What the Fresh Hell is This? An interview with Star LaBranche

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Louise!

L.K. Smith

What the Fresh Hell is This?

An interview with Star LaBranche

I’m joined today by author and radical believer in equality, Star LaBranche. She’s here today to discuss her new book, What the Fresh Hell is This?

What is your book about?WTFHIT

It’s a collection of essays and short fiction with an overarching narrative. I start out writing about my experiences being raised religious, I talk about aspects of my religious upbringing that never made sense to me, then discuss how I realized I was an atheist and embraced my non-belief as a part of who I am. I also write about living in a Christian culture when you’re not Christian and how I rediscovered spirituality without the lens of Christianity. I have excerpts, audio samples, and a promotional video available on my blog.

What inspired you to write about this topic?

I’ve been writing for godSwill for a…

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What the Fresh Hell is This? – Out Soon!

12268674_906518476049901_565040618_o[Image: the cover for What the Fresh Hell is This. A blue background with an image of a woman with dark hair sitting at a desk with her head down. She is surrounded by books, with a desk lamp shining on her. Above her are religious symbols and the book’s title.]

What the Fresh Hell is This? – to be released November 22, 2015

Written in the upfront, take-no-prisoners style of Godswill Ministries, Star LaBranche explores the few highs and mostly lows of being an atheist among believers. Follow her revelations about her personal journey from a born and raised Catholic to an outspoken atheist to a member of the Unitarian Universalists. In a collection of essays and fiction, taken from the Godswill website, her personal blog, and featuring mostly new content, Star voices her struggles and triumphs of overcoming religious indoctrination, finding her own way in the world, and discovering exactly what she does and does not believe.

Read excerpt 1, Girls, R U Dateable? Probably Not

Read excerpt 2, The Cult of Suffering

Listen to the Introduction.

Watch the promotional video.

Watch the Q&A video.

Pre-order on Amazon.

Sign up for the mailing list.

In Defense of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Touched_by_His_Noodly_Appendage

[Image: The creation of man. Adam reclines on the left, reaching out his arm to touch the noodly appendage of his holiness, the Flying Spaghetii Monster. Parmesan be upon him.]

Open letter to the Dean,

It saddens me that I must write this, however, I feel that I need to defend both myself and my religious beliefs. I was very disappointed and hurt when [Professor’s name redacted] insulted my religion in sociology class and encouraged the other students to laugh at it as well. I tried to explain my religious beliefs but the class continued to laugh and a girl sitting in the front made a comment about followers of my religion using “shooms,” an illegal substance known to cause hallucinations.

The lecture started out through a comment about the Reptilian theory; the belief that the entire British Royal Family, George Bush, George W Bush, and several others are in fact space lizards that take on human form in order to infiltrate Earth. This is not in fact a religion, but instead part of the desperate ramblings of David Icke.

I explained the history of my proud religion, but no one listened to me and when girl made the comment about shrooms I realized that everyone had simply dismissed Pastafarianism as something so ludicrous that it was comical. After my attempt to explain the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was ignored the instructor began to talk about Heaven’s Gate and other dangerous New Religious Movements. This sandwiched the reptilians, Pastafarianism and cults all together. I felt humiliated and alienated from my classmates and left the class during the break.

I understand that some people find the idea of a Flying Spaghetti Monster as the creator of the universe difficult to believe, but we are all His creatures and we have all been touched by His Noodly Appendage. There is plenty of scientific proof that He exists, unlike some other religions. Our proof includes a great text detailing the beginning of the earth. We believe that He has also manipulated carbon dating data in order that we may think that the earth is older than it is. Another one of His great work was to show us the importance of Pirates and how, as their numbers diminished, global warming increased.

I hope that amends will be made to me and to the 10 million other Pastafarians worldwide. Furthermore I noticed that the college does not include the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or His teachings in Religions of the World I or II. I hope that this omission will be corrected soon.

With most sincere thanks,

Star LaBranche

P.S. In order to teach about the Flying Spaghetti Monster you must be in full Pirate regalia. BuyCostumes.com has an excellent selection.

AN: I wrote this fake letter to the Dean of TNCC in 2008 after a particularly annoying night in a sociology class. I never sent it, but it was highly irritating to me that a teacher was completely misrepresenting His Noodliness and didn’t even recognize that I knew more about it than she did. 

Prompt 7: Obituary

3860127380_be58ef72c0Prompt 7. For some reason, everyone finds your obituary to be hilarious.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on January 9, 2015, our sister, Star LaBranche, passed away. She was taken from us by a creeper that she met on OkCupid that murdered her at the teashop during her 10th consecutive day there. Full details have not be released by police, but her friend Mai-Anh has stated on Facebook that Star was showing the unnamed man a review she did of a Bratz film when he lost control and stabbed her with a piece of cheese. The scene was said to have been very bloody.

Star leaves behind her parents, both of which are very sad to lose their child so young. Her mother was quoted as saying, “She’s with god.” Her father said, “What are we going to do with all of her scrapbooking stuff now?!” Her older sister could not be reached for comment as she was too busy. Her friends left touching Facebook tributes for Star on her wall. Many of the men that Star had dated talked about how they will miss her smile and ample backside.

Her blog has now become a memorial website for Star. It’s estimated that it received 30 hits in the last two days alone. Many people have pointed out how Star was usually around 90 blogs ahead and that her blog will continue to post even though she has passed away. It’s believed that the upcoming posts will be even less edited than usual.

Star will always be remembered as a person who had no filter, no ability to recognize TMI, and an insane urge to write. Her family is planning to publish an anthology of all of her writing in an effort to offset the costs of her funeral. The first draft is estimated to be around 3,000 pages. It will be available on Amazon eBook for 99 cents sometime around next month.

We will remember Star fondly with a quote from her favorite rock opera, “Don’t cry for me, Argentina. The truth is I never left you.”

Fucking yoga pants again

I’ve already written one blog about yoga pants. One would think that that’s enough. But no. The universe conspired to make me blog against these comfortable pants yet again. This time, and this should be no surprise, I was once again wearing said yoga pants when I was alerted that they were under attack.

The blog I’m responding to comes from Pastor Rick Hermann. He describes himself as a follower of Jesus, husband, father, and pastor on his About page. Which is pretty fucking non-descript, when you think about it. How many thousands of Americans does this describe?

Anyway, his blog starts off, unsurprisingly, with some scripture. At this point in my biblical reading, I don’t care what the book has to say. It’s so backwards, twisted, sexist, and archaic that any nice bits in it have been completely invalided. So I’m just going to skip the whole scripture bit and get right into Pastor Rick’s searing commentary.

It is that glorious time of the year known as spring. In our hyper-sexualized culture as the heat rises clothes start to come off. To say our culture is obsessed with body image would be like saying Antarctica is kind of chilly.

You know what’s funny about this? He’s talking about sex, hypersexualizing women, and discussing body image himself. Just because he’s against it doesn’t mean that he’s not talking about it. And he is. A lot.

As someone that cares about Christian women I want to give a little pastoral/fatherly counsel. I find there are less and less young ladies that have a Godly father or male role model to speak truth into their lives. I would like to speak to Christian females as a loving father, as if I am talking to my three girls. These are some things I will tell my girls as they grow up, they may be helpful to some of you grown women as well.

What a nice guy! Us undeserving hos don’t have a good enough dad or male role model to steer us on the right path, as we’re too full of estrogen to find it ourselves, so he’s here to tell us why everything we believe is wrong. How considerate of him.

I would love to say that this is the first time I’ve seen Christians making it very clear that women have to have men in their lives in order to be righteous, pure, correct, or in anyway have a good life, but it’s not. It might sound shocking to men but not every girl that grows up without a father suffers from consuming daddy issues that forces her down the wrong path in life. Men are actually not magical saviors that keep women in line. Take all the time you need with that. I’ll wait.

Everything you wear says something about who you are and what is in your heart. While most women would not verbalize this, or even think about it, they want people to look at them. They want others, particularly men, to think they are beautiful.

I would comment that this is pretty much assuming that all women are sexually attracted to men, but this is a Christian blog, so that’s a useless point to make. Anyway, women and girls want to be thought of as beautiful because society tells them that’s what they want. In America it’s just ridiculous to blame girls for wanting this when every TV show, magazine, commercial and website is intent on using female sexuality in lieu of anything else.

Today, people spend countless hours at the gym and tons of money in order to make their bodies look a certain way. Most of the time people say that diet and exercise is for their health but if their hearts were exposed it is really about 10% for their health and 90% so they can look good (this is true of both men and women).

Which is no one’s business but their own. Also, should he be slamming people who want to be healthy even if it is for vain reasons? They’re still being healthy. So why try to shame them for it? Humans are vain and shallow. Welcome to the real world.

They have been told since the time of childhood that princesses are beautiful and wicked stepsisters are ugly. From almost the moment of birth little girls are taught that so much of their value is found in their looks.
Beauty= good
Ugly = bad

Which is why it’s nonsensical to blame them for believing it. They were destined to.

Yoga pants defined – tight (usually black…black is slimming you know) pants that cling to every fabric of your skin. These pants are appropriate to wear at home with your husband and are great to go underneath a dress or long tunic…however when you leave your rear end uncovered you are pleading with every man in eye shot to check out your backside.

Good thing Pastor Rick is here to tell me how to dress. I just couldn’t figure it out for myself! Here I thought that this is my body and I get to dress it as I see fit and he’s here to enlighten me that my ass might draw attention and I should be ashamed of that.

Good thing it’s not a man’s responsibility to control what he looks at and how he interprets what he looks at. He’s just the innocent victim of my tights pants. It’s really unfair, when you get right down to it.

WHAT WOMEN CANNOT UNDERSTAND

Wait, I know the answer to this! Parallel parking!

Contrary to popular opinion God made men and women different. Women and men are wired so differently it is impossible for a woman to understand how a man’s mind works (It is doubly impossible for a man to understand how a woman’s mind works).

Men and women. Am I right? They’re like two separate species. They’re just so different they couldn’t possibly understand each other.

Why do Christians want to make men and women so different? What does it gain them? Men and women are not so freakishly different that we can’t relate to each other or share experiences. Stop acting like we’re different species and work on understanding us, instead of declaring it completely impossible right from the start.

Men are visual. God wired us in such a way that when it comes to the female form we do not miss much. If a woman is wearing something that is tight fitting, too short, too low cut, etc., a man will notice. He may not admit he notices, but he does.

Can we all step back and say a huge “DUH….”? Straight men being sexually attracted to women? Really? Oh shit! He better go collect his Nobel Prize in biology!

I can hear the rebuttal from women now, “Men are just a bunch of dogs and should learn to control themselves.” Perhaps your argument it very sound. Men are geared with a deep sexual desire that God gave them to express in the joys of a marital relationship. But saying men are like dogs does not change that fact that men are looking.

I don’t know what Christians think about this bullshit, but personally, there’s nothing wrong with having sexual desires. That’s completely mundane, in and out of marriage. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a woman that a man finds attractive. The problem only arises when men can’t see a woman as anything other than something that is sexually attractive.

Christian men are looking. Ladies this may creep you out but you need to know, OLDER (think grandpas…eww) men are looking. You see, the desires of a man’s flesh never changes. Whether he is young or old he has to constantly deny those sinful desires and seek to honor the Lord with his mind.

Wait, you mean to say some men don’t suddenly lose their sex drive completely after they hit 50? WHAT?! I might have a background in gender studies, but is anyone being educated by this nonsense?

If you love your brother in Christ and do not want him to see you or think of you in a way less than holy then consider these few questions and ponder them in your heart:

Now here’s the crux of the issue. The responsibility has been put on women to keep men pure. If women LOVE their brothers in Christ, they will dress modestly. If they don’t want men to think of them in a less than holy way, they will dress modestly. Men need to handle their own desires and their own feelings, without women needing to change whatever they want to do.

See how this works? Men don’t get to dictate female behavior or female sexuality. They get to control their own actions and shut the fuck up about my pants or my cleavage. Not a difficult concept.

ARE YOU ADVERTIZING WHAT IS NOT FOR SALE?
When you put a “For Sale” sign on something, if it is interesting people will check it out. If you put a “FOR SALE: CHEAP” sign on something they may want to buy it if they have to pay very little. When you wear clothes that are immodest, you are advertising to the men all around you that you are cheap.

Really? This is the best argument you’ve got? People have been using the “immodest dress = cheap whore” equation for ages. Instead of restricting women and shaming them into dressing in a way you want, train men not to look at women like they exist for their pleasure and not to assume that because a woman wears a low-cut shirt or a pair of yoga pants that she’s easy, cheap, or advertising something.

God made women in His image and He never meant for them to be cheap.

If god made man in his image, then he made woman also in his image, does that make god intersex?

The Bible says that He bought our redemption not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. If Christ would pay this much for your soul, why would you advertise your body as cheap? I will tell my girls that they are very valuable and when they find the man God has for them to marry, they will know because he will marry them before he tries to sleep with them. If you’re dressing in a way that is immodest, would you consider that you are inviting men to think about you in a sexual way?

Would you consider that it’s possible for a woman to do something without basing it around how men are going to feel? Can you fathom that maybe a woman is a person in her own right and shouldn’t have to gauge everything she does around how someone else is going to interpret it? Again, take your time. I’ll wait.

According to the Bible, this way of thinking should be reserved for your husband. Christian men should see Christian women as daughters, sisters, or as mothers. Do you want your Christian brother to think of you as an object of lust, or as a sister in Christ? The way you dress WILL influence how he thinks of you.

Christian women are not just daughters, sisters or mothers. They are individuals. They are people. They are human beings. It’s not that complicated. Only when men stop looking at women as property or extensions of themselves are women ever going to gain the respect that they have been so sorely missing.

ARE YOU MAKING OTHERS FOCUS ON A PART OF YOU THAT WILL SOON FADE AWAY?
Your looks are not around for long. Even the most beautiful woman may have 40 years of stunning physical attraction. What happens after she has passed her prime? What happens when your perfect curves begin to sag? What happens when that beautiful skin begins to wrinkle? If you have made others value your looks then you are quickly losing your value. If you value comes from, “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” then as you get older you only become more precious to God and others. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

It’s not enough that he’s shaming women for being immodest, but now Pastor Rick has to remind us that we all have a biological expiration and the clock is ticking. What use are women if they’re not beautiful? Not much.

ARE YOU TAKING WHAT GOD MADE HOLY AND MAKING IT COMMON?

God made exactly shit holy. Because god doesn’t exist and if your religion is leading you to think these things, then you’re better off without it.

There is a Proverb that says, “A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.” Can you picture gold, the most precious of metals, in the nose of the most vile animal? A pig spends its days in the slop and has no need or concern for the value of gold.

Pigs are amazing, intelligent creatures. Don’t denigrate them while you’re trying to make a point about women. Also, didn’t your god make pigs? So aren’t they beautiful, too?

A woman who is immodest is taking the gold that God has given her and putting it before pigs (sorry guys). You are so much more valuable than your vessel. You are not a body that has a soul, but you are a soul that has a temporary body. Your body will soon wear out.

If women are so much more than a body then why police what they are putting on their bodies? If they have these souls and talents and other things you want people to worry about then why spend all of this time telling them these superficial things about what they put on this “temporary vessel”?

Help people look at you for what is lasting about you and not what is quickly fading away. Here is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:15 “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?”

I couldn’t say that I am totally shocked. A lot of people believe that if a woman is sexual, then she can’t be anything else. This isn’t a new concept. But Christians take this to another extreme when they apply it to people. Being a sexual person doesn’t mean that you’re less than or undeserving of personhood.

HERE ARE A FEW BASIC GUIDELINES THAT MAY BE HELPFUL.

Or they may be total bullshit. Let’s see.

Wear Yoga Pants/Tight Pants in private and not in public unless you are covering your backside. You should not wear clothes that cling to you.

Because it’s so last season?

Seriously, men, anytime you start detailing what women can and can’t wear according to your personal preferences, you just need to shut the fuck up and take a step back. These aren’t innocent ideas that will help women. It’s another attempt by someone in a position of privilege to control and police someone who is not under their authority in the first place. Don’t listen to this bullshit.

NO BIKINIS. Bikini = wearing your underwear in public. Even with most one-piece bathing suits you should probably cover them with shorts. I know this sounds dramatic and archaic but trust me on this one.

Never undress. Even in the shower.

Seriously. Wear whatever you want. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and leave it at that. Taking on someone else’s body issues and shame is not healthy for anyone involved.

You should not wear clothing that draws men’s eyes to your breasts.

What about women’s eyes?

Personally, I like wearing low-cut tops. I like the way they look, I don’t like things around my neck, and I look good in them. I will wear them until I no longer want to. If someone else feels lustful thoughts or is tempted by a sexual desire, that’s on them.

Also, I am waiting with baited breath for the men’s version of these guidelines. Women can be aroused by visuals, too. How can men dress to avoid accidentally turning on women and making their sisters in Christ think of them as lustful objects and not peoples’ fathers, brothers, and husbands?

Skirts should go past your knees and should have enough material that you can still walk when wearing them.

Wearing skirts that you can actually walk in sounds like good advice. But seriously, past your knees? Should they wear a hijab too? Those can prevent you from being raped, as we all know.

If you are in doubt about something don’t ask another girl or even your mom. If dad is in the picture ask DAD!

Yeah, dad knows how to properly control your sexuality. Mom or another girl might fuck it up and tell you to be your own person or something dangerous like that. Women, huh?

And when you ask him and he shocks you with his opinion, have the respect to listen to what he says. Remember, Women DO NOT THINK like men. If you do not have a Godly father or grandfather to ask, seek the advice of an older Godly woman and go by the basic guidelines I have listed above.

It was around this time in the article that I wondered if Pastor Rick will take his daughter to those creepy purity balls and dance with her after she pledges her virginity to him. Because this bullshit sounds like exactly the same vein as the purity brainwashing comes in.

The point of this blog is not to be offensive, but to remind my sisters in Christ of their great worth and value. I hope it is helpful.

Your sisters in Christ might be too browbeaten and busy being silent to tell you this, but this IS offensive. You’re blaming women for men’s sexual desires, declaring their bodies as not their own but the property of men’s roving eyes, then demanding that they dress according to how you feel comfortable in order to control your sexual thoughts. You disparage a society that treats women like meat, then you do the exact same thing. What the fuck, Pastor Rick?

If women are more important than their physical appearances and have so much more to offer than their bodies, then stop harping on what they wear and how they wear it. It’s not up to you to decide how women should dress and what women should do with themselves. If you want to cultivate women’s minds then stop talking about bikinis!

Bullshit like this makes me so glad that I fundamentally do not see enough evidence to believe in a higher power. Because this shit is all in the Bible. You can go through that book and find references for all of his points. Only when you remove religion and the sexist patriarchy that it was founded on can you really see how toxic and demanding this line of thinking is to both men and women.

Men should be in control of their own bodies and women in control of theirs. Men should be in control of their own thoughts and women in control of theirs. Because men are people and so are women.