Sharing the Kook Mail

For whatever reason, I don’t get as much entertaining e-mail from religious nuts as some other atheist bloggers I know of. If I were inclined to flatter myself, I’d say it’s because they’re silenced by the devastating power of my arguments. More likely, it’s just because most of the notorious crazies haven’t come across my site.

In either case, crackpot e-mail in my inbox is sufficiently rare that when I do get e-mail from genuine kooks, I can’t keep it to myself. I just have to share it with you all. Following is a message I received the other night from a person whose hatred of atheists is evident, whose hold on reality is debatable, and who holds a unique interpretation of the death of Jesus. All spelling and grammar is as in the original. Enjoy!

To: ebonmusings@gmail.com
Date: 16 May 2008 11:22
Subject: Feedback: An Easter Blessing

One thing is sure. The devil has his ring in your nose and is controlling your every thought and action.

He has you convinced that there is no proof of Jesus. As with all of his other lies he is wrong.

I have proven the reality of Jesus for years. I live in perfect health because of Him. I live a life of miracles including divine protection.

I have seen Him as He hung on the cross. Because He had suffered the worst case of every sickness and disease that would ever touch a human body, His body was so grotesque rhat if the people had been able to see it, they could not have handled seeing it.

I have seen Him seated at the roght hand of the Father in heaven.

The devil has you so deluded that you are arrogant and condescending, thinking you are smarter than we who know Jesus.

Unless you rejest the lies of the devil you will spend eternity in hell with your father, rhe devil.

May God have mercy on your pitiful soul.

As a rule, I don’t make fun of people who are clearly mentally ill (although I consider anyone who attracts a substantial following to be fair game). On the other hand, the line between excessive religiosity and psychosis is a blurry one. This writer’s soteriology is a bit unorthodox, but his religious visions and his claims to be the beneficiary of miracles would not be out of place in many large, conventional churches. Nor, for that matter, would his denunciations of atheists.

Unfortunately, the way that religious belief exalts irrationality means that genuine mental disorders can go unnoticed. Primordial Blog tells the sad story of Blair Donnelly, a man whose untreated psychosis resulted in him murdering his daughter because he believed God had told him to do so. This tragedy might have been averted if Donnelly had received psychiatric treatment, but he was a member of a Pentecostal sect that viewed his constant claims of hearing voices and seeing demons not as symptoms of illness, but great spiritual gifts. I have no reason to believe that my correspondent suffers from any similar disorder, but the possibility cannot be completely dismissed.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • cosmicstargoat

    Hello, ebon. Greetings and best wishes from an old friend here. My guess is that this individual sat through too many screenings of Mel Gibson’s classic snuff film, but we may never know the real root of his hallucinations. If this nut’s perfect health is evidence of a physical Jesus, then to what do we attribute the suffering and poor health of others, including devout Christians? Ah, I remember, the mysterious and unfathomable Plan-O-Gram orchestrated by the same God who suffered all the indignation, rejection and failure in the Bible. According to nut cases like the author of the note above, Satan is the most powerful of all Christian gods, deluding intelligent people such as yourself while still having the time and cunning to plant 100M year old dinosaur bones to confuse and test Christians.

    I hope you are doing well and I commend you on your fine work. Again, thank you for the honor of letting me contribute to your original web site.

    Regards,

    SS

  • mike

    Meh. The tone of this post is: “I won’t come out and say this guy is mentally ill, but I’ll gladly insinuate it.” By all means, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of how religious belief that values having divine visions can mask real mental disorders, using for illustration cases where this was actually known to happen. But writing about this guy and then throwing in a few general comments about religion masking mental illness is just a cheap shot.

  • Roscomac

    Did you read the post? The part with the example, with names and a hyperlink?

  • mikespeir

    “The devil has you so deluded that you are arrogant and condescending…”

    Looks like you’ve met your match as to arrogant and condescending, Ebon.

  • Christopher

    Is it just me or does the religious loony in question have a difficult time spelling the simplest of words?

  • mike

    Did you read the post? The part with the example, with names and a hyperlink?

    Yes, I did see that. It was one small paragraph marginally related to the kook’s email. Rereading my comment, I should have been clearer — I’d love to see an entire post expanding on the ideas mentioned in the last paragraph. I don’t see what this random kook email had to do with anything, other than for the sake of insinuating that some anonymous person on the internet has a mental illness.

    I guess ebon is a victim of the high standards I have come to expect from him ;)

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Hi Mike,

    I don’t believe I was insinuating anything. I think I came right out and said it clearly: based on the way this person expressed themself to me, there’s a possibility that they’re suffering from mental illness. The claim to have personally seen Jesus on the cross and in heaven, and the claim to be the beneficiary of miracles and divine protection, are typical elements of megalomania and narcissistic personality disorder. On the other hand, they could simply indicate that this person is very devout.

    I wouldn’t presume to say which is the case – unlike some politicians we could name, I don’t think I have the ability to diagnose people over the internet. But I doubt this person is actually ill, if only for statistical reasons; there are relatively few people with genuine mental disorders, and a great many who are extremely religious but otherwise sane. A randomly selected person would be more likely to come from the second group. But there is a sense in which the two, after a certain point, begin to blend into each other.

  • Alex Weaver

    “In my experience, ‘faith’ is best understood, for the majority of the religious, as another name for wishful thinking, and in the remainder, for paranoid psychosis.”

    Feel free to quote me on that. ^.^

  • Vjatcheslav

    It is truly a shameful thing that none of those miracles included an ability to use at least something like a spellchecker.

  • StaceyJW

    Religious delusions are VERY common, as are the negative actions that often follow.

    I wonder if people that are “devout” to the point of delusion were mentally ill originally (which could have attracted them to religion in the first place) or if they started out with normal mental health, and were religious, but digressed by taking religion to its logical extreme.
    The chicken or the egg?

    There are so many people that do things that are abnormal, but consider it religious. Whether its a woman that kills her kids because “god” tells her the devil will get them, or the bum that claims to be jesus, these delusions are believed to be divinely inspired. Its easy to side step this by saying that this is just their illness- but the seeds of these extremes are found in all religious practice/ belief.

    People need to view and interact with reality- teaching them to believe things that are not rational or provable only shows them that it is acceptable to disregard the objective world. Believing that god talks to you, or that there was a virgin birth, sets a dangerous precedent that the impossible IS possible. I think it is that type of thinking that is part of the reason for mental disorder.

    StacsyJW

  • Brock

    StaceyJW–
    I think you’re close to the way I see it. I like to use the idea of addiction here. People use chemicals for a number of different reasons, most usually because they like the feeling they get, and many use casually and eventually outgrow them, the way many of us outgrew religion. Others, because of a biochemical quirk, develop a dependence on the drug, can’t stop using, in increasing quantities, and because of the toxins flooding their brains, develop mental disabilities indistinguishable in the long run from organic mental illnesses. Most of these use until they die or go permanently insane. A few addicts recover, virtaully always by total abstinence. Some of us were religious addicts, and our recovery from religion requires total abstinence too. Most addicts need help to get and stay clean. We who were addicted to religion needed help from rational beings to get rational, and I, for one need a regular dose of rationality to maintain my “sobriety,” even though I’ve been “clean” from religion for 18 years.
    I hope this analogy isn’t too forced. I may have tried to make it too close, but I do see a real correspondence between my own recovery from chemical use, and my recovery from religion. I might add that my recovery from drugs was complicated by the insistence by other recovering addicts that I had to have a “higher power” in my life. I still go to meetings, but if anyone asks me about my higher power, I tell them about the Invisible Pink Unicorn (bless her holy hooves)

  • StaceyJW

    Brock:
    I can see what you meant about addiction, religion and mental illness. I can see how people can follow both behaviors to the extreme, and for a minority, it snowballs and ends up as an actual mental disorder.

    The only thing more damaging than the addiction itself is what we call “addiction treatment”- a perfect example of religious nonsense trumping scientifically verified health care. I know of NO other “disease” legitimately treated with faith healing. An illogical, ineffective program like AA could only become the standard because its religious foundation exempts it from common-sense and empirical truth.

    Once exposed to 12 step philosophy, or religion, it’s difficult to remove the influence- it’s invasive. Freeing yourself from addiction or religion requires rational, independent thinking, and confidence in yourself. These philosophies attack your rational mind, intelligence, and sense of self, devaluing them so you will learn to believe things that contradict reality. Next step- delusion…..

    People don’t realize that certain philosophies (ie- Religion and AA/NA) can be dangerous. Humans require an accurate view of their world for mental health and survival- anything that works to break down the rational mind is an enemy of humanity!

  • Samuel Skinner

    Hmm… reminds me of the site Atheism Analyzed. I got banned when I accused the author of being insane and a Nazi. Of course he had just declared that there was a conspiracy by the “hedonistic atho-pagans” to destroy traditional values, so I think I was on target.

    What do you think? Is it a bad idea to go to the nuts? Or should you try to be reasonable with them like everyone else? Or should you try… alterate arguments?

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Unless you rejest the lies of the devil…

    But how can I rejest them if I haven’t jested them in the first place?

  • Brock

    StaceyJW
    Little by little we are moving away from the 12 step approach to treatment, helped by innovators who have created recvoery programs not based on spirituality, and by the courts, which have recognized that mandatory self help attendance must include a secular alternative such as SOS. In addition, as a treatment professional, i have available an increasing body of scientific knowledge on treatment of addictions that allows us to base our practice on ratinality rather than religion. I don’t disparage AA/NA; they have helped a lot of people get clean and sober, but unfortunately they have failed many others.

  • http://superhappyjen.blogspot.com superhappyjen

    The devil has a ring in your nose? Sounds painful. Perhaps your new penpal could recommend some kind of ointment.

  • http://www.xanga.com/andrea_thatonegirl TheNerd

    I would infer the writer of the letter in question to be a Calvonist. If he truly believed in Free Will, he would not believe anyone (least of all Satan) to be capable of

    controlling your every thought and action.

  • StaceyJW

    Brock
    Its always great to hear when a professional is aware of, and offers, other programs. Even better that other ones exist! Since I am not a professional, so I can disparage them all I want- I only do it because I have seen what AA’s “faith” in action has done to loved ones, and it is very ugly.

    Samuel Skinner:
    I think that gong after religious nuts is something that really depends:
    1) Do you have the mental and emotional energy and time for that type of banter?
    2) Are others reading and being influenced by the insane person?
    3) Do you care if what you do makes no difference?

    I think that if you find a religious nut that is widely spreading their message, it IS good to debate them- you may not change them, but you might get through to a follower.

    Otherwise, I only bother when I am either really bored or really angered by what I have read. It’s not worth my time or energy to argue with what is essentially a brick wall. I am not saying that nothing you say can change anyone, just that most truly insane religious nuts are too far out there to be reasoned with.

  • Jim Baerg

    Brock:

    What is SOS?
    My internet search only came up with stuff unrelated to recovery from addiction.

  • StaceyJW

    Jim-
    SOS is secular organization for sobriety. Its a treatment program without the religion. There are a few similarities to AA, but non of the really bad, faith based ones. There is also RR- rational recovery, and a host of others. They are small and rare in comparison though.

    Back on topic-
    Speaking of religious NUTS- This is an example of WIDESPREAD insanity-
    Did you hear about the US Soldier that used a Koran as target practice in Iraq? The Iraqi Muslims freaked out (of course they did) and the head of our forces in Iraq apologized and gave them a Koran- he even kissed it which disgusted me, sorry to say. Naturally, the Muslims are not happy enough with a mere apology and the soldiers reassignment (back to the US) and are calling for maximum punishment. They would rip him from limb to limb if they could get their hands on him. All for “desecrating” their “holy” book.
    I bet that soldier was happy at the outcome- he got to go home!!! Good for him!

    I say SO WHAT- ITS JUST A BOOK!!! Funny, no one would have cared if he had shot a PERSON- but because he shot a BOOK they are in an uproar! What type of morality is that? People have less value than a book to those people.

    This makes me want to get a bunch of mini korans- and bibles etc just for fairness- and shoot BIG holes through them, and put them on a necklace to wear. Maybe I could find more creative ways to “desecrate” them, but I would love to see these on keychains and necklaces.

    I am SO TIRED of muslim NUT CASES freaking out because someone offended their religion. Its like their god is so weak and small he requires protection. I know its immature to shoot a religious book and wear it, but I do not care. People need to be offended sometimes- esp. when they are SO RIDICULOUS.

    If this does not qualify for religiously inspired insanity, I do not know whata does!

    StaceyJW

  • Brock

    Jim-
    Go to the Council for Secular Humanism site, and you will find SOS listed as an associated organization. A good resource are the books “How to Stay Sober” and “Unhooked” by James Christopher, the foundeer of SOS. Sorry to sidetrack the thread like this.
    Stacey- The Islamic obsession with form and ritual that expresses itself in bibliolatry, cleanliness practices, and calling for death to idolaters, cartoonists and other infidels is similar to Xianity in the Middle Ages–and to Adam’s correspondent above. The tragedy here is that again and again, US forces are getting into trouble because they are unaware of this mindset, and were sent into action woefully ignorant of the customs and habits of the people they are trying to pacify. It’s no wonder they hate us.

  • Polly

    I say SO WHAT- ITS JUST A BOOK!!! Funny, no one would have cared if he had shot a PERSON- but because he shot a BOOK they are in an uproar! What type of morality is that? People have less value than a book to those people

    Which people? The ones that shoot both people and books, or the ones that complain when a member of an occupation army goes out of his way to desecrate something he was trained to KNOW is held dear to the people around him? Fuck him. He should go home. He’s a danger to his fellow soldiers.

    Context matters. This wasn’t an Iraqi protesting for the separation of church and state in his own country. This was an ugly American adding insult to injury by showing utter contempt for the Iraqi people.

    It’s like we can’t humiliate them enough: locking them into concrete cages, killing them off by the hundreds of thousands, displacing them by the millions and building a monstrous $700million “embassy” to administer over our latest colony right in their midst. Now, we have to desecrate the only thing they have left, their religion.

    And what’s so wrong with what they did? Was the soldier injured? Did the tribal leaders demand his head? No, the people chanted and the leaders asked for an apology. Nothing they say or do is going to get us out of their country, but how about if we at least show some minimum level of respect in their own home?

    Funny how media works. If kissing a Koran bothers you, what do you think of the president of the secular United States referring to the Israelis as the “chosen people” in a speech he gave in Israel a few days ago. He then says a Jewish blessing and tells them the US will always be by their side. Shouldn’t that offend us much more?

  • StaceyJW

    “Those people” = religious fanatics, in this case Muslim fanatics. I thought that was implied, sorry about that.

    And anyone calling for the severest of punishment-after an apology- for shooting a book IS A FANATIC. An apology was not enough, even after all of the slobbering and Koran kissing, that group is still calling for MORE punishment. They would kill him if they could, and I don’t see this as an exaggeration. “Desecration” and “blasphemy” are punishable by death, even for non-Muslims. I can’t support that way of thinking.

    I am not saying anything good about the war, and am not denying that the whole sordid affair has been humiliating and destructive.

    However- this does not mean that we should be required to treat their religion with kid gloves, offering it more respect than we routinely offer all other religions. As far as respecting people in their own land and following their customs, Muslims routinely call for death to people all over the world- non-Muslims- for doing anything that offends their religious sensibility- regardless of where the “offense” happened! This behavior crosses all borders- so even though it IS rude to desecrate their holy books on their turf, their religious feelings are fair game.

    Muslims use threats and violence to cow people worldwide into behaving in a way that they find acceptable to their religion. I don’t care WHAT religion it is- it’s wrong, and by giving in to their demands, and apologizing for actions of OUR people, we show them that they can scare us into submission.

    I doubt this soldier was unaware of the Muslim mindset, and would be willing to bet that he WAS aware, and disgusted by what he saw. I’ve never been in war, so I can’t imagine what I might feel for the people that are trying to KILL ME- I don’t know if he thought he was being funny, letting off some steam, or just goofing off, but I think that’s its pretty minor, especially given the context of war. This is the kind of outrage I would expect for a crime like dragging someone behind a car or beheading them, not damaging a book. Yes, soldiers kill people, its their duty whether you agree with it or not. I just want to point out that had he killed a PERSON, we wouldn’t have heard anything about it. But shoot a book- watch out!!!!

    One last note- Our disgrace of a president is not secular, and all of his comments are sickeningly stupid or offensive. (His existence is offensive to me) His actions are the reason we are in the mess in Iraq in the first place.

    Staceyjw

  • Polly

    StaceyJW,

    And anyone calling for the severest of punishment-after an apology- for shooting a book IS A FANATIC.

    They’re pissed off so the tribal leaders and al-Maliki have to appear tough on offenders in order not to look like puppets (even though they are). I doubt the soldier will get any punishment beyond going home and maybe a “court martial” that will be delayed until the issue blows over followed by a slap on the wrist.

    Muslims use threats and violence to cow people worldwide into behaving in a way that they find acceptable to their religion.

    I doubt this soldier was unaware of the Muslim mindset, and would be willing to bet that he WAS aware, and disgusted by what he saw.

    You’ve lost me again. What exactly is the “Muslim mindset”? Does it apply to all Muslims? How do we distinguish between the good Muslims and the bad ones?

    I don’t like religion – any religion. But, the people we decry as “violent” and fear because they want to impose their will are right now being attacked or targeted by the current US administration.

    Iraq – under attack
    Afghanistan – under attack
    Iran – targeted; with the Bush admin revving up the rhetoric.
    Syria- possible target;so-called nuclear facilities were purportedly bombed by Israel
    Somalia – unauthorized bombing within its borders without even a declaration of war

    (and Venezuela – Chavez is supposedly a supporter of terrorists)

    I really am wondering if we’re not being scared by a fake boogie man, while the real terror state is doing a lot of real killing around the world.

    Have we found Bin-Laden, yet? Are we even still looking? Don’t you think it’s strange that the one guy who supposedly started all this, is still safe in a freaking cave making home movies?

  • Paul S

    Simmer down, Polly. Try to stay on subject.

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved Rationalist

    Someone sent me that exact e-mail a while ago too!

  • StaceyJW

    Again, I don’t disagree that US policy exacerbates tensions, creates conflict, and subjects whole populations to devastation and chaos. At the same time, our Govt. has greatly exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism in order to convince the US public to support their war.

    Most intellegent people realize that there is no Islamic boogey man, and that very few Americans die from terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslim groups. This doesn’t mean we should ignore the (growing) anger of Muslims, or the role religion plays iviolent acts. Islamism may not be an imminent threat to N. America, but it IS a fast growing movement that brings religious zealotry, intolerant, oppression, and hatred of women and non- believers, with it.

    “Muslim mindset”- There IS a common belief among Muslims that insulting Islam or the prophet is a grievous sin, and that everything related to their religion is sacred, and should be respected by every human being as such. Not every follower agrees on the proper punishment for insulting Islam, but the belief in maximum punishment for those actions is common, and called for by Muslim leaders. And no, we can’t tell fanatical and moderate Muslims (Or Xtians)apart, unless we hear their views. When moderates follow a religious group (or government) controlled by fanatics, their voices are rarely heard.

    The call for punishment grows every day, and is spreading to other countries. Link:
    http://www.khaleejtimes.com/darticlen.asp?xfile=data/subcontinent/2008/May/subcontinent_May582.xml&section=subcontinent&col=
    I don’t think the soldier will get in real trouble- why should he? He did nothing illegal. But more and more Muslims are calling for the most serious punishment possible, via fatwa, others want him to be tried and convicted (better than killing him though).

    Sorry for hijacking the thread- it made sense when I started : )

    StaceyJW

  • Polly

    Thanks for the response StaceyJW. I should get back on topic, too. :)

    A common xian response to all the supposed witnesses of JC rising into the sky, or his miracles, etc is “they couldn’t all have the same hallucination.” Putting aside the million and one problems with assuming there were any witnesses of anything in the first place, it seems that, yes they COULD imagine the same thing, or what they think is the same thing.

    I spoke to someone a few months ago who related to me that both he and one other person saw a demon while praying together. The crux of his argument was that they BOTH saw it, so it must be real. My response is that they both expected to see something and each fed off the other’s description and assertion of “something evil” until it grew into a picture. Of course, a real test would be to ask them separately for specific features, color, and the size of the demon.
    This kind of self-induced delusion, hypnosis, whatever, is not too hard to achieve if you’re willing and looking for a spiritual experience. In this case: believing is seeing.

    Ebon,

    As a rule, I don’t make fun of people who are clearly mentally ill…

    I laughed out loud when I read that sentence immediately following the kookie letter. I don’t know if you intended it, but it came off very droll.

  • DamienSansBlog

    For whatever reason, I don’t get as much entertaining e-mail from religious nuts as some other atheist bloggers…

    Wait until you’ve published that book of yours. (Speaking of, what’s the latest news?)

  • Tim V

    Let’s keep in mind that mental illness is always unfortunate, but is definately NOT always derogatory. A lot of mentally ill people (including schizophrenics, paranoid schizophrenics, etc) are good people who are just having a hard time psychologically.
    As a survivor of mental illness (Past diagnosis: chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia), I know a lot of benignly mentally ill people (including my past self) who fit the above description.
    When used as labels for all people with mental illness, terms like ‘kook’, ‘whacko’ and ‘nut-job’ belong in the same ignorant category as ‘kike’, ‘fag’, ‘spic’ and ‘nigger’.