Do white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex? Barna says yes, and provides quantifiable proof

After discussing the limits of the survey research and data supplied by the Barna Group, let’s turn to the merits of it, and what such research can tell us.

Barna surveys may not always help to tell us about how behavior actually corresponds to attitudes or perceptions, but they can be quite helpful in telling us how widespread particular attitudes or perceptions actually are.

For example, a friend of mine dislikes Brussels sprouts and says, “No one likes Brussels sprouts.” That’s quite a sweeping claim, but to what extent is it true? A survey is a useful way of finding out. We can measure what percentage of people share my friend’s dislike,* and thereby see whether her opinion is broadly representative or if she is an outlier — whether she is an exception to the norm or an accurate reflection of the majority view. It might be even better to find measurements of actual behavior — sales and consumption figures, for example, but a survey can still be a valuable tool for putting her comments in context.

Here’s a more concrete example relating to an actual bit of recent research reported by the Barna Group. Libby Anne recently highlighted a comment on her blog that seems to epitomize what many of us have observed as a widespread, delusional sense of persecution on the part of many members of America’s privileged religious majority. The comment provides a remarkable specimen of what I call the “persecuted hegemon” — a person enjoying the rewards of cultural dominance while simultaneously insisting that they are aggrieved and suffering an injustice at the hands of people who are, in fact, marginalized minorities.

Here’s that comment:

As a matter of fact, it is [Christians’] rights that are being limited and we are becoming the minority in this nation. In many countries to even hint at being a Christian is the same as signing a death warrant. In our country they have taken away our right to pray in school, in some states we cannot even have private Bible study groups in our homes because it constitutes an illegal gathering, our organizations are being required to make the “abortion pill” a covered product on our insurance or be fined an absurd amount of money, our Christian doctors are being forced to consider if they even want to be doctors anymore or not because of a mandate that they must perform abortions……..and gay people are saying they don’t have rights?

As Libby Anne correctly notes, none of this person’s complaints correspond with reality. The examples of her perceived persecution are all imaginary and false. All of them.

Most of these false examples are, in fact, perversions and inversions of the actual facts of the matter. The comment is contradicted by the daily lived experience of the commenter.

This is a picture of Anne Hutchinson being expelled by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Or, for white evangelicals, this is a picture of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony being cruelly persecuted by the wicked Anne Hutchinson.

This is delusional, and the delusion is doubly cruel. It is cruel, foremost, to the people who are actually marginalized and disenfranchised — who are being denied full and equal participation in society because they do not conform to the majority beliefs that this commenter insists must be mandatory for everyone else, and who are then, on top of that, being scapegoated and blamed as the supposed cause of the non-existent “persecution” being suffered by the privileged majority.

But it is also cruel to the commenter herself, fabricating a causeless source of misery and aggrievement, unnecessarily introducing stress where no such stress actually exists.

Now, both Libby Anne and I regard this comment as broadly representative of an attitude that we both see as widespread throughout the white evangelical subculture in America. But is that true? It’s possible, after all, that we’re simply cherry-picking data to support our thesis. Perhaps this one comment is not representative of anything other than the views of this lone commenter.

We can certainly demonstrate that this commenter is not unique. Scroll back through the archives of Libby Anne’s blog, or of this one, and you’ll see we both can provide dozens more examples of evangelical Christians exhibiting the same delusional persecution complex. But all of those examples put together still don’t prove that we’ve done anything more than identified what might still be only a small fringe sub-set of deluded white evangelicals. It may be that all of the anecdotes and examples we’ve collected and reported over the years are still just cherry-picked data selected only because they support our thesis of a broader evangelical persecution complex.

Another indicator of support for that thesis comes from the public statements of prominent white evangelical leaders. A single blog comment may reflect nothing more than the opinions of a lone commenter, but if the sentiments it expresses are repeated by a host of prominent white evangelicals in leadership positions, that would seem to indicate that such sentiments are more widely held.

That’s one thing that can be gleaned from a recent post at Homebrewed Christianity titled “On Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Society,” which cites several such prominent evangelical luminaries echoing the persecution complex described by Libby Anne’s commenter.

Christian at Homebrewed Theology mentions the “Manhattan Declaration,” a 2009 manifesto embodying this same persecution complex which was endorsed by a who’s who of white evangelical leaders. And then he points to a recent column by three of those Manhattan declarers, Robert George, Timothy George and Eric “Call Me Dietrich” Metaxas, in which they lament the supposed persecution of the Christian majority:

They say there are numerous examples, and then pick three:

1. The brouhaha over Louie Giglio and the Inaguration.

2. The contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

3. The demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

Of these three, exactly none are “religious freedom” issues.


They are, without exception, religious primacy issues.

None of these impact, in any measurable way, the ability of the Conservative Christian community to practice their faith openly and without fear of persecution in the United States.

In a pluralistic society, there’s a general rule. Your right to swing your fist ends at the other guy’s nose. That means, in a pluralistic society, for the health of the society, there’s a give and take. It’s the essence of the social contract that we live under when we decide to become a society.

When people like the authors above, or the creators of the Manhattan Declaration, complain that, not faith, but that their particular embodiment of faith isn’t given supremacy above all others and cries of “persecution” are heard, it is rightfully interpreted as an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under.

There’s a name for people who believe they, and their beliefs, should always be kowtowed to no matter what …

… they’re called sociopaths.

Well, yes. But it’s one thing to say that Metaxas and the Georges and the commenter at Libby Anne’s blog are delusional sociopaths who hate the rest of society — that much is obvious. It’s quite another thing to demonstrate that this hate-fueled delusion is more widely present within the broader white evangelical subculture.

And that’s where the latest survey from the Barna Group comes in. Because that survey provides what all those anecdotal examples cannot provide: Quantifiable proof that a majority of white evangelical Americans are hate-fueled sociopaths making themselves and others miserable with a perverse and delusional persecution complex.

Barna doesn’t quite put it as strongly as that, but the implication is identical. A majority of white evangelicals “want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said David Kinnamon, president of the Barna Group.

“Dominate.” Or, as Christian said, it’s not about religious liberty, it’s about religious primacy.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.

“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.”

Barna’s survey also found white evangelicals enthusiastically eager to lay blame to others for their perceived “persecution.” Nearly three-fourths of white evangelicals, “72 percent … agreed that gays and lesbians were the group ‘most active in trying to remove Christian values from the country.'”

Again, that’s a direct inversion and deliberate perversion of the daily, felt, known and experienced reality for those very same evangelicals. They cannot be unaware that evangelicals are the group most active in trying to remove LGBT people from the country. In a sense, I suppose, this survey response is an expression of that same desire to rid society of all such unwanted people — a way of restating the emphatic belief that their presence and very existence is a threat to the majority’s “values.”

That survey finding cannot be explained other than, in Christian’s words again, as evidence of “an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under.”

And it’s not just the attitude of a few outliers nut-picked from comment sections or of a few of the more outrageous pseudo-intellectual posers like Metaxas or the Georges. This delusional sociopathy is the majority view.

An old professor of mine used to say that social science sometimes amounted only to “the statistical approximation of the known,” and this survey may seem like that to many of us who have long observed what it quantifies. But that quantification also serves as evidence, as proof, of what we have been saying.

A great many white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex. That delusion is an expression of a desire to dominate others and to scapegoat any others who refuse to be dominated.

Thanks to Barna’s survey, we know that’s not just a theory or just an argument, it’s a fact.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I suspect those who agree with her are thinking mainly of boiled Brussels sprouts, which is unfair. Nothing is very appealing if you insist on cooking all the flavor out of it.

Brussels sprouts should be broiled — cut in half, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper or lemon, then cooked in an oven, not boiled on a stove. Just saying.

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  • Matri

    In other news, water is wet.

    We’ve known for quite an incredible amount of time about this persecuted hegemon delusion. Far too long.

    But now we have actual proof of it.

  • ValPas

    I wish he had simply said evidence, not proof. Proof is a term scientists use with great caution, if at all. Showing that 60% feel that religious freedom is threatened, and 72% feel that it will be threatened in the future, illustrates that a third or more of evangelicals DON’T seem to feel threatened! I find that amazing, since I tend to conflate religious fundamentalism and paranoid in my mind.
    It seems to me that, in general, if people dislike or treat other people badly, they feel afraid, and they will tend to project their hostility onto the object of the fear. Rather like the white fear of blacks.

  • FearlessSon

    This is something else Altemeyer observed: authoritarians have horrendous double-standards.  Since so many of their ideas and beliefs are assimilated and held independently  there is no space in their minds in which these ideas come into conflict, a result of being brought up with a “This is true, don’t question it, just accept it” kind of outlook.  Being surrounded by other people who continue to affirm and back up those ideas just calcifies them, allows them to flourish instead of settling together and mixing into a coherent whole.  

    No wonder that they can believe in this persecuted hegemon thing.  They are told that America is a Christian nation.  They accept that.  They are told that Christians are a persecuted faith under attack from all sides.  They accept that too.  They see no conflict because those ideas do not exist on the same continuum in their minds, they never meet, never collide, never produce the cognitive dissonance that would motivate them to re-examine those beliefs.  

    Why do they do it this way?  Because it is easy.  Accepting ideas without thinking about them takes a lot less effort than trying to make everything fit together.  And the more their ideas calcify, the harder it gets to break out of that rut.  

  • abb3w

     The desire for Dominance is more likely high Social Dominance Orientation. Religiosity aligns more closely to high-RWA (which has the double-standards correlation) — but there’s an overlap of double-highs.

    Still, useful to keep the two types straight.

  • PrestonWheatley

    There is also a strong correlation between sociopathic  views and projection. A very fine example can be found in the sessessionist movements in the 1850s and 60s as they accused the North of wanting to enslave white Southerners, many insisting that the Abolitionist’s true desire was to make whites the slaves of blacks.

    You see this in many extremist Right Wingers who will insist that the objective of the Left is to silence and marginalize anybody who disagrees with them, or the anti LGBT extremists who will insist that the goal of the the LGBT community is to convert straight people to their life style, despite that Evangelicals are the only ones actively trying to change the sexual orientation of others.

    I have no idea how pervasive any of these modern attitudes are, but the correlation between extremists/sociopaths/narcissists and projection is strong.

  • cyllan

    Now I want Brussel sprouts — which are delicious.

  • Feminerd

    Yes they are.  They are also delicious fried in a little butter and wrapped in bacon- they don’t have to be broiled to be good.

  • veejayem

    Especially roasted, with bacon and chestnuts. Trust me.

  • Ellen S Goodridge

     Yeah; I was just thinking that I will have to try them that way. I’ve only had them boiled, and found them unpleasantly bitter.

  • JulianaSundry

    Fun fact that I’m posting two months late because I can: Brussels sprouts contain a very, very bitter chemical which only certain people can taste–and I think it’s more common for children to be sensitive to it than adults. So if it tastes bitter to you but fine to someone else, that just might mean that you have receptors for that bitter chemical and they don’t.

  • ValPas

    But where’s the Brussel sprouts survey?  I bet that 60 – 70 percent of people don’t like Brussel sprouts! Does that “prove” that nobody likes Brussel sprouts?

  • Dave

    a way of restating the emphatic belief that their presence and very existence is a threat to the majority’s “values.”

    Well, right. Exactly this.

    And in that sense, I completely agree with them. That is, anyone whose values are inconsistent with my ability to marry someone I love, have sex with someone I’m attracted to, talk about someone I’m dating, etc., solely because of the person’s gender is entirely correct that I am actively trying to remove their values from a position of power in my country.

    Because their values, to quote a wise man, are hurting America.

    As to whether those wrong values are Christian values or not, I’m not qualified to judge, but I certainly encourage Christians to reject them.

  • Dawn

    Regarding brussels sprouts:

    Apparently there is some chemical in brussels sprouts which is either completely tasteless, or extremely bitter, depending on whether you have a particular gene or not.

    I’d always heard people describe brussels sprouts as “bitter” and revolting, and thought they were crazy. To me, brussels sprouts taste positively sweet. So some of the widespread disagreement on the edibility of brussels sprouts seems to stem from genetics, for which the poor embittered folks can’t be faulted!

  • Slow Learner

    I get exactly that with cucumber – many people claim they taste of nothing, but to me they have a highly distinctive (and highly unpleasant) flavour which I can detect in the midst of strong flavours and spices.

  • Freak

    Interesting.  I get that way with green peppers.  (It’s extremely annoying, considering how many companies use it in their foods.)

  • fiona64

     Right there with you.  I love brussels sprouts, but hate green bell peppers.

  • MikeJ

     I love brussels sprouts, hate the soapy evil of cilantro.  Apparently, some poor souls are born without the ability to tell that cilantro tastes like liquid dish soap.

  • MikeJ

     I love brussels sprouts, hate the soapy evil of cilantro.  Apparently, some poor souls are born without the ability to tell that cilantro tastes like liquid dish soap.

  • P J Evans

     Look at it from the other side: some people were born with the ability to like cilantro. (For some purposes, anyway.)

  • Kiba

    I love brussels sprouts, hate the soapy evil of cilantro.  Apparently, some poor souls are born without the ability to tell that cilantro tastes like liquid dish soap.

    I completely agree! 


    (Though really I’d prefer a nice cheese sauce, but my wife thinks I’m too free-handed with the cheese.)

    No such thing as too free-handed with the cheese sauce. (Unless, of course, you’re lactose intolerant.)

  • Ymfon

     That would explain a lot.

  • ReverendRef

     Apparently there is some chemical in brussels sprouts which is either
    completely tasteless, or extremely bitter, depending on whether you have
    a particular gene or not.

    Brussels sprouts are indeed bitter.  That’s the way God made them.  To claim that there’s a “genetic” disposition toward sweetness, when it is clearly a person’s choice to like them really just shows how far you’ve turned against the fact that God created them to be bitter.

    Oh . . . wait . . .

  • Eric Boersma

    Bah, you beat me to that joke.

  • DavidMyers

     Nice metaphor for religious homophobes!

  • Jamoche

    Whole milk is completely undrinkable after about three days. I know it, one of my brothers knows it, and the rest of you just want us to suffer in the name of “not wasting money”.

  • P J Evans

    Whole milk is completely undrinkable after about three days.

    What’s whole milk? /s
    (I have dry skim milk in my fridge, for the times I actually need milk. I stopped using it for non-cooking purposes several years ago, when I stopped wanting cereal for breakfast. And it had been low-fat milk since childhood.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    ~3.25-4% milk fat. Contrast with 2%, 1% etc. Skim is basically 0% milk fat.

  • P J Evans

     Yes, I do know about that!

  • Christine

     Brussel sprouts, unlike cilantro, are a taste you can cultivate with or without the genetic marker. Especially if they’re braised and served with lemon juice.

  • LivinginVA

    Wonder if it’s the same sort of thing as cilantro.    My husband thought he was nuts because he said cilantro was like chewing on tin foil until he read an article about it.  Turns out that is true of a certain portion of the population (there’s also a group to whom it tastes like soap).

  • PepperjackCandy

    I get a metallic taste from cilantro, too.  The first few times I ate something with cilantro in it, I thought that they’d left a metal spoon in the pot for too long.  Eventually I figured out that it was the cilantro and started picking it out.  I haven’t had that metallic taste since.

    I don’t really have an opinion on Brussels sprouts. I like some brassicas raw (cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi, specifically), though. I suspect that I would feel the same about Brussels sprouts.

    My mom always overcooked her asparagus. The first time I had asparagus that was actually crunchy, it was like discovering a whole new food.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Kohlrabi!  nom nom nom

    Asparagus is great just lightly steamed.  It can be roasted, too, but roast it for more than 0.6 seconds and the texture becomes that of rope. 

    My dad often recalls his epiphany about asparagus–he hated it as a kid, because he grew up in 1950s Suburbia, U.S.A., and asparagus came in a can.  It was a revelation when he actually had it fresh.

  • Ross

     I feel extremely weird being apparently the only person in the world who gets nostalgiac for canned vegetables and finds most fresh or frozen ones to be too tough and too aggressive in flavor..

  • veejayem

    I prefer canned peas to fresh ones. But I probably wouldn’t make this admission if I had to stick my real name on it …

  • AnonymousSam

    I would, but I can’t, so ha.

    But yeah, I prefer many canned vegetables as well. Peas and carrots certainly. We’ve been growing fresh peas (of many varieties) on the vine in our garden for the last few years and I’ve had ample opportunity to decide that I can’t stand them.

    The only times that I’ve liked our garden peas are when we started canning them, so it’s not even just that I prefer aluminum can, store-bought veggies. It really is the texture of fresh peas.

  • Carstonio

     I love sautéed asparagus because of the way it caramelizes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …that sounds tasty and I shall have to suggest it.

  • P J Evans

    Oh yeah. Asparagus can be finger food – there’s a Chinese way of roasting it that makes it really good.

  • MaryKaye

    I am really uncomfortable with the use of the technical term “sociopath” for “person whose behavior I find lacking in empathy and compassion.”  It seems to be extremely unlikely that the complainant on Libby Ann’s blog is in fact a sociopath; in any case diagnosis of mental illness based on a blog comment is not a good thing to be doing.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I would probably have called the behavior narcissistic, but I’m not exactly enthused about it as a descriptor. The total self-absorption in one’s own worldview that narcissism connotes is a rather valid description of the way these persecuted hegemons believe, I think.

  • Hth

     I agree, and worse than that, it makes it sound as if something relatively random has afflicted these people: an illness, or a genetic abnormality of some sort.  Some people are just born sociopaths, and that is what it is; all you can do is try to work out how best to support them in order to become contributing members of society in spite of a natural disadvantage.

    These people aren’t just born arrogant, vicious hypocrites.  They’re carefully cultivated, like hateful little bonsai trees, kept small through restriction, binding, and precision mutilations.   None of their disadvantages (in the realm of moral decency, at least) are natural or inevitable.

  • stardreamer42

     They’re carefully cultivated, like hateful little bonsai trees, kept
    small through restriction, binding, and precision mutilations.

    QFT. Rodgers & Hammerstein made the same point (though not quite as eloquently as this!) 60 years ago in their song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”.

  • Alan Alexander

     To each his or her own. Personally, I cannot think of a word better than “sociopath” for someone who is lacking in empathy and compassion. Except maybe “horrible.”

  • Water_Bear

    But the problem is that the term is factually incorrect; “sociopaths” (people with Psychopathy / APD) are an actual demographic group, roughly 1% of the population, with a diagnosable psychiatric condition. Psychopaths are also highly unlike most Fundies; they have little to no fear response, are virtually immune to punishment or therapy, and are largely incapable of sustained effort.

    Until they make a “Douchebag” entry in the DSM we’re going to have to accept that people can just be entitled dicks without actually having a heritable personality disorder.

  • DavidMyers

     Well stated and very true.

  • Marc Mielke

    Horrible works. So does ‘selfish’. I’m sure a lot of other words could work without medicalizing a significant portion of the American people. I’m pretty sure a country with ~25% sociopaths would quickly become a failed state. 

  • fiona64

     Except we do have approximately 25 percent of the population that fits the definition.  Read The Sociopath Next Door for some enlightenment.  Not all sociopaths are violent (people tend to make that assumption).  Many are highly functioning businesspeople, for instance, because the traits of sociopaths are valued in today’s economic climate.  It was a fascinating and disturbing read.

  • Charles

    MaryKaye, I couldn’t agree more.   The article makes a good point, but its sad to see the author being reactive and name calling.  That’s being dragged down to the level of many of the intolerant fundamentalists, as tempting as that may be.  More effective to take the high ground, than to get defamatory and inaccurate.  

  • Slow Learner

    Fred has been calling out bad behaviour amongst Evangelicals for *years*. He had been doing it for years before I found his blog, and that was a while ago now.
    I can forgive him more than a little snark by now, as they keep doing the same things, often even bigger.

  • PsychMajor

    sociopathy is not a mental illness.

  • AnonymousSam

    It is when it’s considered synonymous with or an anachronism of antisocial personality disorder. Is this seriously such a fine point with psychology pedants? (Genuine question. Psychology was my major in college too. The worst my professors would do if anyone referred to sociopathy or psychopathy was refer them to the proper terminology and possibly rant a little about Hollywood’s misuse of the terms.)

  • abb3w

     It might be more accurate to guess “high Social Dominance Orientation”. Altemeyer (mentioned by someone else) outlines that a bit.

  • fiona64

     Considering that, statistically speaking, about 25 percent of the population are sociopaths (many of them are highly-functioning business executives) and not all sociopaths are dangerous, I respectfully disagree.  The chief symptom of sociopathic disease is lack of empathy or concern for anyone other than self.  It cannot be resolved because sociopaths do not recognize that they have a problem.  Not all sociopaths are Charles Manson.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Robert Hare coined the term “subcriminal psychopaths” for such people.

  • cipher

    I haven’t read the blog post in question, but decades of observation off conservative evangelicals has convinced me that the majority do, in fact, qualify as psychopaths. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that someone who is comfortable with the notion of billions of human beings tormented for eternity isn’t profoundly mentally ill. The attitudes they manifest are those currently defined by the DSM as being symptomatic of Antisocial Personality Disorder – lack of empathy, willingness (even eagerness) to see others suffer – which itself falls under the umbrella of psychopathy.

    Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that is strongly suggestive of a neurological foundation for ideological orientation in general, fundamentalism/authoritarianism in particular. At this point, you’d have to work very hard to convince me that the vast majority of fundamentalists aren’t congenital psychopaths.

  • PrestonWheatley

    There is a quite a difference between a clinical sociopath and sociopathic behavior. The attitudes being identified here do meet the definition of sociopathic. I wouldn’t presume to know how pervasive those attitudes are in other aspects of the commenter’s life.

  • Guest

    You know what else is good with brussel sprouts… bacon. Cut in half, sauteed with bacon and onions and a little olive oil… yum.

  • Eleriero

     And that’s exactly how I cook it. No wonder it tastes so good!

  • Darakou

    But Brussels sprouts really do taste foul! Your broiling is just a way to try and hide that.

    But seriously, I remember telling my sister that here in Australia, the population is 60% Christian, according to census data, I  think in response to her claiming Christians as a minority. Her response was dispute the claim to Christianity made by people who self identify  as such without regularly attending church. In hindsight, I should have pointed out that maybe the Catholics can definitively say if someone’s out of the tribe, but we Protestants can’t just overturn anyone’s claim to Christianity. I remember I took the line of questioning why would millions of people would write “Christian” on their census forms if they weren’t Christian?

  • Deird

    I remember I took the line of questioning why would millions of people
    would write “Christian” on their census forms if they weren’t Christian?

    1) Because the more Catholics there are in the neighbourhood, the more likely the neighbourhood is to end up with a Catholic school – which tend to be good schools.
    2) Because writing “Christian” on the forms is what you do.

    I know many people who have never attended church (except for funerals, etc) and have no plans to attend one – but they still have a church they’ll write down on their census forms.

    I know many people who write down “Catholic” because they were baptised as one, even though they haven’t set foot in a Catholic church since confirmation.

    I know many people who are atheists, and have been for decades, and only started writing “atheist” in the last census.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Same. Heaps of people I know write down some denomination of Christian because…well, they were baptised/christened into that faith and they’ve never formally renounced it, it just has nothing to do with their lives any more but I guess technically…

  • Tapetum

     Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman described this phenomenon well in Good Omens. There’s a character described as an Anglican because while he never went to church, the church he didn’t go to was the local Anglican church. He would never have considered not going to the local Catholic church.

  • Makabit

    Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman described this phenomenon well in Good Omens. There’s a character described as an Anglican because while he never went to church, the church he didn’t go to was the local Anglican church. He would never have considered not going to the local Catholic church.

    Years ago, I read a piece by an American Catholic photographer who wandered into a Protestant neighborhood in Belfast during the 12th of July festivities. He was asked his religion. He says that if he’d had the guts, he would have told them that he was a Catholic, which meant that he didn’t attend a different church from the one they didn’t attend, but he was afraid of being lynched, so he told them he was a Jew. He says he’s quite proud of being one of a very small and select group of people who have claimed to be Jewish to avoid religious persecution.

    They quoted some anti-Semitic jingle and gave him a drink.

  • Ross

     I’m surprised they didn’t ask him if he was a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew.

  • Jamoche

    Since it took me a while to track it down, and then I saw your post:

    He quite liked nuns. Not that he was a, you know, left-footer or anything like that. No, when it came to avoiding going to church, the church he stolidly avoided going to was St. Cecil and All Angels, no-nonsense C. of E., and he wouldn’t have dreamed of avoiding going to any other.

  • Münchner Kindl

     It’s also a very traditional Catholic* and not protestant line of reasoning to measure whether you’re Christian by how often you attend Church.

    The logic was: the commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy means that you must go to Church service/ mass at least once on Sundy. Also, you need to take communion at least once a year, which can only be properly be dispensed by a priest.

    Martin Luther realized that you don’t need priests, you can talk directly with God, so the whole power structure is irrelevant for protestants. During the centuries of reformation and counter-reformation, the protestants could always meet at home for bible study and service, and the head of the household often had a family bible for that.

    And going by scripture, Jesus said to clothe the naked and feed the hungry (when seperating the sheep from the goats), not to go to service, pray a certain amount or read the Bible often enough. So living a Christian life by helping others makes you a much more Real True Christian than going to Church because your spouse/ parent forces you. (A good many nominal Christians – In Name Only – go to Church because of social convention or because they think they have a contract with God, and by fulfilling their end – going to service on Sunday – God has to fulfill his end: not letting anything bad happen to them or their family.)

    * doctrine through Martin Luther and at least until Vaticanum II; I don’t know if they officially changed it since then.

  • Gretchen Robinson

    I was a hospice chaplain for 6 years.  Most non-religious people would assert, 
    “don’t get me wrong, I believe in god and all, I just don’t go to church.”  That was their attempt to mollify me (they expected I was super religious because of the role).  In truth they we just trying to get through a tough time and most did not believe in a god.   I had a 99 year old woman tell me, “who can believe that nonsense.”

  • Rob Marold

    The only use for a catholic school is to provided an environment for children who are mentally disabled. Despite their impairment, they can still get a passing grade because these schools have lower standards of education and testing. If you think this is wrong then look at the data from the standard testing. I have never seen a private school within the top ten places. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, that totally explains why my siblings and I had so much better educational experiences at Our Lady of Fatima Elementary than at Jeff Davis Elementary. Even with the pesky ‘Thursday Mass’ bit.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Also, holy ableism, Batman.

  • Deird

    In Australia last year, the 16th top primary school was Catholic. The 15th top secondary school was Catholic.

    In other words, you’re talking out of your arse. Shut up.

  • LivinginVA

    Some of the extreme evangelicals will openly say you have no right to identify yourself as Christian unless you believe what they do.  I’ve had folks tell me that it is a sin and mockery to call myself a Christian – I belong to a denomination that supports same sex marriage.  

  • Nikolas Z

    Church attendance figures (which in Australia are very much lower than 60%) are a more meaningful indicator of genuine religious affiliation. To some extent, the misleading census figures are a generational thing. Younger people with no religion have few qualms about saying so in a census, whereas their older relatives, who may be equally non-religious, often still think it’s too “controversial” to choose “no religion” in official forms – it seems somehow impolite or vaguely anti-establishment. They’ll call themselves Christian usually on the grounds that they believe in “do unto others” etc, not because they actually subscribe to Christianity as a supernatural belief system.

  • Guest

    I also have a problem with calling these people sociopaths. I can see that as a group entity they have a group sociopathic tendency, but don’t all groups to one degree or another? That is one of the problems with corporations as “people”… they have no empathy and are purely driven by the profit motive. But the people in the corporation may be very caring in other ways.
    As Libby Anne said (and someone else… there was a video on YouTube on why it’s important to call out *racism* but not call people *racist*), using epithets only closes minds.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    there was a video on YouTube on why it’s important to call out *racism* but not call people *racist*

    You’re thinking, I think, of a rather excellent talk by Jay Smooth, which I shan’t look up now because I’m in work. Yes, I know the word excellent is redundant before the phrase by Jay Smooth, but still, this one was even more excellent than most.


  • patter

    Mmmmmm….Brussels sprouts.

    Funny though…I find Franklin Graham bitter and revolting.

  • Gretchen Robinson

    Remember when George Bush I hated broccoli? It’s the same thing.  All are members of the cabbage family.  And the paranoid Rethuglicans are cabbage heads, or have been chewing the same cud for far too long.  An old youth group leader my class had years ago said, after we got in a snit about something, “the more you chew it the tougher it gets!”  Repubs take note.   

  • P J Evans

    yum, Brussels sprouts. Steamed, with butter and pepper.  (I’m not a super-taster, so they don’t bother me.)

  • Hexep

    We don’t got Brussels sprouts over here.

    People who have been taught how to hate, however…

  • Deird

    I remember my mother suddenly discovering that almost no vegies should be boiled for very long – and start either boiling things for under 20 seconds, or cooking them in a totally different way.

    Her cooking suddenly became much tastier…

  • veejayem

    I spent my childhood firmly believing that sausages were only available in black, with a thick coating of carbon. My mother wasn’t a bad cook, just easily distracted.

  • Patrick McGraw

    I spent my childhood firmly believing that sausages were only available
    in black, with a thick coating of carbon. My mother wasn’t a bad cook,
    just easily distracted.

    It is for this exact reason that scrambled eggs taste wrong to me unless they have been overdone to the point of being dehydrated.

  • Becka Sutton

    Brussel Sprouts taste incredibly bitter to me. It’s only the last few years I’ve even been able to stomach them with effort and I still refuse to have them if given a choice. I love all the other Brassicas however.

  • stardreamer42

    May I just mention here that the term “Judeo-Christian” has no meaningful definition; it decodes as “Christians, but we’ll throw a sop to the Jews to keep them quiet”. Many of the people who throw it around say other things which are appallingly anti-Semitic. 

  • 65snake

     Well, since christianity  basically branched off from judaism, “judeo-christian”  is not an inaccurate descriptor, and the christian holy book includes the jewish holy book.

  • Dave

     Disqus is being its usual helpful self wrt identifying what this is a reply to, so sorry if I’m missing context here.

    Insofar as “judeo-christian” is used as an identifier of the shared subset of text, practices, etc., I have no problem with the term. E.g., neither keeping kosher nor using a cross as a holy symbol are judeo-christian practices, but treating the Old Testament as scripture is.

    In the same sense, we can talk about “islamo-christian” practices, or “christo-buddhist” practices, or various other overlaps.

    That said, I generally doubt that “judeo-christian” is being used to mean that in practice.

  • P J Evans

    ‘Jeudeo-Christian’ as a term is generally used by conservative/evangelical Christians who seem to prefer Moses and Leviticus to the teachings of Jesus. (What they really seem to mean is ‘our way or no way’.)

  • ShifterCat

    “Judeo-Christian values” is one of those terms that conservative ideologues use when they want Christian primacy, but don’t want to admit it.  There’s nothing “Judeo” about insisting on keeping a Jesus picture prominently displayed in a public school, for instance.

    It’s also a none-too-subtle snub of Islam, even though the three religions have the same roots.  A more accurate term would be “Abrahamic”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Well, since christianity basically branched off from judaism, “judeo-christian” is not an inaccurate descriptor, and the christian holy book includes the jewish holy book.

    It is inaccurate when attempting to use Judaism and Jewish texts to support things that Christians believe and Jews do not. Which is, in my experience, most of the time the term is used.

  • Makabit

    Well, since christianity  basically branched off from judaism, “judeo-christian”  is not an inaccurate descriptor, and the christian holy book includes the jewish holy book.

    I’d say that as used it is an inaccurate descriptor, since it assumes that Judaism and Christianity as they are currently practiced are both being given weight and value by the term. Judaism has an entire canon of law which is not acknowledged by Christianity, nor included is it included simply because the Tanach is incorporated into the Christian Bible.

    This is important, when you get into issues like ‘well, Judeo-Christian tradition says XYZ about ABC,” and what they mean is ‘my Christian interpretation of the text says, and if you tell me that rabbinic Judaism interprets otherwise, I’m gonna look at you vaguely and keep going’.

  • Ross

    Particularly failtastic is when they cite “Judeo-christian tradition” in defense of strict abortion limitations, completely overlooking that actual modern Jewish tradition is that when the mother’s health including future fertility or mental health is in jeopardy, abortion isn’t simply “permissible”, it’s approved.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Way I hear it, it’s less ‘approved’, more ‘all but mandatory’.

  • Ross

    I nearly wrote that, in fact, but when I went back and checked my sources, I couldn’t find a cite putting that strongly

  • Alan Alexander

    It’s perversely amusing to me that we are now debating whether it is ethically proper to refer to a group of people obviously lacking in empathy or compassion as “sociopaths” or not when they, if shown our discussions and asked for an opinion, would probably not hesitate to shriek “EVVILLLL! PURE SATAN-WORSHIPING EVILLLL!”

  • AnonymousSam

    Most of them do have empathy and compassion. You can see it if you belong to their particular tribe, familial or social circle. If you’re an outsider, witnessing it just tends to become a bit more rare.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s perversely amusing to me that we are now debating whether it is ethically proper to refer to a group of people obviously lacking in empathy or compassion as “sociopaths” or not when they, if shown our discussions and asked for an opinion, would probably not hesitate to shriek “EVVILLLL! PURE SATAN-WORSHIPING EVILLLL!”

    Perhaps this is because we don’t wish to emulate said people?

  • Charles

    So we should drop to their level?

  • anonymous




  • Gary Leach

    This is the fundamental way…

  • LL

    Certainly worth pointing out yet again (with proof!) how oblivious these people are. But it doesn’t surprise me. 

    I also don’t think they count as true sociopaths. Sadly, I think that would be unfair to actual sociopaths. Sociopaths (supposedly) can’t feel empathy (they can recognize it, they just don’t feel it themselves). I think these people can feel empathy, just not for everybody. Calling them sociopaths gives them an excuse they really don’t deserve. They’re not incapable of seeing the truth, they just refuse to acknowledge it. They’re worse than sociopaths. Most of them know better, but it serves their interests not to admit it.

    I am willing to acknowledge I could be wrong about this, but … (shrug). My two bits. 

  • Ruby_Tea

    …in some states we cannot even have private Bible study groups in our homes because it constitutes an illegal gathering…

    Wow…they really do think the world is already Atheistopia, don’t they?

    /Ruby, lover of roasted Brussels sprouts and cilantro, though probably not together

  • fraser

     Actually this is a halfway valid complaint. There have been cases of people having prayer or Bible study groups in their home and getting a code-enforcement violation: Some neighbor with a grudge complained that it was a “house of worship” and improperly zoned for that.
    But only half because it’s not state law, and it also happens to Jewish groups (probably more). And, of course, Muslims have trouble even building houses of worship in legally zoned sites.

  • P J Evans

     I suspect it was more about having all the cars parked on the street when someone else was going to be having company.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I heard a good story about that sort of thing, actually. Somebody found out about a Wiccan circle in their neighborhood and had a fit, and I forget the details of the fit but it ended with a law proposed that, as the Wiccans told the Baptists, would prohibit Christians from having prayer groups in people’s houses. So the Baptists and Wiccans had a joint fit right back, and the law didn’t pass.
    Always good to hear about interfaith cooperation. There’s never enough.

  • fiona64

     That one was a real puzzle to me.  How on earth would “they” (for whatever value of ‘they” you care to insert) know what you were up to in your home, what you were reading, etc.?  That’s delusional paranoia, right there.

  • Josefthehook

    No one said sociopaths were people “lacking in empathy and compassion”

    He said:
    “There’s a name for people who believe they, and their beliefs, should always be kowtowed to no matter what …
    … they’re called sociopaths.”

    Sociopaths think the world should always bend over backwards for them, without regard for anyone else’s feelings, rights, or safety.
    Which is exactly what DOMA and the AHCA mandate controversy was. An attempt to get America to bend over backwards for homophobic Evangelicals, without regard for the feelings, rights, or safety of gays, women and their children. Its sociopathic by the definition used.

  • Ross


    No one said sociopaths were people “lacking in empathy and compassion”

    Someone did.  They wrote this little book, the DSM-IV. It’s the canonical source for the definition of what “sociopathy” is.

    “people who believe they, and their beliefs, should always be kowtowed to no matter what” isn’t what the term means

  • Josefthehook

     First off, Sociopathy isn’t a recognized diagnosis. It doesnt appear anywhere in the new DSM.

    Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR), as an Axis II personality disorder
    characterized by “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and
    violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early
    adolescence and continues into adulthood.”[1]

    No mention of a lack of empathy or compassion. Those are the words some commenter used, and you’re throwing in with. You can feel empathy and ignore it. You can feel compassion to some but not to others. And while they are general red flag qualities of “bad” people, they have nothing to do with being a “sociopath”. “Sociopathy” has to do with violating the rights of others freely, no matter the cause or reason or associated feelings.

    Or exactly what i said before…

  • AnonymousSam

    Are you writing off “lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another” as having nothing to do with empathy and compassion? They would seem to be strongly related to me.

    Most textbooks I have read on the matter (not an insubstantial number) have also conflated sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder, even going so far as to give alternative names such as “sociopathic personality disorder” in reference to older diagnoses criteria. I’ve seen a few people (especially those who prefer Millon’s classification) separate them, usually when differentiating between violent and nonviolent patients, but never anyone who refused to admit a link between them.

    Forgive me if I neglect to respond further, depending on how it goes. I don’t believe I have the authority to speak well on this subject.

  • arcseconds

     AnonymousSam, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

    Most of the people who venture an opinion on in the internet are doing well if they’ve read more than two webpages on what they’re talking about.

    Anyone who’s read two or more textbooks on a subject is massively well-qualified by comparison.

    I’d certainly be interested in whatever you have to say on the matter.  I’m going to encourage you by backing you up on the following points:

    *) DSM-IV isn’t the alpha and omega of all diagnosis. 
    *) ICD-10 lists ‘sociopathic’ under Dissocial Personality Disorder
    *) the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology gives sociopathy as a synonym for antisocial personality disorder (and the entry for APD contains similar language to that you just quoted.

    *) evangelicals aren’t sociopaths.  The diagnostic focus does seem to be on the common pattern of violating social norms, rather than lack of empathy per se.

    And Evangelicals don’t have any problems following their own social norms.  And so long as you don’t challenge those norms, they’re often really nice people.  Same as everyone else, really. Also, it happens often enough that if you change the social environment of evangelicals, their attitudes to wider society changes (sometimes quite dramatically — I’ve known more than one whom this has happened to).  Again, this isn’t special to evangelicals, but rather typical human behaviour.

  • AnonymousSam

    The problem with psychology is that there are countless divisions in what practitioners feel is the best method for treatment and diagnosis. As an example, I’ve participated in the debate about removing Schizophrenia from the DSM and divide up its components into separate diagnoses. At the time I was in college, the first edition of the DSM-IV had just been published and we were taught that Schizophrenia fell into three categories- Delusional, Disorganized and Catatonic (Catatonic wasn’t the word, but I can’t recall what it was and that’s what it’s being called now). According to Wikipedia, there are two additional subtypes in the DSM-IV-TR–Undifferentiated and Residual–and the people putting together the DSM-V want to remove all five and reclassify them.

    So yeah, on the one hand, I can fully understand disagreement on what constitutes Antisocial Personality Disorder or sociopathy. On the other hand, I have my own experiences to draw from and one would think I’d be somewhat of an authority on the subject. On the third hand, I have a problem where I listen to the words coming out of my mouth/from my fingers and recognize how often I begin a sentence with the letter “I” and start to think it sounds ridiculous (in other words, I am narcissistic, but I also have low self-esteem).

    It’s enough to make me wish I could afford treatment, because I’m curious whether a new clinician would affirm my previous diagnosis. If you ask a psychiatrist how you cure APD, he or she would probably say “You don’t, really.” Personality disorders as a genre earn their designation by consisting of negative personality types that are inflexible, slow to change and establish patterns of behavior that the patient will often revert to in times of stress or inattentiveness. You can treat them, but curing them is kind of like curing alcoholism — one day at a time keeping a stern eye so the patient doesn’t fall off the wagon.

    Yet here I am, not in prison, not in therapy, not on medication, and even if I struggle with my nature, the fact that I recognize that and override my impulses to demonstrate concern for others would be considered an anomaly in every sense of the word. I’ve never heard of anyone in my shoes who wasn’t just faking it to keep out of prison, much less had taken long-term commitments that make falling off the wagon a non-option.

  • DavidMyers

     That’s true if we are using the language of psychiatry to define these terms, which I favor, as opposed to amateur armchair “psychology”.

  • Ross

    I can’t believe that I’m going to say this.

    But the proper way to serve brussel sprouts is steamed. And drenched in butter.

    (Though really I’d prefer a nice cheese sauce, but my wife thinks I’m too free-handed with the cheese.)

  • Invisible Neutrino


  • DavidMyers

    Mmmmmm!  Free-handed cheese.  Just the kind I love.  I keep a small supply of up to seven different cheeses in the fridge at a time  that I use freely in and on parts of my meals and just for snacking on (in small quantities).  Helps that I have a local grocery with an extensive cheese selection, all of which can be “tried” upon request.  Mmmm.

  • Nikolas Z

    There’s actually not much difference between steamed and lightly boiled brussels sprouts. I usually lightly boil them, then cut them in half and serve with a little butter. People who hate brussels sprouts hate them no matter how they’re cooked – they just don’t like the taste, which I find pleasant.

  • cjmr

    Looking at the survey categories, WTF are ‘Notional Christians’?

  • Launcifer

    English, probably.

    Seriously, though, I imagine it’s meant to be people who were perhaps raised without being force-fed the hardline crap during childhood and go to church for weddings, funerals and (occasionally) Christmas.

  • Turcano

    After Googling the phrase and turning up exactly one relevant result, it appears to mean a “cultural” Christian, analogous to “cultural Judaism.”

  • stardreamer42

     That’s a good question. My first guess was that it referred to what I call “nominal Christians” — people who self-identify as Christian, but are not observant; they may go to church on Christmas and Easter Sunday, but not otherwise, and religion is not a major factor in their lives.

    However, taking a second look at the category titles, there’s a significant chance that what they mean by it is traditional Christians — those who are neither evangelical nor born-again. Possibly including Catholics, possibly not.

  • AnonymousSam

    What a thing to walk in on! So, um. While there are narcissistic sociopaths, narcissism is not a defining trait of sociopathy by standard definitions.

    I think it best if I leave it at that.

  • Lunch Meat

    Sam, I just want to say that you are one of the most gracious and thoughtful people I know online.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t know how, when I’ve put my foot in it plenty of times on this very blog, but I’ll tentatively accept your charitable words and raise you one blushyface.

    Also, brussel sprouts are quite good with a bit of ketchup.

  • SisterCoyote


    Ketchup? Ye gods and little fishies, that is just horrific. Blasphemy. Heresy! Utter and complete madness!

    (But then, I can’t stand ketchup on anything but burgers, and since becoming a vegetarian I’ve had it maybe twice. So I’m hardly unbiased.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Sweetness and acid to balance the bitterness. I tried it once and it made Brussels sprouts edible for me. Before that, I couldn’t stand the flat bitter flavor, with or without butter.

    (I now have a similar problem with scrambled eggs and shredded potato hash…)

  • SisterCoyote

    Ah, that’d be it then. I don’t really taste much bitterness with them; I’m probably just missing that gene.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I am an omni-arian, but I hear you on where ketchup should be put. :)

  • Rae

    Absolutely. I can’t count how many evangelicals I’ve heard say “You can’t pray in school any more!” However, I was in high school within the last decade – well after the “people can’t pray in school” trope started – and me and my friends prayed in school. Hell, we could’ve stood on a cafeteria table and prayed at the top of our lungs if we wanted to, and the faculty would’ve just told us that we weren’t allowed to stand on tables.

    A similar example on a more local level would’ve been the Nativity Scene Debacle in Santa Monica, which Libby Anne also mentioned on her blog – while the signs the atheist group put up were indeed confrontational, when the Christians and atheists both were entered into a lottery to dole out the spaces, the Christians cried “discrimination”, and when the city council or whoever decided that it was too big of a mess to bother and said that nobody would get the spaces, once again the Christians claimed that they were being “discriminated against” even though in both cases they were receiving the exact same treatment as the atheist group!

  • Baby_Raptor

    Same. I met with a group of Christians in the front office every day for three of my four high school years to pray. I stopped going my Senior year because the hypocrisy of going through the motions while my doubts worked themselves out was starting to eat at me, not because it became illegal.

    What these people are whining about when they say “school prayer is illegal” is that they can’t force everyone to pray to their god. 

  • Joshua

    Even “See You At The Pole” perpetuates the ignorance among many that you can’t pray in school – that’s why they have a day set aside to stick it to the man. It’s not illegal to pray, or even pray in groups – the only thing that is illegal is mandatory, teacher-led, corporate prayer in class. Students can even pray with teachers, as long as the students initiate.  

  • Sue White

    Brussel sprouts are best pickled.  You’re welcome.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Brussel sprouts are best pickled.  You’re welcome.

    OMG you just put a thought in my head: Brussel sprout kimchi.

    makes shopping list for cabbage season

    So, I dislike cilantro. And any time it’s come up in conversation, I have had friends enthusiastically and knowingly cut me off with, “Oh, you must be one of those genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap!” I have to wait for them to calm down a bit so I can explain, “No, I don’t think cilantro tastes like soap. I think it tastes like cilantro. I simply dislike cilantro.”

    So I cringe when I hear, “You don’t like brussel sprouts? Your parents must have overboiled it/you must be a supertaster/you must be genetically disposed to find brassicas overwhelmingly bitter.” There’s another possibility: Maybe they just don’t like brussel sprouts.

    So. To my brassica-disliking friends: I respect you. I respect your likes and dislikes. I pity you, because I think brussel sprouts when prepared well are like candy, but I respect you. Salud!

  • Makabit

    I’ve never been sure if I am a super-taster or not. I can taste that brassicas taste bitter. I just like bitter vegetables. I have no clue what that means.

  • Carstonio

    For a long time I didn’t know that supertasters were real – I had assumed that They Might Be Giants made up the concept.

  • mud man

    delusional sociopaths who hate the rest of society

    No doubt there’s a persecution complex and these people need to get out more, but it’s a leap to universally attribute that to hate. And they are very far from “failure to conform to social norms” (DSM-IV) within their own society. Is “poorly informed” the same as “delusional”?? Rhetorical exageration is really not helpful, in fact it’s the problem you are trying to address.

    Brussels sprouts: It also improves them vastly if you raise them yourself and don’t harvest them until after a few good freezes … makes them very markedly sweeter. Commercial farmers can’t do it like that. 

  • Otrame

    Here’s the thing.  As an atheist, I see this not as fundamentally religious, nor, at its core, pathological.  The idea that Christians are being persecuted is political. A group of people, in the pursuit of power, have chosen to tell the lies listed in the commenter from LA’s blog.  They do so not out of any belief that it is true, but because it furthers their cause–power.  

    The problem then becomes, why do so many people fall for such obvious nonsense? 
    In part, the problem is the need to remain within the tribe (though I think “tribal” is so over-used that I have started flinching every time I see it).  

    In part because, as Orwell noted, if you tell a lie long enough and often enough, and make sure people are isolated from those telling the truth, you can get people who believe war is peace and slavery is freedom.  

    But most importantly, because it is politics couched in religious terms, using phrasing that is very similar to the phrases that encourage belief in the supernatural, where there is not and cannot be any evidence, so evidence is not important.  Those who spend most of their time interacting within a sphere where such phrasing is rampant feel no need for evidence. They simply believe.

    I do not think that the commenter and most of those that answered that survey saying that they are persecuted are sociopaths.  First, because, as was mentioned upthread, sociopath is not a term meaning “idiotic asshole who is wrong about something”.  It has a very specific and clinical meaning.  Secondly, because in most aspects of their daily lives these people are perfectly capable of detecting bullshit.  But they have been trained since they were wearing diapers to set aside critical thinking when dealing with anything to do with religion.  And they apply these standards to the matter in question because the professional liars very deliberately use language that tells them to turn off their bullshit detectors. 

    And finally, I think that  what they believe is not, in most cases, delusional.  Delusions are generated internally.  These lies were engineered and deliberately foisted on people with defective bullshit detectors.  

  • mud man

    …btw, the “On Religious Freedom” link is from Homebrewed Theology, not Tripp and Bo’s Homebrewed Christianity.

  • Dogfacedboy

    I had to take my mother to the ER a few months ago, before the election.  While there, the doctor saw that her blood pressure was through the roof, and asked why she hadn’t been taking her BP meds.  Among her reasons, Mom said that if Obama got reelected, it would just be a matter of time before he started chopping all of our heads off, anyway.  Needless to say, the doctor was rather surprised and confused by that answer.

    She’s read all of the Left Behind books (and made me read them, too, which is why I’ve been coming to this blog–it’s my support group) and is terrified that our president could be the antichrist, even though he’s not from Romania (or the UN).  Long story short, she sees persecution everywhere she looks.  And I’m trying very hard to show her that it’s not really there, and she’s only making herself miserable with all the fear she’s inflicting on herself.  She should be enjoying her golden years, not peeking out from behind a curtain, wondering when they’re going to come for her.

  • Makabit

    She’s read all of the Left Behind books (and made me read them, too, which is why I’ve been coming to this blog–it’s my support group) and is terrified that our president could be the antichrist, even though he’s not from Romania (or the UN).

    I’m sorry she, and you, are going through this. I would add, though, that Barack Obama looks very little like Robert Redford at any age, which might be a bit of a consolation. Or not.

  • bzeealbub

    Soon… very soon.

  • Jessica_R

    And as always I’m back to my “sometimes an asshole is just an asshole” hobby horse. I do not care about that commentator’s feelings, or if she’s making herself unhappy, just that she be prevented from doing harm to someone else. Seriously, she can go fuck herself. 

    Oh and mashed brussel sprouts are quite nice, steam them soft then mash with with olive oil, chopped garlic, and grated Parmesan. 

  • veejayem

    Thank you for the recipe! I am definitely going to try it.

  • Chris Hadrick

    people who like brussell sprouts are wrong, they’re terrible.  


  • EllieMurasaki

    I think I’ma get me some Brussels sprouts and cook ’em up, entirely on the strength of most Slacktivites say they’re good and Chris Hadrick says they’re bad.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    Try simmering the Brussels sprouts in chicken broth–which cuts the bitterness considerably–just until you can poke them with a fork.  Then drain off all but about a tablespoon of the broth, whisk in a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, and toss that with the sprouts.

  • Joshua

    Interesting post. I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I agree that many Evangelical Christians (not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that) have a delusional persecution complex. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, the examples that they usually provide demonstrating persecution of Christianity are usually laughable and further the annoyance.  On the other hand, what can be said about Evangelicals can be said about pretty much all of Americans, including minorities. I’m not denying real persecution of minorities for various things (illegal immigrants and GLBTQ come to mind); but it is as fallacious as it is widespread to assume that minorities are being persecuted on the basis that they are minorities. It feels like everyone in this country plays the persecuted minority card whenever they don’t get their way, in the hopes that they will get their way. It hasn’t skipped my notice that there is one noticeable difference: white Evangelicals are, in fact, a majority; but the underlying attitude is as American as apple pie, and it doesn’t matter which group we’re talking about. It seems like every time I read the news there’s some group crying havoc, claiming racism or discrimination when they don’t get. . . something. . . anything. . . the way they want it. Evangelicals need to calm the freak down. White people need to calm the freak down. White Evangelicals need to calm the freak down. But at the same time, EVERYONE needs to just calm the freak down. I think a lot of people are filled with fear and mis-information, and I don’t think ignorance discriminates on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. In this country, it would appear that stupidity is the great equalizer. On another note, of the Evangelicals who even know who Anne Hutchinson was (of the Evangelicals who even consider the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay “Evangelicals”), I’ve never met a single one who believes it was SHE who was doing the persecuting, and not John Winthrop. 

    When you agreed with Christian, saying, “That survey finding cannot be explained other than, in Christian’s words again, as evidence of ‘an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under,” I think the word “fear,” aided by misinformation and a twisted perception of reality, which inevitably leads to hatred, is a better description. 

    Your comment about Eric Metaxas being a pseudo-intellectual poser is inflammatory and completely unnecessary. Ridiculing someone you don’t like or disagree with is more than un-civil: it’s un-Christlike.  

  • MikeJ

    not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that

    Probably because very, very, very few people have ever met a black evangelical who thinks Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheist muslim nazi, but it’s pretty common to hear it from white folks.

  • Joshua

    Really. That’s the reason? And statistically, exactly how many white Evangelicals, without relying on anecdotal evidence, believe President Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheist muslim nazi? Very, very, very many? If you’re going to say that very, very, very few people believe X, then you’re implying that very, very, very many white people believe X, no?

  • Wednesday

      (not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that)

    ….Black Evangelicals actually do face a certain amount of actual oppression in the US (albeit due to their skin color, not their religion).
    ….White Evangelicals are considered a key part of the political base of many Republican politicians who have been making dogwhistle (and sometimes air horn) racist statements about Obama.
    …. it’s a way to quietly challenge the “white is default” problem that we have in the US.
    …. Fred has been making the case over several posts that the history of the Religious Right in the US is bound up in issues of race (abortion as a sort-of replacement for desegregation, eg).

    Take your pick?

  • Joshua

    I think it would be best if re-read my whole post, understand it, and then decided whether or not you want to respond to an aside placed in parentheticals. 

  • Wednesday

    I thought you were asking a question you wanted an answer to. So I answered it, admittedly using things you already probably knew, since I figured you wouldn’t have asked the question if you’d made the connection between all of those things. I also figured that if you’d made those connections, you probably would’ve known better than to use the phrase “playing the minority card when things don’t go their way” in a way that included reference to legitimately oppressed groups.

  • SisterCoyote

    It’s an interesting thing, the conflation of various terms with “People We Dislike.” Right now, it seems to be sociopath. I’ve also seen psychopath used, and the generic ‘lunatic,’ and I’m sure I’ve done it on multiple occasions before. It’s kinda strange, because this is, I think, why people were asked to stop calling jackasses like Glenn Beck ‘crazy.’ But I know crazy people who are pretty nice. I know people with no mental illness, disorder, or non-neurotypical label whatsoever who were utter monsters to everyone they had power over, even the slightest bit, and people with catatonic schizophrenia who were amazing, and at least one sociopath who was, for a long time, one of my best friends.

    Maybe we could just in general stop conflating any such wide labels with ‘people we don’t like’ in the future? ‘Cos it seems like some people are saying ‘sociopath’ and meaning ‘Evangelical who doesn’t care about the rest of the country/world,’ and some people are saying ‘sociopath’ and meaning people with antisocial personality disorder, or something similar. And, well, they’re really not the same thing.

  • Edo

    Just saw the results of that poll. Am I the only one who was struck by the 27% of “notional Christians” being threatened by the QUILTBAG community?

  • Loki100

    My parents insist on boiling all their vegetables  And then they never understood why my brother and I wouldn’t eat them. It was something of a revelation to me when I first tried raw or well cooked vegetables and found out how delicious they can be.

    My parents also don’t seem to believe in sauces or seasonings. It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered chicken could actually be tasty. It was always bland, dull food, like everything they served. It’s almost a perfect metaphor.

  • Sara

    I thought I hated brussell sprouts until I tried them sauteed in butter with garlic and lemon juice.  Put enough butter in just about anything and it’ll be delicious.

    It makes me so sad that so many of the Christians polled believed that LGBT people are working to take away their religious freedom.

    I am a lesbian and a Christian.  I love Jesus and I love the church.

    Some days, though, I feel like it becomes harder and harder to hold on to my faith.  I’m not depressed.  In fact, I’m often quite happy.  But so much of what used to be my religion is slipping away.  My certainty about so many things, like hell, sex outside heterosexual marriage as sin, whether some passages in the Bible should be read as factual or as fables…like sand slipping through my fingers, it’s gone.

    Instead, I believe that a good, loving God would not make people just to condemn them to eternal torment, that someday I’ll find a woman to share my life with and God will bless that union, and that God did not order his chosen people to commit genocide, no matter what it says in Joshua.

    This is more honest.  I had a hard time believing these things before anyway.  But there was something comforting in looking around at other people who also believe that and saying, “Yes, I’m doing it right.”  I miss that certainty, that sense of belonging.

    Every now and then moments of panic set in, and I find myself praying desperate prayers: “God, please, come back to me.  I miss what we once had.  I’ll change.  I’ll be celibate, or even try and be straight.  I’ll fall in line with the dogma.  Just please come back to me.”

    I found myself praying those words this morning.  Then I stopped myself, because they were an insult to the God I love.  God is not a monster and he is not abusive.  He is so very good.  He has already assured me that he loves me as I am.

    And he has never left me, not once.  Sometimes he doesn’t feel as close as he once did.  I think that part of that is that as I started coming to terms with my orientation I was so hurt and angry that I couldn’t make myself read the Bible and prayer was difficult.

    But he didn’t leave me then.  And I’ve been building that relationship back and going to an affirming church.  And this blog does my soul good.

    And being on the outside is a gift.  I get to see Jesus with new eyes.  

    I think that part of what I miss isn’t a feeling of God’s presence; it’s a feeling of safety and belonging.  I used to lead Bible studies.  Now most of the people who knew me then would say that I’ve turned my back on God, become an apostate, or was never saved to begin with.  I sometimes worry that they’re right.

    But I haven’t turned my back on God.  I’m fighting hard for my faith.

    Sorry for the long confessional.  This isn’t really what the blog was about.  I’ve been finding myself writing these long, personal posts to people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s practice for speaking with people I do know.  The people I’ve told have been wonderful about it.  But it breaks my heart to think about the friendships that I might lose.

    Thank you so much for writing this blog.  Your words mean a lot to me.

  • AnonymousSam

    This isn’t really what the blog was about.

    If you don’t tell anyone, I think I can conveniently forget to mention it too.

    So far as I’m concerned, as there’s no place for a confession except in your heart… that means here is as good a place as any, good sister.

  • Sara

    Thanks, Sam.  :)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Every now and then moments of panic set in, and I find myself praying
    desperate prayers: “God, please, come back to me.  I miss what we once
    had.  I’ll change.  I’ll be celibate, or even try and be straight.  I’ll
    fall in line with the dogma.  Just please come back to me.”

    Good lord, I used to do that when I was younger. :O

    My atheism, in part, results from the utter and complete lack of a final word on the subject in return. Kind of funny how QUILTBAG people get told to just pray the alternativeness away.

    Never works.

  • D Lowrey

    Don’t get down on yourself. I’m not gay…but do support the LGBT community. By supporting everything fundamentalists detest as a Progressive Follower of Christ…myself and others like me are just as much in the crosshairs of this group.

  • Jenny Islander

    Brussels sprouts are best, IMO, if bought fresh, halved lengthwise to let heat penetrate all of the layers of tiny leaves, and cooked just until crisp-tender by whatever method you choose.  I like to save two or three halves and put them into my morning cup of miso soup.

  • MaryKaye

    Sara, I hope you can find supportive, loving co-religionists to help rebuild your sense of belonging.  They are out there.  If you didn’t mind saying where you were, people geographically close to you might even have some suggestions where to look.

    When I had my crisis of faith in ’91 one of the things that prompted my realization I was doing my spirituality wrong was the realization that I was isolated–I didn’t feel fellowship with the people I was worshiping with, couldn’t talk to them about my hopes or fears.  The precipitating event was attending one Christian service that actually did resonate with me, and having it criticized heavily by the community for being “too Pagan”.


  • Sara

    Hi MaryKaye,

    Thanks so much.  I’ve found a wonderful church and I’m starting to rebuild that sense of community.  I know that many Christians in our area don’t recognize my church as legitimate (because there’s a bunch of LGBT people in it), but opinions are changing, slowly but surely.  And I suppose the opinions of people who believe the the phrase “LGBT Christians” is an oxymoron should stop mattering to me anyway.  :)

  • Münchner Kindl

    In many countries to even hint at being a Christian is the same as
    signing a death warrant. In our country they have taken away our right
    to pray in school, in some states we cannot even have private Bible
    study groups in our homes because it constitutes an illegal gathering,
    our organizations are being required to make the “abortion pill” a
    covered product on our insurance or be fined an absurd amount of money,
    our Christian doctors are being forced to consider if they even want to
    be doctors anymore or not because of a mandate that they must perform

    There is another huge problem with that argument. It does a real disservice to those Christians in foreign countries where the law actually forbids gatherings at home, where calling yourself Christian does put yourself in real danger during those times when the mob is raised into a frenzy by populists (Egypt, India, Sudan, ….) – but because the first-world non-persecuted myoptic “Christians” have misused the term “persecution” so thoroughly, the instinctive reaction is the backlash of  “ah, it really isn’t that bad, just overblown hysteria” and it takes a second step to remind oneself that if a neutral agency does say that in country X Christians are persecuted, that it is true and not exaggerated or lies.

    So by falsly crying wolf, they are making it difficult for people crying wolf for real to get help.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What’s the deal with the “faith segment” breakdown?

    Evangelicals; Non-evangelical born again Christians; Notional Christians; Other faiths; Skeptics.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    On the food debate, as a supertaster I shall just note the following:

    * brussels sprouts are vile and celery ruins the taste of everything

    * suggestions to make something taste good by including bacon could be restated as “eat bacon instead”.

  • P J Evans

     Well, the doughnut ball I tried that was frosted, with bacon bits in the frosting, would have been much better without the bacon bits. (Too much smoke. Doesn’t go with sugar.)

  • Damanoid

    So what I’m taking away from this poll is that America’s religious freedoms are being eroded by people who improperly cook Brussels sprouts.  Who are sociopaths.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The Brussels sprouts have mind control powers. That’s the obvious answer. 

  • Slow Learner

    Viz Barry the Time Sprout, from Armageddon: The Musical (a brilliantly insane book by Robert Rankin).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Answering my own query, I looked at some Barna stuff to find out what the hell they mean by “Notional Christian”.

    In a separate bit of research from 2012 they note that NCs comprise 43% of the electorate. Barna also uses the phrase “consider themselves to be Christian” in describing “Notional Christians”, which isn’t used for born agains. It’s pretty clearly a negative label–yeah, in name you’re a Christian but you’re not really.

    Anyway, you’re a Notional Christian if you say you’re a Christian but don’t say
    (a) you’ve made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in your life today, and
    (b) you believe that you will go to Heaven when you die because you had confessed your sins and accepted Jesus as your saviour. Faith not works!

    Apparently evangelicals have to believe Satan exists but the rest of us don’t. More interestingly, only evangelicals have to believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today”. Huh.

    In some surveys where they also ask denominational affiliation, Notional Christian tracks reasonably closely to Catholic.

    Screw you, Barna Group. That’s some dodgy research you’re shilling for.

    (Also, they call Gen X “Mosaics”. ???)

  • AnonaMiss

    As soon as I read Fred going on about sociopaths I got angry.

    Using the word “autistic” to describe people with some traits that are (rightly or wrongly) associated with autism would be absolutely recognized as offensive. I know the colloquial use of “sociopath” is significantly looser but I would have thought that here of all places…

    And not because of the progressivism.

    Serious dick move Fred.

  • AnonaMiss

    Also fresh brussels sprouts are nasty because of the produce market display case tendency to try to show Great Big Produce, which means that the fresh ones are picked well after they should be. Get the frozen baby brussels sprouts, they’ve only a hint of bitterness. In college I used to microwave up a big bowl of them and have them for dinner. Just brussels sprouts.

  • csalafia

    First, I want to thank you for the link love.

    This is something I’ve been talking about for a while, the sociopathic nature of the white, evangelical mindset.  In Karen Armstrong’s book “Battle for God”, she makes the point that as the world changes, the more those who feel threatened and that they lack control in their lives, the more they swing towards fundamentalism.  This allows those who can’t deal with a world changing that conflicts with their worldview to feel more in control over their life and their surroundings.

    It’s a dangerous path to take, as it leads to fear, hate, suspicion, and in some cases, even violence.

    This recent mix of evangelical fundamentalism with this selfish strain of libertarianism will inevitably lead to one of two ends…. anarchy or fascism.

  • Greg Dill

    I would add that this same delusional mindset and paranoia of persecution carries over to the gun control debate. It is, after all, the reason why the 2nd Amendment even exists. There is a perpetual state of fear against a non-existent tyranny that exists among gun owners, many of which are Christian. Many believe the government are out to get their guns. And, those liberals who are pushing for stricter gun control laws are stinkin’ socialists and trying to turn our country into a Fascist state. Inevitably, the name of Hitler is invoked to provide an illustration of their delusional fears. Tyranny, persecution, socialism, readiness, guns, are all keywords of those who live in fear and cry foul every time something doesn’t jive with their perceived Christian theocratic utopia.

  • Jeff

    Where in the survey does it say that the evangelical respondents were white?  Fred, the sad fact is that you are much more of a racist than the evangelicals you so bitterly loathe, because you obsess much more about skin color than they do.

    That aside, it seems to me you’re reading far too much into what appears to be a badly written survey question.  If you asked me (an evangelical) whether one set of values should “dominate” culture, it’s hard to answer; I’d want to know if the questioner meant dominate in the sense of being the majority view (in which case I’d agree), or dominate in the sense of suppressing other views (in which case I’d disagree).  And I’d want to know if it had in view “domination” by being the most popular, or being compulsory.  Of course, the survey question doesn’t allow for that level of nuance.  But judging from the overwhelming affirmative response to the 3rd item (religious freedom), it strongly suggests that your characterization of the evangelical response as hate-fueled and sociopathic is merely a case of confirmation bias on your part, and not a clear-headed objective analysis of the actual data.   

  • Lunch Meat

    the evangelicals you so bitterly loathe

    Fred’s an evangelical.

    But judging from the overwhelming affirmative response to the 3rd item (religious freedom), it strongly suggests that your characterization of
    the evangelical response as hate-fueled and sociopathic is merely a case
    of confirmation bias on your part, and not a clear-headed objective
    analysis of the actual data.

    Or that they don’t understand what religious freedom for everyone means.

  • Sara

    Jeff, part of the privilege means that people who have it don’t have to think about, or even acknowledge, their privilege.  Being white in the U.S. means that I very seldom have to think about my race.  I often don’t think of myself as white, I just think of myself as myself.  But people of other ethnicities very seldom get to do that.   Because our culture sees whiteness as “the norm”, a message is communicated in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they are “other.”  It makes sense that Fred thinks about race more than many white evangelicals.  So much of what this blog does is call out privilege.

  • CutThroughIt

    So Christians are sociopaths, people with no empathy or compassion, unless it’s people in their sphere, that they agree with.

    That certainly would explain why Christians began and sustain some of the world’s largest international relief groups, like the Salvation Army, World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse.

    Yeah, makes sense.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The Salvation Army is known to have problems dealing fairly and properly with QUILTBAG people.

    Let’s not pat ourselves on the back, CutThroughIt, mmkay?

  • AnonymousSam

    No, not “Christians.” Certain groups of people calling themselves Christians, usually conservative ideological groups, in particular those who exercise political power in an attempt to force people to conform to their beliefs. Saying “Christians” by fiat would be silly considering both the blog writer and many of the people here identify as Christians.

    Would also note, though, the Salvation Army has been reported discriminating against homosexuals and refusing to distribute “pagan” merchandise, such as Harry Potter books. They’re not above criticism.

  • spinetingler

     “Salvation Army, World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse” at least several of which discriminate against those not in their “sphere.”

  • Baby_Raptor

    The Salvation Army is massively discriminatory. I’d bet at least one other group you listed has bigotry issues as well.

    Either way, you’re setting up a strawman. Anyone can set up groups that do good things in order to get decent PR. In fact, people who regularly act like jackasses are greatly aided by doing such, because of people like you who will just look at their good actions and completely ignore proof that they do bad.