Tag Archives: religion

Combating Hate And Politics With Kindness (With Lessons From Mr. Rogers)

We live in a strange time.

I know you could say that about many other periods in history. Even within my own lifetime, I’ve experienced periods that are well beyond the scope of what we think of as normal. The recent upheavals with the COVID-19 pandemic certainly qualify.

But as overwhelming as that was, I still find today’s current state of affairs both unusual and striking. It’s not just that things are changing so fast and we’re all struggling to keep up. That has been a constant for much of the modern world. It’s more that people seemed so overwhelmed, so upset, and so frustrated that they’re forgetting the most basic elements of getting along with fellow human beings.

It’s true. People have always been mean, hateful, and downright cruel to one another. You don’t have to look far into the recent or distant past to see humans committing egregious atrocities on other humans. And I certainly don’t deny there have been worse times in that regard. If you’re alive today, you should consider yourself somewhat lucky. It wasn’t that long ago that such atrocities were both disturbingly common and largely unpunished.

But even with that perspective in mind, I feel like our collective capacity to hate one another has escalated considerably. You could blame politics, going back to the 2016 Presidential Election or even the 2008 Presidential Election. You could also blame the media, pop culture, social trends, religion, and everything in between. I know I’ve criticized those things plenty and will likely continue to do so in the future.

At the end of the day, though, I understand there’s only so much you can do to influence another person. Whether it’s on politics, personal tastes, or personality quirks, we’re all still individuals. We still have our own thoughts, feelings, and biases. That has always been the case. But I can’t recall a time when those elements we all share have been the fuel for so much outright hatred.

It’s easy to notice online, but it’s happening more and more in real life. Real people are committing real acts of violence and hatred towards other people for the simple crime of not agreeing with them on something, be it politics, ideology, or pop culture. It’s getting to a point where the disagreements don’t even have to be about something big like politics or religion. Just being different and existing is now sufficient to invite someone’s hatred.

That is not a tenable state of affairs.

That is not good for individuals, people, or the world in general.

You can blame the internet and political polarization all you want on this, but that only goes so far. At the end of the day, it’s people who still act. It’s people who still speak and send messages through various mediums, be it mundane or hateful. The tools we use don’t create the hate. They may reinforce and spread it. But like it or not, we are the ones that create it. We are the ones that use it as excuses for violence and hate.

I don’t deny that I’ve said dumb things on the internet. I’ve expressed hateful sentiments, both in real life and online. I’m only human and I do regret it. But I also try to counter those inclinations with something stronger. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that doing so is not that difficult. It doesn’t even require some kind of radical rethinking of your current thoughts, beliefs, or biases.

It all comes down to a simple approach.

Be kind.

That’s it. That’s really all you need to counter so much of the hate and mistrust that seems to infect our world at every turn. It may sound simplistic or cliched, but make no mistake. There’s real power in kindness. Most people understand that on some levels. But one man, in particular, dedicated his life to understanding it. You’ve probably heard of him. His name is Fred Rogers, better known to generations of kids as Mr. Rogers from “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

Now, there’s a lot I could say about him and his message. There are no shortage of stories about him that are so heartwarming, they help renew your faith in humanity. But in the spirit of keeping things simple, I’ll just share this clip that I think best explains the true power of kindness.

Please take Mr. Rogers’ message of kindness to heart. In a world as divided as ours, a little kindness goes a long way.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights

More Young Men Are (Unsurprisingly) Getting Vasectomies (And Why I’m Considering It Too)

Every now and then, you come across news that’s so unsurprising that it should hardly qualify as news. To report it is asking to reporting that the sun rose the other day. You don’t need reporters, scientists, witnesses, or researchers of any kind to affirm you. Anyone with semi-average intelligence could’ve inferred the same events.

So when the United States Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade and effectively ended the constitutional right to abortion access, most competent people could infer there would be consequences. You don’t strip half the population of a critical right that they’ve held for over 40 years without incurring some sort of reaction. While that reaction has played out in many ways since the ruling, I want to highlight one in particular. And it’s a story that I doubt will surprise anyone.

It has to do with men getting vasectomies. Because shortly after this ruling came down, there was a major uptick in men seeking vasectomies.

Many of these men were also quite young, some still being in their early 20s. Many didn’t even have any kids and were basically undergoing a procedure that would make it nearly impossible for them to do so.

Now, as a man and as someone who has a functioning news feed, I get it. This ruling was dramatic and far-reaching in so many ways. It’s enough to make anyone of any gender think twice about having kids. It has certainly given me pause. But I also think it’s worth putting this trend into perspective.

Yes, it will definitely impact women in a far greater way.

Yes, women will suffer much more as a result of this ruling.

That is beyond dispute. There’s nothing political about that statement. There have already been documented cases of just how much women are suffering because they cannot get an abortion. But for men, the concerns are still personal, albeit in a less direct way.

Now, depending on which state you live in, there’s a much greater cost to getting a woman pregnant, be it your girlfriend, your wife, or your mistress. Some of that can be measured in terms of dollars. If women are forced to carry that child to term, you’re paying for it one way or another. It might be in the form of child care, pre-natal care, or child support. Even without the emotional cost, you’ll still pay a high price.

Even if you’re happily married and actually want kids, you may still have to pay in other ways. If your wife can’t get an abortion and has a complicated pregnancy, then not only is she more likely to suffer greater, her life could very well be at risk. In the worst case scenario, she might end up dead because the state won’t allow her to terminate a pregnancy that’s doing irreparable damage to her body.

By nearly every measure, it’s a bad situation for everyone involved. A world where the state can force people to have kids they don’t want or deny them certain care that would alleviate their suffering is not a tenable situation.

For that reason, I don’t blame any man for seeking a vasectomy. Whether they just don’t want kids, they don’t want to put their partner in danger, or they just hate wearing condoms, it’s understandable. And there’s a high probability that this situation will get worse before it gets better. It may even never get better.

That’s because more than one conservative mouth piece has said that they’re going to go after contraception now that they’ve won the abortion battle. These reactionaries aren’t being subtle anymore.

They’ve made it clear that they want to turn the clock back.

They want to undo the sexual revolution.

They want to undo feminism.

They want to regress society back to a state where women were just breeding mares and men were just drones who only existed to work and sire more drones/mares.

While we can and should fight back against these right-wing fascists, I no longer have hope that we can win that fight. These people don’t play by the rules. They’ve proven time and again that they will lie, cheat, and bully their way to impose their agenda, even when it’s unpopular. And since too much of the population is stupid, gullible, and ignorant, they’ll go along with it in the name of trolling people they don’t like.

That is not a promising future, nor is it one I’m looking forward to. I do hope I’m wrong. But based on what I’ve seen these past few months, I am starting to accept that we’ve already crossed a point of no return.

I’m still relatively young. I currently am not married and I have no kids. Just a few years ago, I was fairly confident in what I wanted for my future. I wanted to find the love of my life. And I wanted to have kids of my own one day. But in wake of recent events, that sentiment has changed.

It’s not that I don’t want kids or oppose anyone else having them. I just feel like if I did have kids at this point, I would be bringing them into a world that’s going to get progressively worse for them. If I have a daughter, she’ll grow up in a world where the state will gladly make her suffer in the name of conservative values. And if I have a son, he’ll grow up in a world where many of the fun, freedoms, and joys that I had will have been taken away from him.

Again, I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope the current trends change in a major way. But I’m old enough to have noticed a recurring pattern in the global political landscape. Things will get worse because there are too many incentives for those who have or are seeking power.

For that reason, and a few others I prefer not to share, I’m seriously considering getting a vasectomy. I know it’s a big decision and one that would have a significant impact on my personal life, especially if and when I do meet that special someone. But given the current state of the world, it feels like the right decision for me and for whatever children might have been born in this increasingly distressing world.

That’s not to say I’m ready to make my appointment with my doctor. This is just something I’m seriously considering at the moment. And when I do ultimately make my decision, I want to be certain it’s the right one.

I also understand that I may have to make this decision sooner rather than later. Because if the courts are capable of banning abortion, then they’re just as capable of banning vasectomies.

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Filed under Current Events, extremism, politics, sex in society, sexuality

A Frightening (But Possible) Scenario For The Near Future

It has been a strange, scary, and distressing time for the United States of America. Anyone who has been following the news in any capacity these past five years would likely agree. Between the politics, the culture wars, and people whining about female characters in “Star Wars,” it has gotten quite ugly.

I also sincerely regret that I have likely contributed to that ugliness at times. I don’t deny that I have written things on this site that, in hindsight, were probably misguided in terms of both intent and overall point.

However, I won’t go so far as to delete what I’ve written or deny that I ever felt differently than I do now. I just accept that there have been times in my life where I believed, accepted, and propagated things I thought to be right, but eventually realized were wrong.

That’s neither good nor bad.

That’s just life and how your perspective changes with time.

Except now, I’m at an age where it’s a little easier to see the forest from the trees, with respect to current events. Not long ago, I thought I understood the general arc of politics, trends, cultural issues, and what not. I could see the patterns that began with people whining about Marilyn Manson and “South Park” in the 90s and culminated with people whining about diversity in children’s shows and boob armor today.

I now realize I was wrong, yet again.

I didn’t know just how messy, regressive, and irrational these issues could be, even in a first world country like the United States of America.

If I ever gave the impression that I was more informed than most, I apologize. I’m not. I know now that I hadn’t been on this planet long enough to see just how bad things could get or how much large groups of people could collectively deny objective reality.

As a result, the optimism with which I once harbored about the future of America and the human race in general has taken a severe hit. I won’t say it’s utterly dead, but it is on life support at the moment. With each passing day, I see people with objectively un-American ideas about freedom claiming they’re the true patriots. I also see people exercising blatant, unambitious hypocrisy and paying no price and feeling no shame.

Now, in wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and setting abortion rights back 50 years, I’m just about out of hope. It’s not just that I’m strongly against forcing women to have babies they don’t want or using misguided religious zealotry to justify certain laws, policies, or positions. These are all positions that a vast majority of people don’t agree with.

The same goes for organized religion. It has been in steady decline for decades. Young people, especially, are no longer buying into this old dogma. Despite that, the religious right has never been more powerful and it shows no signs of waning. And I’ve been on this planet long enough to understand something disheartening and distressing.

When uptight, repressive people gain power, they seek to use it. And they will use it in ways that are bound to be unpopular, damaging, and destructive. Since my beliefs, politics, and background are not at all in line with these zealots, I will likely feel that impact. I might not feel it as much as others, but I will feel it.

I don’t claim to know the future. I also know that things always change, no matter how hopeful or bleak they seem. However, given the cycles I’ve seen and the trends I’ve seen throughout my adult life, I get the sense the direction of that change is not going in a good direction. Moreover, it’ll never go in the direction it needs to for more people to prosper.

In order to illustrate this sentiment, I want to offer the following scenario that may or may not be a result of ongoing trends.


The year is 20XX.

The White House, both sides of Congress, and the Supreme Court are dominated by conservative Christian republicans. They’ve spent the past two years furthering their agenda, passing wildly unpopular policies that curtail abortion rights, denigrate LGBTQ communities, undermine public education, and embolden politically connected religious organizations.

Now, the mid-terms are coming up and it looks very likely that they’ll lose control of Congress. Several prominent democrats even promise to block any further policies by the religious right. However, rather than accept the loss of power that comes with every election cycle, leaders in the religious right decide to take action.

First, they start passing laws meant to “preserve democracy,” but end up limiting peoples’ ability to vote.

Then, they start promoting stories claiming that the other side is preparing to cheat during the election.

Then, they elevate news stories of questionable credibility that claim operatives within the democratic party have been arrested or charged with potential election crimes.

Then, in the name of preserving democracy, the upcoming election is deferred several months.

Then, protests and outrage break out across many major cities.

Then, the republican president declares a state of emergency, which includes enacting martial law within multiple states, especially those likely to have democratic governors or majorities.

Then, the National Guard and local police are deployed to quell riots and ensure peace.

Then, mass arrests take place. The fact that many of those arrested happen to be democrats or minorities is claimed to be just a coincidence or unrelated.

Then, voting rights for those arrested and charged with crimes are suspended.

Then, “special elections” take place, but under strict rules governed by a republican Congress and many republican dominated state governments.

Then, democratic leaders sue and attempt to block the act, but the conservative Supreme Court rules against them.

Then, the election results are in and, despite vast swaths of the public not being able to or allowed to vote, the conservative Christian republican candidates win and win big.

Then, armed with this new power, they alter more rules regarding elections and legislation in the name of “preserving the peace” or “protecting the public” or “maintaining democracy.”

In the end, the only citizens who are allowed to or are capable of voting are conservative Christian republicans and the only candidates they can vote for just happen to be conservative Christians. As a result, more regressive laws are passed that are not at all popular, let alone constitutional.

But that doesn’t matter at this point. It’s too late. They have the power and they’re never letting it go again.


Now, what I just described is only one possible scenario. I freely admit it’s an extreme scenario, not unlike what played out in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” However, extreme or not, the possibility is there, as are the disturbing trends.

The reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the domination of the Supreme Court by conservative right wing Christian may very well be the first act in a new trend. I’ve seen throughout my adult life how bold and unapologetic these types of shameless bullies can be.

It doesn’t matter if they’re caught lying.

It doesn’t matter if they’re caught in an act of blatant hypocrisy.

It doesn’t even matter if someone finds out they paid their mistress to get an abortion.

They face no consequences and feel no shame. They keep getting away with their deplorable behavior and they have every incentive to seek more power and influence. So long as they get the right people to vote for them, use the flaws of the system to their advantage, and depend on the relative apathy of most citizens, they’ll remain in power and they’ll keep securing more.

That’s always the endgame. It’ll go on as long as there’s are new opportunities and no obstacles, be they laws or people, to get in their way. And at this point, I honestly don’t know if there’s enough obstacles anymore.

Encouraging people to vote doesn’t seem to work anymore because voting has become so diluted in the United States. Unless you live in a swing state, it really doesn’t matter.

Encouraging people to protest doesn’t seem to matter, either. At most, it just inconveniences people who are rich, powerful, and capable of hiring private security. They literally have no incentive to change anything about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

I wish I knew of a solution or recourse. I really do. Maybe there is and I’m just not smart enough to realize it, let alone articulate it. But at the moment, I’ve never been less hopeful about the future of the United States and the human race in general. I really hope I’m wrong about my current outlook, but I’m not sure what could change these distressing trends.

If we’re at a point where we can’t even agree on objective reality anymore, then what hope do we have of creating a better reality for our future?

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Filed under Current Events, politics

Thoughts, Feelings, And (Dire) Predictions For The Future Of Abortion (And Many Other Rights)

Let me start by saying I had a sinking feeling I would have to write about this a while back when Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. I also want to make clear that I am very hesitant to give my opinions and feelings on topics like abortion and not just because I’m a man who will never know what it’s like to be pregnant.

However, I think this moment in history is worth talking about. It may very well mark a turning point for the United States and the western world in general with regard to abortion rights and human rights in general. And it’s a bad turning point, at that. That much, I am willing to say.

But there’s no getting around it anymore. Last week, the Supreme Court made it official. Roe vs. Wade is overturned and abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right in America. It is hard to overstate what a big deal this is for women, men, and children of every age. I honestly don’t think I can put into words what a monumental shift this is.

That’s why I gave myself a few days to process it before writing about it or mentioning it in any meaningful capacity. Like many others, I certainly had a knee-jerk response when the news came down. Even though I wasn’t surprised, it still had an impact once it became official. And it’s hard to know where we’ll go from here.

Even with that extra time, I do find myself settling into a certain resignation to what this means for the near and immediate future. And it’s here where I want to share some of my sentiments.

First off, let me just start by saying my usual hope and optimism that I’ve discussed in the past is pretty much dead. I made an effort to cling to hope and some general idea that the good of humanity will overcome the bad. Well, now I’m willing to say it outright.

I was wrong.

I still believe there are good people in this world and they vastly outnumber the bad people. But the bad people are the ones with the money, power, and influence. They’re the ones who spent years working behind the scenes, exploiting the system, and lying when they had to in order to make this happen.

You can’t appeal to their humanity.

You can’t reason with them.

You can’t even call them out on their hypocrisy and expect that to change anything.

These politicians, judges, religious zealots, and advocates are as bad as they come. But that doesn’t matter. Don’t expect them to lose a wink of sleep over any outrage or suffering this decision causes. They knew what they were doing. They just didn’t care. And there’s nothing anyone can do to make them feel guilty about it.

Secondly, I also want to make clear that I have no more respect for religious convictions. Usually, when I talk about religion, I make it a point to say I respect the sincerely held beliefs of others. I even acknowledge I have religious people in my family.

Well, I still love and respect those people. But I have absolutely no respect for their religious convictions anymore.

More than anything else, this ruling has proven once and for all that religiously motivated morality is dangerous, detrimental, and regressive. It’s not a coincidence that those on the Supreme Court who made this ruling are devout Catholics, a sect of Christianity that has always been vehemently anti-abortion.

Never mind the fact that the Catholic Church has been behind some pretty horrific crimes.

Never mind the fact that the Catholic Church is run by celibate priests who will never need abortions.

This brand of religiously-motivated morality had driven the anti-abortion movement since the rise of the religious right. They claim they’re trying to save babies, but the end result is micromanaging and criminalizing female sexual behavior. If you need any proof of this, just look at how the anti-abortion crowd criticizes contraception.

It’s not hypocrisy.

It’s just a means to an end.

It’s also why this ruling is just a first step.

Make no mistake. This same court and these same politicians will go after birth control next. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. They want an America where getting contraception is a crime, where any kind of pre-marital or extramarital sex is dangerous, and where women’s bodies can be controlled and managed by the state. Abortion and contraception are just obstacles and they’re going to keep attacking.

And lastly, here’s the final point I want to make.

These assholes are going to succeed.

I sincerely hope this post ages poorly, but give it another four years. I promise you that contraception is going to be the next thing on the chopping block. It won’t happen all at once, but it will happen. These people, who have ample access to oil money, religious organizations that don’t pay taxes, and a voting bloc that will never vote for another party, will keep pushing and they will push non-stop.

I’m sorry if that sounds dire or pessimistic, but this is where my broken spirit is right now. My faith in the future and in humanity’s ability to come together was already hit hard by COVID-19. Now, this is the final nail in the coffin.

It’s over now.

Evil didn’t win. Lying, cheating, power-hungry assholes won. And honestly, that’s worse.

Now, that they’re emboldened, they’re going to go after more rights. Losing a right like abortion and contraception access is just the beginning. It won’t be long before things like same-sex marriage, porn access, and voting rights are targeted. Yes, people will protest and voice their outrage. But that’s not going to change anything.

And here’s here where I’m going to make a few predictions. Granted, they’re very dire predictions and I hope I’m wrong about all of them. But having seen so many distressing trends in my adult life as an American, I think I’ve gotten a good feel for how our politics trend. So, this is what I expect to happen.

For the weeks and months after the ruling, there will be outrage and protests. It will garner quite a bit of media coverage. Abortion rights advocates will vehemently and passionately attempt to rally support.

But it won’t change a damn thing.

That’s because the people who make these laws and enforce them aren’t going to change their minds on anything unless it directly benefits them. Remember, they’re assholes. The most protests can do is mildly inconvenience them. Sure, you can try and commit to vote the anti-abortion people out of office, but because of gerrymandering and voter suppression laws, that’s not going to do much.

One way or another, these same politicians that fought to end abortion rights will keep winning elections. It’s not a matter of getting out the vote. It’s just a matter of them gaming the flaws in our election system to gain power and stay in power.

And don’t bother threatening them either. That’ll just get you arrested and allow them to paint your side as the violent radicals.

That’s no just me making an anti-violence disclaimer. Violence of any kind really won’t change anything with this issue either. The government has the soldiers, the guns, the military, and the drones. No matter how dedicated you are to fighting for abortion rights, anything you do to any authority figure will only mild inconvenience them and give them a perfect reason to put you in jail or worse.

With or without violence, the result will be the same. People will get bored of meaningless protesting and move on. Some other crazy news story will happen to draw everyone’s attention away from this issue, be it a celebrity scandal or some other political upheaval. And once the protests stop, it’s back to politics as usual.

By that, I mean that when November comes around, the republicans will win big because the democrats didn’t solve all the problems in America for the brief two years they had power. And once republicans get back into power, they will do anything and everything to ensure they can’t lose it ever again.

That means more restrictive voting laws and more efforts to ensure that their opponents can’t do anything to help anyone, ensuring they can paint them as ineffective in the next election.

Eventually, whether it’s in 2024 or 2028, there will be a situation where republicans control Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. When that happens, expect their control to be complete.

They won’t just take control. They’ll ensure that they never lose it again. That means they’ll be able to pass any law they want to end abortion access nationwide, ban all the books they don’t like, and make sure that everyone strives to live a life taken right out of a bland, boring 50s sitcom.

It’ll be a boring, repressive future in which women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community suffer horribly. But that’s where we’re heading. Baring a massive upheaval or an alien invasion, I don’t see this changing.

Again, I hope I’m wrong about all this. But this ruling has pretty much ended my remaining optimism for the future of America, the world, and human rights in general. This was just the first step towards a much larger regression. I wish I could say it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

But honestly, I don’t see that happening. Last week was a bad week, but make no mistake. The worst is yet to come.

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Filed under abortion, Current Events, politics, religion

How To Tell If You’re In A Cult With The B.I.T.E. Model

5 Cult Leaders With Murderous Intentions – AmongMen

Like it or not, religion is a big part of many peoples’ lives. Whether you’re an ardent atheist or an impassioned believer, there’s no getting around it. There are still millions of religious people all over the world, living their lives and practicing their faith. Even though religion, in general, has been in decline in recent decades, it’s still a powerful force in many communities.

By and large, most religious people are every bit as ordinary and decent as non-religious people. They live their lives, love their families, and generally go about their business. For some, their religion generally enriches their lives and that’s a good thing. I know plenty of people like that.

However, this is not about them.

This is about those who take religious ideology to a dangerous and damaging extreme.

I’ve talked about this kind of extremism before. It has led to some legitimately harmful trends. In some cases, it has the potential to be an existential threat to the world at large. While any ideology can be taken to a harmful extreme, religion can be uniquely damaging because it deals in abstracts, beliefs, and spirituality.

There are things you can’t touch, measure, or quantify. As a result, they’re incredibly difficult to contest and argue against. You can give someone all the irrefutable evidence in the world. If their preferred holy book or cult leader says the world is made of cheese, that’s what they’ll believe and they’ll cling to that belief with all their might.

This sort of thing manifests most prominently in cults. Now, not every cult is religious in nature, but religion is often a powerful driving force in many. Most of the cults that make the news for all the wrong reasons were religious in nature.

How people end up in these cults varies. You can listen to former cult members from all walks of life and get a different perspective for how they fell into it, how they got out, and why they became so captivated. These stories are quite harrowing and I encourage everyone to seek them out. They have many lessons to offer.

Following these stories may also make you wonder what sets a cult apart from a traditional religion. Like I said before, most religious people don’t conduct themselves in the way cult members do. On top of that, those who are in a cult probably don’t think they are. To them, this is their normal, skewed as it might be.

Given how diverse cults can be, it’s not easy to determine when a certain religion or ideology has crosses that threshold. Some argue that certain Christian denominations and political movements are cults, but usually as a means of insult or denigration.

Thankfully, people far smarter than me have given this subject much more thought and study. There’s one particular model out there that I find to be quite useful in discerning cults from ordinary religious activity.

It’s called the B.I.T.E model. Developed by Steven Hassan, a mental health professional who has studied behavioral control tactics, it’s a handy tool for assessing the cult-like structure of both religious and political ideologies.

The model and the name are an acronym for four general patterns of behavior that tend to manifest in cults. They are as follows:

Behavior Control: Involves regulation and micromanagement of peoples’ behavior from how they dress, how they eat, and what they do with their time.

Information Control: Involves organized efforts to withhold, distort, or manage the information people see in terms of knowledge, news, and education.

Thought Control: Involves organized efforts to shape opinions and worldviews of everything from their moral code to the language they use. The ultimate goal is to instill a warped view of reality.

Emotion Control: Involves manipulating and channeling a wide range of feelings, both positive and negative. The result is often involves instilling fear of outsiders and any differing opinions, as well as a sense of worthlessness that only the organization can help them resolve.

It’s not a perfect model, but it’s one of the simplest and most comprehensive to date. The model is structured in a way to include both religious and non-religious ideologies. If you were to apply this model to organizations like NXVIM or basic personality cults, it would check the same boxes as any religious cult.

At the same time, it also helps highlight how certain religious and political ideologies do not count as cults. Some may fit certain parts of the model, but not all. For something to really be a full-fledged cult, it needs to check all four bases and in a meaningful way. That also helps sift through instances where someone tries to call something a cult as an insult.

With this model in mind, I encourage everyone to use it to evaluate their own religious or political affiliation. That may not be easy. Like I said, people in cults usually don’t think they’re in a cult. Many don’t even realize how deep they were into it until they leave.

That makes self-assessment of your beliefs and affiliations that much more critical. The B.I.T.E model might not be perfect, but it is both useful and insightful. We all need to be critical of our beliefs. Given how dangerous certain cults can be, it’s important we know the signs before it’s too late.

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Filed under health, politics, psychology, religion

Why We’ll Never (Fully) Get Rid Of Misinformation

How Private Information Helps Fake News Hoodwink the Public

Being informed is important. In some cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. That’s a big reason why I’ve made multiple posts urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It could literally save your life. It’s also free, by the way. How many other things that could save your life are also free?

Seriously, people, get vaccinated. I’ll belabor that as much as I have to.

However, this isn’t only about vaccines or the idiots who refuse to get them. It’s about the “information” that these people are using to justify their choices. I put “information” in quotes because calling some of this stuff information is a poor use of the term.

Information, by definition, is supposed to inform. It’s supposed to make you more aware and educated about the world around you. Lies, propaganda, and misinformation do none of that. That sort of thing makes you dumber, more vulnerable, and more easy to manipulate by those willing to do so.

It happens in politics, religion, pop culture, business, and even shady marketing schemes. Much of these endeavors don’t have facts, truth, or verifiable information on their side. As a result, they require that people buy into whatever misinformation they feed them. It’s dishonest, disgraceful, and should be condemned to the utmost.

The problem is that people still buy into it.

Moreover, some people actively seek for this kind of information.

This is something I think many people have experience with, either directly or indirectly. I also suspect it has become a lot more relevant lately, given the rise of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories. This sort of mentality was always present. The problem is that the internet and social media have made it disturbingly easy to spread.

Now, it’s easy and tempting to blame big tech companies for this phenomenon. Make no mistake. Big tech companies are certainly at fault to some degree. Many of these same companies also have done some incredibly shady things, to say the least.

However, I’m still of the opinion that, no matter how disreputable big tech companies can be, it still ultimately falls on the users to control what information they seek. Whether it’s Google, Facebook, or TikTok, these systems don’t operate in a vacuum. They simply respond to user input. We are, to some extent, responsible for the information we seek.

I’m certainly guilty of seeking out information that isn’t exactly reputable. There have been times, including a few very recent instances, where I find myself seeking information that turned out to be less than truthful. Even if it was for something as innocent as comic book news or NFL trade rumors, it’s still misinformation as best and outright lies at worst.

That may not do much harm if the information you’re seeking is only damaging to your Fantasy Football team, but if that information involved politics or your health, then that’s where the real damage can occur. I’ve already seen it manifest with friends who fell down some very dark internet rabbit holes. Some of that might have just been by accident, but I also don’t doubt it was intentional in some cases.

In recent years, I’ve tried to make a more concerted effort to seek accurate, truthful information. I haven’t always succeeded, but I genuinely try to find true and accurate information, even if it’s something I don’t like. The fact it takes so much effort has me worried.

On top of that, it has led me to believe that it might not be possible to avoid misinformation. Even without the internet, it will find you. Propaganda and lies did exist before the digital age. It’ll likely always exist to some extent, so long as human brains are wired a certain way. Since we can’t change that anytime soon, despite the best efforts of Elon Musk, we’re likely stuck with misinformation.

This has me genuinely concerned because, even as some tech companies are making greater efforts to combat misinformation, it’s still relatively easy to find. On top of that, there are people out there working for nefarious organizations who are actively engaged in creating, spreading, and supplementing misinformation. Even if you shut them all down tomorrow, others will just spring up to replace them.

In some respects, it’s a lot like the war on drugs. You could arrest every single drug dealer in the world this morning, but by dusk a bunch of new dealers will emerge to take their place. Like it or not, there’s still a demand and there’s money, influence, and power to be gained.

Misinformation may not be the same as heroin or pot, but is subject to the same incentives. People actively seek it. Taking it in makes them feel special, important, and smarter than their neighbor. Today, it’s misinformation about vaccines, liberals, and gaming culture. Tomorrow, it might be about something else entirely.

It all comes back to how we’re wired. Our brains are not designed to seek truth or accurate information. They’re designed to keep us alive. Misinformation might be damaging in the long run, but it can make us feel better in the short-term, which is sadly more than enough incentive for some, even if it proves deadly in the long run.

I seriously wish I could end this on an uplifting note. I genuinely tried to find some way of putting a positive spin on this struggle. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is to simply urge everyone to try harder to seek true and accurate information. If these past two years have taught us anything, it’s that bad information can cause a lot of harm.

We can never get rid of it, so long as our brains operate as they do.

We can and should still do our part. Truth and accuracy matters. You may not like it, but it may very well save your life in the long run.

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Filed under Current Events, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, rants, technology

An Unholy Way To Handle Claims Of Sexual Assault (According To Liberty University)

Scandal at Liberty University: How a Christian college dismisses students'  reports of sexual assault | Salon.com

Every now and then, we encounter a story in the news that is outright egregious, but not the least bit shocking. There’s no question the details are awful. No matter how cynical or jaded you are, there are real injustices in this world. Innocent people are victimized in horrible crimes. A part of us wants to be outraged, but it’s just too unsurprising to get worked up.

I feel like we’ve had a lot of those stories over the past two years. I get the sense that a lot of people have just become so numb to horrible news.

Even so, we should still take notice when a terrible injustice is exposed, even if it doesn’t surprise us. That means that when another high-profile religious institution is found to be culpable in some egregious misdeeds involving sexual assault, we should still try and take interest.

Now, organized religion and egregious sex crimes aren’t new. They aren’t even that shocking anymore. Even if you consider yourself religious and strongly value your faith, it’s hard to miss the headlines that expose heinous crimes of sexual abuse and efforts to cover them up. It’s become so common and belabored that “South Parkdoes jokes about it.

It’s still serious and egregious. There are still real-life victims who suffer this abuse, but cannot get justice because the abusers hide behind religion and religious institutions. Regardless of your affiliation, I hope that upsets you, even if it doesn’t shock you.

For that reason, I also hope we can all share in the dismay and disgust regarding the recent revelations from Pro Publica about how Liberty University failed victims of sexual assault. If you haven’t read this recent report, I highly recommend doing so, but on an empty stomach. Some of the details are a bit graphic, but they’re still worth reading.

It’s a lengthy report that follows how multiple women who attended Liberty University, one of the most prominent Christian private schools in the United States, were sexually assaulted and the school failed to help them. In some cases, they were punished and shamed for the egregious sin of being victimized. It’s even more egregious than it sounds.

I won’t highlight every detail. Again, I encourage everyone to actually read the report. However, I will cite one excerpt that nicely sums up the environment that Liberty University created for victims of sexual assault.

Ten more former students told me they chose not to report their rapes to campus officials amid fear of being punished. “I knew I would face the blame for putting myself in that situation,” said Chelsea Andrews, a Liberty alum who said she was assaulted by a Liberty graduate student.

I hope it goes without saying that this is abhorrent. I also hope most reasonable people agree that we should be careful, understanding, and diligent when it comes to addressing accusations of sexual assault. I’ve said in the past that this can be tricky because sex crimes are difficult to prove and false accusations do happen, even if they’re rare.

In any case, lives can be ruined. People can be scarred for years because of what happened to them. We should definitely make an effort to improve how we handle these sorts of issues, but we should also actively work to not make things worse.

After reading this report, I won’t hide my underlying sentiment. By nearly every measure, Liberty University offers a case study in how not to handle claims of sexual assault. The fact it’s a religious school that touts conservative Christian values only makes it worse, not to mention hypocritical.

That also makes it unsurprising because, as we’ve seen, hypocrisy from organized religion is not that hard to find. However, this is a bit more personal for me because I actually know people who’ve gone to Liberty University. I’ve visited the area around Lynchburg, Virginia where the campus is based and have spent some extended time there.

That school is a big deal in that region. It’s hard to explain to people who have never traveled to that part of Virginia how big a presence they have. They’re not just another college within a college town. This is a university that is closely aligned with all things conservative and Christian.

It was founded by Jerry Falwell, a man who basically spent his entire adult life advocating for a Christian theocracy in America. That’s not hyperbole. Falwell and many like him actively promoted an ideology that sought to impose their brand of Christianity on every domain of American society.

That, in and of itself, should concern everyone who doesn’t want to live in a world devoid of fun, freedom, and anything remotely sexy. However, I’ve already touched on that thorny issue, so I won’t belabor it.

All you need to know is that Liberty University espouses an ultra-conservative brand of Christianity. That also means they impose strict codes of conduct on their students and faculty. I’m not just talking about rules against drinking, smoking, mini-skirts, and premarital sex. This is a school that forbids cursing, extended hugging, and R-rated movies.

Basically, it’s the antithesis of a party school. People go here to be educated in conservative Christian traditions. That’s why they’ve often been closely aligned with the religious right in America.

Now, that’s not to say everyone who goes to that school is some uptight carbon copy of Kirk Cameron. Some of the people I know went to that school found ways to drink, smoke, and get laid while attending. They just had to be extra careful than usual.

After reading this story, I find myself wondering how many gross misdeeds happened in the shadows that never came to light. That same code of conduct I just mentioned made it next to impossible to responsibly address matters involving sexual assault. You could go so far as to say it demonstrates the worst possible way to handle such issues.

Think of it in terms of both context and theology. Here is this very conservative school that is extremely anti-sex in any way that doesn’t result married people producing more Christians. That means any sex act, be it consensual or forced, is a gross violation of that code of conduct they hold so dear.

Then, imagine being someone who was sexually assaulted. You can try to report it, but in doing so, you just admitted to having sex. Even if it was forced on you, neither the code nor the theology seems to take that into account. They might not be able to prove the accuser assaulted you, but they already can prove that you had sex.

That gives them two options. They have to spend time, money, and resources investigating the incident, not knowing whether they’ll be able to find enough proof to warrant prosecution. The other option is to just focus on the fact that someone admitted to having sex, assume they were somehow responsible, and make whatever excuses are necessary to close the case.

One requires a lot of work and investigation.

One just requires assumptions and reinforcing time-tested traditions about blaming the victim.

That’s why investigations at places like Liberty will often focus on what the victim was wearing, what they were doing at the time, and why they put themselves in that position. It’s cruel on a level that defies description, but for religious schools, there are plenty of unfortunate precedents.

For those working these cases at Liberty, they had every incentive to take the path of least resistance. It’s easy to just shame someone who had sex. It’s a lot harder to actually prosecute a crime. That same process also requires that the institute admit some form of responsibility for not protecting people.

If nothing else, this Pro Publica report only confirms what we’ve seen with plenty of other religious organizations. When it comes down to doing the right thing by the people they’ve failed or protecting their power/influence/tax free status, these institutions will do whatever allows them to keep doing what they’re doing.

It doesn’t matter if their preferred holy book gives strict guidelines on what is right and what is wrong.

It doesn’t even matter if basic human decency is enough to surmise that this way of doing things is a gross disservice to victims.

All that matters is protecting the institution and the power it wields. I definitely felt that when I visited Lynchburg. You could say a lot of things about politics and Christianity, but you could not say certain things about Liberty University. That’s just what happens to an institution that is given that much prestige.

Sadly, I doubt these revelations will change that. Liberty University already dealt with some bad press regarding some acts of sordid adultery and some financial scandals. However, this school will still find a way to keep doing what it’s doing. Not enough people care and the school just has too much influence, both on the region and on the nation.

At the very least, this story is out there and that could help inform anyone who is thinking of sending their children to this school. Even if you’re a devout conservative Christian, I hope the knowledge that this is how they handle matters of sexual assault gives you pause.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, politics, psychology, religion, sex in society, sexuality

Dumbest Things Religious People Call “Satanic” (According To Reddit)

In the past, I’ve been very critical of organized religion and certain religious tenants. I still stand by those criticisms because I think they’re worth making. There are a lot of inconsistencies, injustices, and hypocrisies that motivated by religion. They should be pointed out, especially by those who consider themselves religious.

Even within those criticisms, I make it a point to say that most religious people are genuinely good people. They do not deserve scorn or denigration for believing what they believe. I have religious people in my family. They are kind, loving people and religion helps enrich their lives in so many ways. I would never want to take that from them.

At the same time, there are people who use their religion to justify absurdities, atrocities, and everything in between. Now, you don’t have to look far to find the atrocities, but those tend to be both depressing and overdone. Most people with an internet connection are aware of them.

With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to focus on the absurdities, if only because they tend to be more hilarious. Specifically, I want to focus on instances where religious people take their doctrines so seriously that they condemn certain things they don’t like as “satanic.”

It’s not a new phenomenon. In fact, so-called “Satanic Panics” have happened many times before. Sadly, we may be in the middle of another one. They’re often taken way too seriously by all the wrong people. Eventually, it comes out that they’re entirely fueled by absurdity.

However, I don’t think enough people appreciate just how absurd it can get. With that in mind, I’d like to share a video that documents people who have seen religious zealots condemn something mundane as Satanic. It comes courtesy of the YouTube channel, OnTap Studios.

Some of these stories are hilarious. Others are disturbing. Also, Pokémon comes up more than once.

Whether you’re religious or not, I encourage you to listen to these stories and determine for yourself just how absurd these Satanic sensationalisms go. Enjoy!

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Filed under real stories, Reddit, religion, YouTube

Why Do Preachers Need/Deserve Private Jets? (A Sincere Question)

Televangelist Kenneth Copeland Defends His Private Jets: 'I'm A Very  Wealthy Man' - Flipboard

Whenever I talk about religion on this site, I try to be as respectful and tactful as possible. I don’t seek to offend or insult anyone who identifies as religious. I also don’t seek to denigrate certain religious practices, although I do believe a few warrant extra scrutiny. I’m sure I’ve overstepped those bounds in the past and for that, I do apologize.

All that being said, I have a serious question I’d like to present to those who are genuine and sincere with their faith.

Why do preachers need, let alone deserve, private jets?

I promise I’m not being facetious. I’m also not trying to make a larger point about certain religions. I would genuinely like someone who identifies as religious to explain this to me. Don’t just throw bible quotes at me. Explain it to me like I’m a child.

I know preachers having private jets isn’t new. However, recent events have made preachers and their spending habits a lot more noteworthy. Some make elaborate excuses as to why they have private jets. I still don’t get it.

These are not CEOs who run multi-billion dollar companies.

These are not heads of state who have to be able to travel the world at a moment’s notice.

These aren’t even celebrities who have achieved a level of success that affords them the option of some added luxury.

These are preachers who, for the most part, make their living giving sermons to adherents. I’m not saying that isn’t a noble profession. I went to church as a child. I remember the preachers and priests who led the sermons. They were genuinely nice people and they didn’t have private jets. One of them didn’t even own a car.

Now, I know these kinds of religious leaders are in a different hemisphere compared to the charismatic televangelists who have their own megachurches. I also know that more than a few adherents who utterly despise these people. One of them once told me, “That jet won’t help them escape where they’re going.”

Regardless of whether or not you believe that, I would still like someone to explain this practice to me. I get that charismatic people will attract crowds, money, and power. I get that those same people will abuse that power in one way or another. That’s just human nature.

What I don’t understand is how the adherents who believe, support, and send money to these people can accept this sort of thing and not have it clash with their faith somehow. Nearly every major religion has strict condemnations of greed and excess. How can this be justified?

Again, this is a sincere question. I hope to get a sincere answer because the absence of an answer is every bit as revealing.

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Filed under Current Events, politics, rants, religion

My Support, Advice, And Encouragement To All Those Fighting The (Horrible) Texas Abortion Laws

Texas enacts six-week abortion law without exceptions for rape or incest

Whenever I talk about politics, I try my best to be balanced. Even when I talk about hot-button issues like abortion, which I’ve done on multiple occasions, I make a concerted effort to see the bigger picture.

That said, I don’t think I can make such an effort with the recent events surrounding the blatantly draconian Texas abortion laws. There’s a line between being balanced on an issue and just being cruel, callous, and dense. I get the impression that those supporting this law aren’t even trying to be understanding.

In case you haven’t bee keeping up, Texas recently threw a massive grenade in the abortion debate. This new law wouldn’t just make abortion illegal by restricting it to six weeks, which is before most women know they’re pregnant. It would remove all exceptions while also allowing private citizens to sue those who aid women in seeking an abortion.

If you care at all about women having any control over their bodies, general women’s health, and the health of children, this law should concern you at the very least. At the very most, it should disgust you. In terms of allowing the state to both micromanage and punish women for what they do with their bodies, this is pretty damn blatant.

Now, there’s a lot I could say about this law and this issue. I think I’ve made my own position quite clear. I generally lean towards pro-choice side of the issue. It’s not that I think abortions are great and should be celebrated. I just find the pro-choice arguments more consistent form a moral, legal, and ethical standpoint.

Since I’m a man and I can’t get pregnant, I know those words can only carry so much weight. I really do try to take the arguments made by the pro-life/anti-abortion side seriously. I even try to empathize with it on some levels. However, I can only do so much. I just can’t get around the fact that the anti-abortion stance cannot be enforced without undermining a woman’s bodily autonomy.

In that sense, I’m very much in favor of bodily autonomy. I wouldn’t want the state to force me to donate my blood or my organs to someone else against my will. That’s a hard moral and ethical line for me.

As bad as this law is, it’s hardly the end of the abortion debate. If anything, it’s likely a catalyst for more legal, political, and social battles. I expect those battles to get ugly. I expect the anger, hate, and vitriol to escalate and it was already bad to begin with. I honestly can’t think of an issue that stirs up this much heated discord and I’ve been to 4chan.

In the near-term, the front line of debate will take place within the courts. There are serious legal consequences for this law, both for the women involved and those who attempt to enforce this it. I think it’s likely that the Supreme Court will eventually hear another case on abortion rights. Depending on the details, it could very well end with a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade.

However, we’re not quite there yet. I know the implications of that have many women and pro-choice advocates feeling anxious right now. I sympathize with that. Unfortunately, there too many women in situations in which they cannot wait for the legal system to sort this out.

Until that time comes, I’d like to offer some basic advice to all those affected by this law and anyone who might know someone who’s effected. At the moment, the simplest thing you can do is donate to organizations actively fighting this law and helping the women in Texas who are affected.

New York Magazine put together a list of 20 organizations who are actively involved. Donating to just one of them won’t fix the issue, but it will help.

Also, the American Civil Liberties Union has already filed a lawsuit to combat this law. Regardless of how you feel about the ACLU’s position on other issues, they are very much on the side of protecting women’s bodily autonomy. Consider donating to them as well, if only for this issue.

Another thing you can do is educate yourself and others on the use of contraception. At the moment, emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill, is not illegal under this law. However, given how anti-abortion advocates tend to oppose contraception as well, despite the obvious hypocrisy, expect it to be a target by anti-sex, anti-promiscuity advocates.

It’s critical that women affected by this law and others like it understand the morning after pill and how to use it. We also can’t expect the education system to do it. States like Texas already have notoriously sub-par and politically motivated agendas when it comes to sexual education.

In that sense, women in Texas should refrain from seeking information about sex and pregnancy from most public school teachers. They also shouldn’t get it from anyone affiliated with a religious organization or politicians, many of whom don’t seem to understand how women’s bodies work. In general, they should talk to a private doctor or at least one who doesn’t work at a Catholic hospital.

Finally, and most importantly, I would recommend that women in Texas make connections with friends or family who live outside the state. Those connections will be critical, should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to seek an abortion. Some out-of-state health facilities are already feeling he impact of people taking this recourse.

I know that’s not always possible, especially for those lacking money or connections. That’s why it’s critical to make the effort while you’re not in that situation. Make a plan for yourself. Get other women to help you. I agree it’s not right that you have to make such a plan in the first place, but this is the situation. It sucks, but this is where we are.

The last bit of advice I’d like to give is to simply remember this law whenever you vote in the next election, be it national or local. I know that’s a bit oversimplified. I also know that states like Texas are very conservative and some prefer not voting over voting for a non-republican.

I get it. Our political structures are awful and messy. However, we’re stuck with them for now. The only reason politicians in Texas are passing laws like this is because they think they can get away with it and they’ll get enough votes to stay in office. The only way that changes is if voters prove them wrong.

Most polls state that the majority of people support preserving abortion rights. The best way to ensure the laws reflect that sentiment is to vote as such. I know it’s not an immediate solution, but for an issue this divisive, it’s important to take a long view approach.

I don’t claim to know how the abortion debate will change as a result of this law. I fully expect things to get worse and more heated before they get better. For now, though, this Texas law presents a major challenge. We have to be ready, willing, and able to confront it.

In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that George Carlin still summed this issue up perfectly years ago. Until someone does a better job, I’ll keep referring to this.

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Filed under abortion, politics, sex in society