Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pathology of the Internet Fundie: A layman’s observation and speculation

I’m not a psychologist; I only play one on the internet. But I do have a BA in psychology with a minor in religion, half century plus of life experience, and a decade or more of first hand observations and interactions with the profoundly religiously impaired.

In my book I discussed hyper-religiosity, a clinical term describing the overt behaviors of certain people suffering from schizophrenia. I also referenced studies that point to childhood sexual abuse by a relative as a cause of high degrees of religiosity in adulthood. Just last week a passenger on an airplane paraphrased a bible passage – “Get behind me, Satan.” and threatened to bring down the plane until he was subdued by passengers. The man suffers from bi-polar disorder. Note he didn’t make any references to Darwin or Carl Sagan.

These unfortunates should not be condemned for their actions. They are to be pitied. Perhaps one day science, the proclaimed enemy of fundamentalist religionists, will find a cure for their ailments. One can only wonder if the fear of that cure is a reason for religionists’ distrust and rejection of science. Who knows?

Beyond these sufferers is the larger body of fundamentalist / radical religionist extremists. No specific clinical condition is tied to their obsession with the supernatural. Rather it is some combination of early indoctrination / cultural imperative; fear of death; under-education; economic deprivation; the desire for social acceptance by a larger group / the fear of being ostracized by the prevailing majority; a lack of self-worth; a life of personal failure. We can exclude their fundamentalist shaman for the purpose of this discussion. They are in a separate category.

In person these fanatics are easy to spot. They preach in the street, carry signs that say “John 3:16,” knock on your door and spew their delusion all over your door step. In church they flop on the floor and speak gibberish, or feign unconsciousness overcome with religious ecstacy. But on the internet they also have special characteristics that set them apart from the “normal” theists, by which I mean, those believers for whom faith is a personal comfort -- not a weapon, political party, or all encompassing raison d'ĂȘtre.

The following are some hallmark internet behaviors of these willing whackos for Jesus that you may recognize:

  • Rambling and repetitive streams of thought; conglomerations of disconnected concepts. I.e. references to Einstein, Nostradamus, Occam, Hitler in one sentence.

  • Insisting they are being victimized by the minority / persecution complex.

  • Threats or implied threats of physical violence or god’s wrath.

  • Repetitive obsessive reference to death, dying, and everlasting torture (ours not theirs).

  • The lack of composition and sentence structure; long posts in a single paragraph; frequent use of uppercase letters; multiple exclamation marks; the omission of the letter “o” when spelling “G-d.”

  • The invention / redefinition of words.

  • Misuse / misunderstanding of scientific terminologies; interspersing pseudo-science with apologetics; inappropriate insertion of scientific references.

  • Misrepresenting or denial of genuine statistics or proven trends.

  • Quote mining of famous freethinkers to imply an endorsement of belief.

  • Grasping at mysticism and prophetic foolishness to bolster their belief.

  • Quoting of biblical verse in lieu of independent thought; use of biblical verse as “proofs” of anything.

  • Demanding that you read such and such a book, link, or view a given video.

  • Harboring the delusion that anyone cares what they say or that they have the power to influence the thinking of secularists with their ranting.

What largely motivates this erratic behavior is fear. To people who cannot establish rewarding, meaningful, or long lasting relationships with human beings their relationship with their imaginary Friend is all they have. To people who fail at life, career or success (how ever one defines it), clinging to a delusion is the last vestige of meaning to their existence. The very thought of their archaic belief system being rendered irrelevant by reason and science is the worst possible outcome to their already failed lives. Although they project bravado and confidence intended to mask it, their fear and desperation is almost palatable through their manic scribbling and prosaic shouting. It may even substitute as a sexual release, but I’m only speculating

One can only wonder what they perceive as a goal given that their method invariably yields the same non-result. While this behavior is not medically defined, isn’t doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result the very definition of insanity?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

“Dear Mr. Hump…” My advice to an atheist: No guilt trip required

I recently received this letter from a valued reader.

“… I am from a family that was Catholic but not too serious about it. As a result, my brother, sister, and I are all atheists. But despite my own convictions & your encouraging & illuminating writings, I fell by the wayside recently. I didn't know what to do & took the easy way out.

I had hired a handyman to do a few repair jobs around my house. … The work being done was over several days, and as he was leaving one day he pressed a brochure from his Baptist church into my hand & asked if I would like to attend a service and join the choir!

Needless to say, I was shocked & caught off guard by this intrusion into my privacy. I could have pointed out that I didn't want any part of this nonsense but just to get him off my back I said that I already belonged to another church & wasn't interested. Also, he still had to finish up some work so I just wanted to get the job completed without any fuss. The whole episode was upsetting to me. Needless to say I won't be hiring him again.“I tried to think quickly of some clever argument that you would have made, but I just drew a blank. How should I have responded? “ -- L.

My reply to L follows. How would YOU have handled it?

Dear L,

The situation you described put you between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand you wanted to be true to your atheism / non-belief; on the other you had a project to complete. One can never predict how religionists will respond to a person openly declaring their atheism. He may have smiled and said if you change your mind you're welcome. Or he may have walked off the job leaving you high and dry.

You have no obligation to reveal to this guy your position. He was hired to do a job, and as the client your only duty is to yourself in seeing the job done. That's exactly what you did. I'd have likely done something similar. You'll recall in my book that I related using a similar tact when dealing with a "Christian business" with which I had an outstanding order. Instead of talking offense at their religious proselytizing on their site I used it to my advantage and got priority attention and faster delivery than I otherwise would have.

My / our rationality and ability to reason permits me / you to do what is rational and expedient. There is no "spirit" watching us to see if we deny "him." We owe no allegiance to any dogma, doctrine or man-god. We certainly don't owe anything to a hired contractor other than payment for work completed to our satisfaction. On the other hand, if the job were done and paid for, I'd have not only told him I was an atheist, I'd have offered him a copy of my book in exchange for his hand out.

It's all good, L. Leave the guilt trips to the theists... they thrive on it.

Yours in reason,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hump interviews an End Times prophesying fundie preacher

The Right Reverend Jeremiah “Billy Bob” Mountebank is the pastor of The First Church of Eternal Life and Small Engine Repair in Waco, Texas. He has caused a stir among his congregation and the press by predicting that the biblical End Times are about to take place based on recent world wide natural disasters, “acts of God” if you will.

On a recent visit to an offshoot congregation of his in New Hampshire, I had the opportunity to meet with Reverend Mountebank and get the low down on the imminent destruction of the world as we know it.

Hump: Reverend Mountebank, I understand you have proclaimed that the End Times are at hand. Since the bible says no man knows the timing on what do you base your prediction.
Rev. Mountebank: Please, call me Reverend Billy Bob, there’s no point on being formal now with the End at hand.
Hump: Ok then, Billy Bob.
Rev. BB: Uh…that’s REVEREND Billy Bob.
Hump: Oh, sorry… Reverend Billy Bob.
Rev. BB: Well, the signs are very clear – tsunamis; meteorites flaming in the sky; earthquakes in Haiti, China, Utah, Chili; mudslides in Brazil, a volcano in Iceland, war and civil unrest, locust plague in Australia, homos getting married, a nigra president…
Hump [interrupting]: Wait a second Reverend, what do laws permitting gays to marry, or the election of an African-American President have to do with biblical End Times prophesy?
Rev. BB: Well, son, you see it’s all part of the sign you know… natural disasters, chaos, and Satan’s growing influence and power affecting the world. Never in the 6,000 year history of the planet have there been so many disasters, wars and certainly never a homo marriage or nigra world leader.
Hump: But Billy Bob…
Rev. BB: That’s REVEREND Billy Bob!
Hump: Right, Reverend Billy Bob… but natural disasters happen every day all over the planet, as many as 20,000 earthquakes a year, 50 a day. It’s only that we are made aware of those that happen in heavily populated areas, such as the most recent ones. Besides, earthquakes have only been systematically measured and recorded by scientists for the past hundred years out of Earth’s 4 billion plus year history. Volcanoes erupt continuously on land and under water; and as far as wars, there has never been even a single year in recorded history where war hasn’t…
Rev. BB: You’ve been deceived by Satan, boy!! The Devil has got you to thinking too much. There used to be maybe a dozen or so earthquakes a century, now its killer earthquakes every week, and balls of flame in the sky and hellfire volcanoes in otherwise ice cold places. It’s God telling us to gird our loins an’ git ready to come home. Satan is stirring the pot using heathen A-rabs to do his dirty work. He’s bending people’s minds to accept sodomites as normal folk; causing them Mexicans to swarm over the border; and putting a communist bearer of the mark of Cain, the Afro-Negro or whatever you call them, in charge of Jesus’ chosen nation … it’s all as the bible said it would be. Hallelujah!!
Hump: But I’ve read the bible and it doesn’t mention anything about gays, Mexicans or Blacks foretelling the End Times.
Rev. BB: CONTEXT!! Context, boy!! You have to read the bible in its proper context, it’s all there. Besides, God spoke to me and told me the end is near. We was having a bowl of grits and fat back and… Hey! You ain’t one of them Liberal Jeeews, or idol worshipping papists, or faggots yer self are ya? Are you right with God? Are you prepared to meet your maker, welcome the Lord Jesus Christ’s return, and be embraced by his love, light, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance and goodness … are you saved, boy?
Hump: Actually I’m an atheist.
Rev. BB: Atheist?? There ain’t no such thing—you just hate God and the Baby Jesus, you godless heathen monkey worshipper! I’ll enjoy watching you burn in hell for an eternity while I’m sipping a cool libation in Heaven and stroking the Lord’s hair, boy. Now get the hell out of my face you baby-eating-communist-spawn-of-Satan, there’s a Fox camera crew over there and I know THEY love them some Jesus.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Criticized for my methods, Hump remains unrepentant

“… for me to use arrogant, derogatory language is counter productive to my motive for engaging [theists] in the first place. … if your goal in discoursing with theists is to get them to shut up and retreat in awe of your debate skills then, Hump, you have succeeded.” -- D.

The above is an extract from an exchange on Facebook with a well meaning atheist of the kinder gentler persuasion. His motive in engaging theists is to bring them to value the inherent truth in secular thought. A noble enterprise, one that I endorse, but only with those whose level of receptivity and intellect make them candidates for deprogramming.

This may not be apparent to certain freethinkers who erroneously assume all levels of believers are receptive to logic and will come around if only one is patient, genteel, and avuncular. A couple of decades of atheist activism have taught me otherwise -- this rationale is as faulty as a fundie trying to proselytize Richard Dawkins.

My response to this gentleman’s chastisement follows, revised and extended:

Dear D,

Most discourse I have with theists is civil and dispassionate. More often than not they are liberal/moderate theists who have accommodated acceptance of reality, social justice and science with their preferred supernatural beliefs. They are receptive to the “truths” of reality. However, that rarely makes for good blog or book fodder.

My "take no prisoner" method, which is substantially more entertaining to read, is reserved for those theists whose concepts are often dangerous to society or patently moronic. These are the fundamentalist's and those Christians who do not take the time to explore secular reality/science and reject it as being a threat to their belief system; who typically resort to absurdities, hackneyed platitudes, defunct apologetics, perversion of scripture and distortion of scientific theory to feed their agenda.

These people are not candidates for "sparking interest in choosing to value truth" as you so eloquently put it. These are people to whom "truth" (i.e. reality/reason) is the enemy, albeit, they are unable to perceive that through the fog of their delusion. They are due no respect, they are owed no platform, and their arguments are unworthy of my time or effort. If you believe that the likes of Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Ted Haggard, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, or those Christian fanatics, haters, history revisionists and reality deniers who hold them in reverence are subject to being reasoned with, you are operating under a delusion of your own abilities.

I'll waste not a moment trying to throw pearls before those swine, anymore than I would spend hours trying to explain the virtue of medical science to a religious fanatic mother who opts to pray over her sick child, and allow him to die from an easily curable disease. I'd bitch slap her, and take the kid to the hospital. Period.

I don't toy with them or fool myself into thinking that I am some guiding light and they are receptors of my sage argument and intellect. Those people deserve nothing more than being "shut up" by ridicule, dismissal and utter rejection of their buffoonery. That's my position. That you disagree is fine with me.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Letter to a Recovered Fundie

I recently received a complimentary letter about my blog from an internet friend and activist atheist compatriot. In his letter he mentioned that while he wanted to comment on my Young Earth Creationist posting, he was too embarrassed to admit that he was once the kind of mindless YEC advocate that the article referenced.

It prompted me to share with him something I’ve often thought about recovered religious fundamentalists, as well as my own perspective on belief. My letter to him follows, revised and extended.

Dear J,

You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Those who perpetrated the lie, who cultivated it, who fed it to the unwary, and who are unrepentant of their scam -– those are the ones who should be ashamed and embarrassed.

You were a victim of religious think from childhood to early adulthood. In fact, while your letter compliments me for my reasoned activism, you have more to be proud of about your having embraced reality than do I. You see, I never had to overcome what you did. I was never indoctrinated, never bombarded with lies and myth at an early age and through my developing years. Thus, I had a head start while you were handicapped.

That you were able to escape from the darkness of unquestioning faith in fable to overcome your handicap speaks to your courage, strength of character and intellect. I've often wondered, had I been in your place, if I would have had the necessary attributes to escape the darkness of religious ignorance and find the door to reason on my own.

As freethinkers we are all “Apostles of Reason.” But people like you who overcame what so many others never will, are -- to paraphrase a verse from the Bible -- among "the most beloved of the apostles” of reason. For that you deserve and have my respect, and the respect of every freethinker.

Your friend,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Body of Christ Found - Pope Cancels Easter!!

The Body of Christ Found- Pope Cancels Easter
Associated Press
Jerusalem April 1, 2010 -
In what is being called the greatest archeological find in history, archeologists sifting through what was thought to be an ancient trash dump have unearthed the grave and recovered the remains of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Eli Ben-Yehuda, head of Archeological Studies at the University of Tel Aviv has confirmed that the remains have been positively identified. “The inscription, the method of death, the burial accoutrements and a scroll confirming the identity and date of death leave no room for doubt.” Dr. Ben-Yehuda said.

Discovered late in February, the corpse and accompanying relics have been intensively studied by scientists and reviewed by senior clergy of the major Christian denominations. The confirmation of authenticity is unanimous.

“It appears everything we thought to be true is a lie.” lamented Ireland’s Archbishop Phillip O’Shea, “I’ve already notified his Holiness of my resignation. I’ve wasted almost 50 years of my life believing in a myth, I won’t waste one more minute. I need to find a real job” said the clearly emotional sixty-five year old O’Shea.

Pope Benedict has issued a papal bull cancelling the celebration of Easter, the holy day that most of the world’s 2 billion Christians previously celebrated as the believed day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The pontiff’s closest advisor, Monsignor Benito Calducci, told reporters that the pope is deep in prayer, albeit he wasn’t sure to whom he was praying, adding defiantly “… and frankly I don’t care. I need to find a real job.”

In the United States evangelical televangelist Pat Robertson is in seclusion. A close confident of Reverend Robertson speaking under condition of anonymity said. “Pat is unsure what path he will take; the rug has been pulled out from under him, from under all of us. He is financially set, but I’m going to finally have to get a real job.”

The human remains are remarkably well preserved owing to the dry climate and air tight ossuary. The corpse shows that Jesus had only two lower teeth and a severe overbite. He was bald and seems to have suffered from syphilis and cirrhosis of the liver. It has yet to be determined if he had club-foot, or if the deformity is a result of injuries incurred during crucifixion. Based on the unusual dimensions of the ossuary, Jesus appears to have been less than 4’ 2” tall, but was rather obese perhaps weighing as much as 250 lbs just before death. He appears to have been a hermaphrodite; the minute circumcised penis was still intact.

In a related story, the Shroud of Turin has been sold to the Gucci fashion house where it will be cut up and used in their exclusive spring line of April Fools hand bags.