Mind Poison

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4
All images in this post created using ChatGPT4

The bad news: brainwashing, gaslighting, and the technological terror of the modern PR machine has been serving evil human projects. 

The good news: The young of every caste, color, and creed hold the cure. 

I am still recovering from my poisoned mind after 25 years of SDA/Christian brainwashing. It’s especially difficult since I was employed by them as a brainwasher. But a decade into recovering from the crippled mindset, I am starting to compare the old poison with others I find around me. Religious cult-related mental poisons are surprisingly similar to other kinds I find in the wider world. 

An obvious one in my country is the cult of Trump. Perhaps less obvious is what I find in the geopolitical world. Propaganda from Russia (pre- and post-USSR) and the Zionist Israel project have relied heavily on such a similar kind of poisoned thinking. When an institution or global ideology can successfully recruit millions of minds into this cult-like culture of gaslighting, then apply that poison to dehumanizing and “othering” vulnerable victims, branding them as less than human, ‘dirty,’ or ‘enemies of humanity,’ they have gone to the next level. A frightening, Orwellian level.  

SDAs also create a mental barrier between their in-group (a.k.a., The Remnant) and everyone else, but the worst fruits of this are projected into an apocalyptic future, and they make themselves the prophesized victims in this future scenario, martyrs for their cause. Putin’s cult and Netanyahu’s cult do this uncloaked, brazenly, in a full-throated justification for genocidal intentions. Truly horrific.  

The most horrifying aspect of this is the power they wield to silence criticism. Within the SDA church, it was taboo to initiate any serious criticism of the church. Their ultra-conservative off-shoot ministries are famously critical of mainstream SDAs, but within their commune-like groups, they allow no self-criticism.  

Chilling or threatening self-evaluation is an obvious harm to progress, and every institution or society which has embraced a free marketplace of ideas and opinions has quickly shown how much better life can be for its members and citizens. The opposite is true, and unfortunately much more common in human history. Tyrants of all kinds have never flourished when they allow an atmosphere of transparency, accountability, and open debate of their fitness for leadership. Therefore, they tend to kill freedom of speech, and anyone within their grasp who freely speaks. 

Russia and Israel are textbook cases of this tyranny over the free exchange of ideas. They perfected mind poisoning and killed the truth about them. 

Soviet Russia became infamous for creating a society of mistrust and paranoia within their own citizenry. Neighbor turned in neighbor to horrific lives in detention based on the flimsiest of suspicions of criticism of the government, often done to save themselves by showing their loyalty. The Gulag Archipelago documents this well. Russia’s recent history under Putin, a former KGB agent trained in Russia’s mind poisoning state-terror tactics, demonstrates how that society has a long way to go to heal itself from the damage done during the era of the USSR. See how easily Russian leadership convinces itself to keep to the party narrative about their illegal war on Ukraine.

In our day, the Israeli government has become a version of that paranoid, brutalist Soviet society. Their brand of mental poison is much more potent than Russia’s, brainwashing not just each other, but also their overlords in Europe and the United States into believing the lies they tell their own citizens. All through the West, when governments put themselves on the side of Israel’s Zionist project, it quickly becomes enshrined in their own law that criticism of Israel is equivalent to that powerful modern scarlet letter, Antisemite. See Germany, the UK, and the increasing number of US States which have fallen prey to the power of Zionist lobbyists to pit citizen against citizen in the service of defending the Zionist project in Israel. 

So many in every industry all over the Western world have been fired, deplatformed, or blacklisted for simply describing and decrying what their eyes are seeing through the journalism coming out of Gaza. It’s a perfect Orwellian brew of PR, propaganda, and, increasingly, legal codes. You must deny what your lying eyes see. Don’t believe your own mind, believe what you are told think. All too familiar for ex-cult members who finally broke free of that playbook. 

If proof of this mind poison is needed, it’s easy to get during the current iteration of Israel’s forever-war on Palestinians. Simply go onto social media and speak out against Israel’s genocidal actions toward Gaza. Do this enough, eventually some will suggest that you support Hamas terrorists. Some will say you are a terrorist. Some will accuse you of promoting antisemitism. Some will use “what-about-ism” fallacies, pointing out how badly some Muslim theocratic states treat their own citizens, as if the bad behavior of one justifies that of another. 

An alternate avenue to this evidence is to train your favorite social media platform’s algorithm to show you pro-Palestine accounts (like, save, repost, etc.) Using a throwaway account can keep this experiment separate from the main account. 

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4

Experiencing firsthand the mental changes coming from being on the inside of an exclusivist cultic “Us/Them” group like SDAs, then going outside and becoming one of “Them” has been enlightening. Anyone born into one of these cults but never left can’t really relate. When you are inside the cocoon of the cult, the mental set is all-encompassing, ready-made, and extremely soothing; like Orwell’s Soma drug from 1984, groupthink can be an addictive lifestyle. Outsiders are (in my case with SDAs) “worldly,” “secular,” sinful lost souls, never to be trusted. Poor, lost outsiders do not know how desperately they need what insiders have. They must be convinced of their lostness by a human-divine endeavor called evangelism. If they reject it, they are utterly deluded and can be used by Satan the Deceiver to turn insiders away from faith and join the ranks of the lost. 

Those still inside my former Church are motivated to be uninterested by my story of leaving them, because their groupthink supplies a narrative: Satan got me. To engage with me on a deep level of understanding would be dangerous, since Satan can now use me to get them. To preserve their own good reputation with God and Church, they keep us lost souls at a safe distance. They don’t consider this shunning, since it has to do with protecting their own holiness—the currency in their economy of salvation. It’s simply shaking the dust from their sandals as they move on to the next evangelistic endeavor. This is hurtful mind poison, and needlessly divides human from human. 

Applied to Trumpists, Russian propagandists, and Zionists, it is the same playbook, but taken to the next level. Outsiders are dehumanized, threatened, subjected to verbal, mental and physical violence, and generally worthy of extermination. This playbook is not modern even though it has been much improved by modern tyrants through the advent of mass communication. It was certainly used all through history whenever there were brutes that needed exploiting or exterminating. Colonizers, caste-system enforcers, civil warriors, maintainers of apartheid states, racists, bigots, and ethnic supremacists all call on the same strategies to gaslight the public and their victims. This is the recipe for poisoning minds, and it is an old evil. It seems to be woven into our DNA. We struggle against instinct when we embrace the moral imperative that all of us are equals and ought to treat each other as such. Hopefully we will someday win that struggle globally. It’s certainly a world worth striving for. 

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4

The specific similarity between Trump’s MAGA cult and Israel’s Zionist cult has been a useful deeper dive.  

  • Trump was not a self-made POTUS. After he enjoyed a lifetime of the fruits of being an absentee landlord and other forms of predatory and corrupt business practices, he became a “useful idiot” to many special interests in his 2016 run at presidential power, guys like Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, his Kushner in-laws, evangelicals gunning for Roe v Wade and beyond, aggrieved white supremacists, Zionists, Putin—quite the basket of deplorables. 
  • Israel was not a self-made nation. Since the Balfour Declaration kicked the Zionist project into high gear, it has always been many things to many international players. They may benefit from pretending it has only ever been about regaining their sacred homeland, but that is not how the project started. The British Empire was winding down and wanted to maintain a presence in the region. The US, an empire on the rise, wanted the same thing. The long, terrible history of antisemitism and stinging consciences in post-holocaust Europe motivated strong support for it. The brand-new United Nations wanted a smooth transition away from British mandate to independence. Utterly ignored, of course, were the opinions of the very people who had the most to lose by forcing a modern Jewish nation into the middle of a region with a long history of being used as pawns in colonial geopolitical games. No one consulted the Palestinians, because they were not considered equal, or worthy of consideration; this attitude prevails among geopolitical power brokers to the present day. 
  • Trump always lies. A notorious liar, he has perfected the use of every form of dishonesty, projection, and gaslighting in his self-promoting propaganda– he is consistent with it, repetitious, loud, and shameless, which appeals to key low-information/high-testosterone voting blocs;  
  • Zionists rely on lies. Zionists also perfected gaslighting, projection, and shameless dis- and mis-information peddling as they fight a propaganda war (look up Hasbara). Both Trump and Zionists excel in turning common sense on its head and constructing an upside-down alternate universe of facts.  
  • Trump benefits from his cult. Trump’s MAGA cultists almost worship him like a god on earth, to the bitter consternation of observers and victims of their hateful policies and incitement of violence. Their January 6, 2021, attempted coup at the Capitol was only one of many documented crimes of violence committed by his faithful cult members. Likely, he will die a convicted felon, forever counted as a patriot-martyr to his cult faithful.
  • Zionism benefits from its cult. Israel’s Zionists have widespread international support, and their countless Geneva Convention and human rights violations are sadly crimes without punishment. But their government goes further than damaging Palestinian bodies; they wage a constant PR war against the commonsense definitions of key playbook terms such as “antisemitism,” causing otherwise intelligent humans to go along with their new definition of it: Anything that puts Israel in a bad light (See US House bill H888). Israel’s pernicious and continuous use of state terror is buried under the mantra Israel has the right to defend itself. “Terrorism” has been redefined by Zionists to mean “any wish to end the occupation—whether expressed peacefully or through struggle” (“Gaza in crisis: Reflections on Israel”, 2013, Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe.) 
  • Trumpism is an evil project. Trump is using his influence over Congress, the Courts, and State politics to attempt to recreate this country into his own fascist banana republic, and his MAGA goons drool over the prospect, including right-wing news and social media outlets he has poisoned, while mainstream media behaves as if this is just another election horse-race and not the ignominious end of The World’s Oldest DemocracyTM
  • Zionism is an evil project. Israel uses its influence over the hearts and minds of those still hurting for the many victims of the WWII Holocaust as a cloak for their colonialist imperialist genocidal intentions toward Palestine and the wider region, which they aren’t really hiding that much anymore, since two or three generations have passed and the major power brokers controlling Israel’s lifelines of support consistently ignore the big picture, and allow Zionists to remote control their foreign policies to benefit Israel. 

The biggest difference between the two is found in the attitude of a clear majority of American citizens toward Trump and Israel:  

  • Trumpism has failed. Except for a permanently poisoned fraction of voters, officials, and their media toadies, most of Trump’s fellow Americans see right through him now. Most of us despise him for what he’s done to our public institutions and the divisiveness we are suffering because of him and his cult.  
  • Zionism remains ascendant. Israel continues to hold most Americans in its thrall thanks to a wide range of victims of its incredibly sophisticated PR playbook. They’ve snared many Jewish Americans who fall victim to the Zionist mind poison, and their many similarly poisoned allies spread the cult mindset far and wide. Israel also leverages the gullibility of millions of Bible-believing evangelicals, who factor Israel into fulfillments of their Church’s prophecies. Thanks to almost limitless cashflow, the fossil fuel lobby and Israel’s own powerful lobby have tentacles buried deep into virtually every level of government.  Open discussion and criticism of Israel’s policies in the public sphere is becoming increasingly chilled by the stripping of Americans’ 1st Amendment rights on that topic. TikTok, taking the place of the now-Musk-crippled Twitter, is one of the few platforms where firsthand evidence of Israel’s actions can be freely observed. Not coincidentally, AIPAC-supported Congress members are working to widen the ban on the platform in this country.  

Of course, young people (and all generations of curious minds) flock to see anything banned or taboo to judge for themselves if it is so deserved, and so future generations remain our best hope for future justice both domestically and in troubled regions like Palestine. Young Muslims are the tip of the spear of this struggle to bring progress and enlightenment to the governments of which they find themselves citizens, and the religions into which they were born. In league with young Jews, young Christians, young Hindus, young Buddhists, young Sikhs, young atheists, and young agnostics, they are communicating their frustrations and hopes to each other using their own modern anti-poison playbook: social media. 

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4

Incorporating ethical and moral codes into our societies has proven adaptive to the human species, and thus they are vital to our survival.  Religions supply ready-made codes for adherents, which believers subsequently remix and personalize to guide their moral decisions. Similarly, atheists create their own moral code, but without the distractions of religious creeds. As an atheist, my religion is humanism, though calling humanism a religion might be offensive to both humanists and religionists. 

I must reject myths created by humans when they are harmful to our species. My beliefs flow from what is best for most human beings, as decided by most human beings and not any single one or small group of us. That makes me anti-war, anti-tyranny, anti-fascist, anti-greed, and anti-censorship, among other things. To me there is such a thing as evil, and its opposite is called good. That makes me pro-kindness, pro-bodily-autonomy, pro-freedom, and pro-peace, among other things. Above all, I’m pro-species, and pro-Earth, and anti-killing-the-world’s-future-because-a-mythical-post-death-paradise-is-mine-too-mindset. I’m all for the saving the only homeland we have, planet Earth, and saving the species that is threatening it and ourselves.

In my moral code, counting one place on earth as worth more than the rest is just as evil as counting one tribe, ethnicity, or culture superior to all of them. Although I do not go out of my way to offend my family and friends who disagree with this, I am convinced that there is no such thing as sacred places. That’s because in a real sense, all places are equally sacred. Some would argue that if every place is sacred, then no place is sacred. I would not argue with that. It’s all the same to me.

No human tribe is righteous, none are sacred. The whole is sacred. Life is sacred. Creating mythical boundary lines between parts of what should be protected as a sacred whole is the root of many evils. Among them are White supremacy, misogyny, racism, apartheid policy, gender and sexual orientation bigotry, patriarchy, caste, and slavery. 

Zionism’s founding myth is that Jews deserve a homeland. The ancient religion of Judaism has been weaponized to empower that myth. The history of Zionism’s founding myth has proven to be evil, because it cannot do anything except create wars and divide human against human, mainly because the location for the Jewish homeland was poorly chosen.  

Why did they choose to carve up Palestine into a Zionist homeland? A key aspect of Zionist mythology is that Palestine belongs to Jews because they are indigenous to that place. This powerful myth leverages the terminology of commonly liberal and progressive causes as they often choose to side with indigenous peoples in land struggles. This helps explain why many popular celebrities have recently fallen out of favor with left-leaning supporters of freedom for Palestinians; indigeneity often trumps all other concerns for many who desire to support the most morally correct causes.

Deciding who is indigenous to a place can be complicated, but in Israel’s case it is not. It’s simple to boil down the reason Zionist Jews claim Palestine as their homeland: invisible voices told them so. 

The story of Abraham, father of the big three monotheistic religions, is the story of an immigrant from what we know as Iraq (to him, it was Ur in ancient Mesopotamia—the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers). His narrative is that God’s voice granted him a new homeland, what we know as Palestine (then known as Canaan).  He claimed God gave it to him and his descendants forever. He died without seeing that goal realized. But Moses, another big name for all three Peoples of the Book, heard voices too. His voices set his Hebrew people free from slavery (a moral good) but then set them above what their voices branded as the wicked Canaanites (a moral evil). The Hebrews’ invisible-God-voices pushed them past apartheid coexistence with the indigenous tribes into religiously motivated genocide. 

This is the narrative of Moses and subsequent judge-leaders of the Hebrews, who rebranded themselves as Israelites after another Jewish hero, Jacob (renamed by a voice to Israel). The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles establish the narrative of Israel as a divine-voice mandated kingdom. (If this reminds students of Western Civilization of “the Divine Right of Kings,” we’re on the same page). Multiple diasporas followed, with celebrated reinstatements, then Hellenization, Roman conquest, and many more well-documented chapters in their long history. The point is that if you wind that history back far enough, it gets you to a man named Abraham (originally Abram, and you can guess how his name got changed) whose guiding voices made him emigrate to Palestine and promise it to his descendants as their homeland, without considering the plight of its actual indigenous peoples because, as the long history of settler colonialism goes, they didn’t matter.

It really shouldn’t matter in this point in human progress whether your evil project of genocidal settler colonialism is otherwise known as part of your people’s sacred history. Is your history somehow more sacred than the indigenous whose land you occupy? Could it be that we need to strike at the root of the problem, and stop calling things sacred? Elevating them beyond the reach of common sense discussion by declaring them critical to Denominational Security?

The land of Palestine is not the homeland of Israel. The founder of that religion claimed it upon immigrating there, as if he discovered it. They claim they were given that Promised Land because their god-voices proclaimed them the Chosen People. To make a couple other long stories shorter, Christianity and Islam incorporate that homeland mythology while twisting it into a claim to their holy lands, sacred to each for different (and more recently, incompatible) reasons.  

No human deserves a homeland other than the whole Earth which we share. Carving out a piece of Earth and making it your sacred fortress can only bring evil to yourself and everyone around you. Claiming Jerusalem to be the sacred homeland to three incompatible religious doctrines locks those held captive by such terrible errors into permanent war with each other over possession of that place. Claiming that one city or land is sacred, and somehow belongs to you alone, is evil.

Earth and all life are sacred; where you stand is not more valuable and important than where I stand. We all live on sacred ground. There’s no good in claiming ownership of your part and counting all other parts as not your home or less valuable than another’s. The whole planet is our homeland. If you must claim a homeland, claim Earth as a whole. It needs your attention as a whole, not just the part you believe is most important because that’s where you live or where your god-voices come from. Distracting from that and obsessing over some part of it sacred to your myth is evil because while these evil wars rage, the homeland of all humanity is dying.  

Claiming that your myth is sacred or righteous, and others are evil is itself a terrible evil. It is evil to defend a false claim to land or rights that you believe are uniquely granted only to you and not all human beings. That is the reason it is wrong to grant any culture a part of Earth as their “homeland”. The entirety of planet Earth is the homeland, and it falls to every culture and ethnic group within humanity to heal it before we permanently kill our species.

Of course, the previous paragraphs will be interpreted by some, especially those who never left those Big Three traditions as horrifically offensive. Some will go on to smear me with the worst labels from their playbook. I’ll become to them an antisemite, terrorist, promoter of hate-speech. That’s the mind poison doing the talking for them, and I don’t hold it against them, if they allow me my freedom of speech. We’ll see how that goes… 

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4

There is hope. The younger generations have developed strong antidotes to the mind poisons which have accompanied our species through its troubled history. Hopefully many of us are now making good use of the cure. The most important part of the cure for mind poison is the preservation of our right to freely speak our minds, especially when it comes to bringing down all types of tyrants including religious and political tyrants.

Russians will someday heal their society. Their young and youthfully minded citizens long to someday create a free and open democracy there, and we who agree must help them. The United States will someday heal our society. The fight for equality and freedom from tyranny hasn’t stopped here, but we require the help of freedom lovers everywhere.  

The Zionism of Israel has been rejected by Jews worldwide from the time it arose to the present day. They continue the struggle to demonstrate that Zionism and Judaism are different things, that Israel’s state-terror does not represent the faith of Judaism. The struggles of the Palestinians against Israeli settler colonization are well-documented, and currently can be followed in the news and through social media platforms. We should all keep following it, and continue working together to break out of evil mind poisons, dismantling the terrible projects built to serve tyrants and other freedom-killing powers, and creating the world we want to live in. 

Mind Poison by ChatGPT4

Works Cited and Further Research Recommendations:

Orwell, G., & Crick, B. (1984). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Clarendon.

Solzhenitsyn, A. I. (1974). The gulag archipelago, 1918-1956: An experiment in literary investigation, parts I-II. Harper & Row.

Wilkerson, I. (2020). Caste: The origins of our discontents. Random House.

Pappé, I., Chomsky, N., & Barat, F. (2013). Chapter 1. In Gaza in crisis: Reflections on Israel’s war against the Palestinians (3rd ed., p. 10). Haymarket Books.

“H.Res. 888 — 118th Congress: Reaffirming the State of Israel’s right to exist.” www.GovTrack.us. 2023. December 3, 2023 <https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/118/hres888>

Peck, R. (2021). Exterminate all the brutes: Official Website for the HBO series. HBO. <https://www.hbo.com/exterminate-all-the-brutes> 

Wasted Patriotism

If our Constitution formed the oldest democracy on Earth, as many boast, then why do our non-white, non-cis male, non-straight, non-wealthy, non-healthy citizens enjoy vanishingly few of its benefits?

Why did democracies much younger than ours speed so far ahead of ours in spreading the benefits of their egalitarian societies to their most marginalized and vulnerable citizens?

If the United States is somehow “exceptional,” it is exceptional only in this: we’re the democracy which hoards constitutional rights to the few. In comparison to the rest of the Free World, we are not free. Not great. Our patriotism is wasted, if it is spent on dead white men from forgotten cultures.

There are citizens governed by the Constitution who are true heroes, worthy of remembering and celebrating. They are heroes in that they put their lives and livelihoods on the line to force the dominant caste to share the freedoms they enjoy. Because of their non-membership in the dominant caste, their fight to spread democracy beyond the ruling class has met fierce, sometimes fatal resistance. But they fight on; if you want to put your pride and patriotism where it does the most good, put it in them.

Many are using words like fascism and dictator and authoritarian to describe the direction of our conservative politics at the moment. And it would be hard to deny the good fit of those words for what Trump was trying to do as he attempted to remain President after losing the election in 2020. Those words come to mind when the most recent raft of SCOTUS decisions are examined. But the term caste, as explained so masterfully in Isabel Wilkerson’s book of that name, is the one that best explains what we see when we look at the actions of governments and individuals who have always been in the dominant caste.

Students of US history know that this behavior is anything but new. Observers of current events see this becoming the new normal.

We Need A God

Religion poisons everything.
Religion poisons everything.

The terrible behavior of the god-believers is a convincing evidence of the non-existence of a morally influential God. Believers loudly legislate each others’ behavior, imposing their made-up gods’ made-up codes on each other (and the rest of us). And believers in gods constantly embarrass the hell out of each other.

It’s a shame there isn’t a real god behind all of the shouting, the offense-taking, the in-the-name-of-killings, whippings, wars, and blasphemy laws, sitting up above it all, shaking his divine head in disgust. The way the world is going, we could really use a god.

Continue Reading We Need A God

Good Without God, Better Without God

For whatever reason (I’m not sure I’m willing to guess), in the few years since I’ve come out atheist, I have experienced a motivation to behave ethically and morally far beyond that which two and a half decades of Christianity ever provided.

My denomination was the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was not your average pew-warmer, either. Within 18 months of my baptism at the tender age of 20, I had embarked on a year-long foreign missionary teaching assignment, been ordained a local elder in that mission’s church (at the ordination ceremony, when the pastor read to his church the biblical requirements of an elder, he literally skipped over the verse in 1 Timothy 3 which states that the elder must not be a recent convert; I swallowed hard and kept smiling), and had preached sermons and taught lessons more than many elderly members who had been Seventh-day Adventists all their lives.

Continue Reading Good Without God, Better Without God

Single Payer Healthcare Please!

Single Payer Government Run Healthcare Q&A: Some interesting questions arose when I asked my Facebook friends if they were as ready for a single payer system as I am. I decided to answer them here, on my blog, so a potentially wider readership could chime in, too…

Disease-care, or Healthcare?

Have you checked your blood pressure today? Talk to your pharmacist about home pressure checking machines. It’s easy, and your doctor wants you to keep track of it.
Continue Reading Single Payer Healthcare Please!

Logic Demands Change My Mind

Change is Hard

“What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn?

Lamp, Map, Log. I can find my own way without you, gods; thanks anyway.
Lamp, Map, Log. I can find my own way without you, gods; thanks anyway.

The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive.

We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality.

Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.”

Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, p. 46

Logical Thinking

Whatever one believes about how the human mind came to be what it is today– whether designed by a creator or evolved by selection or some other explanation– there is a fact about how the mind works which has become very powerful to me lately: Logic is important to the human mind. Maybe that’s a no-brainer (pun intended) to many readers.

When I was young, I found logical thinking came naturally to me, and yet I possessed many interests in the creative arts, far outside the disciplines of logic. I think I too quickly took logic as a given and failed to give it any further attention. Perhaps bored with the work required to become proficient in thinking logically, I found refuge in artistic endeavors like music, fiction writing, and humor, where one is allowed and even encouraged to be illogical. But now, in my late 40’s, I am returning to the logic of my youth.

Beyond disciplines which make heavy and obvious use of logic, such as philosophy, computers, mathematics, and science, it has come to my attention that logic is also used in less obvious areas, like morality, beliefs, ethics, and values. This is leading me in some interesting directions, including a quest to build a personal system of morality and ethics which is free from any religious influences. Please note that I am not in search of a morality which is the opposite of that found within religions; in fact, I am already finding the significant overlap of specific values, even if the beliefs underlying those values are very different.

My former fellow Christians probably think that morality is impossible outside of the religious context. I used to believe this myself, but now I am finding it very interesting that this is not, in fact, true. Even more surprising: a better source of beliefs and values is found outside religion. Before going further in this direction, a bit of history will be helpful.

SDA “Intellectuals”

For most of my religious life, which was my entire young adulthood, I trained my mind to perceive the world from the viewpoint of Christianity. The denomination I chose to join at age twenty calls itself the Seventh-day Adventist Church (abbreviated SDA). The SDA Church is friendly to intellectuals– up to a point. Their foundations are rooted in prophetic calculations which relied heavily upon the use of historical research. Fervent study of ancient languages, textual criticism, chronology, archaeology, and even astronomy informed the Bible interpretations of the founders of Adventism, all the way back to William Miller and the off-shoots who formed the core doctrines.

Early in the church’s development, these studious pioneers established a school system. It ultimately grew into a globe-spanning network, drawing students of all ages: K-12, college and graduate school. To me, getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion at an SDA college seemed like an intellectual exercise; at least it required very little of the passion or emotion usually associated with Christianity. I enjoyed the challenge of mastering the art and science of teaching SDA doctrine to secondary students.

The SDA devotion to health-related education and health-care delivery, including a world-class medical school at Loma Linda University, makes it seem like a modern church that welcomes intellectual development for its own sake. I believed it was, anyway– up to a point.

Why No Advent Yet?

From the beginning of my life as an Adventist I had asked a question: Why hasn’t God “advented” yet? Where is this Second Advent He promised so long ago? Why the delay? Why the increasingly awkward and unnecessary delay? I never did get an answer which made any logical sense. Oh, I got answers, but no good ones. Answers I got included: “The character of Christ hasn’t been perfectly reproduced in His people yet;” “A day with the Lord is like a thousand years;” “Be patient and keep working– He has perfect timing and after it all finally happens we’ll look back and see how perfect His timing was.” In other words, a lot of bullshit.

Every year in every Bible class I taught some bright young Adventist would look me in the eye with that seriousness only found in the young and ask ME a version of the same question: “Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet, Mr. Miles?” With every year that went by and my own research on that question only turned up more ridiculous versions of the same answers, I could only offer what I was finding, and pretend that the answers made sense. In more courageous moments, I would sadly admit that I really didn’t know why He hasn’t come back.

I ask you, dear reader (and invite your comments and replies below): What possible greater good is achieved by delaying Jesus’ second advent, and allowing evil to pile up higher and higher as if what we’ve already seen isn’t a sufficient display of “The Results of Sin”? Is the divine jury box loaded with the most skeptical beings in the entire universe? Is God somehow interested in seeing the final outcome of global greed, global warming, human trafficking, child slavery, the poisoning of the air, water, and food supplies, terrorism? Is He disappointed that World War III hasn’t happened yet?

Why Is God Not Leading The Church?

At some point, I became interested in questions which were not welcome inside the official SDA Church. It began with questions related to leadership policies and practices. By then I had become a veteran teacher in the California SDA K-12 system, and toward the end of my employment there I learned of some disastrous positions and decisions that had (and will continue to have) disastrous results for good people. They deserve much better from the Church to which they have devoted their lives. I will not be any more detailed than this in describing specific cases, since the worst of it is remains wrapped tightly in the grasp of denominational lawyers, and I would not want to do anything to jeopardize the outcome of pending legal decisions concerning people I still consider my friends, even though we do not worship together anymore.

(At this point in my story, many readers who are religious will assume, incorrectly, that all that follows in my post-Christian life journey is explained by labeling me a “disgruntled former employee” who gave it all up in a rash decision after some bad treatment from a “few bad apples” in the denomination. Many have already contented themselves to close off any further questioning or information through the use of this defense mechanism. Anyone else tempted to stop reading here is referred to the quote by Dr. M. Scott Peck found at the beginning of this essay; please read it, and carefully consider what it has to say.)

I am in no way referring to any treatment I myself received from the church or its leadership, which I’ve never felt was serious enough to write about in detail. It’s not important enough for me to rehearse and relive anyway. The most I ever did was in these comments on Google+. Compared to what I saw happening to my colleagues and their families, my situation was little more than a minor inconvenience in my life as I transitioned out of a religious life into a non-religious life. The important point is what all of this did to my way of thinking about God.

Back then I truly believed– and taught my students to believe– that we can be certain that God personally built the SDA Church, guides it, and will give it a prominent place in the final events of human history. That the SDA Church is God’s One True Church. The corrupt political tricks perpetrated by the leadership of the Church set up a nagging cognitive dissonance inside my brain. It did not compute logically. How could the cream of the crop of the leadership of a God-ordained organization behave so badly toward its own employees and church members? Why were they getting away with it?

Whether or not any of the particular employees and members forgave the church for how they were treated, or rationalized it away as a necessary evil to endure, or as a character building experience, or some kind of a blessing in disguise– none of that softened the blow to my psyche. Logically, my mind was not able to ignore or justify such a great weight of evidence, and I knew that if I was not able to ignore it, then surely the just and holy God who sits on heaven’s throne can not ignore it either. He cannot ignore it and remain a just and loving God, worthy of the high praise heaped upon Him daily from my classrooms full of earnest young Christians. But how to explain logically why God was allowing bad behavior among the leaders of His church to continue for decade after decade, destroying the mental well-being of the membership?

What if the only logical conclusion is that God is not who I was teaching Him to be, and thus does not deserve that high praise and worship?

As I learned of the unforgivable and unjustifiable behavior of “God’s leaders” and church officers, I had to ask why the absentee landlord-Lord wasn’t participating in guiding and directing the One True Church. If this God we worshiped in my Bible classes every day was as all-powerful as depicted in our songs, our scriptures, and our prayers, then why the hell was he ignoring the leaders of “His Church”? Why do the slickest, most self-serving politicians climbing the ladder of power in the church end up in the highest positions? On governing boards, making critical decisions?

I get the aphorism that “everybody’s human and fallible,” but how does that explain the dismal track record of denominational leadership? Think about any and all churches, beyond the SDA Church. Church leaders seem to be much more human and fallible than the average population. I think if you literally grabbed random individuals of no particular religious persuasion off the street and traded them into every position of church leadership, you’d find that denomination suddenly behaving in a much more ethical, humane, reasonable, and compassionate manner than will ever happen at the direction of the current office-holders. Why was God tacitly approving of the slow, spiritual bankrupting of what we told ourselves was the “apple of His eye,” his own “chosen,” special people?

Again, I ask you dear readers, and invite your responses: Why does God refuse to lead His people anymore? If you believe that the One leading your church today is the same God who grabbed those reins of leadership in the days of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, and in the days of Noah, and the days of Moses and the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the Babylonian Captivity and Nebuchadnezzar, and the days of Jesus and the Apostles, then why has he dropped the reins of leadership for the last two thousand years?

How do you compare the absence of divine intervention of the past two millennia to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)? Are the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon really equivalent to God’s personal, powerful guidance he generously showered on the twelve tribes of Israel? Is the awful and embarrassing history of the papacy, the reformers, and the malaise of modern Christianity even worthy of comparison to the Acts of the Apostles personally taught by Jesus Christ?

The history of Adventism, 1844 to the present, is a microcosm of Christian church history, from the New Testament to the present; both demonstrate the truth of Proverbs: when the leaders lack vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). It’s the history of a religious movement which started with excitement and progress toward a goal which galvanized the first generation, but evolved in future generations into just another self-serving dogmatic religious institution, endlessly splintering into factions along the political spectrum, each splinter more spiritually dead than the one before. No one would look at the evidence of the last two thousand years and find a connection between the Biblical God’s leadership of people, and what happened with Christianity (and if I may be so bold, with Christianity’s sibling religions of Judaism and Islam). No one, except those who begin with the conclusion that God exists and is leading His church, and refuse to listen to any contrary evidence.

SDAs Duped By A False Prophet

The Bible teaches that God holds his leaders to a much higher standard than anyone else on earth, except for His prophets–they are held to the highest standard of all. Which leads me to another major hit on my intellectual brain, which happened a year or so after I terminated employment with the church and moved away from California: I learned the ugly truth about the SDA Prophetess, Ellen G. White.

The brazen, extensive plagiarism of Ellen White is an open sin, breaking the third, eighth, and ninth commandments, and is accepted by virtually every Seventh-day Adventist. The documentation of the plagiarism is ongoing, and decades old at this point. The Internet era has opened the facts of her sins to any and all who choose not to hide from it.

The fact of her plagiarism establishes another fact: she was a false prophet, for a true prophet of God would not say “I saw…” or “the angel told me…”, followed by the words of other writers she copied without citation or reference. Even Bible prophets point out when they are quoting other Bible prophets. We cannot claim that standards for giving credit to other authors have changed since Ellen White’s day, especially since a prophet is held to the highest standard of ethical behavior, and a modern prophet would not be held to a lower standard than that of the biblical prophets. Note that Moses didn’t get away with even one temper tantrum (Numbers 20:10-12)!

When one rejects Ellen White’s legitimacy, one has rejected the heart and soul of Seventh-day Adventism. Attempting to remain a faithful conscientious Adventist while knowing the truth about Ellen White would be like attempting to keep a person alive while extracting every bit of their nervous system from their body, starting with their brain. It won’t work and will be painful and ugly. I have elsewhere written extensively on the prophet of Seventh-day Adventism, Ellen G. White.

After comparing the Bible teachings of other churches to that of my former SDA Church’s, I gave up a short-lived quest to find a home in an alternative Christian community. Adventism convinced me that their interpretation of Christian doctrine is the most faithful to the original intent and text of the Bible (despite being deceived by Ellen White about many things). I was subsequently forced to experience another major hit to my intellectual conclusions regarding religion. I knew that to be a Biblical Christian, I had to incorporate more than just the New Testament as my Scriptural authority.

The Old Testament belongs in the authority structure of Biblical Christianity. The SDA Church has arguably the most extensive and accurate body of writings on the Old Testament from the Christian perspective. Their unique devotion to the doctrines of Creation and the Sabbath is a direct result of their tendency to treat Old and New Testaments as a balanced, connected set. It’s all one Bible to SDAs, a continuous revelation of God’s will from beginning to end.

I failed to find any other Christian denomination which treated the Old Testament with as much respect and scholarly study as did the Adventists. I remain convinced that the only believers who are treating the Bible as it should be treated are those who don’t see any practical distinction between the Old and New Testaments. I say this to the credit of the scholars of the SDA Church; they make a very convincing case that Biblical Christianity has to do with the proper interpretation of the 66 Protestant books of the Bible.

Building A Religion-free Morality

The most recent revelation to come from pondering biblical religion with logical reasoning is perhaps the biggest game changer for me so far. It has to do with what happens when you construct a system of beliefs, ethics, and morality without reference to any religious text or church dogma.

One such system finds that the best basis for morality begins with human needs. What do we need to live? How do we get what we need, and what resources are available to meet those needs? These are objective questions, and we can answer them objectively, using reason and logic. While it is true that religion also offers answers to these questions, it is not necessary to consult religion to determine the best answers. We merely need to consult our commonly shared values and decide what behaviors and beliefs contribute best to the well-being of ourselves, our family and friends, and our world.

What emerges is a morality that pursues what is best for human societies in the most inclusive, fair, compassionate, and just manner possible, much more inclusive and fair than is ever possible within religion’s restrictions, which always draws unnecessary boundary lines between the saved and the lost, the saints and the world, and often very arbitrary distinctions between “good and evil.”

God Is A Terrorist

The revelation is that what is possible within a non-religious system of ethics is often MUCH BETTER than what comes out of religious systems of ethics. This is illustrated by examining Christianity’s record of God’s own behavior in the Old and New Testaments. For example, the definition of terrorism includes the targeting of innocent civilians, including children, for death and injury. Secular ethics will always protest terrorist behavior, and the only correct moral posture to take toward terrorism is to “socially, financially, and politically ostracize” it.

Christians cannot consistently adopt this correct moral posture if they consult their Bibles, however, for that would call into question the many times God called for the extermination of Israel’s enemies, including innocent children (e.g., Psalm 137:9, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks”). The Old Testament God promoted the use of terrorism, an immoral practice that non-religious ethicists easily determine is not worthy of human, much less divine behavior. This means that the God of Christianity is not worthy of worship or devotion. Notice that this is a logical conclusion to reach without ever calling into question the existence of God. In fact, this value judgment is only reasonable if we assume that the Bible is a valid authority, and a real and living God inspired its account of His acts in human history.

If you would like to read more from two authors I’ve enjoyed lately, who have helped me understand how to think logically and ethically about morality, please see their blogs: Secular Ethics (to read the blog, request an invite; it’s worth the trouble), and Atheist Ethicist.

So, logic makes its demands on me lately. And it’s an interesting, challenging journey I find myself taking, every bit as fascinating as (and even more rewarding than) the twenty-five-year journey I recently completed which took me into and out of Adventism, Christianity, and religion.

Originally this was published elsewhere. The following comments are reproduced from the original location.

d.williamvoted up, awesome and very interesting.
Your struggle with religious teachings and logical reality is a mirror of mine in a lesser sense.
I was brought up in the Roman Catholic church and went through the same brainwashing as a child that all other religions impose on their children.
When i realized that what the church stood for could not be logically reconciled with common sense i decided to pursue my own spiritual awakening without all the baggage of the church.
It took me many years to deprogram my mind from those abusive childhood teachings, but today i am proud to say i am a non-religious affiliated, but highly spiritual person, who has found my inner peace in the knowledge of logic, common sense, and reality.
I now realize that God (or whatever we want to call the creator of our reality on this planet) has nothing to do with organized religions at all. Perhaps in the beginning when religion was created to give people a sense of belonging to something greater than our individual selves, it fulfilled that need.
But with the passing of time and some people learning that they can control others with this ‘tool’ of religion it slowly morphed into nothing more than businesses that exploit its members in every extreme. The use of brainwashing, guilt, and fear became the mainstays of all religions. These are not God’s creations, they are man’s creations for use of man against man (if that makes any sense at all).
Jesus was a gnostic who believed that we do not need a middle man to commune with the creator. After the Roman government created the Roman catholic church they declared gnosticism as heretic, and pronounced their newly created church as the only true religion.
Everything went downhill from there.
Anyway, i digress. Your article is great and i hope you can achieve the inner peace that i have with the acceptance of spirituality; and our birth right of being connected to the universal oneness without any man made constraints.

Jim Miles:
d.william, Thank you very much for your generous and thoughtful response. I am looking forward to reading your writings.