Jim Bob and Michelle are almost as well-known for their ultra-strict religious beliefs as for the massive size of their brood.
The enormity of the family and the particulars of its members’ worldviews are not unrelated, of course.
The Duggars belong to a controversial non-denominational organization that encourages its followers to have as many children as physically possible.
But the bizarre and often dangerous teachings of the Quiverfull movement don’t stop there.
In recent years, many fans have wondered how such a devout family could have sheltered a predator as monstrous as Josh.
Of course, there’s no easy answer to that question, but as with everything else in the Duggars’ lives, religion played a key role in the making of the repeat sex offender who has become Jim Bob’s greatest shame.
In the gallery below, we’ll explore the Duggars’ most deeply-held convictions as well as the ways in which they were contorted into justifications for enabling Josh and
torturing poor Jana.
Even if you count yourself among the diehard Duggar faithful, you may be surprised to learn exactly what drives reality TV’s most controversial family.
Will Justice Finally Be Done?
Obviously, Jim Bob and Michelle are not 100 percent responsible for Josh’s perversions, but they are responsible for helping him evade prosecution, which allowed him to continue preying on the innocent.
An Experiment Gone Wrong
And in all likelihood, the couple’s bizarre views on sex and relationships — which they of course passed on to their children — were central to the formation of their eldest son’s deeply-damaged psyche.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
Whatever the case, the Duggars taught Josh from a young age that men can essentially do whatever they want in their relations with women. One of the strongest ways in which they sent this message was through their continued support of a religious guru who has been accused of all manner of sexual misconduct.
A Quiverfull of Duggars
Many of the Duggars’ beliefs derive from the teachings of Bill Gothard, a disgraced and highly controversial minister who teaches, among other things, that it is the duty of all Christians to marry young produce as many offspring as possible.
Guru of the Duggars (Getty)
To say that Gothard, founder of the Quiverfull movement and the affiliated Advanced Training Institute, is a controversial figure would be a massive understatement. The 88-year-old is currently in hiding following a number of high-profile sexual assault allegations.
The IBLP: Condoning Abuse Since 1961 (Photo Credit: TLC)
The first of Gothard’s many off-shoot organizations (like any conman worth his salt, Gothard knows when it’s time to abandon one shadowy venture for the next), the Institute for Basic Life Principles was founded in 1961 as a tax-exempt umbrella conglomerate for several ministries.
And Just What Does the IBLP/ATI Teach?
The Duggar children were all homeschooled using materials and curricula provided by the ATI. The recently revealed contents of said materials shocked many fans who thought they were familiar with the Duggars’ beliefs.
Biblical Life Principles
Not surprisingly, the ATI materials emphasize “biblical life principles.” This means that children are taught from a young age that whether the subject is history, math, science or language, the Bible is the only text you need.
What That Really Means (Getty Images)
The idea of teaching a child geography from a several-thousand-year-old text written by people who weren’t aware of the existence of other continents is troubling enough, but it gets worse, as the ATI materials actually convey that it’s Gothard, not God, who serves as the ultimate authority and has the final word.
The Disturbing Specifics
The details of the ATI’s teachings on health, child-rearing and human sexuality have come under fire from many past students, and it’s certainly not hard to see why.
Cancer: A Curse From God
“A lot of ATI’s ideas about disease and spirituality are that it’s kind of two sides of the same coin. Your spiritual problems cause your physical problems,” says former IBLP student Nicholas Ducote. “They believe cancer is a punitive condition for a lot of people, that God will curse you with cancer.”
Premarital Sex = Death
Gothard’s ridiculous views on cancer and its causes don’t stop there. The ATI materials also teach that “semen causes cancer,” a side-effect that’s miraculously avoided when a couple is married and having sex for purposes of procreation.
Blanket Training and Other Ways to Torment Your Toddler (Instagram)
Michelle Duggar has come under fire for condoning “blanket training,” a method of child-rearing in which 1-3-year-old children are seated on a blanket and struck with an object if they move. Not surprisingly, she learned the practice from the IBLP.
Josh’s Sex Crimes: Condoned By the IBLP
In 2015, it was revealed that Josh was guillty of molesting five young girls, four of whom were his sisters. If you’re wondering how his family was able to forgive him so quickly (they even helped hide his crimes from authorities), look no further than the ATI homeschooling materials.
Sexual Abuse: Blame the Victim
An ATI pamphlet addressing the topic of sexual abuse addresses the topic of why “God let [the abuse] happen.” Needless to say, the explanation is appalling.
“Immodest Dress,” and Other Causes of Abuse
The ATI contends that women are often guilty of creating “eye-traps,” meaning that they attract the attention of men through “immodest dress,” “indecent exposure,” and “being evil with friends.” In these cases, the pamphlet teaches, men are not guilty of abuse as they are unable to control themselves.
The Duggar Dress Code
It’s for this reason that Duggar women are encouraged to wear floor-length skirts at all times. Jinger Duggar recently created a stir by violating the dress code and wearing pants.
Abuse Victims Are Taught to Be Grateful (Fox News)
One of the most shocking excerpts from the ATI materials contends that victims of sexual abuse should be thankful for the experience, as the trauma makes them more “spiritually powerful.” “If you had to choose…no physical abuse or more mighty in spirit, which would you choose?” the pamphlet reads.
Courting: A Culture of Cruelty
One of the most famous aspects of the Duggars’ belief system is “courting,” a tightly-controlled and strictly supervised form of dating, in which young couples are forbidden to engage in any physical contact beyond hand-holding before marriage.
The Courtship Guidelines
Young men and women who are participating in a courtship are usually forbidden to spend any time alone together. Some IBLP families may allow hand-holding, but most limit ti to a few seconds. Sex and kissing are always forbidden, and most couples avoid “front-hugging,” instead limiting bodily contact to “side hugs.”
Physical Attraction = An Act of Sin
According to the ATI materials, young people are to be taught that feeling a physical attraction to anyone they’re not in a courtship with is a sinful act. “So, the ideal is that you are not even supposed to — if you are a teenager — I’m not even supposed to have a crush on you,” Ducote says. “If I have a crush on you, I am giving you a literal piece of my heart, and the more pieces of my heart I give to girls before I marry, the less of my heart I will have to give to my wife.”
Broken Courtship=Damaged Goods (Photo Credit: instagram)
Most courtships lead to marriage, and women who were involved in courtships that didn’t work out are often looked down upon. “[Courtship] sets a standard and proclaims that you are somehow shameful if you cannot keep it,” a female former ATI follower who prefers to remain anonymous reveals. “You are considered damaged goods if you have fallen in love and had your heart broken… This has got to be the most bogus and the most damaging teaching of this entire movement. Love doesn’t work that way.”
The Duggars Keep Quiet
Throughout the many controversies surrounding the ATI, the IBLP and Bill Gothard, the Duggars have remained silent, refusing to disavow their controversial leader or his most despicable teachings. It’s a side of their lives that the reality TV family would clearly prefer to keep hidden.
The Creation of a Monster
But sadly, the belief that women are evil temptresses who can only be transformed by being impregnated by a domineering man is a teaching that was probably central to the formation of Josh Duggar’s twisted world view.
The Fallout (Arkansas PD)
These days, Josh is in prison, serving a 151-month sentence on child pornography charges. His depravity might be the most extreme consequence of the Duggars’ bizarre approach to child-rearing, but it’s certainly not the only one.