Monday, December 24, 2007

When Your Brother Turns into a Religious Loon

Fourteen years ago, my brother Mike ceased all contact with me after a family dispute. He insisted he would never write, or speak to me again. I didn't ask questions, or inquire why, I merely put it out of my mind. If he wanted nothing more to do with me, the feeling was mutual.

Three days ago, imagine my surprise when an envelope arrived with his name and address displayed prominently. Before opening the envelope I thought to myself: 'After fourteen years with no contact at all, what would he finally have to say to me, if anything?"

I opened it, and there was a Christmas card - with a full manger scene on the front (though everyone in the family knows I am an atheist) and with the words written inside by Mike's own hand: "May the Peace and Love of our Lord and SAVIOR. Jesus Christ, be with you!"

To me, if after 14 years this was his form of contact, he could as well have remained incommunicado. I mean, you don't say hoo, boo or hello to your brother in that long a time then you send a religious card when you know he's an atheist? That's like spitting in someone's beer.

Also inside was his business card which featured his web address for "Pastor Mike's" Net church. I went to his site and checked out various links wherein I saw a number of references to me painted as his "self-proclaimed atheist brother". Clearly, I was being expediently used as a stage prop for his site, to contrast his being "saved" and my being "under Satan's spell". At various other links he implored the faithful to pray for me lest Satan take me.

To take the wind out of his sails, I posted an atheist article I'd recently written about the God-Man myth - and its being plagiarized by Christians from earlier pagan sources- into his "Guest Book".

He then replied hours later, saying:

"I originally planned to delete my atheist brother's messages but decided to leave them so everyone can behold Satan's hold on him!"

Eventually, the article must have proven too Satanically powerful since he removed it as well as a more recent reply to his response. In addition, he password protected the guest book because - in his words :

" I WILL NOT allow my Lord's name to be blasphemed on this site !! , nor allow it to be used as a ' soap box ' for Satan and his demons of deception !!"

At which point I really did believe Mike to be certifiably insane. To reinforce this perception, he further added:

"Due to my atheist brother's spewing his anti - Christ rhetoric in the "Guest Book " section , I was forced to 'password protect ' it , as I REFUSE to give Satan (via this brother) , an opportunity to destroy and pollute any more souls with his 'venom' "

And to that was appended his extended "Open letter" to me recounting his "justified" reasons for locking me out of his site, even to the extent of disallowing a response to his off the wall "Open letter".

Following this segment of his missive:

"I also go by GOD'S LAW - NOT 'MANS LAW ' !! I realize that is a foreign concept to Non-Believers . I am the Lord's servant and messenger!"

I rendered a final response in an e-mail to him, which read in part:

"You're a putz, 'Pastor Mike, and always will be. You say one thing and do another, and I am not even sure you buy half the BS you've reeled out. "God's law" - "Man's law" - that's all diversion. Red herrings. At issue here is how true you are to yourself as opposed to being a pompous, posturing ass. My reading of this letter is you can dish it out, but you can't take it. You have to password protect everything in order to make sure Pastor Mike and his Thought Police encounter no "demonic words" to entrap wayward minds. Rather than provide people a chance to weigh and measure different world views and perceptions, you opt to censor.

Of course, whether Inquisitor or Witch hunter, this approach is always the fallback for the doctrinaire.

As for your “contact” via the Xmas card, it clearly had an ulterior purpose: to try to get us to your deluded “salvation”. You “ceased ignoring” us for that reason alone, not because you genuinely deigned in your heart of hearts to renew viable contact – but because it satisfied your subtext and agenda to exclusiveky renew it on YOUR terms! You wanted contact under the proviso it was understood by me that "God talk" would be included. In effect: "Hello again, and btw, take this spit in your eye, bro!"


As for "needing something" - yes I DO! I need you to remove ALL references about me from your site. Do that and we are squared away. I don't need or want to be a tool" to advance your religious pseudo-bullshit.

And also, don't bother to ever contact me again! I don't want to hear you again, or see anything from you again, ever. "


Hopefully, my religiously -blinded and reason-challenged brother will endorse that plea, and in the process make life easier for both of us. What a pity that one can choose one's friends but not one's family.

12 comments:

Jim Deardorff said...

Copernicus,

There seems to be an extreme split in your family. Too bad. Do you suppose your brother is now a creationist as well as a fundamentalist?

But here's something for you to consider. There's a large body of literature on "childhood cases of the reincarnation type," in which the past life has been identified beyond any doubt. A bibliography I use on this, and also on studies done using pastlife hypno-therapy, is here.

A strictly scientific approach has been used in gathering much of this data. Since it rules out resurrection as being real, you might be interested. OTOH, since it implies the existence of an overall Universal Consciousness, your brother might be interested. Or, it might offend you both, and thus give you something to agree upon! Yet, why not look into it?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like pastor mike is a perfect candidate for a full frontal lobotomy. Thats what happens to some people who have extreme identity or guilt problems. He not only turns into a religious loon, but has to give himself the title, "Pastor", to make himself important to his family and others. I believe he has underlying guilt about family or friends he obviously wronged throughout the years and figures this is the only way to make himself, now acceptable, to those he wronged. The proper way would have been to drop all the religious nonsense and written or called those he screwed over to apologize and ask to be forgiven for being a prick by turning his back on those who helped him. Not to use religion or "being a re-born christian", as an excuse to get back into their good graces. Its just a crutch because he's not man enough to face those he screwed over on way or the other.

Copernicus said...

jim deardorff wrote:

"There seems to be an extreme split in your family. Too bad. Do you suppose your brother is now a creationist as well as a fundamentalist?"

Based on a long debate we had in 1994 I would say he is also a creationist, and hasnt budged from that.

As for an extreme "split" in the family, yes - one could say it has been like that since the early 1960s.

My two closest brothers and myself forming the areligious side, with the rest of the family hyper-religious.

The reincarnation data and explanations are interesting, but in science one must always also avoid the fallacy of "ignotum per ignotius" or seeking to explain the not well understood by the even less well understood.

Now, for sure Mike's erratic behavior is not well understood, but that we must first invoke reincarnation to explain it is something I simply dispute.

A much more prosaic explanation is genes - particularly to do with inherited personality. (See also the terrific book, 'Nature's Thumbprint' which explores the genetic basis for personality).

Interestingly, the great-grandather on my dad's side was also hyper-religious. It makes more sense to me that the genes that were bound to that fundy persona skipped a couple generations and somehow ended up in "Pastor Mike".

This to me makes for a more compelling explanation, at least for now, than reaching for reincarnation. Though, as I said, the latter is interesting. (Though I am 100% convinced Pastor Mike would renounce it as "Satanic"!

Copernicus said...

harleyman wrote:

"I believe he has underlying guilt about family or friends he obviously wronged throughout the years and figures this is the only way to make himself, now acceptable, to those he wronged. The proper way would have been to drop all the religious nonsense and written or called those he screwed over to apologize and ask to be forgiven "

I think you are spot-on correct, in tandem with the gene explanation I already gave. It is known that Pastor Mike did "screw" a number of family members, who - at critical times - gave him a leg up to get going. But he somehow forgot about them and attributed whatever fortunes followed to "Jesus". Or "God's grace".

On his site he admits "ignoring most fo the family for more than ten years" - then also conceding he realized that "to follow Jesus, he had to walk the walk" - whereupon he unloaded a bible quote to do with acting and not merely praying.

Thus, he "acted" to make contact with those he had forsaken, but again, on HIS terms not theirs! This is why I stated he was not treue to himself and was merely acting out of "bad faith" (Sartre's term).

It is hardly plausible that even an infinite amount of fake piety will do Pastor Mike any good so long as he remains false to his own motives. And also, if indeed encumbered by guilt, he will never be able to get beyond it until he asks forgiveness of those he has wronged.

One can only hope he comes to his senses sooner rather than later, and realized that pseudo-religious fervor is not the answer. He needs a therp more than he needs "Jesus".

Jim Deardorff said...

Copernicus wrote:

"Now, for sure Mike's erratic behavior is not well understood, but that we must first invoke reincarnation to explain it is something I simply dispute."

I wasn't implying that! Just that he and you would have something to agree upon -- distaste for the concept of reincarnation.

Consider also that the reincarnation evidence has close ties to the large body of evidence indicating the reality of near-death experiences, in which the experiencer later accurately reported things he/she had seen/heard while clinically dead.

Copernicus said...

jim deardorff wrote:

"I wasn't implying that! Just that he and you would have something to agree upon -- distaste for the concept of reincarnation."

We have never agreed on ANYTHING and certainly wouldn't on this. The one interlude I recall from our (1994) online, e-mail debates on reincarnation - saw Mike denouncing it as "demonic deception" to make naive people think there was no hellfire or retribution in the afterlife.

I simply took the passive skeptical stance. I also tended to reject it on logical grounds (Does the human population increase following a form y = exp(x) or a much higher rate because of constant "reincarnations".)


---

"Consider also that the reincarnation evidence has close ties to the large body of evidence indicating the reality of near-death experiences, in which the experiencer later accurately reported things he/she had seen/heard while clinically dead."

So, what are you suggesting here? That we also may agree on rejecting NDEs? (And why even bring up or refer to "evidence" if we would reject it?) Again, Mike has taken the tack that NDEs give a prelude to real afterlives (since Raymond Moody in his work has also disclosed "Hell" encounters) and I reject NDEs' implicitly as epiphenomena of a disturbed, or stressed brain. Perhaps deprived of oxygen or one in which electrical transients are playing havoc with the temporal lobes.

My take was that you introduced reincarnation to try to account for the radical divergence of two sibling personalities in the same family. That, to me, was the only thing that made any sense and why it would be referenced at all - perhaps why I grabbed for it.

In any other domain it makes no sense, since Mike and I are as far apart as Pluto's Moon Charon is from our own Earth. We don't agree on politics, foods, entertainment, sports....NADA.

Jim Deardorff said...

"I simply took the passive skeptical stance. I also tended to reject it on logical grounds (Does the human population increase following a form y = exp(x) or a much higher rate because of constant "reincarnations".)"

Copernicus, we don't reject sound evidence just because we can't yet explain it to our satisfaction! We can speculate that reincarnations come much sooner now after death (like after only a few years in the "other world") instead of once every century or few in the past when the population was much smaller. Or we can speculate that there is an endless supply of spirits around ready to accept new bodies, or new (ignorant) spirits being formed all the time; and/or that many more UFO aliens have been around here the past century and, after death, had to reincarnate here into human bodies. Anyway, it would seem that Earth's human population explosion has its own earthly origins, and is not "driven" by the supply of available spirits.

<<"Consider also that the reincarnation evidence has close ties to the large body of evidence indicating the reality of near-death experiences, in which the experiencer later accurately reported things he/she had seen/heard while clinically dead."

So, what are you suggesting here? That we also may agree on rejecting NDEs? (And why even bring up or refer to "evidence" if we would reject it?)>>

I thought you might notice a connection between something unmeasurable within a human that keeps track of what's going on even when temporarily brain dead, and something unmeasurable within the human that survives death and, when reborn, can smetimes remember parts of past lives.

Those (relatively few) Hellish NDE encounters seem connected to the person's personal beliefs before near-death, and occur before the person/spirit has fully "gone to the light" not to return in that life. Similarly, NDE experiencers often report that they were greeted by a friend or relative, or "Jesus" or some other robed figure depending upon their religious views, before they were told to return to the body and their present life.

Copernicus said...

jim deardorff wrote:

"I thought you might notice a connection between something unmeasurable within a human that keeps track of what's going on even when temporarily brain dead, and something unmeasurable within the human that survives death and, when reborn, can smetimes remember parts of past lives."

But why - as an avowed Materialist - would I see such a connection? To me there are no "unmeasurables" that are worth talking about, though I am willing to speculate on any number of things. But I keep these separate from hard core physics, genuine epistemological claims etc.

NDEs, in this regard, tell us little beyond the subjective perceptions (probably distorted) of a subset of humans. And indeed, there are few that can't be explained in prosaic, measurable terms (using positron emission tomography, for example).

The other few that can't be so explained (e.g. they appear to possess an aspect of temporal or spatial non-locality) can probably be accommodated in the context of quantum physics - say a description using David Bohm's "quantum potential". This would be in the context of his Stochastic Casusal Interpretation of QM, as opposed to the Copenhagen Interpretation.

But to be "unmeasurable" would mean the phenomenon admits of none of this. As for reincarnation, it is certainly a more worthy afterlife speculation than the Christians' childish and barbaric heaven-hell nonsense, but that doesn't mean it has adequate empirical data to support it (it does have anecdotal material, but this is different.)

Anyway, where I am coming from is that whatever is "keeping track" of what's going on in the brain when someone is temporarily dead is wholly explainable by appeal to physical-material systems, models and energy. At the very least, holographic quantum models like David Bohm's - which are still WHOLLY PHYSICAL.

But to see a connect between that and reincarnation is a whole other vast step, which I am certainly not prepared to make - at least at this time.

If "anything" does survive death, it is likely an ensemble of de Broglie waves (quantum waves at very fine scales) and these will then merge with other dispersed B-waves. The total obviously would lack any individuality.

The hard point here? Even IF one "survived death" one would lack any SELF-awareness that one did! Talk about irony!

Jim Deardorff said...

"The hard point here? Even IF one 'survived death' one would lack any SELF-awareness that one did! Talk about irony!"

Yet, Copernicus, those who have memories of pieces of their past lives often have memories of how they had died. How they themselves had died! You would probably have to start reading up on these hundreds of childhood cases of the reincarnation type to appreciate this.

But, let me know if you think this discussion has gone on long enough.

Jim
deardorj@proaxis.com

Copernicus said...

jim deardorff wrote:

"Yet, Copernicus, those who have memories of pieces of their past lives often have memories of how they had died. How they themselves had died! "

Intriguing.....BUT

quick question. In any of those cases did the "returneee" identify locations of records from his/her past life: stock transaction records, bank account records (with numbers), Social security nos. or any other documents, possessions (including peculiarities of the possession not easily identified by the casual observer - say like an ink mark on the stat side of a 1959 Mickey Mantle baseball card?

And do so unambiguously?

That to me might be prima facie evidence for it, but certainly not a simple anecdotal recounting.

----------

"You would probably have to start reading up on these hundreds of childhood cases of the reincarnation type to appreciate this."

Maybe, but I really don't have the time to plowe through all that. What I want is a direct route to the most germane and powerful evidence, such as I noted above.

Anecdotes and retellings - etc. are interesting (as I learned when I used to investigate UFO sightings for NICAP) but much more is required to change a skeptic. Along the lines I identified above.

Show me the first gal/guy that can return and impeccably identified ALL their former life records, insurance policies, possessions etc. and I will be a believer!

Or, at the very least, where they used to be housed with substantial real estate, ancillary documents to back it up.

Jim Deardorff said...

"In any of those cases [of the reincarnation type] did the "returneee" identify locations of records from his/her past life: stock transaction records, bank account records (with numbers), Social security nos. or any other documents, possessions (including peculiarities of the possession not easily identified by the casual observer - say like an ink mark on the stat side of a 1959 Mickey Mantle baseball card?"

In a few of the cases parents or relatives wrote down many of the remarks that the child has said, and these were later verified, down to the level of detail of names of brothers or sisters or wife or children or grandson, or town where he/she had lived.

I recall one case where the child recalled where he (in the past life) had left behind some gold coins hidden in the house, and these were then discovered as a result of his memory. Sorry, it's in one of 3 large volumes of cases by Prof. Ian Stevenson -- so you're safe. I don't have the time to go to a university library and start searching as to volume and page number!

But such a memory raises serious issues. Such as, who does the money now belong to, the present life or the past life's family?

Or, in one case, one of the past life memories was of the mode of death being due to poisoning by a family member. Upon grilling the past-life's family, Stevenson learned that the step father had been accused of this crime, but never brought to trial. Should a court of law ever be convened based upon such past-life evidence?

Anonymous said...

I'm also don't believe this reincarnation thing has anything to do with Mike's short circuited brain. You have to understand the human brain is like a sponge at birth, it is exposed to any and everything through all our senses. During ones life it has absorbed and stored billions of pieces of information, and even though we can't recall this information at will, it still resides within the brain. Then add the exposure to drugs or alcohol during ones lifetime, and start killing off some of the brain cells and you have the formula for a short circuited brain that is flailing information back and forth and finally comes out the body as with Mike, in the form of a born again, knucklehead, bible thumping, know-it-all. No, I still believe that Mike as with others who do this kind of thing are damaged brains from abusing their bodies or brains with alcohol or drugs during thier life. As far as ones who never used drugs, they probably suffered bumps on thier heads or fever as a kid or adult that short circuited thier brains. This past life stuff is just a damaged brain, from either abuse or disease, that uses accumulated information and doesn't process it as a healty brain would. It tries to put the square peg in a round hole to give an example. I often wondered how this world would have been like if no one, from the biginning of man, was ever exposed to any religion or afterlife beliefs. Would man have created it anyway? Well I believe he would have as in the beginning man was just a scared little animal who couldn't process all that was around him nor did he understand life, so being this scared little animal he had to create, the gods, to make himself feel, not alone, on this planet. He gave himself a purpose using the god syndrome because he didn't have the faculties to understand his own being. This infomation he just passed onto his offspring in the form of religion and in later centuries he also found out he could make a buck on it, like Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, and others who suck the lifes blood out of suckers using the hell and damnation preaching to scare the buck out you. Guys like Mike will eventually short circuit completly and end up like millions of others who followed before him, just another busted spoke in the wheel, that will be forgotton as time goes by.