2011-07-28

Are true believers “insane” like Breivik?

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by Neil Godfrey

I’m thinking of the true believer who believes in another reality as more real than the real world here and now.

The lawyer for Breivik has said his client appears to be insane because he is convinced that “only he understands the truth”. The rest of the world, he believes, will understand him 60 years from now. He has a completely different perception of reality, for instance believing torture exists in Norway’s prisons.

If that is insanity, then how do we describe those who believe the whole world lies in wickedness under the rule of the Devil while only they understand the truth? Or those who believe that Jesus will return in only a few years and demonstrate his favour to them before the whole world, to show the world that they were the ones who were right all along? Or what of those who believe in behind-the-scenes 666 world-takeover conspiracies, weird things about atheists, Catholics, Muslims, gays, the beneficence of the treatment of Bradley Manning, or weapons of mass destruction?

Breivik kills people but true believers don’t do that, do they? Breivik, we are told, used drugs and other aids to help him keep his nerve through it all. True believers don’t do that, but when acting as part of a much bigger institution upon which they can hang their personal responsibilities, like a nation or national government, they have been known to actively support mass murder, torture and other forms of systemic violence.

And on a personal level how many are prepared to “suffer persecution” for their willingness to cause heartache by forsaking and breaking up their families, removing themselves from healthy social intercourse, allowing loved ones to die from treatable illnesses, covering up sexual abuse for the “greater good”, all “for Christ”. And what of those who really are prepared to sell everything, lose or leave their jobs, all in the belief that they are soon going to be “taken away” to a better place?

I’m so thankful I got out of the true believer status myself. And so thankful I did not go the way of some of my former friends who likewise left but only turned to other brands of “true believer”. I have wondered why some other ex-fundamentalist atheists come across as so bigoted and arrogant when speaking of those who are still trapped in the same place they once were themselves. What happened to growth in self-understanding? I think the WIkipedia article on Eric Hoffer’s book might give us a clue:

With their collapse of a communal framework people can no longer defeat the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty by belonging to a compact whole. If the isolated individual lacks vast opportunities for personal advancement, development of talents, and action (such as those found on a frontier), he will seek substitutes. These substitutes would be pride instead of self-confidence, memberships in a collective whole like a mass movement, absolute certainty instead of understanding.

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  • 2011-07-29 04:32:57 UTC - 04:32 | Permalink

    Like my fellow countrymen, I feel sad and ashamed for belonging to the nation that brought forth this sinister figure. With regard to your question, whether he would qualify for the definition of a “true believer,” I would await the findings of the psychiatric expertise before saying too much. But I do agree that insanity and religious fanaticism are sometimes two sides of the same coin. Breivik is, by self-definition, a Christian knight, but more interesting than the actual words in his 1500-page book is the fact that large portions of the text are copied from the Unabomber’s Manifesto. This may be an indication that his true source of inspiration was not a set of abstract ideas, but rather the murderous scheme of Ted Kaczynski.

    When reading about the island massacre, which followed directly after the car bombing in the government district, there is another name that comes to mind: Baruch Goldstein (1956-1994), who, to my knowledge, has not yet been mentioned in the media coverage of the Oslo attacks. The Cave of the Patriarchs, the scene of Goldstein’s massacre, constituted a closed space from which escape was difficult, and so did the Norwegian island of Utøya. Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs wearing his army uniform, creating the image of an officer on active duty. Breivik was wearing a police uniform, creating the image of a police officer offering increased security. Svenn Torgersen, a Norwegian psychiatrist, has proposed that Breivik is pathologically narcissistic. It would have been interesting to know whether Goldstein, too, was described as suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  • Bob Carlson
    2011-07-29 06:28:06 UTC - 06:28 | Permalink

    After perusing the biographical material posted on his Wikipedia, it seems likely to me that Breivik is quite intelligent and that, if circumstances had been different (e.g.meeting up with the right professor or the right business associate), the outcome would likely have been quite different. I had been inclined to suppose that if he had been living in America he would probably be a member of the Tea Party, but I was surprised to find this statement on the Wikipedia:

    Dagens Næringsliv writes that Breivik sought to start a Norwegian version of the Tea Party movement in cooperation with the owners of document.no, but that they, after expressing initial interest, ultimately turned down his proposal because he did not have the contacts he promised.

    Indeed, the Tea Party movment seems rife with xenophobia. Islamophobia, and opposition to gays and lesbians having the right to marry. I even find an article titled The Tea Party and the Tucson Tragedy. Are members of the Tea Party movement “true believers”?

    • 2011-07-31 06:34:08 UTC - 06:34 | Permalink

      There is no “Tea Party” singular as if we are talking about a political party. There are “Tea Parties” plural as in assemblies where people voice their opposition to high taxes and government spending. And that is all the Tea Parties are about. They aren’t about Islam or homosexuals. They are about taxes and government spending. That’s why they are called “Tea Parties” in commemoration of the Boston Tea Party that threw the tea in the sea because the colonists didn’t like the taxes that England was charging. The leftist media is distorting things as if there was a political party called “The Tea Party” and as if it was some xenophic terrorist organization. But the reality is that the Tea Parties are attended by members of ALL political parties, Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians alike, who oppose high taxes and out of control spending, the same out of control spending that has brought the US Government to the brink of default 2 days from now. The Tea Partyers want massive cuts in spending and then a balanced budget amendment to prevent us from coming to the brink of default again. They have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamiphobia, etc. They are about taxes. Sure some of the members might have personal opinions on that stuff but the Tea Parties aren’t about it. Some individual members also might want marijuana legalized!!!!!! As I said, some of the Tea Partiers are LIBERTARIANS and DEMOCRATS. Yet, even though some members might want marijuana legalized, that is NOT what the Tea Partys are about.

      • TruthOverfaith
        2011-07-31 18:46:24 UTC - 18:46 | Permalink

        reyjacobs,

        How incredibly naive you are if you believe that there is no trace of Islamiphobia, homophobia,etc. in the tea parties.

        You need to google Michelle Bachmann’s and Sara Palin’s comments on Islam and homosexuality,etc.
        Many of these people are religious nutbags who are obsessed with all the usual religious nutbag subjects.

        • 2011-08-02 12:32:27 UTC - 12:32 | Permalink

          Michelle Bachman and Sara Palin are just leftist media distractions. They don’t represent the tea party in real life; they just play its representatives on TV because the media has chosen them and anointed them to make the tear party look stupid. When Rick Perry enters the race, he will run these witches out of town, and they’ll fly away on their broomsticks back to whatever rock they crawled out of.

  • 2011-07-29 13:11:41 UTC - 13:11 | Permalink

    And what do we make of those many voices applauding what Breivik did, or if not applauding the act, applauding the motivation and larger desire that led to the act? Did Norway Get What It Deserved?

    • 2011-07-31 06:44:57 UTC - 06:44 | Permalink

      The answer to this question, I think, is that democracy is dead. People all over the world are realizing that their supposed representative republics are not republics at all, but are aristocracies. The people elect supposed representatives, who then go to the capital of the country and form an aristocracy that doesn’t give a rat’s butt about what the people want. Most people are content to just bitch about it. But some are not. Some want to make those sons of bitches bleed. Unless these aristocracy’s grow up and learn to play well with others, and to listen to those who voted them into office, I think eventually civil wars are going to break out in almost every supposedly democratic nation. When I say this, I’m just predicting what I think is almost inevitable at this point thanks to the greed of the aristocracies–I’m not calling for violence–I’m acting as prophet, not as revolutionary. What I fear may happen, in fact, is that FAKE revolutionary attacks will be staged so that the aristocracies can then start a preemptive war against their own people. This may, in fact, be what took place in Norway. Certainly, I wouldn’t put it past the American aristocracy to fake some sort of violent action by a supposed “Tea Party member” so that they can then clamp down on civil rights and jail anyone who calls for lower taxes. This is the sort of thing aristocracies do. So, I think, whether the serfs start the violence or not, the aristocracies have gotten so out of control, that there will be violence one way or another. Either the serfs will rise up; or the aristocracy will just claim they did and then send troops to put down the non-existent rebellion.

  • 2011-07-31 06:25:18 UTC - 06:25 | Permalink

    “Or what of those who believe in behind-the-scenes 666 world-takeover conspiracies, weird things about atheists, Catholics, Muslims, gays, the beneficence of the treatment of Bradley Manning, or weapons of mass destruction?”

    You should throw in Global Warming, Climate Change, and Keynesian Economics in the mix there.

    The people that believe in Globalwarmingclimatechange just can’t accept it when the science turns out to show that Ethanol is no better for the environment than gas and they continue to support ethanol subsidies. And when the major researchers that supposedly ‘proved’ global warming true turn out to be frauds, thanks to leaked email, and some are now going to jail, again, true-believerism sets in: global warming must be true anyway; I can’t have believed a lie for so long; therefore, it must be true.

    Same with the Keynesian economists. Sure Obama has tried Keynesian economics for three years and tried to spend us out of the recession based on the Keynesian idea that the government spending money somehow stimulates the economy. And sure its obvious that the opposite is true and that the more the government spends, the worse it gets. Yet, now they want to raise the debt ceiling to borrow more money in the vain hope that some more stimulus spending will help! They are retarded. They keep trying the same thing, and the more if fails, they more they are convinced that it is true.

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