Understanding the psychology of religious seduction and spiritual abuse.
Category: Al Dexter
Deism is a close cousin to agnosticism. I’m just not prepared to state that there really was a god who started it all and then took a hands off policy. It does make a whole lot more sense than belief in an interventionist god who never seems to intervene when he is needed most, such as during the holocaust. Most of the “miracles” I’ve heard people prate about are several steps down the line hearsay and misinterpretations of totally plausible natural….
I just read a very good article that precipitated a great deal of thought. I had to conclude that this insightful article was “right on.” You can find and peruse the same article right here.
This mind infection or meme doesn’t just afflict Christianity. It has afflicted the world ever since the first tribal seer, seeress, shaman, etc. concocted the first fantastic tale to explain worldly happenstances and their causes and why existence existed, thus inventing the first gods and/or goddesses and setting himself or herself up as an authority. Over time, set theologies, “holy” books and religious systems developed.
I wish I could say it’s been uphill from there,
Christian orthodoxy and fundamentalism is just another in a long line of orthodoxies and fundamentalist phenomena that can be traced back through history. There is really nothing that is truly new.
Once a priestly and governmental aristocracy comes on the scene, it has to find some way to keep the subservient masses under control. The officials of the ruling religion and/or government can’t be everywhere at all times. But – all seeing, all knowing gods can!
Like mythical Santa Claus, they see you when you’re sleeping and see you when you’re awake, or so you are authoritatively assured. There is literally nowhere to hide. You either get in line or you’re toast – usually for all of a terrifyingly fictitious eternity.
Works beautifully on ornery little Johnny in the weeks before Christmas. Works rather well on big John too.
Just like the author of the article above, I was at one time a fundamentalist – a super-fundamentalist. When you’re adhering to the seventh-day sabbath and Bible holy days, clean and unclean meats, etc., I can’t label it anything but super-fundamentalism.
This statement resonated loudly with me: “As a fundamentalist you close your mind to anything but what ancient texts say. You only listen to certain things and filter everything through the lens of your chosen religion.”
I couldn’t state what happened to me in any clearer terms. I went from a skeptical teen-ager to a true believer basically overnight. It was like suddenly coming down with a virus. One moment healthy and vibrant, the next moment sick all over and feeling worse by the minute. I went from healthy skepticism to blatant unthinking fanaticism so fast that it took everyone, including me, by surprise.
This was no run of the mill virus I or people around me had developed defenses against. It was a new mutation! Cataclysmic viruses result when common viruses mutate and develop something new, like suddenly becoming pneumonic. British-Israelism, holy days, divine healing versus doctors and medicine, clean and unclean meats, etc., etc. I learned I shouldn’t even celebrate my birthday. It came upon me and overwhelmed me before I had a chance to really think.
Herbert Armstrong was a master at mutating the virus. He was also a master at keeping the old psychosis of fear dangling over our heads. He did away with the old “hell” and substituted an all consuming lake of fire that would probably vaporize even our ashes. He took away the hope of going to heaven and substituted becoming a literal son of God ruling over a coming perfect world. With a rod of iron, yet — not some little twiggy switch! That got the old adrenalin and testosterone flowing! Real macho message for really macho guys and gals who never before felt they had any real power! They could become GOD! That meant they could “call the shots” — for EVERYBODY!
Awesome! Or, as a particularly ridiculous verbal-ism that infected the group put it, “ghastly.” I have no idea where it originated, but I heard it first from the mouth of David Jon Hill when we went to see him off on the Queen Mary while we were stationed in New York. That was in 1961. Everything he saw that impressed him was labeled “ghastly,” which he pronounced somewhat British-like as “gawstly.”
Another statement I identify with states: “there is a certain thrill in suddenly ‘waking up’ and realizing you’ve been deluding yourself for many years.”
The thrill didn’t come on overnight. There was a period of confusion and bewilderment. It took a while to figure out just how deluded I had been. How deluded the whole damn world was! Despite there being obvious degrees of delusion, delusion is still delusion. Recovery involves a subtle, slow process, sort of like recovering from a serious infection. It takes a while.
How and why did this mind infection last so long – over twenty years in my case before I began to recover? Another statement gives a clue: “You slowly begin to grasp that the fundamentalist rituals you are using are designed solely to keep those delusions fresh and ever present in your mind so that you will quickly fall into line if you have doubts.”
We repulsed contrary thoughts by cliches and slogans we constantly heard and repeated. We were “in the truth,” contrary things were “abominations,” demons and demonic forces were everywhere and oh so powerful, questioning anything meant you were in “a bad attitude” or, horror of horrors, “unconverted.” The “world” was “Satan’s world” and we had to live in it but not be a part of it. The list could go on and on. We had a self-righteous, all-knowing answer for anything and everything. We walked around with that superior attitude and haughtiness I’ve since learned to recognize and abhor in other cultic and fundamentalist people.
This was reinforced by a constant round of listening to the World Tomorrow broadcast, reading the literature, compulsory attendance at weekly services and holy day observances where basically the same messages were hammered home and reinforced time after time. Every holy day, Herbert would ask the same question – “Brethren, why are we here?” and give the same answers, replicating and reinforcing the infection. We were constantly made to feel inadequate because there was no way to adhere to Herb’s formula of studying our Bibles an hour, meditating an hour and praying an hour. We were confident he did even though, if we had honestly thought about it, how in the world could he?
An aura surrounded Herbert Armstrong. An aura carefully created and nurtured by him and those worshipful sycophants who surrounded him. He was god-like in all our eyes. We all aspired to be as perfect and wise as he. That aura persists in thousands of spiritually diseased minds to this very day, in spite of all the salacious revelations that should have dispelled it long ago. The virus clouds their minds and doesn’t allow them to see what is so apparent.
How much of the original infection still remains is a good question. I’d like to believe that it has been totally eradicated. The disquieting thing is that the old virus is still back there sitting dormant in my mind and every once in a while, the old virus tape tries to play again. I have to bring myself up short and realize that I’ve thoroughly disproved all that nonsense.
The ten commandments are supposedly the foundation of Christianity and the other Abrahamic faiths. The reality — not so much. Especially when it comes to manufacturing support from famous people of the past who are no longer around to defend themselves.
The anti-religious writings and comments of our esteemed founding fathers and subsequent presidents, etc. have always been a thorn in the side of religionists. So, if actual history wasn’t on their side, some of them have gone so far as to create fictions out of whole cloth. As in many other moral issue matters, some seem to think that breaking those venerable commandments is perfectly alright if they conclude that the cause is “just.” “Just” meaning the promotion of Christianity or whatever other Abrahamic approach happens to be involved.
I have been angrily denounced many times when I have pointed out that this country wasn’t founded by staunch Christians. Christians desperately search for anything to back up their assertion that this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles and doctrine. Or, as one former associate who has turned to Judaism likes to put it, “judeo-christian,” with emphasis on “judeo.”
My wife had a university professor who was Jewish. He constantly tried to tie anything consequential that happened in history to Jews and Israel. We had a similar mindset in the old WCG. Isn’t chauvinism amazing? More of the “mine doesn’t stink” syndrome.
The most vocal, outstanding and readily available of these founding fathers is Thomas Paine. His great book, Age of Reason, is available on this site. The comments of Jefferson, Washington, etc. are more scattered and harder to ferret out. Don’t expect your pastor to point them out. Nor anyone else with a religious ax to grind.
I wish someone younger with the research time and capability would take up the cause of gathering up what our departed founding fathers really did write and say on the subject and get it out in an organized, documented volume, or volumes. If some of that work has been done and is readily available, please comment on the sources you know about. I am aware of many and have referred to them in other posts, but the blogosphere is loaded with sites I’m constantly discovering.
I especially value online sources. Books are expensive and take up a lot of space. Still, I’ll be happy to pay for documented facts. I’m not giving one cent for Barton’s scam.
Why do some people seem to be compelled to take firearms to religious and political events, irrespective of any threat to them or any public need outside of their personal need for show and intimidation?
I brought this question up to my little comedienne wife. She commented that it’s just a macho extension of their penises – a “mine is bigger than yours” kind of thing. She has also often commented that men want to drive around in big trucks for which they have no utilitarian use because they think their “wienies” are too small.
It’s all about creating an atmosphere of superiority, fear and ultimately of control.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve read enough on the subject to know that many things, from big hats to exaggerated shoulder pads are used in an attempt to project masculinity and superiority and intimidate anyone perceived as an opponent. Remember the recent commercial where the father-in-law said admiringly, “This is a man’s truck?” It shows up in the Texas saying, “big hat, no cattle.” Remember the cold war saying: “kill a commie for Christ?” Did you ever wonder why “Onward, Christian Soldiers” is such a popular hymn? We sang it more than any other in the old WCG. We probably should have sung “You’re In the Army Now!” A great religious organization is called “The Salvation Army.” We seem to want to equate Calvary with the cavalry. You can almost hear the query, “My neighbor doesn’t believe in God — Can I smite him?” Why does an “omnipotent” God want or even need hit men (or women)?
It’s not as common a syndrome in women, but they are subject to similar mindsets that usually revolve around things like big bosoms, dazzlingly smooth complexions and hourglass figures. As they become more of an equal force in business and society, that is changing. More women are thinking and acting much like men.
The desire to dominate, attract and intimidate is a basic drive in all primates and other evolutionarily advanced creatures. The more narcissistic one becomes, the greater the drive.
Two forces, religion and politics, like no others, lend themselves to the utilization of guns and super weapons as instruments of dominance and control.
It took the form of swords, spears, bows and arrows, etc. until the advent of firearms. We see it in action in the blood soaked accounts of the Old Testament. Most of the great heroes of scripture were mighty warriors. Jesus is painted returning as a conquering king wielding a devastating sword and a rod of iron.
There is nothing human society and religion pictures as more manly than the conquering hero, whether it’s on the battlefield or the college gridiron. Many of our presidents became presidents because they were military heroes. That includes our first president. Patton was right when he said Americans (really all humans) have no respect for losers.
The purpose of military power is to be able to call the tunes to which other nations are compelled to dance. Multiple billions are spent in an unending struggle to maintain our military supremacy. Area 51 really does exist. It has always been so ever since one family or tribe cast covetous eyes on the territory and resources of the family or tribe next door and realized their aspirations could be accomplished easier if their clubs and sharp rocks were bigger and/or more lethal. Even our chimp cousins apparently go to war with neighboring chimp communities. We are not unique in our propensity for violence within our own kind.
Religions also jockey for dominance and dream of becoming the only accepted religion. Violence and the threat of violence often become the tool of choice in the hoped for attainment of their aspirations. For example, the administrative editor of this site doesn’t make his full name or his address known because he has received death threats over what is published here. Horrible things like Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” my book, “Believing the Unbelievable” the history of how the christian church and the Bible as we know it came to be and of course this, “The Painful Truth Blog.”
This emphasis on real and threatened violence has fallen to the lunatic fringe in the background of most of Christianity, but it comes to the fore quite easily when extremists take over causes like anti-abortion. Then, we hear talk of things like “the Phineas priesthood.”
Violence is very much at the forefront of Islam. They have never renounced their doctrine of spreading Islam by the sword. They can’t renounce it because they dare not admit their great prophet said or wrote anything that was wrong.
Guns are viewed as convenient “equalizers.” If a 90-pound weakling who has always felt put upon and persecuted can avail himself of a firearm, he has the potential to turn the tables on those he regards as his enemies and tormenters. Usually, it amounts to only swagger and implied threats, like a chimp who finds he can make a terrifyingly intimidating din and enhance his standing in the group by rolling an oil drum around and beating on it with a stick.
When a serious mental pathology enters the picture, the results can be devastating. Witness what recently occurred in Tucson. The wide-eyed booking picture of the assailant reminded me of the wild looking eyes of Marshall Applewhite, the Heaven’s Gate founder who led his followers into mass suicide. It will be interesting to read what qualified psychologists have to say about his mental pathologies.
The Tucson assailant was definitely a “crazo” who should have been treated and probably institutionalized. The signs were everywhere and such deranged people are all too common as local authorities struggle against budgets and the need to maintain individual civil rights. It’s a thorny problem.
Outlawing guns for our population would accomplish nothing in stopping the “weirdos” among us. They would just resort to black market firearms, homemade bombs and craft their own “zip guns.” Or, they’d use crossbows or something else. Even a fireplace poker and kitchen knife can be used to kill. In the meantime, the average citizen would find himself helpless against the home invader and a myriad of other criminals who would always find ways to get guns.
Every sane law abiding citizen should be able to own guns for hunting, sport or protection. There are many utilitarian, practical reasons to own guns. Those common sense reasons are why we have the second amendment to our constitution.
When World War II descended upon the unprepared democracies, we were all at a preliminary disadvantage as far as our decimated and ill-equipped military readiness was concerned. The British were especially at a disadvantage because their gun laws prevented most of their citizenry from owning guns. We not only had to brave the submarine wolf packs to help them arm their military, but also to provide arms for their home guard militias.
The US, although relatively unprepared militarily, was in a far different and far better position, which was a great worry to knowledgeable Japanese. Many of them had been students in American universities. They had been guests in American homes and had seen the well stocked gun cabinets full of everything from side arms to shotguns and big game rifles. They knew we could field armed citizen’s militias in a matter of days and hours.
Invading the mainland USA would have been a tactical nightmare!
Hitler basically “waltzed into Poland” in 1939 because the Poles had outlawed private ownership of guns and had allowed their military to deteriorate so far that they basically had no air force and had to oppose panzer tanks with mounted cavalry. The Swiss, by contrast, were armed to the teeth and were never threatened.
I remember the day World War II began. I was five years old at the time and had ridden to town with my grandfather who was delivering a load of grain. The elevator operator announced that Hitler had just attacked Poland. My grandfather thought a moment, then said: “Well, we whipped the bastards once; we can do it again.” We did and fought a two front war on opposite sides of the world to do it. As Churchill said, it was our finest hour and that was our greatest generation — so far, at least.
I no longer own a single gun. I sold them all and gave to my own son the .22 rifle my father had given me at the age of 14 so I could hunt rabbits and gophers. I had previously made use of a Daisy air rifle to hunt sparrows and other “varmints” on our North Dakota ranch. I no longer feel a need for firearms.
I won’t be going hunting anymore, and I’m not too worried about being burglarized or attacked in my home. My guns were just gathering dust and taking up space. Someone younger can shoulder the citizen’s militia responsibility, should the need arise. I’d fill in as a support volunteer which would be far more practical to my advancing age. Marching, drilling and combat wouldn’t fit very well with my current physical prowess.
The real problem is a psychological, philosophical and theological one. As long as religious and political extremists tell us that it is up to us to force others to see things our way, by means of possible violence, and hint at that violence, there will be the danger of even more Tucsons. There are a multitude of mentally unstable people out there just waiting for the opportune time and excuse to strike. They will feel like the godly successors to Phineas and/or patriotic avengers and feel no guilt in wiping out those they consider the enemy, and claim a few innocent bystanders as collateral damage while they are at it.
The “It’s going to be my way or it’s the warfare highway” attitude has to end. The “Hell no, you can’t” rants have to halt. Superimposing target symbols on political opponents has to be abandoned by all parties. Democracy doesn’t work the way such people want it to work – which is really tantamount to a monarchy, a dictatorship or a fascist theocracy.
They will loudly trumpet their love of democracy just so long as it coincides with their interpretation ofwhat is right and proper and truly American. Many of them would want to run Thomas Paine and Jefferson out of town on a rail after they had been tarred and feathered, were they around today. They’ve already barred Thomas Jefferson’s writings from being taught in some places.
What’s next? I suspect even more enforced ignorance and pressure to conform – all in the name of Americanism.
Where’s the swastika? The hammer and sickle? The star and crescent?
Oh, that’s right, it’s the cross (and gun?) here.
Editors note: For the Church of God members who never vote but bitch a lot about the conditions in America, this video is dedicated to you.
The blood soaked history of religions (all religions) is too little known or recognized in the modern world.
The myth continues that religion is the source of morality, mercy and everything good. Muslims, for example, try to paint themselves as peace loving while commissioning suicide bombers to blow up infidels and other Muslims who happen to follow a different variant of islam their particular sect or group considers heretical. They are not unique in this sanguine, shocking stain on the pages of religious history.
Nothing inflames passions more than religious fervency. This is especially true when those passions get inflamed even more by a mental pathology like extreme narcissism.
Witness Jonestown and what many of us experienced as unthinking adherents to WCG and its dizzying plethora of offshoots. It becomes a psychological addiction that many can never shake.
These facts demonstrate the absurdity of claims of benevolence and moral and ethical superiority for religion and religious belief – even that generally benign faith of Buddhism (see the above article). Most general adherents of all religions, unless and until inflamed, usually go through life with no murderous attitudes toward others. They’re just ordinary people trying to get by, someone with whom you could enjoy a cup of tea.
Interject the power mad narcissist in a position of leadership and/or influence and all bets are off.
But, that is only background for the real subject of this post; something the average Christian has just accepted through mental osmosis – the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Stop and think about it for a moment. Does “Jesus died for my sins” really make sense?
You may reply that it does because Jesus was special. He was God made flesh through a virgin birth. He never committed a sin and was guiltless. Therefore, as God made flesh, he could atone for all my sins by voluntarily sacrificing himself.
This whole idea of a substitutionary sacrifice or atonement makes no sense at all. I’m sure there are loving parents who would gladly suffer execution for a crime one of their children committed. They could protest that they are guiltless and, therefore, suffering the penalty in their offspring’s stead would justify the guilty one going free. There isn’t a court in the entire world that would entertain such a thing.
Besides, if Jesus really was god incarnate, his death would be an illusion in the first place. In effect, he would be sacrificing himself to himself to cancel a rule he set up in the beginning. When they call it a “mystery,” they’re dead right!
Several assumptions are at work here, and they all revolve around accepting one mythological absurdity after another, beginning with Genesis 1. These include the special creation of Adam and Eve, the “fall,” man’s death being an eternal penalty instead of a natural thing that befalls all creatures, etc.
Some will counter with the common self-righteous charge that I’m just “leaning to my own understanding” and they are too reverent to do that.
Everybody, yes EVERYBODY, has no choice but to lean to their own understanding, even if that means accepting somebody else’s understanding, so don’t try to belittle my understanding. Here’s a humorous little parody which illustrates how the average person gets their spiritual and religious “truths”: http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php.
The whole idea of a substitutionary sacrifice permeated the ancient world. It took many forms and the concept has never disappeared: “…without shedding of blood is no remission” Heb. 9:22.
We see it at work in the myth of Abraham’s proposed sacrifice of Isaac. We are assured by the scriptures that God told him to do it. Every psychopath who murders his or her children seems to come up with a similar statement. Today, only those with mental derangements claim such personal communication with the deity. This fact should give us pause to wonder about Abraham. Perhaps he had some unfortunate accident similar to Ellen G. White’s that led to partial-complex seizures: http://www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/egw79.htm.
Whatever really happened back there in the misty mythological past, at least an acceptable level of sanity took over before poor Isaac’s throat was slit. Maybe the psychological stress brought on another revelatory seizure. I’m too old and knowledgeable about history and the ways of the world to accept it all as scripturally stated. “Spin” is as old as human awareness, and I’ve had to be corrected from time to time about my recollections and interpretations about my own past. I can only imagine what might have happened if those memories had been passed on orally for hundreds of years, finally written down and then copied, translated, interpreted, etc, over and over for more hundreds of years.
At least, Abraham somehow came to his senses, according to the account we have. Beats what Jesus’ supposed father ended up doing, according to the myth.
We are told that God likes to smell the aroma of a sacrifice. I can relate. I enjoy smelling a barbecue. Anthropomorphizing that liking onto your deity is a stretch, but humans do create their gods in their image.
Most people conclude that only the sacrifice of animals was pleasing to God.
According to the scriptures, he got a few kicks out of the slaughtering and burning of humans as well, at least in the centuries before he was fully evolved.
For years, I read over Leviticus 27:28 and 29 and never noticed what it really said: “…no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of that he hath, both OF MAN and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH.” (Let’s be honest, I skimmed it. We tend as believers to be selective in our reading and our awareness of what we really are reading.)
“Oh, that didn’t really happen,” I can hear people saying.
Oh, but it did! Many Times, I’m sure, but few are recorded.
It took centuries for Israel to totally abandon human sacrifice.
Remember the account of Jephthah’s daughter? That’s another passage of scripture we tend to carelessly read over and dismiss one way or another. When we are people of faith, we tend to develop tunnel vision and selective scriptural amnesia. Here’s the account:
“Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah … and Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to me, when I return in peace … shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering…. And Jephthah came … unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child … he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! … I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back (remember Lev. 27:28-29). … And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains … at the end of two months … she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed.”
The God of Israel (I suspect that it was really the avaricious priests) even considered the firstborn son of every family something that had to be ransomed or redeemed so they would not be sacrificed. See Exodus 13:2. Those offerings for redemption went to the priests. It was quite a mafia-style protection racket! Such practices went by the way over the centuries, thankfully. They were once common to religions.
In Deuteronomy 13:13-19, it was commanded that a whole town, everyone and everything in it, be killed and burned AS A SACRIFICE TO GOD.
I know. God commanded it, so it’s all right.
The child murderer and Muslim cleric say the same thing.
If a real God really gives such commands, why doesn’t he have the “balls” to give the command in person? Or, more reasonably, do the job himself? Couldn’t he, if he really has the power attributed to him, have sent an asteroid to wipe out that city? Why does an all powerful deity have to have puny humans do his dirty work? Takes no courage to send a priestly lackey to in turn send the rank and file “Joe Blow” any more than it takes personal courage for a mafia don to send a hit man, or an imam to send a fanatical young boy or girl wearing a suicide vest.
Surely a few of the attackers were killed or seriously wounded. I guess they were just unfortunate “collateral damage.”
People worship a pusillanimous wimp!
Some power mad, probably wild-eyed and psychologically disturbed individuals in different places at some ancient times manufactured those sorry travesties of humans standing in for their all powerful deities and through fear and intimidation, got everybody to bow down to those sorry excuses of omnipotent gods and do whatever the exalted “holy” representative told them to do in their names.
Far too many people still worship some imaginary god they’re absolutely certain demands blood to be spilled for their sins. They are so grateful to be able to claim the substitutionary blood of somebody called “Jesus.”
Time for something lighter.
I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The human race stands in a position of dominance on planet earth. We are clearly the most highly evolved species.
Our brains and minds are the most highly developed in the entire biological sphere we inhabit. We alone have the capacity for advanced speech. No other creature has the manual dexterity, due largely to our opposable thumbs, to invent and manufacture quite like we can. No other being besides us has the capacity to reach for the stars or even realize that there is a vast universe out there to explore. It’s only recently that even we realized that.
We’re obviously superior in many important ways.
That fact leads many of us to assume that everything, including other creatures, is here to exploit and use as we damn well see fit. Like the attitude ancient royalty and pre-civil war slaveholders had toward “lesser” humans, we tend to regard all other creatures as simply there for our exploitation. We are prone to think they don’t have the same quality and depth of feelings and emotions we do.
This is a very flawed attitude.
I’ve always been somewhat cognizant of the fact that other inhabitants of this world do have feelings and emotions, but I still thought they were vastly inferior to what I as a human would feel.
All of that changed in the last few years as three small dogs entered into my world. We are the doting owners of a female Pomchi and two male Pomeranians. I have been fascinated to see how much like human children those pooches are. I am convinced that all they would need is a hyoid bone and a human-like larynx and they would carry on kindergarten level conversations with us. They certainly know a great deal of what we are saying and we are learning to interpret what their barks, growls and looks mean. Watch this video to see what I mean: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/11/dog-breaks-vocabulary-rec_n_804728.html.
The little Pomchi and one of the Pomeranians absolutely love peanuts. I keep a large sack of roasted peanuts beside my recliner. As I’m watching the TV, the little Pomchi will park herself in front of my recliner and gaze steadily at me. If I don’t notice, there is soon a little bark telling me to adjust the portable steps for her and then she watches for me to put my hand down into the sack. Up she comes and parks herself with an expectant look like a child waiting for candy. My heart just melts at such moments. She can also hear me open a carton of ice cream from the master bedroom, and if on the bed, bark to be put down for her share.
Daisy, the Pomchi, especially loves to have her tummy rubbed and petted. She usually sleeps between us and will often roll over and impatiently convulse her little body to let us know she wants her tummy rub. When she is sitting on my lap and being petted by my right hand, she will daintily reach out her paw to my left hand in what I call her “tummy dummy” reminder.
Years ago, a friend who had a large property in the Altadena, CA foothills with horses and a couple cows commented how he always resented putting gas in his car, but he never resented feeding his animals. It’s much the same with our dogs. We just don’t resent sharing anything with them when we see the joy it gives them. They are so much like little human children.
And, they want to please us, just like normal children do. If we have to scold them for something, their little crests fall and they look oh so miserable. We are careful to shower them with love and praise as soon as possible afterward.
None of them have ever been struck. As a result, they have no fear or hostility toward any human. Yes, they will bark at all visitors, but its all a territorial “pack” thing. Their tails are wagging and they are ready to love and be loved. Nipping a visitor never enters their minds.
When they have been left alone for a while and we come back, it’s like children welcoming daddy and mommy back. We have to let them in the car or they could get run over. Trouble stands up like a little man and does a dance we call the “lambada.” His brother is starting to do the same. Daisy is more sedate. She just waddles up in all her plumpness, tail wagging, and waits to be greeted and petted. Then, they anxiously wait to see if we brought them something.
Dogs fit in so well with humans because they are in many ways very similar to humans.
They form packs (families). They are hierarchical with top males and females. They mark their territories – much like Mexican gang bangers “tag” theirs. If we had evolved a keener sense of smell, one can only wonder what we might see taggers doing. Would save them a lot of money for spray paint. Getting acquainted by intimately sniffing each other would also add an interesting dimension to life!
Dogs also learn quickly from experience. One morning, our oldest Pomeranian, who was a pup near a year old at the time, came yelping and howling from under our bed. Like all pups, he liked to chew just about anything and that, along with other mischief, earned him the name “Trouble.” The compulsion included electrical cords. I soon found that he had chewed through one of the control cords to our sleep number air bed – and gotten a painful shock for his “trouble.” He has never touched an electrical cord since!
We hope his two-year younger brother, Jubilation or “Jubi,” learns a similar lesson without dire consequences. Like children, you just can’t guard them from all hazards. They have to learn some things the hard way and one can only hope without too many serious repercussions. The main cord he has damaged so far was the charger cord for my wife’s cell Phone. Those small cords carry very few amps or voltage so he didn’t learn from it.
We aren’t sure whether they’ve learned the lesson about skunks yet. A skunk family chose our alley for a temporary “stomping ground” last summer. Of course, the Invaders had to be challenged. Yep, we had some “de-skunking” to do. Luckily, not a direct, close-up hit. As an old North Dakota ranch kid, I know how devastating that can be. It makes for instant “canus non grata.”
Neither of us are cat fans, but the stories people tell us about their cats make it plain that they have their own unique personalities and feelings. I’m certain, if we had a cat, and we won’t because of a severe cat allergy on my part, that I would find many things to love about the animal and could relate equally interesting facts.
Other creatures are a lot more intelligent and emotionally aware than we would perhaps suppose. Their feelings run deep and they suffer from pain, deprivation and loss very much like we humans do. Anyone who takes on a pet needs to realize that and treat that animal as a feeling, sentient being every bit as worthy of our concerned respect as any other member of the family. If you’re unable or unwilling to provide that loving respect and care, it’s best to forget taking on the responsibility.
Many denizens of the animal kingdom demonstrate great awareness. Elephants have great mental capacity and their care for each other is in many ways human-like. Watch them playing with snow at a German zoo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/28/elephants-play-in-snow_n_801933.html#s216103. Dolphins can be trained to do a great variety of complicated things, as can whales. Both are extremely intelligent. Even the lowly octopus has a very highly developed brain. The longer we study, the more we learn and the more our commonality of shared abilities and traits with other creatures becomes apparent.
I was amazed by the story of Washoe, a female chimpanzee who had been taught to communicate in computer sign language. She learned to name things, and when asked what a watermelon was, she gave it the name, “fruit drink.” If that isn’t a synonym for “watermelon,” what would you call it? That was human-like reasoning!
We recently watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill as the first film we pulled up on instant Netflix. It was amazing and brought tears to our eyes several times.
Exactly what life, mind, brain, spirit, soul, etc. all may mean, it is clear to me that all higher creatures, although still greatly inferior to us in many respects, share a great deal of our mental and emotional characteristics. We have a responsibility to respect them and care about how we treat them.
We don’t need to go to the extreme of becoming vegetarians, never using their capacities for our service, etc. Many animals add a great deal to human existence, and if they are treated with humane care and respect, their lives are also enhanced. A triple crown race horse, for example, usually leads the life of an aristocrat – great accommodations, constant attention, the best of food and medical care, and lots and lots of sex with the best and most beautiful fillies in the equine kingdom. A Solomon couldn’t have it better!
Ask any blind man what he thinks of his guide dog. I have a blind friend who once had one and wishes he still did.
I’m not a fanatic. You won’t find me picketing or sabotaging research labs that utilize animals in experiments. I do hope they are treated humanely and I would push for that. I don’t go around looking for fur coats to throw paint on. I eat steak and most other meats with no pangs of conscience. All I have to do is open my mouth and look in a mirror to see that I resemble a wolf much more than a sheep dentally. My whole digestive system is that of an omnivore. I wear and use leather.
What I’m saying is that we have a responsibility to treat all species with respect and an awareness of their sentience and intrinsic worthiness. We are part of the animal kingdom and share a distant kinship with all of them. As humans, we are all cousins somewhere in the past. We are also some kind of relative to all other creatures, no matter how many millions of degrees removed.