Nel's New Day

March 18, 2018

Brain Damage in Conservatives

In Texas, a newspaper published in Olton, population about 2,000, erased the name of John Gambill in an obituary for his mother-in-law, mother to Barry Giles. The couple, together for 31 years, submitted the obituary to Giles’ hometown paper with the statement that “those left to cherish her memory include her son, Barry Giles and his husband, John Gambill of Dallas.” The newspaper publisher, Philip Hamilton, claimed that he omitted Gambill’s name “because I wanted to.” Later Hamilton said that publishing anything contrary to the “Word of God” is “false.” Other area newspapers, including the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, did publish Gambill’s name in its version of Light’s obituary. [Photo: John Gambill (left), Brenda Light, and Barry Giles on vacation together.]

Alabama County Sheriff Todd Entrekin used over $750,000 of funds to feed inmates to buy a beach house for himself—and it was legal. State law lets sheriffs keep “excess” inmate-feeding funds for their personal use. Entrekin’s state ethics forms show that he made “more than $250,000” in each of the last three years. Entrekin’s annual salary is $94,000, but he and his wife own several properties worth over $1.7 million. He claims that it’s just good “business.” A federal judge put another state sheriff, Greg Bartlett, in jail for inadequate meals, including paper-thin bologna and cold grits, but he made only $212,000 over three years. Forty-nine sheriffs have not complied with a legal request to public records regarding the amount of jail food money that they pocketed.

Funds for feeding state inmates is $2 per day. In 2003, ICE gave the Entrekin’s county $8 million to expand the jail facilities so that they could house lots more federal detainees. Entrekin is sheriff in the same county where Roy Moore, then assistant district attorney, spent his time trying to connect with young teenage girls. The man who pocketed $750,000 to feed inmates strongly endorsed Moore in his recent failed candidacy for U.S. Senate but tried to backpedal by looking for “proof” of Moore’s crime. Entrekin leads regular “Run, Hide, Fight” sessions at the James Memorial Baptist Church in Gadsden.

Hamilton is an example of religious fundamentalism in the South where Christians who praise family values take advantage of others whenever possible. As the federal government denies religious freedom to anyone except evangelicals, science is investigating the reason for this radical approach toward religion. According to a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia, religious fundamentalism comes, in part, from an impairment in the prefrontal cortex that diminishes cognitive flexibility and openness important for creativity and curiosity. A functioning prefrontal cortex is important for “cognitive flexibility,” the brain’s ability to shift thought from one concept to another and have simultaneous thinking about different issues. These abilities are vital in adapting to new environment.

Religious beliefs, connected to supernatural events and entities, differ from empiricism, a theory that knowledge evolves from sensory perception and is updated with new evidence. Religion, on the other hand, stays fixed and rigid no matter what people learn with the result of predictability and adherence to a group’s rules.

The scientists define fundamentalism as a cognitive approach that “embodies adherence to a set of firm religious beliefs advocating unassailable truths about human existence.“ With a strong commitment to their close community, fundamentalists tend to reject any other beliefs in combination with climate denial and violence, supporting conviction over deliberation. Religious fundamentalism, emphasizing tradition in writings and rituals, opposes progress in thinking about religion and social issues that questions of challenges their ideology. Religious fundamentalists are aggressive toward anyone who does not follow their beliefs and toward science because it threatens their personal life order.

Researchers in the study used data from Vietnam War veterans, some of whom had brain damage believed to have a connection to functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were used to compare 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 vets with no damage, and these 149 vets were given a survey to assess religious fundamentalism. Almost one-third of them did not specific a particular religion.

Brain imaging research has identified two regions associated with cognitive flexibility in the prefrontal cortex: the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). The current study analyzed people with lesions in both the prefrontal cortex regions to find correlations between the brain damage and the responses to the survey on religious fundamentalism. It found a correlation between this brain damage and the lack of cognitive flexibility. Those subjects scored high on measures of religious fundamentalism.

The findings suggest that damage in the prefrontal cortex from any reason—brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetics—makes people susceptible to religious fundamentalism. Radical indoctrination can also hurt the functioning of the prefrontal regions that blocks cognitive flexibility and openness. Researchers conclude that these factors account for about 20 percent of differences in fundamentalism scores, leaving their findings open to search for additional causes, possibly from genetics or social influence.

Research into fundamentalist and conservative thinking hasn’t been confined to the prefrontal cortex. Other studies concentrate on the amygdala, the area of emotions including fear. Psychologists discovered that they could turn a person more conservative, at least short-term, by making them afraid. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) focused his campaign on fear—crime, immigrants, economic disaster, terrorism, corruption, anything that would get people to vote for him. Once elected, he continued to make them afraid for the future if he isn’t in charge.

The progressive mind thinks of problems as solvable; conservatives encourage people to feel helpless and threatened. Those who concentrate their news consumption from conservative sources have found a great deal to fear from Republican warnings with the assurance that the GOP will magically solve all their problems if we turn our lives over to them in the same approach as religious fundamentalism.

Conservatives’ brains are already configured to feel more fear: research shows that they have a much bigger right amygdala that processes fear-based information in 71.6 percent of the cases. While progressives are more likely to use science in making decisions, conservatives tend to turn to religion in making choices. These ideas are not new, but the fact that they are based on the physical characteristics of the brain explains the difficulty of people changing.

Fear is a big part of campaigning for conservative candidates, especially fear of losing the right to control everyone with their religion. The night before his election for U.S. representative from Pennsylvania, Rick Saccone said:

“I’ve talked to so many of these on the left…. Many of them have a hatred for our country. … I’ll tell you some more — my wife and I saw it again today: They have a hatred for God. It’s amazing. You see it when I’m talking to them. It’s disturbing to me.”

And religious fundamentalists believe the Democrats want to take their religion away from them. Ironically, Christian evangelicals want to take away religion away from everyone else who disagrees with their beliefs, all part of their rigid brain that doesn’t allow for diversity. And it’s sad—Philip Hamilton thinks he has the right to declare what adults can have consensual relationships, and John McEntkin thinks he has the right to starve prisoners if it buys him an expensive beach house. All because of their brain configuration.

January 19, 2014

Fight for Separation of Church, State Continues

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) is always good for news although I wonder if he believes what he says. this year’s “novel” idea is to limit voting to property owners, just as the Founding Fathers planned. Renters, according to Fischer, aren’t vested in the community. To quote Fisher, “they’ve got no skin in the game.” (Skin is a very popular topic with conservatives these days.)

This week Fischer also declaimed that trans people are “anti-science” because gender identity is decided by a “creator God who doesn’t make … mistakes.” He was agreeing with Keith Albow, Fox network’s resident “doctor,” who is also “not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.”

 Fellowship Baptist Church Pastor Mike Lewis may have found a use for Fischer’s unvested people. The Vacaville (CA) went to jail for getting three homeless people under his church’s care to firebomb his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house with a Molotov cocktail. Sarah Nottingham has also accused Lewis of vandalizing her car and setting fire to her shrubbery. Lewis is claiming his innocence, but the police aren’t buying it. Maybe it was the illegal firearms, methamphetamine, and evidence implicating Lewis in the crime. The day after the police released Lewis, he was back in church, preaching the gospel.

Another preacher has popped up at the University of Connecticut. Recently hired Ernest T. Jones, a position coach for the football team, plans to put Jesus Christ “in the center of our huddle.” He continued:  

“If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships, then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That’s going to be something said by [Head Coach] Bob Diaco. That’s something that’s going to be said by Ernest Jones. That’s who we are.”

If Diaco doesn’t give Jones the bad news, the school administration will. Because the school is publicly funded, it has to abide by the First Amendment—separation of church and state. President Susan Herbst issued a statement that school employees are forbidden from endorsing religion and that all students should feel welcome at the school.

As head coach at his alma mater, Alcorn State University (MS), Jones was fired in 2008 for “malfeasance and contumacious conduct” after just one season. It seems that “contumacious” is a fancy word for stubbornly refusing to obey authority, in this case opening a bank account in which he deposited fund-raising money without any authority. And buying Russell Athletic shoes for the team that had an exclusive deal with Nike and then failed to clean up the $11,000 mess the way he was told. Even with Jesus, Alcorn finished his season 2-8.

Fortunately, the courts are still not 100 percent behind the conservatives. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton decided that the Oklahoma license plate with the famous artwork of a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward is just fine for the state. Bethany pastor Keith Cressman had protested that the image was an affront to his Christian beliefs and his First Amendment rights against compelled speech were violated by being forced to display the (probably heathen) artwork on his vehicle. Heaton said he didn’t see anything religious about the artwork.

 Individuals are also fighting back at the religious bigotry of the far right. A member of the United Methodist Church in Alexandria (IN) for six years, Adam Fraley was also its choir director. He and his male partner were accepted by most of the church members. New minister David Mantor forced Fraley out of the church and then asked David Steele, intermediary between minister and church membership, to resign after Steele asked Mantor to reconsider. Steele refused, and the district superintendent forcefully removed him from is position. As a result, 80 percent of the congregation left the church.

The United Methodist Church still hasn’t learned its lesson that LGBT people deserve rights. After firing  Frank Schaefer for marrying his son in a same-sex wedding, the Methodists have formally charged another pastor, the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, for officiating at his son’s same-sex unions.  Ogletree, 80, is a theologian, a former Yale Divinity School dean and a retired elder in the church’s New York district, or Annual Conference. His trial will be on March 10, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford (CN).

Ten sex/love/relationship/marriage/dating suggestions from the same religious people who bring us the egregiously gridlocked Congress:

1. Girls: shut up. Justin Lookadoo, faith-based dating coach, motivational speaker, former juvenile probation officer, and author of Dateable: Are You? Are They?, The Dateable Rules and The Dirt on Sex, says, “Dateable girls know how to shut up.”

2. Boys: be wild, but godly, and cover up your ladies. Lookadoo says “men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed.” But he’s against porn so guys “keep women covered up.”

3. Share an eating disorder. The Christian Broadcast Network has 101 ideas for “creative dates,” including “Eat creatively one whole day for $1.18.”

4. Engage in strange, antisocial and alienating behavior. More of CBN’s coupling ideas are “kidnap a friend for breakfast … visit the library and ask the librarian a bizarre question … develop a new laugh together … survey the neighborhood with a self-made, bizarre questionnaire.”

5. Pretend to be senior citizens. Also CBN: “Date like you’re from the generation older or younger than you actually are. Eat ice cream cones and rollerblade in the park for a date fit for teenagers. If you prefer senior-style fun, eat applesauce, play bingo and watch a black-and-white movie.”

6. Transcribe the Bible together. Focus on the Family suggests: “Find a flat piece of scrap wood and use a permanent marker to write out your favorite Bible verses. Take it to a nearby beach, river or lake and toss it in the water. This may be of great encouragement to whoever finds it later on.”

7. Wives: keep the devil out by submitting. Karen Blake, the author of Do You Hear the Battle Cry? An Essential Handbook for the Wives of Christian Men, says, “Satan is out to kill your marriage and destroy your ministry.” You can defeat Satan through submission: “Wives, be subject—be submissive and adapt yourselves—to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22, Amplified).”

8. Put out so your husband behaves. In her book No More Headaches: Enjoying Sex & Intimacy in Marriage, Julianna Slattery tells the story of Sheila and Mark and concludes: “You’re the only woman in the world whom your husband can look at sexually without compromising his integrity!”

9. Dump your Muslim girlfriend. Pat Robertson advised one of his viewers who asked if he should marry his Muslim girlfriend of three years: “No way…. She wants to do her Muslim thing….Walk away.” What’s the Christian thing to do? Robertson explains, Christ is “not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, he really isn’t.”

10. Stay married to your husband who sexually abuses your kids.In her book, Created To Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious, Debi Pearl literally tells women to stay with their abusive husbands:

“But if your husband has sexually molested the children, you should approach him with it. If he is truly repentant (not just exposed) and is willing to seek counseling, you may feel comfortable giving him an opportunity to prove himself…. Stick by him, but testify against him in court. Have him do about 10 to 20 years, and by the time he gets out, you will have raised the kids, and you can be waiting for him with open arms of forgiveness and restitution. Will this glorify God? Forever. You ask, ‘What if he doesn’t repent even then?’ Then you will be rewarded in heaven equal to the martyrs, and God will have something to rub in the Devil’s face. God hates divorce — always, forever, regardless, without exception.”

That’s life in the United States if the Tea Party fundamentalists take over.



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