The Good Person Test: “Have you ever been angry at another person?”

Depending on the script being used, the interviewer will warm up the audience in a variety of ways. Primarily by asking them if they think they’re a good person. “Do you believe you’re a good person? Well, if you think that you shouldn’t have any trouble taking this test.” The next line varies also, but there’s only a set few so I’m going to pick the script used the last time someone tried this on me.

“Have you ever gotten so mad at someone you wanted to kill them? Or, how about if you were cut off in traffic and you shook your fist and shouted at the person in the next car. Ever done that? If so, you’re a murderer. ‘He so ever who has hatred in his heart for his fellow man has committed murder in his heart.’”

This line is often presented by asking either if a person has “ever hated someone else” but more often than not the interviewer will water it down by asking if they’d ever simply been “angry at someone else.” Such as getting angry at someone who cut you off in traffic, stolen from you, or caused you harm. The common stripe between these acts is that they’re all things that would raise the hackles of average, well-adjusted people.

Of course, the reply to the “Yes…” is “If you get angry at someone you have committed murder in your heart and that makes you a murderer.” No, a non-sequitur judgment based on a thought-crime doesn’t really convince me. We don’t live in a society where getting angry is murder—it’s childish to presume that anger, a lizard-brain reaction, is equivalent to unlawfully ending the life of a peer. By morally conflating these two things—anger and murder—the script deliberately confuses extremely disparate concepts.

As a community it is unhealthy to react to anger in the same way we would murder. Anger is an emotional reaction to frustrating situations; murder is a criminal act, bound from us by law and culminates in the end of a life. One is temporary, fleeting, an emotion and a natural part of our own dialogue with ourselves and each other. Murder is forever—an ending, a socially damaging act.

Think for a moment how repugnant it is for anyone to combine these two things into one.

How can we have a sane discussion about why we find murder immoral if at the same time we have to also resolve how really it’s exactly the same as if the murder didn’t happen: one person got mad at the other.

This part of the Good Person Test is sociopathic: murder and anger are not morally equivalent.

When this part of the Good Person Test is used, the interviewer must somehow divorce the human condition (their own condition) from reality. They are deliberately abusing the credulity of the person they’re talking to, attempting to turn normal, human emotional reactions—the very underpinnings of why we behave the way we do—into criminal acts, which no sane criminal code has ever done.

This is a form of emotional blackmail, a disingenuous attempt to flog the listener with human nature. To treat them as if they are not rationally responsible for their own behavior simply because of their emotions—especially if all evidence shows that they’ve been angry before but never committed murder. Manipulating people by emotionally blackmailing them is a reprehensible behavior; this is not the act of a compassionate, caring person.

Next: “Have you ever told a lie?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: A Critique

The Dishonest and Immoral Good Person Test

Over recent years we’ve seen the rise of a particularly pernicious form of propaganda among evangelical preachers. The so-called “Good Person Test” which has received little visible criticism. With a little bit of rational thinking and actual empathy for other human beings we can quickly see why this religious sales pitch is immoral.

“The Good Person Test” is an immoral psychological device designed by Ray Comfort and employed by Way of the Master evangelicals as a tool of conversion. It is a poorly constructed syllogism that uses emotional blackmail, disrespectful treatment, moral conflation, and outright condescension in order to abuse the credulous and social.

I am going to approach it in segments because this is the way it is presented.

Anger is murder

One lie, always a liar, aka lying cannot be moral

One theft, always a thief

Attraction is sex, aka attraction is cheating, aka sex is bad

• The vanity of a name, aka do you have a point? (I am not doing this one because it has no relation with reality)

• All roads lead to eternal torture

The script itself is a better litmus test for the so-called “goodness”, or at least moral intelligence, of the interviewer than it is for the audience. By far the worst aspect of this script happens to be the unspoken dialogue steeped in Christian mythology that whosever breaks a single of the unsubstantiated rules will suffer a horrible punishment. This is especially repulsive when the script starts to use thought crime as a reason to lay blame rather than personal integrity, character, or action.

I find this particular form of evangelism to be repellent. These people manipulate the good graces of their audience, beat them with emotional blackmail, false entitlement, false intimacy, and use other con game tactics that are all frauds of social human interaction. The double-standard that is portrayed by this test has never been above-board. I hope that if only those who use it would examine the technique, they would choose to abandon this unhealthy, disgusting behavior.

Perhaps if they do, they can become more like the good people the so-called “Good Person Test” claims to detect.

Propaganda 101: God Loves You (Fellowship Tract League Tract #110)

Please do not resent us for giving you this tract. We love your soul, and we want to tell you that if you have never been born again, you are on your journey to a place where you will burn forever and ever.

By now all of my dear readers know exactly how I’m doing to dissect this line, so let me get this list out of the way: appeal to fear, false altruism, appeal to Hell threat, mere messenger stratagem. First paragraph and already propaganda epic fail. The difference between many of the others here is that the tract is starting out with a lot of jargon that might confuse those who aren’t culturally Christian. For example, what exactly does “never been born again” mean to someone who has never heard this phrase?

Notice especially the high density of personal pronouns present in this paragraph. “your soul,” “to tell you,” “if you have never,” “you are on your journey,” “where you will burn.” This strategy is designed to resonate with the language parsing capability of the human brain, which gives personal pronouns higher priority than other words. Each token usages of the second person pronoun acts as a prod at the reader: you, You, YOU!

You see, the human race began when God created the first man, Adam. Adam was created sinless, yet he was also created with the ability to choose whether he would accept or reject God’s rule. God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in that day that he ate from the tree, he would die.

Another appeal to mythology! The tract goes on to continue to retell the story about Adam…but it neglects to mention Eve. In fact, she seems to have nothing to do with this instantiation of the story, just Adam. After making demanding tones and asserting that all people have been tainted with “sin” it makes another threat of Hell.

Perhaps it’s just me, but maybe this tract is directed towards males. If I recall correctly Eve had a very important role in the Christian Genesis mythology and her absence from this story makes me wonder what the purpose was. Certainly, they have only a particular amount of ink to put onto this page, but they had to deliberately excise portions of their own myth to come up with this lean-mean-Hell-machine version. Perhaps it’s my own bias as a woman to see this as an obvious entendre reflecting the culture of the editors.

Jesus loves you. He loved you even before you were born into this world. […] God’s love for you is greater than all human understanding. By sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to die for sinful man, He prepared the way of salvation to keep you and I from this lake of fire.

Normally I would not include this sort of statement, but one line in particular caught me and I realized that I haven’t yet exposed this propagandist fallacy. “God’s love for you is greater than all human understanding.” This statement is a particularly fragile expression of an appeal to authoritative ignorance—I have seen far better abstractions of this in my studies of World War II propaganda. Ones that aren’t self refuting. If in fact anything is greater than all my understanding, then how exactly are you capable of communicating to me that it exists?

An appeal to authoritative ignorance works something like this: “I have access to information that you don’t, so believe me when I tell you this.” The implementation above is most frangible because it fails to even attempt to present how the writer of the tract came to gain this special knowledge, what extent their special knowledge covers, or why we should even trust in their special knowledge.

The rest of the tract rests its entire foundation on the earlier appeal to mythology, threatens the reader again with Hell, and then goes off into the usual spiel with little differentiation from other tracts.

Park51, “Moque at Ground Zero” Video: Sufi’s Choice

BionicDance of YouTUBE paints a picture of discrimination and misunderstanding about the Park 51 "Islamic Cultural Center Near Ground Zero" and why a great deal of criticism of it falls short of actual enlightened discourse.

Today, the "Burn a Qur’an Day" envisioned–and ultimately cancelled–by Terry Jones has caused an equally stupid counter-reaction in Afghanistan where 10,000 people took part in a protest, that sparked violent riots, against what they perceive as America. I bring this up because during this week, as his event fast approached, he suddenly tried to hitch his horse to the Park 51 debate claiming he meant to do it to make the Sufi Muslims who planned the Park 51 community center to move it.

The Park 51 planners should be under no moral obligation to move anything: mosque, synagogue, church, temple, center for brain-slug worship, whatever.

Now all the Terry Jones’s of the world are being given the line that controls the Muslim world by the very people who spawn these counter-protests. When one troglodyte with a Twitter account and a Facebook page can make people go crazy, riot, and burn things, maybe it’s time for those people who are doing that to sit down and think about who exactly they’ve handed their leash over to–why are they wearing that collar anyway? Terry Jones isn’t the problem, churches and communities pull stunts like his all the time. He’s a troll: you’ve let yourself get trolled.

While religion, politics, lapses in critical thinking and morality certainly took part in the 9-11 event, it is not acceptable to paint every Muslim in the world with it. Just as it’s been a poor show by much of the Muslim world to throw up over everyone else in reaction to the stupid actions of Terry Jones’s congregation of 50 in Florida.

From the CNN article about the protest in Afghanistan, though, it makes me wonder if there weren’t other reasons for the protest and riots. Tens-of-thousands of disenfranchised people in a war-wracked country? Religious barbarism and fervor certainly isn’t even needed to get that to go sideways. Ultimately, the responsibility for their actions—riots, looting, burning their own city—falls squarely on their shoulders for not controlling themselves.

Everybody else. Let Terry Jones and his ilk crawl back into whatever hole he emerged from, I hope he didn’t see his shadow, because I really don’t want any further extension to this season of ignorance.

Propaganda 101: YOU ARE HERE (Living Waters Tract #254)

This photograph causes a cringe to tighten my spine. Reading the tract informs us that they added the…Earth…to this image in order to give a sense of scale…what it doesn’t say is that the distance is totally wrong. In fact, this tract would be ridiculously long in order to actually display the proper distance and scale of Earth vs. Sun. Being the geek that I am, I decided to take a moment and point out exactly how far off “YOU ARE HERE” is.

The diameter of the stellar body on this photograph fudges to about 8 inches (I measured it by matching the curvature to a similar object, in this case a ceramic plate.) The planet Earth has an elliptical orbit around the Sun varying in distance according to its position in that orbit, the mean distance between Earth and the Sun is 14,960,000 10^6 km; the mean diameter of the Sun is 1,392 10^6 km. That means that the Earth should be placed 8,5977 inches away! That’s 2,388.25 yards…for those Americans in my audience, let me lay this one out. To display appropriate scale of Earth to Sun the tract would have to be a length of over 23 football fields.

YOU ARE NOT HERE.

Did you know that the earth could fit into the volume of the sun over a million times? Think of it… what sort of Being could create the sun?

I don’t know if this is a red herring or a testimonial. Whatever it happens to be it’s a bunch of irrelevant hand-waving. The tract author is attempting to assert the presence of a “Being”–which is probably the Christian god–by begging the question with this thinly veiled “think about it” line. Occam’s Razor: Star formation is an observed phenomenon and is sufficiently explained by natural forces. Unless this tract is going to demonstrate a star making Being, there is not sufficient evidence to believe that the Sun was made by one.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever made a god to suit yourself (within your mind)? There is one God, and you have to face Him. Alone. On Judgment Day. That’s a scary thought.

You are making an appeal to fear. Ever done that? At this point the tract descends into the usual appeals to mythology, glitters with generalities, assertions, and more threats.

Go to [our website] and click on ‘Save Yourself Some Pain.’

More pandering.

The hook of this tract is entirely in the false visual on the front of the tract. It then uses the bad visual in order to deliver truthful but irrelevant information. This strategy is used by propagandists to create a false sense of wisdom so that they can set up the question that begs the existence of a Being that created the sun. Also: a photograph is a tangible fact–something that mythology is not. The propagandist is attempting to create a positive bias by correlating the supernatural “Being” with the observable sun. That way the reader is thinking about this Being when they enter into the parts of the tract that appeal to fear and mythology. A critical examination, however, would make it necessary to point out that’s fairly obvious that stars can form without the presence of any beings.

This tract is cute in that it attempts to include some knowledge generated by empirical science. It uses a photograph taken by NASA, which is an excellent empirical data point about our sun. (If you ignore the Photoshopped Earth being in the wrong place.)

Coereced Attendance of Evangelical Christian Concerts by Military Officers

Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. They have been going on for years at Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, but these disturbing misuses of government funds and abuses of soldiers’ rights have only recently been brought to our attention.

These concerts, and the stories of soldiers who were punished for choosing not to attend, were reported in a recent article by Chris Rodda, Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Rodda reports that Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers has started these religious conversion oriented concerts at both bases where he has been the commanding officer, and that they have continued at For Lee even after his departure, at an appalling cost to taxpayers.

The costs may be small compared to the enormous military budget, but any money spent on promotion of a religion by government agencies is unacceptable, and “Spiritual Fitness” programs in the military cost uncounted millions of dollars per year. Millions of dollars taken from citizens who for the most part are not Evangelical Christians and who would not willingly pay to promote that religion, or to coerce anyone into sitting through repeated and extended attempts to convert them.

The fact that military officers are wasting up to $100,000 per act at each concert with the clear intent of promoting Evangelical Christianity is disturbing enough, but punishing soldiers who choose not to attend these “Spiritual Fitness” events where their commanders support these blatant attempts to convert them to Evangelical Christianity is an unmitigated abuse of the rights granted to every citizen by the constitution of the United States of America.

Lest there be any confusion as to the purpose of these bands and the officials who hired them, an article in the Fort Eustis Wheel quotes one member of the BarlowGirl trio who headlined this particular concert as stating that their group is “on a mission to bring the armor of God to servicemembers”, and they are doing it with your money and with the support of your military commanders.

“Atheism is…” by Richard Coughlan

Atheism offers nothing to me
It never has, and it never will
It does not make me feel good
Or comfort me
It’s not there for me when I’m sick or ill
It can’t intervene in my times of need
It won’t protect me from hate or lies
It doesn’t care if I fail or succeed
It won’t wipe the tears from my eyes
It does nothing when I’ve got nowhere to run
It won’t give me wise words or advice
It has no teachings for me to learn
It can’t show me what’s bad or nice
It’s never inspired or incited anyone
It won’t help me fulfill all my goals
It won’t tell me to stop when I’m having fun
It’s never saved one single soul
It doesn’t take credit for everything I acheive
It won’t make me get down on bended knee
It doesn’t demand that I have to believe
It won’t torture me for eternity
It won’t teach me to hate or dispise others
It can’t tell me what’s right or wrong
It won’t tell anybody that they can’t be lovers
It’s told nobody that they don’t belong
It won’t make you think that life is worth living
It has nothing to offer me, that’s true
But the reason atheism offers me nothing
Is because I’ve never asked it to
Atheism offers nothing because it doesn’t need to
Religion promises everything because you want it to
You don’t need a religon or to have faith
You just want it because you need to feel safe
I want to feel reality
And nothing more
So atheism offers me everything
That religion has stolen before.

Prop 8 fails basic Constitutional test, first round KO by 14th amendment

Remember California Proposition 8? Aka California Marriage Protection Act, aka The Mormon Proposition: a measure that added a new provision to the California Constitution that provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Well, it was just ruled deeply unconstitutional by a federal judge today, August 4, 2010.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," Walker, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Ronald Reagan, wrote in his opinion.

"Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states but are now seen as archaic, shameful or even bizarre," he added. "Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals."

The written opinion and decision happen to be filled with numerous responses and reasoning why the Prop 8 supporters have failed to make their legal burden. It seems unlikely that an appeal will save them, unless they’ve actually been holding their best arguments in reserve for no reason.

Other sources with much more insight into the opinion have already begun to chime in. I will be compiling them as they fill in over the next few days.

And: “With a stroke of his pen, Judge Walker has overruled the votes and values of 7 million Californians who voted for marriage as one man and one woman.” If that offensive argument is the best that we can expect on appeal, then Prop 8 is certainly not long for this world. In the United States of America you don’t get to vote away basic human rights for a minority because you’re the majority.

Link, via CNN.

Propaganda 101: THE BLOOD (Fellowship Tract League Tract #172)

This tract has a slightly different layout than others. It punctuates pages with center, bold, ALL-CAPS headings, and numbered lists.

MAN’S GREATEST NEED

Sin has separated man from God. To be separated from God at death means to spend eternity in Hell, because God will not excuse sin, and sin must be punished. Man is sinful, but God is holy. The blood of Jesus Christ is God’s way of meeting man’s greatest need.

Wow. The jargon density in this paragraph is amazing. Of course, it doesn’t quite explain what “man’s greatest need” is after all, does it? It just threatens the reader with Hell right up front and center and…that’s it. I open this tract and immediately it’s pointing at gun at me, “You need something! The blood of Jesus Christ fulfills this need!” A person who is at least culturally Christian will fill this void of explanation with their own experience, but anyone else is going to look at this with a bemused stare and put it down again.

So, this tract is about blood. Excuse me, I mean, this tract is about BLOOD. So let’s look at the numbered list in the section that tells about this BLOOD. Specifically the blood of Jesus Christ. (For the sake of clarity, I omit the Bible references from these outtakes; often they are superfluous noise anyway.)

WHAT WILL JESUS’ BLOOD DO?

  1. The blood washes and cleanses you from sin.
  2. The blood pays for your forgiveness.
  3. The blood makes peace with God.
  4. The blood saves you from God’s wrath.
  5. The blood opens the way to Heaven.

Oh ho! Check it out! Is this the very first tract that I’ve read that actually mentions the Christian concept of Heaven? I could be mistaken, but I think that so far most of them have been threatening me with Hell over and over and never mention the reward scenario. So this is a singularly interesting specimen of propaganda for us right here.

To put this tract into context, I’m sure you can see that the cover is a two-tone image of a hand, pierced with a large spike, through the carpal bones (someone needs to study their anatomy!), with blood pooling down to form the color space around the word BLOOD. This is attempting to appeal to empathy—that looks like it hurts! And it ensconces the imagery of blood and bleeding in the mind of the reader before they start parsing the text.

I wanted to talk about the offer of Heaven, but the tract never defines it anywhere. The Bible quote that goes along with that line isn’t even helpful, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19.)” I guess that we’re supposed to take the writer’s word that this is referring to Heaven. Boldness? Holiest? I guess that this tract doesn’t actually go the last mile and offer Heaven as an alternative to Hell except in the barest sheen of cultural Christian reference.

The most foretelling portion of this list, I can see, happens to be that four out of the five list items are all about avoiding the threatened beat-down. Only the very last one is some sort of reward; the rest are mere escape from horrible punishment. Perhaps the Heaven reference just got thrown in there as an afterthought. Oh yeah, and there’s also Heaven, by the by.

This is interesting.

YOUR GREATEST DECISION

Jesus shed His blood, was buried, and rose again the third day. At this moment He stands ready, able, and willing to save you. The choice is yours. A song says, ‘If the blood of Christ is sufficient for God, it is surely sufficient for me.’ It is the blood that satisfies God. Why not put your trust in Christ’s finished work, and call on Him for salvation now?

The tract is quoting a song instead of the Bible here. This is an aberration! To my disappointment, I was unable to determine what song this paragraph refers to. I would like to know if anyone can help guide me to the proper resources, or if they are familiar with the lyric enough to simply fork over the data.

This paragraph is typical of these tracts. The tract spent a while setting up a house of cards series of bald assertions culminating in this: “You’re in trouble; I know the only solution; here’s that solution; take the solution or suffer horribly.” The theme here is just that God is a vampire and the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to slake his bloodlust for you…

God does not drink…wine.