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Belief and Faith

Psycho Fan Stalks Shawn Johnson

Shawn JohnsonThere was a story in the news today that Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson was being stalked by a psycho fan, who has since been arrested. The man left his family and drove from Florida to California where Dancing With the Stars was being filmed in hopes of being with Johnson.

Evidently, his car contained two loaded guns, duct tape, zip ties, a “map to the victim,” and love letters. He believed he was meant to have a child with Johnson.

Why did he believe this?

Documents also indicated O’Ryan “believes that she speaks to him personally through the television set and through ESP.”

I’m not sure what the psychological diagnosis is for something like that. It’s probably not schizophrenia, but that’s what pops into my head. It leaves no doubt, however, that the guy definitely has some mental health issues.

After reading the story, my initial reaction was that he was pretty crazy and that it had to be pretty nerve-wracking for Johnson… and I believe that.

My next reaction is the point of this post. If you take away the duct tape, zip ties, and the loaded guns (or maybe not in some cases), you basically have a guy that’s considered crazy because he was hearing a very specific voice speaking only to him.

How is that any different from people who claim that God speaks to them?

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable comparison. Christians routinely talk of having conversations with God and some actually say that they hear God’s voice. In religious circles, this is viewed as a wonderful, spiritual thing… even when God commands someone to kill his son.

Hearing someone else’s voice, however, is seen as a sign of psychosis. Sometimes even hearing God’s voice is seen as a sign of psychosis when “God” is telling the listener to commit a crime (outside the bible).

It seems that hearing voices is considered spiritual in some cases and psychotic in others, regardless of the speaker. How do religious believers know which is which? Supposedly God told Abraham to kill his son. Was Abraham psychotic? Some murderers have claimed that God told them to kill people. Are they psychotic? The book of Genesis says that God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Was Adam psychotic?

In each case of supposed divine communication, someone hears one or multiple voices. Christian interpretations of these incidents are completely inconsistent. Some claims of godly discussions are seen as wonderful… others as dispicable and crazy. Shawn Johnson’s stalker heard a voice, too, so for Christians to see him as crazy seems disingenuous at best. Their religious stories are chock full of people hearing voices.

Personally, I’ll chalk it up to insanity.

Fun with Tracts

Faith Baptist Church Tract - Page 1

Click to View Full Tract

Every now and then, I find a religious tract lying around… a movie theater, a restaurant, the top of a urinal at an all-inclusive resort in the Mexican Riviera (seriously). I always pick them up because they usually provide a fair amount of amusement. Chick Tracts are the most amusing with their over-the-top cartoons, but I rarely come across them “in the wild.” More often than not, I find ones similar to the one pictured here (you can view the full tract by clicking on the image). They’re not as exciting as the Chick ones, but tend to be entertaining, anyway.

I do find it interesting to note that I’ve never received one directly from another person. I only ever find them lying around. I assume it’s because that, for most people, it would be a little uncomfortable to walk up to a perfect stranger and hand them a tract, opening an opportunity for dialogue, but also for ridicule or rejection. I used to work in commission sales, so I know that feeling and can sympathize with the tract carrier in that regard. I am, however, always disappointed when I don’t get the opportunity to discuss the tract. I’m not a hostile or angry person, and if I had time available when given a tract, I’d happily take some time to talk to the giver to find out about their beliefs and why they believe them.

Since I didn’t have that opportunity at the all-inclusive resort in Mexico, I’m going to talk about the tract here. It won’t be quite as fun as talking to the original carrier, but I’ll take what I can get.


It’s all fun and games until…

My new favorite web comic is xkcd. It’s a sometimes geeky, almost always insightful, and always funny comic drawn with mostly stick figures by Randall Munroe, a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Who knew physics geeks could be funny?

So the comic below was just brought to my attention by a friend who’s also an xkcd fan and I thought I’d share it here since the subject of the comic is perfect for Rationality Now. It addresses (somewhat) the issue of why atheists give a rip about what other people believe. See if you can follow along. I’ll elaborate in a future post.

Oh… and go visit xkcd. It’s funny and they have geeky t-shirts.

xkcd: beliefs (#154)