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