenomenon in rational/secular people: contradiction paradoxically reinforces conviction: “they hate me because I’m right”, etc… (trying to find a source)

That’s not what I got from it. While that certainly provided fertile ground, it’s the internal schism and power-grab by Drain and the other men that finally drove her out. I find it really interesting (and possibly useful) that it’s the loss of social standing within her group that finally triggered her change of heart. I think the same mechanism applies for cults luring people in: they find the weak, the lost, the rejected and provide them with a supporting family.


So your solution is to hate the haters. They wave “god hates fags” signs, and your response is to wave a “I hate bigots” sign, and feel morally superior because bigotry is bad, and you are opposed to what is bad. Someone who used to be bad has changed their minds, and your response is to hold a grudge against them for what they used to be.

That’s not making the world a better place, it’s just finding a new set of scapegoats. Making the world a better place is hard, because it requires not hating, not holding grudges, and responding to hatred with offers of friendship. Megan made a career of spewing hate on twitter, and some people responded to that with compassion, empathy, friendship, and love. And that, rather than other people who just hated back at her, or who just blocked her and turned away, are what caused her to eventually stop drinking the cool-aid her grandfather was serving, question everything she had ever been taught in her entire life, and finally leave the cult.


You missed the part of the article where she spent a few years no longer believing but still trapped in thinking that her lack of belief made her a bad person, and not able to bring herself to leave. Realizing that the cult that raised you is wrong is unbelievably hard. Understanding that thinking that the cult is wrong does not mean you are damned is harder. Leaving your family, your friends, the only world you know, and going off into the unknown – that’s maybe the hardest thing of all.


Sam Harris had a good interview with her on his podcast a few months ago:

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You know you’re reading the new yorker when…


How fancy.