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On the Road

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Name: Jack Neefus
Gender: Male
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Home country: US
Current location: Baltimore, MD
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,783

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Email: jneefus@gmail.com

Journal Archives

"They committed suicide as a group, nearly 1000 people."

Well, not quite all of them...

To a certain extent, the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide; some sources, including Jonestown survivors, regard the event as a mass murder.

Clayton said that Jones approached people to encourage them to drink the poison and that, after adults saw the poison begin to take effect, "they showed a reluctance to die."[143] Wikipedia article

There is also the question of how to characterize the nature of the community and the motive for the suicides:

Jones' recorded readings of the news were part of the constant broadcasts over Jonestown's tower speakers, such that all members could hear them throughout the day and night.[48] Jones' news readings usually portrayed the United States as a "capitalist" and "imperialist" villain, while casting "socialist" leaders, such as Kim Il-sung,[49] Robert Mugabe,[50] and Joseph Stalin[51] in a positive light.

On October 2, 1978, Soviet dignitary Feodor Timofeyev visited Jonestown for two days and gave a speech.[82] Jones stated before the speech that, "For many years, we have let our sympathies be quite publicly known, that the United States government was not our mother, but that the Soviet Union was our spiritual motherland."[82] Timofeyev opened the speech stating that the U.S.S.R. would like to send "our deepest and the most sincere greetings to the people of this first socialist and communist community of the United States of America, in Guyana and in the world."[82] Both speeches were met by cheers and applause from the crowd in Jonestown.[82]

On the tape, Jones urged Temple members to commit "revolutionary suicide".[136] Such "revolutionary suicide" had been planned by the Temple before and, according to Jonestown defectors, its theory was "you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism."[140]

To use the logic currently in vogue, Jonestown should apparently be blamed on socialism. Certainly religion was not the issue. It's a perfect example of why the thought process is foolish and simpleminded.

Imagine that There is an Identifiable Group of Mentally Ill People with Religious Delusions

and a much larger group of religious people who have no symptoms of mental illness.

Sampling those two groups would show a positive correlation between mental illness and religious delusion. However, in no way does it demonstrate that religious causes mental illness or is a form of mental illness.

And of course it was "impossible to tell" cause and effect -- that kind of a study doesn't attempt to address causation.

Really Good

As a former Psych major, I love seeing these things. RSA seems like a particularly good series.

At one point, however, the talk seems to say that the experimental results contradicted behaviorism, since money is a reinforcement. However, there are many reinforcements and punishments. These results seem consistent with Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance experiments decades ago. Whenever you get beyond simple tasks by simple organisms, there are a lot of things going on, including feedback loops. In my mind, this complexifies behaviorism and makes it more sophisitcated.

I am a Nonbeliever Who Was Raised Christian as Well

and took Christianity very seriously for almost ten years beginning in college.

The Bible is by no means the dominant influence in my life, but I can't think of another book that would come close. I love the Bible, but it takes a while to really understand it in something like its historical context.

It is predictable but troubling that the harshest criticism tends to come from the least hermeneutically aware people. So much of received cultural wisdom and psychology comes through religion that it is a shame to discard it with really nothing to replace it.

Well, the Best Generally Available Source is Probably the Washington Post Article

It showed a program operating legitimately as described with about the level of violations you would expect for an effort that size, such the one analyst who was doing three-step rather than two-step phone searching asa well as data entry errors such as the one with the Egyptian country code. How anyone can square the wealth of detail in that article with Greenwald's articles is beyond me.

As far as private sources go, you would be surprised how many posters here have some idea how government actually works and recognize the earmarks of propaganda when they hear it. Greenwald is an outsider, to put kindly, and appears to take Snowden at his word despite a number of red flags and known exaggerations. For anyone familiar with the intelligence communities, the picture that he portrays of how the US government operates is so at odds with reality that is strains credulity.

Personally, my perspective on the NSA comes from a recently retired NSA Deputy Director with a close family connection I have known for decades -- a lifelong Democrat from a union family in the Northeast with unimpeachable integrity, street smarts, and an Ivy League PhD. I've known a lot of NSA people, and as a group they are decent, smart, middle-class people. It is no more likely for that group to engage in the kind of shenanigans they are accused of than for your mother and father. The whole agency has been going crazy, largely because the rank and file keep hearing things on the news no one can square with anyone's actual experience.

Snowden did break the news of the existence of the phone record database, although the alternative being adopted is really not substantially different from the previous status quo. I guess it's a matter of opinion, but his 'revelations' are so erratic I think people are less well informed now than before. And that's saying a lot.

I Would Welcome Anything to Relieve the Level of Religious Ignorance

The version of Christianity depicted on DU is not only unrecognizable. If corresponding statements were made about Jews it would be, in Rachel Maddow's terms, "hair-raising." Some of the silliest damn charges routinely get laid at the feet of Christianity without anyone batting an eye.

When Oscar Wilde was taking his oral exam in classics, he was asked to translate the portion from near the end of Acts in which Paul is shipwrecked. When the professors told him he had translated enough, Wilde quipped "Oh, I wanted to keep reading and see how it turns out." Everyone laughed -- there was no need to explain that Acts ends inconclusively in media res. It was scarcely a devout group, but religious knowledge was so much more common it was taken for granted.
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