Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

When I was a boy, my father taught me a lot of things that I’ve come to find useful. He taught me to steal without getting caught. He taught me to lie and cheat and conspire. He taught me how to assault other people in public and get away with it. Coincidentally, he taught me that Yankee people are a vile, distrustful bunch, devoid entirely of morals. Go figure.

Now if you aren’t sure what a Yankee is, or are wondering if you are one and if I’m about to viciously insult you, I’ll explain. “Yankee” is a slang term southern Americans use when referring to northerners. It is a derogatory, dehumanizing term closely akin to the word “nigger” but generally is considered socially acceptable and is more commonly used. Ethnically it is applied to groups with European heritage who have assimilated entirely into the white culture. Sorry minorities, but white southerners have separate epithets for you…Yankee appears to be a white thing.

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“The Yankee states are the blue ones.”

It’s also a perspective thing, which means it depends upon who you ask. Yankees, to most folks, are people from the northeast. Northeast of what, you ask. Why, northeast of the person you are asking comes the answer. To a true southerner, anyone from two or three towns to the north is a Yankee. If you’re from New England or anywhere close to New York or Chicago, you are also a Yankee. Anyone west of Iowa is generally not a Yankee but if you live in south Florida and aren’t Cuban, then you probably are one. Virginia is considered somewhat Yankee-ish, but somehow West Virginia and Kentucky aren’t really. Does that make any sense? At all?

So, back to insulting Yankees, it wasn’t long before I started to see that northern, or Yankee, people behaved a little differently than what I was used to in the small southern Appalachian (pronounced Apple-atch-in) town where I grew up and presently reside. My early dealings with transplants from Ohio and New Jersey supported my father’s statement, but after my first couple of years in the military, I began to see things a little differently. The lack of morality he described was actually, as near as I could tell at least, simply a different interpretation of the term. They had intact moral systems, but they were nothing like what I was used to.

It’s a cultural difference that can only be described anecdotally. On a recent road trip, while the wife was inside a small post office, I was flipping through the rental car’s satellite radio and happened upon the Vivid Video porn radio station. Yep, porn is on the radio and I’d tuned into a call-in talk show. The topic was “cream pies.” Now if you don’t know, I’ll tell you. If you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph because this shit is nasty. The contextual meaning of “cream pie” on this show involved a man licking a strange man’s baby batter out of his own wife’s hoo ha. Yuck city.

All of the six callers I heard before my wife returned were either from Massachusetts or Ohio, with most being from the latter. Does that mean people from Ohio are disgusting and devoid of morals? Maybe. Ohio also has the highest rate of human sex trafficking in the country. It’s the place where your child is most likely to be abducted a block from home and wind up being pimped out in a truck stop two weeks later. All I’m suggesting here is that the sexual culture in that region of the country may be a little different than what most folks consider normal and when it turns bad, it also happens a little differently.

When I related my story at work, it was met with disgust and contempt, only later to be generalized into a series of epithetic jokes with each being more crass and foul than the last. In a fundamentalist Christian culture, such sexually deviant behavior is considered morally repugnant on every level and for a number of reasons, despite the fact the act itself is a consensual one, between adults and occurring behind closed doors. When a guy from Ohio hoovers up a puddle of some other dude’s man-mayonnaise, he calls a nationally syndicated radio show and frankly discusses it. But if a guy from the N.C. hills ever even had the inkling that he might enjoy such a thing, he’d be on his knees begging Jesus to forgive and redeem his sinful, broken black heart. One guy feels guilty, one doesn’t. Same mouthful of sour milk bubble gum. What gives?

Back in the forties, the U.S. instituted the draft and started shuffling soldiers off to fight the Nazis. The Nazis, as we all know, we’re bulldozing their way across Europe and North Africa looting, pillaging and trucking Jews away to labor and extermination camps. The American soldiers were appalled by what they saw. The big question here is: why weren’t the German soldiers appalled as well? After all, they were tasked with doing the work and saw it much closer than anyone else. Why did the Germans not experience overwhelming guilt and simply stop the butchering? It almost seems as though the Nazis had produced some sort of psychopathic super soldiers, incapable of feeling or remorse or love, like the Terminator but with less-cool catchphrases like “Seig Heil. ” That seems unlikely, considering that psychopathy is thought to be on the rise and presently only figures at an estimated 4% of the population. Note: feel free to replace “Nazis” with any other genocidal social group, including Colonial and/or slaveholding Americans…

It’s more likely that the Nazi propaganda machine created a culture and moral structure conducive to what it intended to accomplish and left the grunt work not to clinical psychopaths, but dedicated citizens and soldiers who believed what they were doing was best for their social group, or at least doing what they could to fit in. It’s hard to feel guilt or remorse when you don’t believe you have done anything wrong to begin with. This statement is key to the understanding of how morality functions both socially and neurologically.

Conventional morality means nothing to me. I do not experience the sensation of guilt. Or remorse. I understand, concisely, the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, but I possess no innate inclination to prefer one over the other, especially when it comes to the way I relate to others, nor am I pathologically predisposed toward one over the other. In a clinically sociopathic brain, morality deals with what is best for the self. For me, right and wrong only really applies to what is either beneficial or non beneficial for me.

Most sociopaths, the ones who will speak openly, report their lack of engagement with traditional morality as an evolutionary advantage. Non-socios see it as a harmful social disorder. Fundamental religion happens to frame it as a separation from God. When I was young, attending private Baptist school, I was taught that my conscience was akin to the Holy Spirit, and that it lived in all of us. The Spirit would pack it’s bags and hit the bricks, however, if we should ask it to do so. The Spirit never “convicted” me with feelings of guilt when I was naughty, no matter how naughty, and I began to wonder if I’d asked it to leave without even realizing.

Maybe I had, but I must have been tiny when it happened. Long time readers of my blog will remember an early post (click to read this post) which depicted a four-year old Jason pitching a kitten into a red hot wood stove. While I’ve never repeated that sort of behavior in any way, I’ve never felt any sort of guilt or emotional torment as a result. The Holy Spirit has never had anything to say to me about it, although my grandma sure as hell did. What I remember clearly are the two sequential ass bustings, separated by a period of time out in the corner. That and the smell of burnt cat. That sort of thing sticks with you.

Lacking a conscience and the capacity to feel guilt, in and of itself, doesn’t make a person a monster. The smoking cat may claim otherwise, but remember that the cat is in fact smoking, which severely biases the cat’s scientific opinion. The supposed lack of conscience, in any context, serves only as a behavioral enabler and to understand it’s true implications, the very concept of morality must be reframed. Right and wrong, it seems, are not necessarily what we think and are a hell of a lot more static than we’ve ever imagined.

Most religions teach that God, besides being the Creator, is also the “law giver,” as in the decider of what is moral and what is not. In other words, the idea of conventional morality, to a believer, is a universal constant defined by a higher power. The problem with this is that the idea of right vs. wrong varies between individual cultures and according to time period. Four hundred years ago, the moral way to deal with “witches” was to crush them with large stones. While this behavior was acceptable in 17th century Christianity, it is no longer considered justifiable. In a few centuries, the dividing line between right and wrong shifted drastically. These American centuries also saw the enslavement of the black man and the genocide of the native people, all justified in the minds of the offenders by the popularized form of morality present at the time. Sometimes, religion itself was used to explicitly justify such savage offenses. In the film Django Unchained, Tarantino depicts a slaver quoting Genesis 9:2, common piece of scripture used to normalize slavery as he uses a bullwhip against another human being for breaking eggs.image

Morality, the idea of right vs. wrong, is a concept that evolves within the culture in which it presents, and nothing more. It exists as a behavioral framework that provides a consistent standard wherein people may coexist peacefully with one another. It’s the reason our societies have come so far and is absolutely necessary for the survival of our species. Morality, at its root, serves as a tool for the perpetuation of the species and therefore, must evolve with the times in order to remain effective and beneficial to the larger group.

If I experienced guilt, it would not be a feeling that I had sinned against an instituted universal order. This paradigm is no more measurable than it is tangible when considering that standard moral programming is not a feature humans are born with. What I should have experienced after I burned the cat is a form of anxiety. Things like roasting live cats are considered deviant in terms of common behaviors exhibited by the majority in a culture. Committing such acts, for most people, results in a fear of being ostracized by their social group. Morality, rather than referring to the intangible and static concepts of right and wrong, actually reflects the societal standard of normal behavior. The feeling of guilt is not related to the Holy Spirit, but is in fact a sensation of emotional displeasure experienced after behaving in such a way as to risk the security of one’s social identity and status. It’s an important tool which exists to link humans together and help them relate peacefully and harmoniously with one another.

For me, it’s not that easy. There is no little voice in my head providing an evolutionary cue as to how I should behave with regards to others. In this aspect, the anti-sociopath crowd has a point; I, and others like me, seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to naturally fitting in with the rest of society. We are presented, as such, with a choice. A person with an antisocial personality can choose to either ignore social convention and live at will or cognitively engage the system, mimicking the moralities imposed on others, and fit in the best way possible. Or, at a bare minimum, not be burned at the stake by a bunch of pissed off villagers. While fitting in takes considerable work and finesse, it is in the ability to make this conscious choice that the sociopath derives his own evolutionary advantage.

Unconstrained by any sort of neurological directive to conform, I am free to define my own personal code of morality as I see fit. On the one hand, were I a malevolent sort of a creature, a pathologically offending victim of intense childhood trauma, then you could see how lacking this behaviorally inhibiting brain function might cause a lot of problems. But on the other, that isn’t the case at all and not only am I completely free to choose my own right from wrong, I am able to do so objectively.

For example…

I’ve done my level best to convince a close friend of mine that eating commercially processed chicken, especially from fast food joints, is socially irresponsible and perpetuates cruelty. Chickens are not protected by cruelty laws, they are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, raised in tiny boxes, cooked and sold by people not being paid enough to live, the whole spiel (read more about this here). His answer:

“The Bible says nothing you eat can defile you, only what comes out of you can defile you. And I like me some chicken.”

You don’t really see the cost of being locked into an institutionalized system of morality until you observe said behavior being framed by such a ludicrous and contextually inappropriate justification. The pathological need to be a part of a certain social structure usually serves to inhibit harmful antisocial behavior, but in this case, the behavior’s lack of significance within the moral framework only serves to perpetuate it. The social culture of Evangelical Christianity, amongst others, not only fails to identify the social issue as a problem, it draws on the Genesis 1:28 claim of man’s dominion over the Earth as justification to say nothing.

In other words, if my friend and I eat factory farmed chicken for lunch, we should both, by all rights, feel guilty for doing so. But neither of us do. He doesn’t because it’s not a part of the social-moral paradigm to which he subscribes. The Christian belief system simply doesn’t choose to prosecute the perpetuation of cruel acts against defenseless creatures as a sin…so there is no reason for him to feel guilty. I don’t feel guilty either. Not that I would have actually eaten the chicken, but it wouldn’t matter to me if I did, not from an emotional standpoint anyway. I’m free, remember, to define my own terms of morality and in this case, humanity sits in the sociopath’s corner, as does the evolutionary advantage. Think I’m full of it? Change the example of two guys eating chicken to two German soldiers in World War II arguing about how ok it was to go along with the popular Nazi definition of morality in those days.

Whether it involves torturing chickens for profit or the mass murder of millions, the implications of how a person defines what is right and what is wrong can be a very serious business, even more so if a man decides to trust another man to do his moral reasoning for him. Religious institutions, for example, provide much of our moral framework. Despite their tax-free, non-profit status, these organizations still function as bureaucracies and by their very nature, create self perpetuating ideologies which may or may not be beneficial to the overall social group. This is why the Catholic Church has been behind so much mischief, historically speaking. An institution, like a clinical sociopath, is incapable of experiencing attacks of behaviorally inhibiting conscience.

Objective morality is the middle ground between a lack thereof and that which is externally imposed, both of which result in selfishly motivated and anti social patterns of behavior. No matter who you are, building an internal moral framework which is objective and based truly upon “Do Unto Others” principles takes hard work and a discerning eye for the greater social consequences of your behavior. All of it.

Something which seems so trivial as purchasing a chicken biscuit from Chik-Fil-A should by all means be deemed socially irresponsible…immoral. A four dollar decision enables the abuse of animals for the pure selfish sake of profit margins as well as the practice of dramatically under compensating employees. It’s only four dollars, but it’s still four dollars. I can see this objectively because, ironically, I don’t have morals. Or a conscience. Or a guilt complex. The same lack of neurologically forced social engagement that let John Gacy sleep soundly atop the corpses rotting in his crawl space enables me to point a bony finger in the face of popular convention and proclaim, in the words of ultra-galactic asshole James MacDonald,

“For shame!”

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Ain’t the world a funny place?

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Dear God, I prayed, if you’ll keep me from getting my pants paddled off in the principals’s office, I’ll never, ever, ever choke my chicken again. If God had a nickel for every time a little boy struck up that deal, there’d no longer be any point in being God. Retirement would ensue and someone, anyone, any number of anyones could be paid to fill in. Cause that’s a lot of nickels. I’m just one guy with one chicken, after all, and I bet I’m worth at least a buck in that context…

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“Early masturbation prevention.”

Any thirteen year old boy recognizes the sacrifice that giving up moose milking amounts to and those bargains are never struck lightly. A kid promising an end to fireman time implies either some serious business with Santa or the prospect of a man sized dose of judiciously applied corporal punishment. It’s a hell of a thing to give up, and if you’re still keeping up your end of the deal seven out of ten little boys made in childhood, then my hat’s off to you and I submit you are the better man. While it’s easy to understand the value which both adults and children assess in such activities, it sure is funny how we seem to think Jesus and Santa Claus place a comparable value on our abstinence.

The idea, as silly as it may seem, is not based in the naive foolishness of childhood although it’s logic is indeed most foolishly childish in nature. This system of logic, somehow, managed to provide us with such cultural gems as circumcision, cold breakfast cereal and that little thing we refer to as the Jewish holocaust.

As long as the proverbial dolphins have been swimming and squalking, man has been doing his damnedest to flog them into oblivion. In ancient pagan societies, both man and god were frequently depicted with fistfuls of frankfurters and handfuls of hair pie. All this changed, however, when the Jewish rabbis started to get jiggy with their interpretations of the Tanakh.

Genesis 38 tells the story of Onan, son of Judah and brother of Er. When Er was killed before procreating an heir, tribal law dictated Onan must impregnate the widow Tamar. Onan, Er’s current heir, didn’t like the idea of competition for his brothers estate and saw his insemination of Tamar as little more than pissing in his own nest. So at the last minute, he yanked his rabbit out of the hair hat and “spilled his seed on the ground.” And God killed him for it.

Onan’s responsibility to Er’s widow is known as a leverite marriage and was common during the times when tribes did not marry outsiders and the gene pool was constrained. His neglect of this responsibility would have had greater implications for their community and was most certainly an outrageous act, hence God’s wrath against him. Somehow, someone along the line interpreted this paradigm as being inclusive of the leaving of cream cookies anywhere save the fertile cookie jar of one’s wife. My personal theory is that early Catholics recognized the potential for profit in their Pennies for Penance campaign and began taking confession from the St. Peter Beaters and the Rosary Rubbers, along with cash settlements.

It’d be interesting to know how much they’ve made through the centuries, but that’s just me and I’m a goon for figures and statistics.

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“Modern Masturbation Prevention”

Fast forwarding to Victorian England, things hadn’t changed much. Pickle tickling and nub rubbing were still considered mortal sins, but it certainly didn’t stop people. Laws emerged equating the act with sodomy, some as silly as those preventing women from the traditional method of horse riding. Ever wonder where the side saddle originated? Well now you know. When the Puritans first sought solace from societal evils like Christmas by coming to the New World, they brought this retarded-assed way of thinking with them. And smallpox. But that’s another story.

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“Ellen White, the face of sexual abstinence.”

America was indeed founded upon a tradition of preachers railing against slippery clown punching while people went right on ahead and did it anyway, albeit with a serious sense of post punch guilt. No American religious sect has been so influential in its history of pud pounder persecution as the Seventh Day Adventists. The Adventists, who derived a good bit of their dogma from the hallucinations of a woman named Ellen White espoused clean living free of meat, alcohol, caffeine and, of course, any sort of battling of the bald bishop.

At the time, however, most bishops weren’t really bald and no one knew what the hell a fireman was. Dudes were still sporting anteaters, except for the Jews, who’ve been mutilating their children’s dingalings for centuries. In America, it all sort of began with Ellen White and her husband. And John Kellogg. As in Corn Flakes.

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“Battle Creek Sanitarium, early 1900’s.”

In the late 1800’s, the Whites operated a convalescent home for Adventists in Battle Creek, Michigan. Over the years, they had cultivated a relationship with a young Kellogg and upon his graduation from medical school, invited him to supervise the revitalization of their ailing facility. Kellogg took the bull by the horns, renamed it the Battle Creek Sanitarium (coining the term sanitarium) and began to diversify its activities. Previously focusing on popular water cure therapy, Kellogg began to include all sorts of cutting edge alternative therapies and even invented a few of his own.

Considered a highly competent surgeon and an ardent anti masturbation advocate, Kellogg encouraged and helped largely to normalize the practice of circumcision, a procedure which he claimed was “almost always successful [as a preventative method] in small boys.” Circumcision obviously doesn’t prevent masturbation, but his motivation was corrective and he suggested its application as a punitive measure against older children and to be administered without anesthetic. While the cultural practice eventually found its way into hospitals and is now performed humanely, we still mutilate our children’s penises because some dumbass and his hallucinating benefactor said it was a good idea.

It’s barbaric, that’s what it is, and those people are assholes.

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“John Kellogg’s old stuffy ass in a scholar costume. His medical degree took two years.”

When John Kellogg wasn’t fighting the good fight against one-eyed wonder weasel wrangling by sewing foreskins closed and sprinkling carbolic acid on clitorises, he was devising new and ingenious ways to make people’s intake of bland, whole grain based diets simple and efficient. Simply put, he was trying to make a kibble for people to eat. Corn Flakes happened by accident, when some dough Kellogg and his brother made was erroneously allowed to mold. Lacking in funding, they rolled and processed the dough anyway and after toasting it, finally produced the desired result.

John Kellogg began shoveling it into his patients just as fast as he could bake it, the younger brother, Will, had different ideas. He formed the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company, later changed to Kellogg’s, and began to mass market the product. He realized, intuitively, that the product tasted like the moldy corn dough that it was and therefore required a little more incentive to make it palatable to mainstream consumers. So in the same manner John Kellogg was selling it to his patients with a line of bullshit, Will included a booklet called Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures, which sounds suspiciously racist.image

It wouldn’t surprise me, given the older brother’s views on race and segregation. While Kellogg raised a considerable number of orphan children during his sexless marriage and a number of them happened to be black, his opinions on segregation and breeding between the races intensified as the 1900’s began.

Kellogg was a big proponent of the theories that clean living resulted in good health, both physical and mental, and that feeble mindedness and the like resulted from character flaws related to immoral practices like shucking your own corn. He started to rethink this as a result of experiences with his adopted son George. Even after stapling the boys foreskin closed with a bit of silver wire, the boy remained weird and sort of retarded. Eventually, it dawned on Kellogg that the boy’s having been found eating garbage next to his dead prostitute mother likely had some effect on his behavior.

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“This is a real thing. Run, quick, tell David Carradine before it’s too late!”

This revelation ultimately led to Kellogg’s establishment of the Race Betterment Foundation. Always one to push a bad idea to it’s fullest extent, Kellogg began to suggest, and in fact insist, that the white genetic code mustn’t be polluted by the likes of idiots, blacks and other such immigrants. He joined ideological forces with biologist Charles Davenport, another founder of the eugenics movement, and began to form the “scientific” framework of the movement itself. This ideology unfortunately mainstreamed into common practice and American society began to take upon itself the responsibility of deeming who was fit to reproduce and who wasn’t. Those deemed unfit were summarily sterilized, often without their consent.

Not one to be bested by the American competition, Adolph Hitler found that the eugenic principles fit nicely within his own ideas regarding ethnic purity and frequently praised the efforts of the westerners. American eugenicists accepted the pre-holocaust Nazi leader warmly and contributed significantly to the poorer nation’s research programs. Hitler, in the spirit of Dr. Kellogg, took an awful plan to the extreme.

While the sterilization of “useless eaters” prevented the perceived drain on resources for future generations, it did nothing for Germany’s current state of cash strapped-ness. In the years leading up to World War II, Hitler’s Nazis surreptitiously rounded up those they deemed unfit and began to quietly euthanize them. Feeble minded children were whisked away to “special schools” where they were never heard from again. Most of these children were strapped to beds and perished from starvation and exposure through windows opened to the harsh winter elements.

Before a Nazi ever touched a Jew, several hundred thousand people had been murdered, primarily the developmentally disabled, but also including homosexuals and members of ethnic gypsy minorities. In pre-war Germany, if you were eating and not paying taxes or breeding in an approved manner, you had to go. And eventually, the tax on being Jewish was raised to…everything. Make no mistake, the holocaust was about economics just as much as it was about racism.

By 1924, thirty American states had passed legislation rendering compulsory the spaying and neutering of those deemed feeble minded and unfit for genetic citizenship. Carrie Bell was the first to be singled out in ’24. She was regarded, essentially, as white trash with too damn many kids as it was, and ordered sterilized. Her 1927 appeal to the Supreme Court was a failure and a history of 60,000+ sterilizations began. The 1927 Buck vs. Bell decision has never been formally struck down, although as recently as last year, North Carolina was still paying out settlements to citizens sterilized without consent as late as the 1970’s.

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“The new Hallmark thank-you card for our parents.”

So in the present, while we’re no longer force neutering any of our citizens, mothers still make a culturally acceptable choice to sexually mutilate their sons based upon ideology perpetuated by a hallucinating religious zealot suffering from a traumatic brain injury and a “doctor” who taught supreme health was obtained through abstinence from turtle tugging, frequent enemas and a diet rich in heavily processed moldy corn.

In the long run, America and the rest of the world would likely have experienced a different track of history had they rejected the path Darwin’s ideas lead them down and settled for accepting his ideas on a more basic level. Whether man came from monkeys or not, lots of people would have been better off if they’d just appreciated the similarities between the species and followed the example of the pathologically bologna bopping Bonobo monkeys. At least they don’t butcher each other and if they do, they do it one handed.

Think I’m bullshitting you? Look it up.

And enjoy your fuckin’ Corn Flakes.

A wise man once said: “People who to try to crucify and behead you…those people are not your friends.” In fact, when people act this way, it’s best to strap your shit to the top of the old Family Truckster, tie Aunt Ester’s dog to the bumper and high tail it for Wally World. And whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy…for anything.

Thousands of people have been doing this in Iraq and Syria. Except they’re not heading for Wally World and they’re a long fucking way away from the sarcastic humor of Chevy Chase. Orthodox Christians, Kurds, Alawites and Shi’ite Muslims are vacating their homes the same way the middle class abandoned Detroit.

That way is the fastest possible and like I said, just pass the kid a Gatorade bottle and whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy.

All those folks are wise to leave. I’d leave too if I were in their situation, especially given the alternative. The things ISIS does to people are…medieval. I’ve got to admit, I’ve actually found myself a little disgusted at what’s been going on. That’s saying something, considering that I’m of the opinion that atrocities and brutality are entirely acceptable tactics when a force is overwhelmingly outmanned and out gunned. I’ve also got to admit that, until last week, I knew virtually nothing about what was going on with ISIS.

That being said, I predicted U.S. entry into Syria a couple of years ago. I expected it within the Obama years, and so far, it looks like I might meet my spread. Will I be a prophet…I think not…but if I were, I wouldn’t be the only one. Mark Danner predicted what we now understand as the Islamic State back in 2004. In a published essay, he basically outlined how the televised atrocities that emerged as Abu Gharib and Gitmo would serve to crystallize a mindset in radical Islam that would nurture a nationalist movement like the Islamic State.

Danner wasn’t the only one to have this epiphany. Nor was he the first.

In 2003, the thinkers at the Pentagon screened a film called The Battle of Algiers, an Italian film about the Algerian struggle for independence from the French. Often used as a recruitment tool by insurgent leaders, the film depicts how the French utilized tactics of brutality, false imprisonment and torture to extract information about resistance fighters who hid amongst the civilian population. The film was billed thus:

“How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”

Apparently, what’s happening is only a surprise to the people who haven’t been paying very close attention. There is a South Park episode where Professor Chaos discovers that no matter how ingenious and dastardly his plan, it has in fact already happened on the Simpsons. History is sort of like that. It’s all gone down before.

To understand what is happening now, you have to go back a bit, at least as far as World War I. In those days, the Ottoman Empire encompassed what we now know as Turkey and Greater Syria (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel). It was ruled by the Ottoman Sultan and he was called the Caliph of Islam. At the end of the war, France and England abolished the position of Caliph and divided the empire into territories and drew boundaries that simply looked good on paper. The kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq were promised as prizes to loyal local leaders. Lebanon was created as a haven for minorities that really didn’t work out too well. Turkey became Turkey and Israel came later.

The point is, the borders of the modern day Middle East were drawn by the French and English and based upon their own interests, as opposed to the natural state of social evolution that had been previously attained. By the end of World War II, when France and England were tired and hungry, they basically withdrew support from these countries and proclaimed, “Happy Independence Day, motherfuckers!” And there has been strife ever since.

ISIS is challenging these borders and, if history is of any indication, has designs on the aforementioned Greater Syria. What we are seeing are the early stages of the decolonization of the region. History teaches us that this process is often, in fact, very ugly. It’s worse, in this situation, simply due to the ugliness that kicked it to life. Assad’s destabilization during the Arab Spring was certainly a prerequisite to ISIS’s grab for territory, but the movement would not in fact exist were it not for the brutal tactics used by Westerners in the last decade. ISIS is an example of violent nationalism fueled by anger, hatred and revenge. And while certainly made up of men hardened from fighting the West and steeped in radical Islam, it attracts outsiders too. They are globally recruiting and enlisting the equivalent of ideological crusaders.

Even in Jersey.

A 74 year old German author named Jurgen Todenhofer spent ten days in Mosul and Raqqa with ISIS forces. Part of this time he spent in a recruitment facility. There, he met people from both New Jersey and the Caribbean. He also traveled extensively through the territory controlled by ISIS. Of course, his interactions were tightly controlled, but according to the Iraqi civilians, ISIS is no worse than Saddam, maybe better even. So far, no one from ISIS had used any mustard gas on anyone. The Syrian civilians he met seemed to prefer ISIS over the Assad regime, at least I got that feeling. But then again, the name Assad is associated with transforming towns to parking lots overnights, the people still inside, blood oozing through newly laid asphalt. Neither Assad nor Hussein ever set the bar particularly high.

Apparently if you’re a good God fearing Sunni Muslim, you are indeed, to use a beloved expression from the American Deep South, shitting in high cotton.

The civilians left in ISIS controlled territory are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims. If I’m mistaken, it’s only because some minority groups have thus far failed to leave and have not yet been exterminated. What’s happening is natural. It’s normal. Think back to the dissolution of Yugoslavia back in the 90s. I saw and smelled that shit firsthand. The Serbs needed Serbia something terrible but they had to pay for it. Same for the Croats and the rest. Think even further back to the fall of the USSR. Or look at Africa. Any of it. Places like Somalia have never even begun to recover.

The Sunni Muslims need a place to be. So do the Shia. And the Alawites. And the Orthodox Christian Arabs. And the Kurds. The thing is, these guys have to work all this shit out for themselves as it was devilishly mishandled outside intervention that formed the genesis of the problems we, and especially they, face today. The atrocities and ethnic cleansing we are exposed to in the media is simply the result of availability of media. This behavior is not out of character for what is occurring and only seems worse because we are able to see more of it on our computers and big assed 52″ flat screen televisions. Displacement is a consistently occurring effect of decolonization. You don’t separate previously integrated groups by sending invitations to refugee camps. You motivate unwelcome parties to flee by fucking them up. Like I said, everyone needs a place. As an unofficially Christian nation, however, it’s hard for people not to somehow take it personally when the news reports that ISIS has “beheaded 21 Orthodox Christians.”

That, in itself, makes me ask if someone wants us to take it personally. And why. But that’s another thing altogether.

Americans also seem to be as terrified of the concept of Sharia law as they are misinformed about it. The fear is righteous. Sharia is decidedly unfriendly to non Muslims. It is, however, a necessary element in social hierarchy of Islamic culture. Islam, fundamentally, is legalistic and lends itself in many ways to theocratic forms of government, which is how the Islamic State is trying to present itself. Arabic culture not only fails to place the value on democracy that westerners do, but they also fail to draw the sharp line between government and religion.

On a side note, I find it side splittingly funny that no one seems particularly bothered by the fact that the Saudis implement Sharia or by the way they go about it. The Saudis are, in fact, known for having a poor reputation regarding human rights. When a women’s school in Saudi Arabia catches fire in the night and the fleeing women are not appropriately covered, exit is barred by authorities. It’d be awful to burn to death because you couldn’t find your ninja mask when the smoke woke you in the night and the Jesus police barred the doors. We still trade with these savages. Does that make my sense of humor twisted?

If it weren’t for my twisted yet well read sense of humor, you’d never have known that really happened. And not so long ago. So there.

I’m curious to see how the events unfold this year. Much is at stake, on all sides. Western interests seem to be gambling on ISIS doing some or all of the heavy lifting when it comes to ousting the Assad regime and establishing a friendly government, essentially a sort of recolonization itself. The gamble is based on how hard it will be to control or oust ISIS after and if ISIS is able to rout Assad completely.

ISIS is, essentially, placing all of their eggs into one big ass sandbox and hoping like hell that sheer numbers do the trick when the bigger richer boys show up to play and bring tanks and trucks.

Again, this not the first time this has happened. Back in the first century BC, about sixty miles south of Rome proper, a gladiatorial training center was overrun by about 70 enslaved gladiators and all the Roman citizens involved in the operation were slaughtered.

For a year or two, this group looted and pillaged Roman towns, killing Romans and freeing slaves. Slaves jumped at the opportunity to join this small movement, which swelled to a force of over 70,000 by 71 BC. Up until this point, Rome had utterly refused to take seriously an uprising of slaves, deeming it only worthy of being handled by poorly trained and equipped local militias. A steady stream of victories against the poorly lead local forces bronzed the egos and courage of the resistance. And they actually thought they had a chance against Rome.

At that point, enough was enough. A rich asshole named Crassus was appointed to deal with the uprising. He engaged the army of slaves with a force of 40,000 highly trained, highly experienced Roman centurions and the army of Spartacus was wiped away forever like a turd on a wet wipe.

The moral is…you don’t fuck with Rome. Because Rome will fuck you up.

The fighting force that, essentially, is ISIS, seems to have evolved much in the same way as the army of Spartacus. ISIS is primarily lead by men freed from coalition fingernail factories. Guys who were dangerous and pissed off before being tortured and humiliated. Gladiators and slaves. Both groups utilize(d) similar personal demographics, those of people with a basic ideological need to resist what they perceive to be injustice.

Furthermore, they grew battle hardened and emboldened through successful military engagements against inferior forces, like the Roman citizen militias and the Iraqi army. In addition to increasing territory and available resources, shortsighted victories such as these boost morale and when human resources are available, recruitment numbers.

For Spartacus and his army of slaves, victory was in fact short lived and defeat was spelled out across the Roman countryside by men stapled to wooden crosses driven into the ground by their inevitable conquerors. So far, the only occupied crosses have been driven by ISIS themselves, but the new war is still young and Rome has not yet mobilized it’s more effective methods of extermination.

The only protection ISIS has, fundamentally, are the millions of non combatant civilians that they hide amongst to eat and sleep, and the fact that Rome has not yet been able to convince its citizens to foot the bill on a flat out Caesarian cleansing of the proverbial slate.

Not since Hiroshima at least.

This foul new year will indeed be a fine one for those who like to observe history as it happens, especially when it’s through a magic porthole in a living room, several thousand miles away. I can’t say that for those who see it first hand, but I’m sure they’ll be just as engrossed as I am.

Alcoholism is not a disease. Alcoholism, and alcohol use for that matter, are sins. As in moral transgressions. Someone tried to teach me this on the day after Christmas. I don’t think that, subconsciously, I was able to decide whether it was more appropriate to laugh or spit my coffee across the dashboard of the work truck, so, not being one to take chances (heh heh), I did both.

Despite my reaction, I found the speaker to be at least partly right. Alcoholism, as a matter of fact, is not a disease, at least not in a medical sense. The DSM classifies it as a disordered behavior resulting from a number of factors ranging from epigenetics to good old fashioned family Christmases. By its very definition, alcoholism (you might even generalize addiction into this equation) emerges in identity as a symptom of some greater problem. Research supports this idea.

In the decades following the Vietnam war, science has turned its attention towards those soldiers who chose to partake, often heavily, in the use of heroin. They discovered that approximately 95% of soldiers who reported regularly using heroin simply stopped using upon returning home. No rehab. No therapy. They just quit. I had a comparable experience with alcohol during my hitch. When I was discharged, my affinity for heavy drinking seemed to evaporate within the first couple of months of my transition back into civilian life. These days, I barely touch the stuff. And that’s good. Because sinning against God is bad.

Speaking of sinning against God, let me tell you what the lab rats have been up to… In related research, scientists provided caged rats with two water bottles. One was plain water and they dumped a pile of cocaine in the other one. The rats preferred the Columbian Go Go Juice, at least until it killed them. Well, like the good book says, the wage of sin is death. Bad rats.

So the scientists, as scientists do, made an experiment. They called it Rat Park. It was a good place for rats to be, sort of like rat heaven. The idea was not only the removal of stressors, but the introduction of positive elements as well. Ample food, space and water, mental and physical stimulation, social interaction and sex, everything was there…except for the free cocaine. So they sprinkled in some more, just for temptation’s sake.

Funny thing…the rats were too busy enjoying their rat lives to waste time on cocaine, even free cocaine, implying that most of the rats were not indulging simply for the sake of indulgence but that the addictive behaviors were in fact a result of environmental stressors. The data is eerily similar to that of the Vietnam heroin epidemic, as well as my own experiences of hell and Wild Turkey.

So given this data, how does the concept of morality apply to alcoholism or addiction in general?

Well, it depends upon who you ask. If it’s someone sensible, who is basically grounded in reality, reasonably educated and sans agenda, you’ll get something comparable to the “disordered behavior” explanation. But, we’re not talking sensibility or rationality here, we’re talking about Pastor James MacDonald. If you’re one of the people who is rational and reasonably educated, you probably don’t know who this is, so good for you.

MacDonald runs a megacurch conglomerate based in the Chicago area named Harvest Ministries and a nationally syndicated radio ministry called Walk in the Word which airs daily on the Billy Graham radio stations. The only way you know who this guy is, is if you are a card carrying Evangelical Christian. And if you’re one of those people, you can’t not know.

If you haven’t guessed yet, MacDonald was the crackpot who tried to convince me that alcohol consumption fits neatly with the spectrum of what he considers to be sin. The title of the sermon was “Wise Up About Alcohol.” I’d provide a link, but there isn’t one that you don’t have to “donate” at least six bucks to get. A few excerpts are available, as well as summaries, but what I came across moreso were reviews of the sermon, some being extremely critical. Several critics cited MacDonald for being very loose in his application of scripture, something I noticed myself as I’d listened.

The sermon, for me, set off alarm bells almost instantly. I simply couldn’t understand how, or why, someone could assign a moral value and subsequent moral judgement on the act of drinking alcohol. Granted, alcohol is a destructive drug, which I avoid due to that reason, but it’s something that a whole lot of people do in moderation with no ill effects either medically or spiritually. I must also point out that a guy named Jesus was noted for converting water into wine. I must have missed the part where he poured all of it down Mary Magdeline’s kitchen sink just to make the point that it’s bad.

The point is, MacDonald’s statements didn’t ring true scientifically or scripturally, and ultimately begged the question: why? So when I got home that day I asked my friend Google about MacDonald and Google told me an interesting story.

First of all, Harvest Bible Chapel is a massive operation, comprised of seven separate facilities which reach thousands of people each week. The services, if you watch one, are packed with people, all the way up into the nosebleed sections. Yep, sections, plural.

That many people, all packed into the same church on Sunday morning, can only mean one thing: somebody is getting seriously PAID…as in, that’s a whole lot of dough getting dumped into the collection plate and ushered down front. I would not be surprised, actually, to discover debit card swiping devices by each seat, not unlike the voting pads on American Idol. It sounds humorous, but the fact is Harvest actually really needs the cash.

Fifty million and change, after all, is not a number to sneeze at, especially if is a number you owe. I recently discovered a blog, right here on WordPress, called The Elephant’s Debt. The blog claims to be written by former members of the MacDonald church who observed patterns of behavior which many might consider…unbecoming. What they have to say is interesting, to say the least.

The fifty million dollar note, they say, is the cost of Harvest’s massive expansion, which began back in 2004 with the acquisition of the first additional “campus.” That’s approximately one new facility every 20 months. These are not small community based churches. These are the ones in converted warehouses and the ones that strangely resemble the corporate headquarters of a forklift manufacturer. You can rack up a good bit of debt when you grow that fast, it seems.

According to the blog, Harvest’s high speed expansion took on characteristics similar to that of a teenage boy hitting puberty. While they made no mention of pimple popping or serious accidents occurring during masturbation, there was a particularly humorous claim that on one project, MacDonald himself assumed the role of general building contractor. This resulted in a number of catastrophes, including the walls being painted and the flooring being installed, mid winter, before any of the windows or doors had even been ordered, much less delivered.

This sort of behavior seems to be a frequent complaint of his detractors. He was additionally cited for being greedy, controlling and even confrontational. Several years ago, three senior elders (like deacons, I think) came out publicly against MacDonald, ultimately describing his leadership as both oppressive and secretive. They quoted him directly, reporting that he’d rather “lose 1000 members than disclose his salary.” Apparently, only a couple of inside people are privy to that information. The church and its members, as a whole, do not actually know how much they pay their pastor.

In 2009, it was ascertained that MacDonald earned in excess of $500,000, between his Harvest salary and his Walk in the Word radio ministry business. As a top 5 corporate earner, he was legally required to publicly disclose the $100k plus income from the Walk in the Word, and it was subsequently absorbed into Harvest, a non corporate entity, therefore rendering it secret. In addition, MacDonald receives royalties from numerous books, speaking fees and reportedly has access to a “staggering” expense account through Harvest. And this is all donated money. Donated.

Me, I don’t need that much money, but then again, I also don’t feel I have a need for a two million dollar home in a posh neighborhood in Elgin. Or a vacation cabin up by the lake. Nor have I, ever in my life, publicly confessed to having a gambling problem. I’ve never made atonement for my gambling because I’ve never been caught. I’ve never been caught, primarily, because I don’t do it. But MacDonald did confess to having a gambling problem, at least to the compulsion. He left out the additional element of having done it with money that was donated to his church, off whose members’ backs he lives quite well.

Next came a very telling revelation, that of a proclivity to attack viciously when cornered, something with which I am very familiar. When the three elders came out and spoke against MacDonald by allowing their stories to be published in The Elephant’s Debt, he and his inside cadre of henchmen released a video which publicly announced the excommunication of the men, encouraged other members to avoid them and labeled their accusations as being “satanic to the core.”

After the shitstorm of criticism which undoubtedly followed such a brash and polarized presentation of the issue at hand, MacDonald and his cronies made a half apology to the shunned elders and yanked the video from the website. When copies of it surfaced on YouTube, legal action was threatened and these videos were yanked as well. That seemed strangely similar to the scrubbing away of anti Mormon propaganda from the Billy Graham website when Franklin chose to endorse Mitt Romney…but that’s another story altogether.

So after all this reading, all these sad and stupid revelations, I still found myself asking the same question: why teach people that the use of alcohol, in any context other than that of a widow or a sickly person dulling their pain (he literally made this distinction and pointed out that man was biblically encouraged to hand over his alcohol to such people) is a sin against the Creator?

Forget benevolence. MacDonald’s actions and comments do not reflect a heart which is truly concerned for the welfare of those he claims to guide spiritually. Why should he care if twelve or fourteen families leave the church, he allegedly said, when he didn’t even know those people. Stop worrying about the sheep for a moment, he went on, because I’m worried about the shepherd. If this was an honestly reported statement, then it helps to form a more accurate picture of his character and personality. A previously cited quote had MacDonald giving up the same families rather than disclose his salary. Were the 1000 hypothetical people he referred to being recognized as human beings who trusted him to guide the faith or as tick marks in his Quickbooks?

Human beings indeed.

MacDonald’s game is control and he’s working from an old playbook, one known well to the sociopaths and psychopaths of the world. The way I, and I suspect Mr. MacDonald, view the morality paradigm is based upon concrete benefits and consequences associated with things considered right and wrong, respectively. Morality is engaged only within a utilitarian context. While normal people have a processing system which produces negative emotional consequences when they are naughty (you know this as a guilty conscience), we don’t. But, we get it. My oh my, do we get it.

Being fundamentally remorseless, in a lot of ways, can be like having thumbs when others don’t. It opens doors to additional possibilities in the decision making process and can often make otherwise hard decisions very easy. The fact is, thumbs and remorselessness make it possible to use things like…guns…to their full potential. The thing about thumbs, is that if you’ve never had them, then you don’t miss them and you don’t necessarily recognize their absence as a fundamental weakness. Once you’ve had thumbs, and you’ve used them, their presence can be only accessed as a strength and anyone without thumbs is, by comparison, a weaker representation of the species.

Being able to experience feelings of guilt or remorse and actually internalize moral concepts are the staples that keep society from splitting wide open and, quite literally, spraying blood in every direction. These functions exist as behavioral antilock braking systems. They keep people from using their thumbs to kill each other to get ahead. If these systems malfunction or forget to develop in the womb, the personality emerges as…unconstrained. Simply put, when you don’t have a conscience, it just makes it easier to use the fact that other people do have consciences against them.

So when the conscience-constrained majority is taught and conditioned that certain common behaviors like drinking are morally corrupt, their guilt response kicks in and they feel some sort of tangible emotional distress. You know the feeling I’m talking about, it’s the one that fucks with your sleep. Rectification of this emotion requires engaging the original source of the guilt. So when you heard MacDonald’s little talk about drinking and the Holy Spirit laid the burden of conviction upon your heart about the mason jar of goodness in your freezer, where are you going to go to make that right?

You’re going to take your sorry butt to church and ask the preacher to ask Jesus to ask God to forgive you. That’s what you’re going to do. And it’s going to work. You’re going to feel better. Not just about the fact that you were simultaneously sexting your neighbors wife and masturbating while driving home drunk from a double feature cock fight/transsexual creamed corn wrestling match, but also about life in general. And there’s good reason for this.

Recent studies regarding oxytocin have shown its effects to be present during many of the common activities participated in during church, including hand shaking and hugging, group singing and praying. People come to church feeling guilty for their “sins” during the week and leave, feeling good. Feeling like they’ve bonded with the Creator. Feeling forgiven. Feeling reminded that their drinking and pud whacking is really going to piss God off. And feeling a few bucks poorer to boot.

Another notable effect of oxytocin just happens to be generosity. It affects when and how much people give when they trust the person they are giving it to. James MacDonald is earning in excess of half a million dollars per year in this manner. He benefits substantially from people feeling guilty. The New Testament has a name for people like this…it calls them false teachers. According to Billy Graham, this behavior is in fact not only sinful, but actually sinful to a much higher degree than lesser sins, like drinking and gambling. My guess is that he had Muslims and Mormons in mind when he wrote that, not people like MacDonald, but what fits the goose usually fits the gander too.

I’ll just sum up by putting it really plain: I think James MacDonald is a total asshole and he has no business in the business he’s in regardless of how good he seems to be at it. Anyone can pick up a microphone and tell a story about how alcohol destroyed someone they once knew. We all know someone, or are someone, who experienced the devastation that alcohol can catalyze in a person’s life. It’s no mystery. But to get up in front of thousands of people and manipulate their consciences simply for financial gain? That’s low. And that’s all.

My grandmother has a bumper sticker that reads, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I’ve always gotten a good chuckle from that, especially when considering my grandma’s eccentric personality and her unorthodox methods of getting shit done. Sometimes I think that her bumper sticker should be on the front of the car and not the back, that way, at least we’d all get a fair warning that she’s coming and have a good idea of what sort of behavior to expect.

The sticker speaks for more than my grandma, I think. It speaks for more than women in general. Human behavior that deviates from what society considers to be the norm jumps out at us like a blip on an empty radar screen or a spike in a polygraph printout. Deviant behavior is a huge factor in the evolution of human culture because we are compelled, for some reason, to address it and how it is addressed often makes it the catalyst for some sort of change in the larger social group’s behavior patterns. Sometimes it happens on a micro level, like in a family or a community, but sometimes one person’s divergent actions can affect a macro level shift in the culture of a city, of a country or even of the entire world.

People whose brains function in ways outside what society considers to be normal have a bit of a propensity towards this sort of thing. Psychopaths, in particular, seem to be programmed to inspire change. A psychopath is made to behave selfishly and is not equipped, mentally, with the wiring necessary to conform on a pathological level. The sociopath and the psychopath have to learn and consciously apply these behavior patterns in order to fit in with the rest of the world and try to experience some sort of happiness.

Often, the psychopath’s true nature leaks around the edges of the mask or tears entirely through it. Once the psychopath abandons the restrictions of conformity and begins to impose his own nature upon the larger group, he emerges as a catalyst for an overall behavioral shift. This can happen in one of two ways or in a combination of both. In the first, the deviant behavior is pathological with no intent whatsoever in controlling the larger group. Numerous instances of serial killings have prompted all sorts of changes in society, particularly related to passage of legislation, but none of this change was intended. To the psychopath, the associated shift in the larger culture was not even considered with regards to the behavior; the deviant behavior is it’s own motivation and the resulting societal shift is…coincidental. However, when the psychopath seeks to intentionally change the nature of the larger culture by imposing himself upon it, look out, because all bets are off.

Think of it this way: mass shootings like the ones in Colorado and Connecticut have brought about a lot of talk regarding the expansion of gun regulation and have added momentum to an anti gun subculture. If tighter gun laws come as society’s expression of need for them in the wake of these sort of incidents, this was probably not considered by the shooters when they locked and loaded. There is no grand design and maybe the need for heavier handed gun restrictions might be justified. This is a natural reaction to a pathologically deviant behavior which causes harm. There are some people, however, who claim these shootings were actually carried out by unknown conspirators in hopes of drawing support to overreaching international small arms legislation which was up for vote around the same time these shootings went down. If these guys are right, and they seem to present a fair amount of evidence, it means the behavior (shooting a bunch of innocent people) itself was not actually pathological, and that it merely served as a conduit of influence towards achieving whatever pathological need that heavier duty gun laws might serve.

Can you see the difference? The psychopaths who use their capacity to engage in deviant behavior as a means to an end are infinitely scarier than those whose behavior, as bizarre and/or terrifying as it can potentially be, are relatively benign on a macro level. Think of it this way: who is more harmful and has done more damage to the larger group…Ted Bundy or Dick Cheney?

Ha.

So all this being said, I have two absolute favorite psychopaths about whom I simply must share…

The first is Joshua Milton Blahyi aka General Butt Naked. I first learned about the General from a Vice documentary called “The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia.” During the early 90s, Liberia was engaged in a very nasty civil war. Blahyi, who was supposedly initiated as a tribal shaman at the age of eleven, had already participated in ritualized human sacrifice and cannibalism before the war ever began. With the onset of the war and his subsequent commission under warlord Roosevelt Johnson, General Butt Naked continued to engage in violent antisocial behavior, although on a much grander scale.

In Butt Naked’s heyday, he led a small army of child soldiers into combat, wearing nothing but sneakers and tightie whities and often carrying purses along with rifles and machetes. He described heavy use of alcohol and drugs, along with regular ritual killings and cannibalization in conjunction with the atrocities that were already being committed as a part of the war.

It was funny, in the Hostel movie, when the little kids used the bad guy’s head as a soccer ball. Dark and twisted, but still funny. It wasn’t funny when Blahyi talked about doing it for real. To my knowledge, he’s never been tried or held accountable for any of his past actions.

These days he’s a traveling evangelical Christian preacher with a wife and four kids. He wears clothes, along with his shoes and sports a bible instead of an AK-47 and a purse. These days he delivers seemingly relevant and well penned sermons throughout churches in Liberia. The documentary showcased one such sermon that I found to be, given the social context of post civil war Liberia, quite poignant and generally good advice on how the country should conduct itself in the future.

This crazy bastard isn’t my favorite psychopath because I venerate anything he did or does, it’s because he makes me think. Without a doubt, the guy is a monster all the way down to his marrow. His behavior, historically, has proven his status as a monster. I question, however, the nature of his pathological need…is it slaughter, blood drinking and severed head Olympics, or were these activities simply a means to some other end? Or both?

Personally, I don’t think monsters stop being monsters. It’s an ingrained part of a person’s identity. I do think that people often change tactics and evolve with the changing of the times. This is what I suspect has happened with the General. He’s still the same old rotten bastard he always was, he just conducts his business in a different way. He now speaks to people in a way which, from what I can tell, is likely to have a substantial effect on the social culture of the country. My question is, given who he is and what he’s done, do his words still carry value?

Absolutely. Words are, well, words, and they all carry value. By removing the source context, the cannibal General, the words alone amount to, in my opinion, pretty good advice. If we disregard the history and very existence of General Butt Naked and consider only the family man Joshua Blahyi, it truly seems as though he speaks from a place of wisdom and honesty.

Perhaps that’s why he changed his name…maybe he understands something that everyone else should.

Once a man kills a child and eats it and then gives it to other children to eat before arming them and sending them into combat, once that happens, we can understand never to trust that person. That person is capable of anything and the behavior proves it. In order to ever be considered credible, the person has to distance their self from the behavior…or reinvent their identity entirely.

This is dangerous for everyone else. If Liberia forgets who General Butt Naked is, and engages Joshua Blahyi the preacher by adopting his ideas and teachings, they risk giving him power once more. In a few generations, the truth of Butt Naked will fade entirely and people will only know a famous preacher as a preacher. And we all know we can trust preachers, right?

This brings us to my other favorite psycho, one with whom we are all familiar, though only by his preaching name. Most folks have no idea who Saul of Tarsus actually is. Like General Butt Naked, he assumed another name and took up the cross.

Saul was born in Tarsus, now Turkey, to a Jewish father and a Roman mother. He is assumed to have been well educated, Tarsus having been considered the first century equivalent of a modern university town. Tarsus was also rich, both academically and culturally, and Saul supposedly came from a notable family with the means to provide just such an education. He was, in fact, educated in Jerusalem as a Pharisaic Jew and it is this element of his education which made his life notable.

Saul grew into a great persecutor of the early Christians, attempting to erase the new faith and it’s followers from the Earth, and he was there from the beginning. In the book of Acts in the New Testament, Saul is noted as approving of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first recorded incidence of Christian martyrdom. According to his own words, he persecuted Christians “beyond measure” and was both known and feared by those he encountered. Typical executions of Christians by Jews used stoning as the primary method, while those referred to Roman authorities were generally crucified (as in Jesus) or beheaded (like Paul). Speaking of Paul…

Our good friend, Saul of Tarsus, was headed south towards Damascus when he was engaged, supposedly, by the martyred Jesus, who told him he was being naughty and had better straighten up. Saul fell down and worshipped Jesus, became a Christian, and is thereafter known as Paul the Apostle. If you are unfamiliar with Paul, perhaps you have read some of his work, fourteen of the twenty seven books of the New Testament. He also carries the burden of responsibility for the formation and ideology of the Christian church.

Paul never wrote about his conversion or when he was visited by the ghost of Jesus. Whoever wrote the book of Acts recounted that story, sometime after Paul’s death. Paul, according to scholars, didn’t actually write half of the books attributed to him, most of which are sermons and communiques directed towards the budding Christian churches in the places he visited. Depending upon who you ask, only between four and seven of Paul’s “works” were actually even written by the same person. And that person could have been anyone. Outside of biblical accounts, Paul is virtually devoid of mention in other historical records of his time. His execution, thought to have been at the hands of Nero, was not documented until more than a century after it happened. The bible even neglects to mention his beheading. The Catholics, however, claim to have unearthed his remains in 2009.

To Christians, Paul is central to the theology, with his teachings assigned value comparable to those of Jesus, even when they might not seem to be on the same page. Unfortunately, we are not usually presented with a historical context from which to interpret events coming from one source. Most of us, for example, are unfamiliar with the historical connotations of the term ‘Pharisee.’ If you ask the Sunday school teacher, she’ll direct you to the preacher who will tell you they were the Jewish rabbis who killed Jesus. That’s maybe a little bit true. No, actually it’s not really true at all.

They were Jewish church officials and they did happen to be Pharisees, but that term represented much more in those days. The Pharisees were actually a sect of Judaism, generally considered dominant over the Saducces (their primary rivals), the Essenes ( monks thought to be responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the Zealots (more of a renegade political movement, think Jewish Taliban). During the first century, violence amongst these groups was common and it is likely that Paul was engaging moreso in sectarian terrorism as opposed to the active persecution of Christianity, a concept which hadn’t actually come together yet.

It is important to remember that during the time of Paul, and especially his former days as Saul, there were no Christians. There were Jews who believed Jesus was the messiah, but there did not yet exist a true creation of a new people. Paul, or Saul I suppose, wouldn’t necessarily have identified as a persecutor of a new religion. I think he would be more accurately described as a member of the Pharisee sect, possibly identifying with the Zealots politically, who did his best to stamp out the beginnings of a a group of heretics before subsequently joining them and becoming a church leader.

Also worth considering is Jewish tithing law, which did actually specify a ten percent contribution to support the priest class. The high council of priests, the Sanhedrin, was subsequently behind the execution of Jesus. Ten percent of everyone’s salary was, and still is, a lot of dough and it makes sense that the governing preachers would have a vested interest in protecting that. A splinter sect of Judaism that virtually absolved it followers from the authority of the Jewish temple would have been considered to be a major financial threat and it is through this context of history that Saul of Tarsus emerges as an enforcer for a religion-based protection racket.

In doing such, Saul had people stoned. Later, when he wrote the verses that would be used to formulate the first Christian church, he even boasted of it. I think he was a dirtbag who was capable if manipulating and inciting other people to do some awful shit. Through a modern understanding of human nature, the established patter of behavior indicates that the Apostle Paul was actually a dangerous psychopath.
Incidentally, Paul was not even technically an apostle. According to Jesus’ homeboy Peter, you had to be a disciple before you could be an apostle. Paul never even met Jesus. Furthermore, much discourse exists regarding fundamental differences between the teachings of Paul as opposed to those of Jesus, some being downright contradictions. In these respects, as well as all others mentioned, feel free to do your own sound research and make up your own mind.

Regarding Paul’s theoretical identification as a psychopath, he is not all that different from General Butt Naked. Both men engaged in violent and manipulative psychopathic behavior before adopting a new identity and becoming traveling evangelists. As with Butt Naked, Paul’s historical pattern of behavior raises questions as to the validity of his later teachings and writings.

In Ephesians, Paul instructs slaves to “obey your earthly masters.” Apparently, it’s more important to set a good Christian example as a slave than to experience God given free will. He also writes, in Romans, that governments and leaders should be obeyed and that they are “ordained by God.” Isn’t that interesting?

It is also through Paul, in his same letter to the Romans, that a renewed justification in the persecution of homosexuals is derived. It is more likely that he was referring to the pederasty associated with some forms of pagan religions. I find it darkly comical that the same form of sexual deviancy he spoke against has persisted in the very church he founded for centuries. That was a direct stab at the Catholics, by the way.

In a handful of passages, good ol’ Paul sets our women folk in a place of submission, asserting authority over them and directing that they quietly learn from men. I’m not kidding or even exaggerating about that. Look in Corinthians, Timothy and Ephesians. I think it’s elsewhere as well. This doctrine, sadly, is actually still applied in some American communities and written words attributed to a proven dickhead who existed two thousand years ago.

The trouble, again, with people like Joshua Blahyi is that eventually we forget he used to be General Butt Naked and that he fed people’s children to other children. He has also, as Paul did, boasted of it in an expression of feigned repentance. Disassociating the historical context from the identity of the teacher is very dangerous and leaves people open to manipulation. The changing of the name is significant and coincidentally, symbolic of the act of a wolf zipping up a sheep costume.

Paul, or rather Saul, is of much more concern than Butt Naked, however, because his teachings not only reach a global audience but have established much of the doctrine that his audience subscribes to. Furthermore, these teachings have persisted for generations, with each becoming more ignorant of the cultural implications of the belief system than the last.

I think I agree with Thomas Jefferson when he claimed that Paul did more to subvert the message of Jesus than any other man in history. Considering how much of the foundation of the Catholic Church, and the Protestants actually, is based upon Paul’s teachings, an assertion that much of the church itself is a subversion of the very idea of Christ is not at all out of the question.

Paul’s influence is, in fact, prolific, and he is certainly notable as one of the most influential psychopaths in history. Butt Naked is small potatoes, compared to Paul, but I think they are cut from the same cloth and find society’s acceptance of their “conversions” and veneration of their teachings to be both fascinating and horrifying. Imagine being a sheep and seeing a wolf. Just as you start to flee, the wolf says, “Wait…hold up…give me a second to put on this sheep suit and then you won’t have to run. You can just go back to eating grass and breeding. Every now and then, my homeboys and I will eat one of you and it’ll be ok because Jesus said to do it like that.” So you say, “Ok.”

Indeed.

The accepted perception of a person’s conversion from a homicidal maniac to a respected follower and teacher of Christianity is not an easy feat. Serial killers and other criminal psychopaths try that shit all the time. In these two cases, Saul and Butt Naked, the success is notable and the results are, particularly with Saul, measurable on a grand scale. It’s why I say they are my favorites. Of all the psychos and socios that exist in history, most are known for deeds directly associated with anti social personality spectrum disorders. These two guys, the ones I enjoy reading about, have been able to reinvent their personas entirely, right in front of their victims, and then be warmly accepted as new men.

I don’t believe in conversions. I only understand calculated tactical shifts in behavior designed to elicit a response and I’m telling you, these guys are motherfucking masters at it.

I am old enough to remember the Stranger Danger campaign back in the 1980’s. I was always on the lookout for guys with mustaches and windowless vans going around handing out free candy. To this day guys in vans with mustaches still creep me out. But, the fact is, no strangers ever offered me or any one that I know any free candy or any free rides in rusty Scooby Doo vans. I do know, however, several people who were molested by either relatives or people in other positions of authority in their lives. This reality is supported by research and statistics whereas people being molested by strangers…that doesn’t really happen all that much. How many headlines have you read reporting the arrest of a guy in a trench coat hanging out in the school yard touching little boys? How many times have you read about a coach or a teacher or a priest or even a parent? See what I mean?

Sexual predators tend to be repeat offenders. Regularly engaging in such behavior is risky and unless the offender plans on killing the victim, measures must be taken to minimize the risk that the child might spill the beans. This is where a process called grooming comes into play.

Grooming is the preferred method used by pedophiles to mentally prepare a victim to be molested as well as conditioning them to accept it and keep it a secret. Effective application of this process allows an offender to operate undetected for many years. Think Jerry Sandusky or the priesthood.

The basis of the principle is to create, within the victim, a sense of complicity with regards to the offense. A child, for example, might be given inappropriate gifts or allowed to engage in some sort of guilty indulgence by the adult in question. This would create a dynamic of complicity within the relationship as well as a perception of shared guilt and sets a precedent for the sharing of secret pleasures. Slowly the secret pleasures begin to take on a sexual overtone and the offender will begin to apply guilt and shame to further ensure the precious privacy a fuckwad like that needs not to get caught with two fingers and a rosary up a ten year old’s butt.

Maneuvering oneself into a position of power such that concepts like guilt and shame may be applied authoritatively requires finesse and an understanding of how to use people’s emotions against them. The desired feelings of guilt and shame are produced my manipulating a persons perception of themselves. Often this is achieved through the introduction of inadequacy.

Inadequacy. There it is again. It’s not going to be a recurring theme is it?

Creating feelings of inadequacy in a person is essential in the grooming process. By allowing an externalized reality (such as the bow hunting “trophy photos” or a pedophiles shame assault) to take control of the self-esteem, a person becomes dependent upon that reality to define and provide measurement of their own personal value.

Through logic, it would seem that the precise methodology and application of the grooming process would be dependent upon the desired outcome and the nature of the victim. While a pornographic image or some candy might be an appropriate tool for a pedophile to implement, a picture of a dude with a bow and a dead animal might not work so well.

So why is it important to understand how a predator uses their victims self esteem against them by implanting feelings of inadequacy? Why? Because that shit is everywhere, that’s why. Like herpes and skinny jeans.

To really grasp the depth of it, it’s necessary to visit the beginning. Not the real beginning, mind you, but the Official Genesis Beginning, that’s right, I’m going biblical.

We all know the Adam and Eve story, at least if we’re raised as Christians we do. Adam, if you don’t remember, was the dude who married the chick who was tricked into eating some manner of forbidden vegetation by a talking snake. She of course went on to convince her husband to join her. God got pissed and kicked them out into the desert. Nuff said.

From this story we are taught the dogma of “original sin.” This teaching implies that the human being, by nature, is a wicked being. A wicked being who, by the way, is deserving of God’s wrath. This theme is an ongoing one if you continue reading, occurring again and again throughout the Old Testament. The teaching is expounded upon in the New Testament with the introduction of Jesus.

Let’s consider the fundamentals of the Jesus-as-Savior story. This is what the Christian doctrine actually teaches us to believe: God looked down upon man and, once again, took notice of how wicked they had become. When God saw this, he became angry and decided that he, once again, must punish man for his iniquities. Bear in mind that man’s iniquities are more often than not explained to be terrible crimes like sodomy as opposed to the more benign, such as systematic enslavement or murder. Nevertheless, naughty children need punishment so what does God do? The only thing an omnipotent being could do…he made himself a son that he could hand over to a bunch of crooked Jews so that they could torture him and then nail him to a board. Three days after the execution, he climbed out of his grave and flew away into the sky. I guess stuff like that happened all the time in those days.

Wait…I’ve always been taught that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Of course he did. Two thousand years ago, the Jewish priesthood nailed a guy to a board because last week I lied to my mother, my neighbor coveted my goat and three gay guys got it on on the Lower East Side. That makes total sense…except it doesn’t. At all. Not from a thinking man’s perspective anyway.

But that’s what many of us have been taught. From the time we are children, we are told that our nature is fundamentally sinful and although we are God’s children that he loves, we just happen to be born with an innate badness that requires us to experience some form of redemption. This redemption comes in the form of being “saved” or “accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.” I’ve never entirely understood what it is that I need to be saved from but what I do understand are the personal implications of Christian salvation.

Hold on to your seat because I’m about to compare Christianity to child molestation.

From the beginning, in the Christian culture, we are groomed. We are taught that we are undeserving. This teaching is fundamental to the religion. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says the bible. The book of Matthew goes on to explain that even thinking of committing adultery is just as bad as committing the offense itself. This an interesting paradigm of measurement. From a moral standpoint, man is doomed and was from the very beginning due to his sinful nature. And woman too, for that matter. Especially women. After all, it was that bitch Eve that got us into all this in the first place.

It would seem that nothing except a personal relationship with Jesus and engagement with the Christian church can save a person from spending eternity in hell (more on heaven and hell at a later time). Even Isaiah points out that a persons righteousness is not enough. This means we’re all actually double-fucked from the very beginning. We’re all sinners. Even if our external behavior is perfect, we are all guilty of thought crimes and according to the New Testament, God does not distinguish between thought crimes and actual crimes with real victims. That means when I fantasize about water boarding James Taylor with elephant urine, I’m just as guilty as, say, Dick Cheney. What exists is essentially a moral standard that Jesus himself couldn’t live up to. Not only that, but we’re flat out told that our behavior has little to do with our salvation. No one is good enough and if by chance someone happens to be, we are reminded by Isaiah that good works are not enough.

A dynamic such as this creates, for the potential follower, a dependency upon the belief structure to support their feelings of self worth. This system relies upon the application of guilt and shame in order to cement the dependency, much in the same way a pedophile grooms a child.

Once a person accepts the Christian version of reality, it becomes necessary to assume the role of “Christian” and start to normalize all of the behaviors associated with that role into everyday life. Little by little, the person accepts an externally created identity as their own. Think of a young bow hunter aspiring to be in his own trophy photo or the child who experiences guilt and accepts culpability for abuse to the point that a need to be in an abusive relationship actually arises and potentially abusive mates are consciously selected.

A reasonable question to ask would be: why? For a pedophile, it’s about sex and control. For a sporting goods manufacturer, it’s about turning a profit. For an abusive sociopath, it is often about having a meal ticket for a wife. In each case, an incentive is involved. Sometimes there are several incentives. Without any, evidence of the grooming process becomes circumstantial or even coincidental. Grooming is a process intended to produce an outcome and without having a notion of what that outcome is, it’s hard to establish with certainty that grooming has actually taken place.

How about this for an incentive: last year the Catholic Church reported $170 billion in expenditures. That’s a 17 with ten zeroes tacked on. Plus change. That’s approximately what the Turkish government spent in 2012. As far as expenditures go, the Catholic Church ranks on the lower end of the top third of worldwide national government expenditures. That’s one hell of an economy for an institution that claims to be about salvation.

In the land of the guilt-ridden Protestant, the suggested tithing amount equivocates to ten percent of an individual’s income, payable weekly during a public collection ceremony complete with emotional music, for your enjoyment of course, and an upper third billing on the printed Sunday agenda. I’d like to see a Baptist minister lay a fire and brimstone sermon and then pass the collection plate. I don’t care how much you brainwash people, you’re going to turn a lot less profit when you ask for the money after you’ve pointed out to the congregation that they are black hearted sinners who deserve to burn in the hottest recesses of hell. It’s best to collect the money first and then apply the guilt and shame that reinforces the control aspect of the relationship and ensures return visits the next Sunday.

I know what you’re thinking…it’s a bit of a stretch. It seems like a mean and rotten thing to do and many of the expenditures of the church are legitimately philanthropic. The preacher is a nice guy, too. He wouldn’t do that. And you’re right. The different organized religious systems do affect a lot of change in the world. These days the big churches are spending a lot of money in Africa. Think of it as an investment and competition for territory. Historically, the Christian church has stopped at nothing in its quest to spread the gospel, engaging in both torture as well as genocide in order to solidify its control over a geographic region. Tithes and collections are big business on a macro level and when it goes global, well, there is a lot of money floating around that doesn’t have to be reported the same way everyone else’s income does.

A professional minister in the employ of the United Methodist Conference draws a salary between $45,000 and $70,000 annually, depending upon the location and not necessarily including any provision by the local church of housing accommodations. The subject matter of their sermons is provided to them and they are ultimately responsible to deliver the information to the congregation, cultivate the leader/follower dynamic and provide a positive representation of the church to the media. It sounds like a lot more than it actually is.

Whether the behavior is engaged in consciously or simply because the preacher believes it to be correct, the effect remains the same. It is unnecessary for the preacher to be consciously complicit in the process; it is only necessary that the preacher act out the role correctly. Many preachers, in fact, embrace the belief system with such earnest that they take on congregations with no stipend whatsoever. While these men do mean well and may be trusted to the extent that the genuinely believe what they teach is right, they are ultimately following a play book established by professional preachers who might very well be preaching because they’re too damned lazy to work. Refer back to the shit and shovel analogy from last time…

So a guy gets a job running a church and churches, as we all can agree, do some pretty nice things for people. It’s a good job and it pays well. The catholic priest where I live drives a shiny black Acura with tinted windows. He’s a nice guy. So what?

By the church’s own belief structure, what’s going on is riddled with the stench of sin. Let’s say a mafia guy goes in a small shop and says “assume the role of a victim and pay me a weekly stipend or else the flames of hell will descend upon you.” That’s called extortion and it’s a felony. On the same street, the preacher says, “assume the role of of a victim and pay me a weekly stipend or else the flames of hell will descend upon you.” That’s called tithing and it’s completely acceptable. It’s necessary, in the Christian world, to fulfill the role of being Christian. For a Christian fully engaged in the belief structure, the eternal flames of hell are just as real as some guido-type’s gallon of gasoline and book of matches are to an immigrant shopkeeper in the Bronx.

There is no distinction, neither from a Christian perspective nor otherwise. In each scenario, an offender utilizing sociopathic principles of manipulation assumes a role of power in the victims life and accepts payment of personal resources in exchange for a feeling of security needed only because of the nature of the relationship itself.

It’s still not as bad as child molestation. Well, actually, according to the book of James, there is no distinction between sin. If a person breaks one of God’s laws, that person has broken them all. Even if you think that philosophy is ridiculous, and I do, one is still just as bad as the other. The methodology is nearly identical, the long term impact on the victims self esteem is quite comparable and, as far as what’s being taken from the victim…well conning someone out of anything is fundamentally wrong whether it’s sex or food from their table.

Have I mentioned how fear is applied in exchanges such as those being discussed? Only briefly when comparing extortion to tithing. Fear is a highly effective motivator used extensively in sociopathy. Sociopathic personalities, you see, do not experience nor interact with fear that same way that normal people do. People like this lack the brain wiring required for a functional fear-response system. There is a clear understanding of the concept, mind you, that is developed through behavioral mimicry and it is the combination of this understanding and the inability to be affected by it that makes sociopaths so good at using it against other people. Until next time….