In my book I discussed hyper-religiosity, a clinical term describing the overt behaviors of certain people suffering from schizophrenia. I also referenced studies that point to childhood sexual abuse by a relative as a cause of high degrees of religiosity in adulthood. Just last week a passenger on an airplane paraphrased a bible passage – “Get behind me, Satan.” and threatened to bring down the plane until he was subdued by passengers. The man suffers from bi-polar disorder. Note he didn’t make any references to Darwin or Carl Sagan.
These unfortunates should not be condemned for their actions. They are to be pitied. Perhaps one day science, the proclaimed enemy of fundamentalist religionists, will find a cure for their ailments. One can only wonder if the fear of that cure is a reason for religionists’ distrust and rejection of science. Who knows?
Beyond these sufferers is the larger body of fundamentalist / radical religionist extremists. No specific clinical condition is tied to their obsession with the supernatural. Rather it is some combination of early indoctrination / cultural imperative; fear of death; under-education; economic deprivation; the desire for social acceptance by a larger group / the fear of being ostracized by the prevailing majority; a lack of self-worth; a life of personal failure. We can exclude their fundamentalist shaman for the purpose of this discussion. They are in a separate category.
In person these fanatics are easy to spot. They preach in the street, carry signs that say “John 3:16,” knock on your door and spew their delusion all over your door step. In church they flop on the floor and speak gibberish, or feign unconsciousness overcome with religious ecstacy. But on the internet they also have special characteristics that set them apart from the “normal” theists, by which I mean, those believers for whom faith is a personal comfort -- not a weapon, political party, or all encompassing raison d'être.
The following are some hallmark internet behaviors of these willing whackos for Jesus that you may recognize:
- Rambling and repetitive streams of thought; conglomerations of disconnected concepts. I.e. references to Einstein, Nostradamus, Occam, Hitler in one sentence.
- Insisting they are being victimized by the minority / persecution complex.
- Threats or implied threats of physical violence or god’s wrath.
- Repetitive obsessive reference to death, dying, and everlasting torture (ours not theirs).
- The lack of composition and sentence structure; long posts in a single paragraph; frequent use of uppercase letters; multiple exclamation marks; the omission of the letter “o” when spelling “G-d.”
- The invention / redefinition of words.
- Misuse / misunderstanding of scientific terminologies; interspersing pseudo-science with apologetics; inappropriate insertion of scientific references.
- Misrepresenting or denial of genuine statistics or proven trends.
- Quote mining of famous freethinkers to imply an endorsement of belief.
- Grasping at mysticism and prophetic foolishness to bolster their belief.
- Quoting of biblical verse in lieu of independent thought; use of biblical verse as “proofs” of anything.
- Demanding that you read such and such a book, link, or view a given video.
- Harboring the delusion that anyone cares what they say or that they have the power to influence the thinking of secularists with their ranting.
What largely motivates this erratic behavior is fear. To people who cannot establish rewarding, meaningful, or long lasting relationships with human beings their relationship with their imaginary Friend is all they have. To people who fail at life, career or success (how ever one defines it), clinging to a delusion is the last vestige of meaning to their existence. The very thought of their archaic belief system being rendered irrelevant by reason and science is the worst possible outcome to their already failed lives. Although they project bravado and confidence intended to mask it, their fear and desperation is almost palatable through their manic scribbling and prosaic shouting. It may even substitute as a sexual release, but I’m only speculating
One can only wonder what they perceive as a goal given that their method invariably yields the same non-result. While this behavior is not medically defined, isn’t doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result the very definition of insanity?