What kind of ‘gift’ would be so worthless a person would pay someone else $100 just to open it? What kind of person would become so desperate they would invest 140 hours of their time creating a creepy ‘shrine’ to someone else under a false identity? Who would become so driven by a messianic religious obsession that they would do the following:
- Send hundreds of emails after receiving no response.
- Send multiple packages through the mail repeatedly after they’ve been refused.
- Attempt to post 2,000 word religious diatribes (full of non-sequiturs) on a site after being asked to stop.
- Establish multiple sock-puppet web identities to hide their deception.
- Use disavowed statements and an impostor URL to publicly prove their target is “not in their right mind.”
The answer is, someone who is afflicted by the twin scourges of religious fanaticism and mental illness. Which leads me to ask the following rhetorical questions: Are all fanatics mentally ill? Does religious fanaticism cause or exacerbate mental illness, or is it merely a correlation? Does mental illness make people more susceptible to religious delusion? And finally, is there any possibility of treatment or healing for such people?
This will document a nearly three-year odyssey of unrelenting cyber-harassment, culminating in simultaneous cyber-identity theft and attempted bribery:
- 11.19.04 – Requested not to be contacted further.
- 07.16.05 – Requested not to be contacted further.
- 04.26.06 – Met with harasser in person; He agreed to stop harassment.
- 05.14.06 – Received elaborate plaque with religious engraving.
- 05.28.06 – Harasser posts 4,000 word comment and is banned from Black Sun Journal.
- 05.30.06 – Response to harasser: Anatomy of a Troll
- 05.30.06 – Requested not to be contacted further.
- 06.14.06 – Response to harasser: Argument for Design: Ad Absurdum
- 07.10.06 – First emails from harasser under assumed identity
- 07.10.06 – Told harasser I knew his identity was false, and repeated request not to contact me.
- 07.22.06 – Harasser uses second false identity
- 07.24.06 – Requested not to be contacted further.
- 10.04.06 – Refused package at my home address from harasser.
- 10.31.06 – Harasser mounts week-long sock-puppet attack with 11 separate TypePad identities.
- 11.04.06 – Harasser purchases www.seanprophet.info domain (according to his site).
- 11.07.06 – Enabled comment moderation on Black Sun Journal TypePad site.
- 04.07.07 – Harasser launches impostor site, claiming to have spent 140 hours on it.
- 04.12.07 – Refused second package (with $100 inside) at my home address from harasser.
Exhibit A: The object pictured above is a chunk from a smashed lamp-post in Newbury Park, California. The harasser claims this concrete fragment represents my spiritual identity. He has mounted it on a paper towel holder base, and taped a hundred-dollar bill to it. He then sent me the photo of his creation, to entice me not to refuse the package. Back it went with the UPS lady–who is now on notice not to deliver any more of his packages.
Exhibit B: Here is the scarily obsessed handmade laser-engraved plaque he sent with a picture of my family:
Exhibit C: For the past 3 years, the harasser has also continued to send emails from multiple identities and spoofed email addresses, all bearing identical characteristics. He has also been hitting Atheism Online with a steady stream of messages. I have been advised by the authorities to keep and print them all out. They form a stack over 3 inches thick. He has also sent multiple emails and packages to my sister who lives in Boston.
Exhibit D: The harasser also documented his defiant enclosure of the package I previously refused in a new box and sent me the photos. Now the entire delusional mess is a matter of public record.
For those of you who’ve never been harassed or stalked, here’s one cyberstalking resource. Also the Wikipedia article. Be glad you’ve never had the experience–trust me. Like rape, this crime is largely under-reported, because most people consider it embarrassing and may feel like reporting it would give their attacker a measure of victory.
Even though it’s a violation and it’s no fun–and I want it to stop–dealing with this crap goes with the territory. I’ve chosen to walk away from my religion forever, and this is an opportunity to expose the depth and tenacity of a former members’ religious delusion. I’ve become the perfect case study. With every move, he digs himself in deeper:
…the delusional stalker, they frequently have never had any contact with their victim beyond the boundaries of their own mind. They may suffer from mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or erotomania. What they have in common is a false belief that keeps them tied to their victims… –wiredsafety.org
Make no mistake–these attacks are unrelentingly personal, as you can see:
04.06.07: – to crash and burn if he wants to – the demons dangle them into our minds – threads of the anti-christ – can of worms which the human consciousness has become – while he was in his right mind – forces acting through Sean today, are no part of his real identity – making him dance to such a repugnant tune –
04.19.07: – just how far down the mountain of reality he has slid – expression of Sean Prophet when he was in his right mind – Sean has really fallen to a new low, becoming an unrestricted transmission channel for the lowest and most insidious poison of the dark side – The person who has fallen into a pit of such tumultuously seething contempt for God –
These words serve as a chilling reminder of what we in the atheist community are up against. It goes way beyond simple discrimination. Sadly, its not enough to overcome our “coming out” challenges and internal existential conflicts about what it means to be human. No matter how hard we try to focus on the bigger picture, we may also face vocal, determined, and mentally unstable fanatics who refuse to believe or accept what they will always view as our unforgivable apostasy.
Update: I haven’t heard from this former religious stalker since the late 2000s, and both his “Homeward Bound Journal” website and the impostor site using my name are long gone. But it’s difficult to overstate the impact that such actions can have, when a believer makes it their singular focus to use coercive tactics and intimidation to change the behavior of a former believer. Many religions use more subtle versions of this tactic: Mormons are well known to continue to send literature and even visit former members homes for many years after that person has declared themselves to be apostate. Belief is far more than an individual matter. It’s an extremely sticky social construct and meme. If you leave, it always tries to get you back. –Sean Prophet, August 2022
Holy shit, that sounds really horrific. You have my sympathy.
In my experience, not necessarily. I’m bipolar, and with a suspected autistic spectrum (Asperger’s) disorder (undiagnosed, so far), yet I have absolutely no religious tendencies whatsoever, and am glad of it.
To be honest, the thing that scares me the most (apart from an irrational fear of severe amnesia) is that I develop a hardcore religious nutjob attitude because of my condition.
Apologies for the mostly anonymous comment, I’m not too comfortable sharing this with people yet.
I have a few friends and family members who are struglling with mental illness. The are bright, intelligent and articulate people and my heart really goes out to them. I wouldn’t call them crazy because they know they have mental problems, and they are trying to cope in their own ways.
The key is to KNOW you have a problem.
Now, introduce religious fanaticism to mental illness and a person may become unreachable. Suddenly they are in an environment where it’s perfectly reasonable to think God or angels are talking to them; things that would normally be red flags are suddenly normal.
Plus, questioning their sanity is questioning God and their faith, which could put them on a path straight to hell.
I don’t think religious fanaticism causes mental illness, or vice versa, but I think when the two combine you have a bigger problem because it’s even harder to convince a person that they need help.
Aren’t there laws against stalking these days? Maybe you will have enough evidence to put this guy in jail for a while. Some forced medication may bring him to his senses enough for him to realize he has a problem. I wouldn’t know any other way to get through to an individual like this.
Thanks for the comment and support. I’m glad to know that your conditions have not made you susceptible. Perhaps aspergers and autism are less relevant to religious delusion than schizophrenia or epilepsy, for example. I do think the whole question is extremely important. I’ve really been trying to understand how my mother’s epilepsy contributed to her sense of divine certainty.
I think by looking at these things as brain disorders rather than issues of character will help us make better progress. Religion and religious belief have been so polarizing. If we can begin to understand some of what underlies these incredibly strong feelings, we can maybe make some progress in terms of working out the conflicts at hand.
The first thing to do is to get rid of the association between “mental illness” and being “crazy.” We don’t go around criticizing the character of someone who has a heart or lung condition–we try to help them. I think the stigma needs to be lifted off mental illness. We should look at it more as understanding why people are the way that they are.
You are right, you have to know something is wrong, which is the hardest thing to do when you think your delusional perceptions are real. I think we have to redefine what it means to be mentally “normal.” I’m sure mental health is defined within a range of brain function that is a lot wider than we have previously understood.
fMRI and modeling of the brain will certainly lead to a revolution in understanding of the mind in the next couple of decades. It won’t be a moment too soon. We need to understand people’s brain states BEFORE they commit acts of violence. As we can see, it is becoming more important by the day.
Getting to know more about the various brain states may also lead to both the reduction of the stigma of mental illness and a more generalized desire for treatment (because more people will understand the nuances of why they feel how they feel).
As far as the stalker goes, I’ve been in touch with the police and they are watching the situation.
You make several points that are worth repeating;
1) That we need to be “looking at these things as brain disorders rather than issues of character.”
2) That we need to ” get rid of the association between “mental illness” and being “crazy.” We don’t go around criticizing the character of someone who has a heart or lung conditionâ€“we try to help them. I think the stigma needs to be lifted off mental illness.”
3) That ” Getting to know more about the various brain states may also lead to both the reduction of the stigma of mental illness and a more generalized desire for treatment (because more people will understand the nuances of why they feel how they feel).”
Exactly. But lifting the stigma is little easier said than done, which is why education about mental illness is so needed. For the average person without a science, or a mental health background it is a lot easier to look at someone taking insulin for diabetes, and not make a judgment about them, than it is to know someone needs to take lithium or anti-depressants, or anti-psychotic medication to balance brain chemistry and not judge in the same way. We consider all other organ functions automatic, something we can’t consciously control. So its easy to think, “why ascribe personal responsibility to someone suffering from a condition which is simply an organ malfunction?” Aside from knowing they can do something to improve their diet, “it’s not their fault if they have blood sugar imbalances.” But if someone suffers from marked mood swings or hallucinations, or a thought disorder, it is a lot easier to point the finger. After all, they SHOULD have more control over their mind than they do their pancreas. Right?
In some ways, yes. But the foundations for the conscious ‘self’ still depends upon the function of the physical brain, Healthy brains yields the potential for healthy minds, the potential for introspection and self regulation. Malfunctioning physical structures within the brain can yield problems not only for other physical organs, but also for the way consciousness emerges and congeals as a personality. Even knowing this, the tendency is to knee jerk judge, and underplay the physical basis for personality. Probably because we were never taught accurately.
Along with inadequate education, I think our tendency to stigmatize mental illness is in part because of our own unnecessary shame around our imperfections, our humanity. The truth is that most people, even the most accomplished among us, have experienced if not personally then with someone near and dear, at some time, some degree of emotional/mental challenge. As you said Sean we need to understand that “mental health is defined within a range of brain function that is a lot wider than we have previously understood…that “we have to redefine what it means to be mentally “normal.” ”
After all, normal doesn’t necessarily imply optimal, or even necessarily healthy. And most ‘normal’ people have some elements of neurosis, or distortions in reality, whether it be cognitive dissonance, or a little obsessive compulsive behavior, etc., at least in some context. And that’s OK, (sometimes even advantageous) as long as they aren’t infringing on someone elses rights, as in your case. This broaches the discussion of human universals you mentioned, and how even a healthy ‘normal’ person if pushed far enough by circumstance, can do the most atrocious things. My point is that most of us have areas to work on, and we need to realize how complex this process of psychological health can be… and that until we really understand what an ideally healthy brain looks like, and functions like, the best we can do is take what we now know about brain function and look at this physical component first when assessing a persons psychology, motivations, and treatment needs. If something is overtly physically wrong with the reasoning circuitry, its a waste of our time to try to reason, until the physical piece is addressed. Of course this takes training to suss out.
What also makes it easy and tempting to point the finger and make mental illness into a character flaw is the fact that the whole process of growing up and maturing involves learning how to voluntarily mold and control our behaviors and thoughts according to socially acceptable norms, and we are all expected to do this well. We tend to think we are largely free agents in that process,and if we fail to conform to these standards in some way, its got to be because we didn’t try hard enough, listen well enough…because we’ did something ‘wrong.’ Because there is a degree of conscious effort involved in shaping who we are, who we become, its easy to forget that ultimately no matter how hard we try, we are to some extent at the mercy of how well our basic supporting organ is functioning.
Again, this is not in any way to excuse criminal behavior, or any behavior which breaches boundaries set by another. That’s clearly not OK. (Nor is this to deny the very real feedback loop which we can choose to take advantage of to improve mental/psychological functioning.) Regardless of this particular person’s rationale, Sean, the fact that you have said NO and that they disregard that, is in and of itself as you have stated, clearly a VIOLATION. Period.
Regarding schizophrenics…most don’t become criminal. Much evidence shows that those who do become criminal show signs of criminal behavior PRIOR to development of the disorder.
Morgaine, thanks for that comprehensive and thorough analysis. I might have to bump that to a post after all. :-)
Here’s a little something about schizophrenia vs. religion. I know it uses the word “crazy,” but it makes a good point. Sometimes crazy is in the eye of the beholder:
See, when I say “crazy,” I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, like a put-down. I mean a person or a thought process that is detached from reality.
Perhaps a more appropriate word would be psychotic, but that word carries a lot of negative connotations as well.
In my first year of college, I was on the receiving end of two furious tirades. The first one was from a wheelchair-bound lady who hated the word “handicapped,” and proceeded to tell me why I should never use such a derogatory word. The second, nearly five months later, was from another wheelchair-bound lady who said the next time she heard some self-righteous politically correct asshole call her “differently-abled” she was going to run him over with her power chair.
Thanks for the clarification, Heather. I know that political correctness is a losing battle. But what I was trying to say is that we understand it is being a disease rather than a character flaw. When people hear the word “crazy” it’s automatically dismissive. “Get me out of here, he’s CRAZY.” That type of thing.
So I know this boils down to semantics, but no matter how you slice it, it means the person needs help. Sometimes they are the biggest obstacles to helping themselves, and some people can never be helped.
It’s that weird intersection between freedom of choice, conscience, and the right of everyone else in society to live free as well. “Crazy” people test all of our assumptions and challenge our concept of what it means to be human. They also scare us because they make us see what lies inside of ourselves, and is only held in check by things like the frontal cortex and other brain parts I don’t even know the names of.
Hey Sean have you seen that bumper sticker “God protect me from your followers?”
Yes, Ben, in that vein, I’ll make a sincere prayer for old times sake:
Beloved God Almighty, Archangel Michael, and Mighty Astrea, and all of the Angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, in the name of your son Jesus Christ, please protect me from this impostor and keep him from harassing or me or my family any further.
Help him see that even if what he is saying is true, I have the right to live my life and be judged by you and you alone, not any human being.
I have made my decision to espouse atheism and science with full knowledge and in sound mind and sober calculation. It is because it is the only alternative given what I know and have observed in the 42 years of life I’ve had so far. If I am wrong, I will gladly face the consequences in the afterlife, whatever they may be. So God, if you are real, rein in this lost devotee of yours, and protect me from his insanity.
Oh mighty Sanat Kumara, Alpha and Omega, beloved El Morya, I ask you to take this burden from me this day, and to lead your son Steven S. Showers back toward his homeward path (and away from ME). God, if you are real, I know that you love me no matter what I might do, and if and when you show yourself to me, I will submit to your judgment alone.
Sounds crazy, but that’s how I used to pray back in the day. Can’t hurt, right? If he keeps harassing me, I’ll know my prayers have not been answered, and therefore I’ve made the right choice to be an atheist.
And if your prayers are answered?
Well I just told god I would take the consequences and accept his judgment later, right? And that given what I know, I have no choice but to continue promoting science as the only coherent world view. If he wants me to do anything else, he will have to reveal himself to me.
I’m sorry this guy is doing what he is doing to you. My thoughts are with you. Be careful, this guy doesn’t sound stable in the least. I have meant people like him many times, especially in the south and they can NOT be trusted.
I tend to lean toward religion being the cause of some forms of psychosis. That organ music and chanting isn’t just for fun, it does stimulate parts of the brain that can be infuenced once tapped into. While I try to stay out of human psycholigical problems because I do not have a degree in it, I can recognize that the majority of christians are unstable in varying degrees. Patriarchal religious ideologies focus on shaming and guilting people into going against their natural instincts, I can’t help but think that, that is not good for the human psyche. I am not disagreeing with anyone on what causes certain types of psychosis, there are many factors to figure in, such as brain enjury, incorrect devolopment, and childhood trauma, but for the most common (and not always less dangerous), I think religion does play a big role in causation .An alarming amout of people in the US suffer from some form of depression. For most women their depression stems from sexual guilt which stems from religious indoctrination and if women are suffering from depression, what happens to the children that will no doubt be intorduced to the same pattern to some degree? Also there are a lot of christian sites popping up all over the net about the alarming numbers of christians who are on anti-depressants, it apears that the overwhelming majority of christian women are on some form of depression and anxiety meds. and the men aren’t fairing much better. Patriarchal religious ideologies have a long history of breaking down the mother/infant bonds. “Spare the rod spoil the child” comes to mind here. Using harsh punishments, circumscission, and denial of the breast are some of the most effective means to break down the mother/infant bonds. christianity has a long history of breast denile, it used to be that upperclass christian women did not and were discouraged from breast feeding. They would send their children to nursing maids that neglected their own to feed the rich. The breast feeding issue has improved, but it is still discouraged to some degree by the christain community, by forcing women to nurse in the home or in back rooms and many women will opt out all together because of society makes it shameful and inconvienent for them. Millions of years of evolution went into perfecting the mother/infant bond that desert bound patriarchal religious beliefs has broke down over the course of a few thousand years leading to many forms of depression. I also think that our environment has a huge effect on human behavior much like it does animals and in fact abrahamic religions originated in the most driest drought and famine driven enviornment there is. The bible mentions a lot of drought and famine and the Hebrews were desert nomads and their behavior shows. So, if you indonctrinate with mentally unstable ideas, driven by drought and famine, the relsults can only be bad.
Baboon studies show that the drier the climate they live in the more patriarchal and more violent the males become towards females and their offspring. When they were moved to a more moist enviornment the less violent and more matriarchal they became. The studies also showed the same for lions. There is a documentory that shows on animal planet once in awhile about lions that were moved into the swamp lands, its called ‘Swamp Cats’ and the change of behavior in the males was dramatic and very telling!
I see no reason why this wouldn’t apply to humans as well and infact humans in more moist environments do behave better than those in drier climates. Now if we could ditch the desert religions, I think humans will be able to reach their full potential and depression rates would drop.
Very interesting correlation about the dry climates. Also you are right to be concerned about the anti-depressant use. While I think these drugs can be very helpful when used properly, I hate to see people taking them as a substitute for making changes to their underlying systems of thought.
Oppression of women is at the root of so many of society’s problems. I think men don’t appreciate how much these attitudes hurt them as well. A woman who is sexually empowered and independent is so much easier to relate to in my opinion. In order to realize this, men first need to give up their desire to always control, protect, and provide. Sometimes men need to take that role, but it is not the only choice, nor is it always appropriate.
Absolutely! Humans can find a healthy balance between the sexes. When I use the word matriarchal, I use it in a more general way, because through out history humans have been matriarchal to some extent as well as patriarchal. We consider the US to be patriarchal, but that is just a general term, because in reality America is not 100% patriarchal, although in leans a little more towards the patriach, America still has a lot a matriarchal characteristics about it and has only benefitted from it. When the sexes are plotted against eachother in ways that the bible does, it will only lead to a lot of miserary, especially in our climate. It really does not benefit anyone to oppress women in our land of plenty. I can’t tell you how many men have told me that they do not want a meek and submissive woman. My husband is one of them. He tells eveyone that I am the boss and he’s the muscles behind it, I say it, he makes it so and so on. He recognizes how important the creative female energy is and I recognize how important the male strength is and we recognize them both as something that can not survive without the other. Now in a drier climate the female creative evergy isn’t as useful, the only thing that has results is the male strength, but is aslo very destuctive by itself.
And I am speaking in general terms, males also have a female creative side and women have a masculine strength side as well and can choose to use them at will. And we all need to be in touch with our feminine and masculine sides, because in the end we all start out the same and come from the same species that is only differenciated by hormones.
Anyway, I don’t want to get off the topic of this guy stalking you, so I’ll put the question back out there. How can we tell if this guy is truly psychotic or just brainwashed and how do we tell the difference?
Do you think religious thoughts alone can cause chemical imbalance in the brain?
I"m amazed to see such emotion in all your postings.
Blacksun why do you leave an open window for God to respond to you. If truely you believe there is no God, why do you doubt your belief? Is there something in your gut? Have you seen something or maybe felt something? If you truely believe you are alone in this world, why don't you leave it at that and continue with your life. Why would you dwell on the subject?
What is the difference between the prayer you prayed and the prayer a believer or saved person would have prayed? What is the difference between you speaking to God and me speaking to God?
Sean, I'm not sure where you get this information, no doubt there is possiblily some twisted community that may have evolved into what you speak of. But in the bible it specifically talks about a mother who breast fed her son Samuel for approximately 5 years. That was written before you and I were even born so, its not my fabrication.
True women have a choice on how to raise their children. How to dress them , how to feed them and how to discipline them.
I believe modernization has more to do with women breast feeding less in today's time. Its alot easier to mix formula and water, shake and hand to the child while mommy is on the computer trying to do work from home, so she can help the man with "his" financial responsibility towards the home.
Infact when I was in the hospital having my youngest child, the nurse kept trying to talk me out of keeping the baby inmy room and letting me know we could start the "formula" diet as soon as I said the word. Also lack of a support system for women is the cause of anxiety and depression. Back in the day the mother in law, mother, sisters, second aunts, neighboors and ect would come over to help the woman as she re-cooped from child birth, she got into a new routine, and was able to keep up with the pace of anew born and additional responsibiliities. Now a day, a woman gives birth, raises the children, goes to work, comes home and maintains it, and has no time for herself and no help from other to boot.