14 Responses to How Prisons Use Cult Tactics to Brainwash Inmates Into Religion

  1. Tom Zupancic says:

    It was interesting to see “How Prisons use Cult Tactics to Brainwash Inmates into Religion” turned into “the Southern War of Independence was provoked by Abe Lincoln to preserve northern hegemony.”

    Forget that this is poppycock, some issues strike a nerve. Some basics apparently need to be clarified.

    Religion, what you believe (or don’t). This is one of those issues. Should Americans have freedom in this regard? (Don’t they already? … apparently not). I guess perhaps I am naïve, but I heard this all got figured out at the get go… yes you are free to believe anything you choose…. THIS IS AMERICA!!! And the government should not/cannot impose any belief on you.

    Apparently not. And apparently some would argue ‘rightfully so’.

  2. just-a-guy-out-for-a-walk says:

    The founders of the US never intended an eradication of religion or faith from government, but rather a tempering of this inheritance as a noted obligations to separation where possible and for it’s own welfare. As an attempt at affirming religious neutrality where government was concerned. As with so many things Christianity shouldn’t be lumped as being one big lump. That’s so true with practically any faiths’ inherent ubiquitous nature of diversity. The same could be postulated on secular pursuits which may appear to be a rejection of faith, but are probably best amplified as attempts to illustrate the importance of diversity of thoughts on faith as uniquely personal rather then an affront against faith itself. The relationships between faith and religion are ineradicable to some while being naturally separate to others. Seemingly best illustrated by question of whether an aptitude of subordination is as an integral requirement of either faith or religion or both or not.

    In the article from which I take this effort I think that proselytizing was the key word. The inherent diversity of Christian and other faiths have some sects that embrace ‘spreading their word’ to differing degrees and some sects of Christianity strictly forbid it without acceptation or reservation. Christianity has adapted over time, to and fro, as not one big lump of same stuff nor is any specific practice of faith. But all have suffered from attempted populist constraints as a subordination from time to time. And I know many deeply devout who are offended that the title of their faith as is associated with being like some carrot dangling from the end of a stick. While their associated pedigrees are ok with aspiring to that as a minimum, some others look down upon them with their capacity towards forgiveness challenged.

    As the article points out this occurrence of state sponsored proselytizing went through the courts and was answered with a crystal clear message by litigation of basic Americana. No the state can’t do that, and that’s that. But if the State of California still persists the tax payers there can look forward to risk paying a 2-million dollar tab to each person that objects to state sponsored proselytizing of it’s wards, ironically making certain expressions of freedom of religion an expensive pursuit for it’s taxpayers that probably never agreed to that over-reach of proselytizing. That ruling came a bit late to actively protect McKibben from a marginalizing experience but her discomfort was vindicated as unfair by the litigation of Hazle and I think that this is most important thing. This process allowed some measure at restoration of McKibben’s dignity counter to those who prefer imposing the other thing.

    This article’s main point is, were these state sponsored proselytizing as isolated instances or were they trends. Maybe they were both or maybe just the innocence of being so caught up into a process that the forest was too obscured by all those trees. As for the discussion at hand provoked on matters of church and state, Thomas Jefferson’s recorded opinions are likely to make an appearance since back then he was one of the few who were willing to articulate comment against the winds of populism time and time again, even if in anonymity if that was the only pragmatic viability.

    One such lengthy commentary he authored on many subjects of his day was from the only book that he got published in his lifetime called Notes on the State of Virginia, originally published anonymously in 1785. https://archive.org/details/notesonstateofvi01jeff

    I think that much of his logic still holds true today and can serve to articulate better the underlying philosophy of separating church from state in these United States as contemporaneously still valid. While many like to use Jefferson’s thoughts as their own, on issues so omnipresent I prefer to let Jefferson speak for himself, mainly because he was better at it then I am.

    * * * *
    As for my opinion on these matters of faith… what Jefferson said. I have plenty of disagreement with other parts of his wide ranging views. Jefferson was a racist though not as a mechanism for hatred and I am not nor have I ever been one to my ability to be cognitive of myself, so those parts of him receive not much of my ear. But those who have studied Jefferson beyond a few quotes have every bit of evidence that he would have tossed his minor views on states rights’ and pursued his major life long views against slavery in any and all forms. And had he found a viable way to eradicate slavery he likely would have done much as Lincoln did if he had found a viable means to that end. In his lifetime there was clearly was no viable path to do that. His last statements on matters of slavery was profoundly unique and served as a proof of just how entrenched he was for the eradication of slavery from this Earth in all forms. My respect for Jefferson is based on him being a rare soul who could with skill disseminate his place in time or moment and have a grasp of the difference, and a pragmatic bravery in his measurements.

    So I submit so recklessly pasted and copied text from Notes on the State of Virginia… Sorry about the length of my post but once again I attempt to find yet another way to form a more perfect union and tag your blog as tag your it. But in my own defense it’s still shorter then the text it comments on at this meager about 2100 words in comparison on this subject. I tortured over discussions as these are not being worthy of an expeditious tweet. So shall I be accused of being self important in my attitude I’ll concede that. I’ll survive that accusation just right as I accurately accounted for and as a hint that I really appreciated your attempts to take a piss into the wind of populist constraints.

    * * * * *

    “But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty Gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman Government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the era of the Reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potato as an article of food. * Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error, however, at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in and to make it an article of necessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men, men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion ? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perforin the office of a censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves. But every State, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments? Our sister States of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order; or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the State to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them. Let us, too, give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws. It is true, we are as yet secured against them by the spirit of the times. I doubt whether the people of this country would suffer an execution for heresy, or a three years imprisonment for not comprehending the mysteries of the Trinity. But is the spirit of the people an infallible, a permanent reliance? Is it government? Is this the kind of protection we receive in return for the rights we give up? Besides, the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

  3. Stephane G says:

    I find this seriously troubling to say the least. But after your recent article about unrepresented atheism, I start to wonder if it is so surprising, considering the importance of the Christian religion in your system in general. I don’t know much about the constitution of the US but it seems you did not fully achieve this separation of religion and state that a secular democracy implies and that Thomas Jefferson called for. Could such a situation be considered as a breach to its first amendment?

    Anyway, learning that a similar situation exists in a European country like Italy is more surprising and disturbing.

    And now, Amanda, allow me to share this totally off topic anecdote: I started to try to use Twitter a little more, and to learn about a few of its features, and that’s how I realized that you and Chris visited France a few weeks ago, and more specifically Normandy and the Pays d’Auge (Honfleur and its area) where I also live. Now the funny story here is that when Chris answered one of my tweets, I noticed that he was less than 10 miles from my home. It’s a small planet indeed :-). Do pop in and share a drink of cool cider next time :-). Anyway, I hope you both enjoyed your journey and had a wonderful time here.

    • William says:

      “I don’t know much about the constitution of the US but it seems you did not fully achieve this separation of religion and state that a secular democracy implies and that Thomas Jefferson called for. ”

      Jefferson called for separation of state from religion, not state from God. Religion and state is a mess. God and state is essential.

      Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and in it he references unalienable rights given to man by the Creator, not rights granted by a king, parliament, or pope. In other words, the state is not the sovereign, man is not the sovereign, God is. This was a revolutionary thought at the time and undercut the monarchies in Europe. Jefferson was acutely aware that rights granted to man by other men could be taken away at any time by man (elitists). Rights granted by God can’t be removed by man.

      This idea of a supreme Creator is justifiably woven into the fabric of American life, “In God We Trust” is printed on reserve notes. Congress opens with a prayer. The Supreme Court building displays the Ten Commandments, and references to God appear in many other state acknowledgements. It’s entirely fitting to separate religion from government, to banish God from government is dangerous. Man as God is a perilous belief indeed, unless men are saints, which they ain’t.

      Jefferson was ambassador to France when George Washington crafted the constitution. The original did not contain the first ten amendments. The founders added these to insure ratification by the states.

      The first and the following nine amendments originally applied only to the Federal Government. The first amendment prevented the central government from establishing a national religion, acknowledged freedom of speech and so on. The states could, and some did, set up religions after they ratified the constitution. This was short lived.

      The old Federal Constitution served the States well until Abe Lincoln destroyed it with his war from 1861-1865 to protect the capitalists of the industrial north. That war converted states from sovereign entities to mere administrative districts under an all powerful central government effectively repealing the tenth amendment.

      Vestiges of the old constitution still survive in the first nine amendments, in the electoral college and in the basic governmental structures. The first and second amendments are under constant attacks by the left and jealously defended by the right. Ironically, it seems that perhaps the savior of the West now rests on the first and second amendments, rights denied to Europeans.

      Jefferson and the founders were suspicious of democracy and justifiable so. Democracy they recognized as mob rule. They established a republic. Originally the only federal officer that citizens could vote for was their congressman. As we know, citizens don’t today vote for president but a slate of electors. States legislatures could select the electors themselves without citizen participation. Senators were initially appointed by states and not voted in by elections. The founding idea was to prevent a secular democracy not establish a Godless one.

      These issues and others split the country in 1861 and still do today. Nothing was really settled by that war, just the rifts papered over. The US has been held together by force and not by voluntary acceptance since 1865. The Red and Blue teams still fight the War for Southern Independence, although it is not recognized as such.


      You mentioned Normandy. FDR and Churchill dispatched young men to that beach and die for British dominance of Europe. George Washington warned Americans against entanglements in Europe and involvement in their constant wars for empire and supremacy.

      Trump senses this about Europe, hence his tepid support of NATO. Western Europe is not worth one more drop of American blood. If Western Civilisation is to survive, that battle now rests with the States.

      When Amanda was on trial I could not help but notice the large cross behind the jurors. I took some comfort in this since, if she were convicted, I knew she’d be treated with humane Christian compassion. I think she admits she was.

      Prisons in the States reflect compassionate Christian treatment as well, in so far as is possible with violent inmates. Naturally prison ain’t a place to be. As a prisoner you have very minimum rights. The female warden of CIW once told a group of women striking for their ‘rights’: “Let me explain what your rights are: You have a right to six hours sleep per night, two meals per day, two showers per week, one hour yard time each day, basic medical care, and one religious book. The rest is privilege.” The strike ended.

      I’m not familiar with French history but I’ve always been fascinated by Napoleon. One problem with the US Army was they studied too much Napoleon and not enough Jackson, Lee, Patton, Rommel, John Boyd, and Heinz Wilhelm Guderian. All were spontaneous thinkers who created their own solutions often sanctioned by their superiors for doing so.

      “In Tunisia the Americans had to pay a stiff price for their experience, but it brought rich dividends. Even at that time, the American generals showed themselves to be very advanced in the tactical handling of their forces, although we had to wait until the Patton Army in France to see the most astonishing achievements in mobile warfare.” Erwin Rommel

      Since France is no more, except lines on a map, it’s good to remember its heroes. The following is appropriate.


      • Stephane G says:

        First, let me reassure you: Europe and France are alive and well, thank you for your solicitude. Now, you explain that Jefferson based his view on the predominance of a natural law (that we may call God, or human nature or fundamental rights, or whatever… Variations in the definition of natural laws from one country to another suggest that they are man-made anyway), which may not be so surprising after all, in a time when the idea of juridical positivism had not really emerged yet. I gave Amanda’s article another read and still did not find any attack on God himself or even on belief in God but on the interference between a given religion and (should-be) secular administrative concerns. So again, if the first amendment and Jefferson original preoccupation survived, how is it that, in some state prisons, commitment to a particular religion is a prerequisite to be granted the privileges you are referring to?

        • William says:

          Jefferson linked man’s rights to a Creator and not to some vague interpretation of natural rights.

          Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence that men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Governments instituted among men secure these rights.

          “Variations in the definition of natural laws from one country to another suggest that they are man-made anyway.” This means that any tin-horn can read natural law to benefit craving for despotic power over fellow men. God’s law is inviolate.

          These American ideas did not percolate very well to Europe because they threatened the elites and still do to this day. Napoleon refused to recognize the rights of common man saying they had no use for rights except die in his wars of conquest and empire.

          “…how is it that, in some state prisons, commitment to a particular religion is a prerequisite to be granted the privileges you are referring to?” Penal officers aren’t concerned with an inmate’s religion or lack of one. Correction officers grant privileges based on good behaviour.

          If substance abuse was a part of the commitment offence, parole officers and parole boards want to see the offender in a voluntary treatment program so he may confront his problem. The 12 step is one voluntary program. Included in the 12 step is a concept of a higher power, non nondenominational. Most prisons make AA available as well as various group counseling sessions. When an inmate makes excuses for not taking a treatment program, it’s seen, correctly, as resistance. Inmates always have available prison shrinks.

      • Tom Zupancic says:

        To begin/clarify, Thomas Jefferson is commonly known as a deist. He did not support government endorsement of any specific religious belief.

        But what was most offensive about William’s post was the link to “Kelly’s Irish Brigade”. It is simply incomprehensible to me that a war to perpetuate the unjust oppression and enslavement of a group of people can in any way be considered morally and religiously justified. One has to wonder about someone who finds such conduct admirable.

        • William says:

          “He [Jefferson] did not support government endorsement of any specific religious belief.” Tom is correct. I said the same.

          Jefferson wanted separation of government from religion, not government from God. Founders noted this as is evident in the first amendment. Religion is man’s interpretation of God. Government cannot and should not perform that duty.

          Jefferson believed in a Creator having authority above man. So, again, it was religion from government, but not God from government. Jefferson may have been a deist, but a deist who saw in the natural order enough evidence for the hand of a Creator. By the way, Jefferson did attend Christian church services from time to time.

          The Southern War of Independence was provoked by Abe Lincoln to preserve northern hegemony. The war, from a southern view, was about preservation of the original constitution. That constitution died 9 April 1865 at Appomattox court house, Virginia. The tattered Bill of Rights has managed to survive, but these, especially the first and second, are under constant attack by leftist.

          Only about two percent or less of the southerners were slave owners. There were more slave owning common soldiers in the Union army than there were slave owning Southern common soldiers. US General Grant was a slave owner only to free them when the 13th amendment forced him to do so after the war. Robert Lee early on had insisted his wife free the slaves she inherited.

          Concerning the death of the original constitution Lord Acton had this inquiry of General Robert E Lee, in 1866.

          Acton: “I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy . . . . Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.”

          Lee answered the following:

          ” . . . [T]he consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of the ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

          Today we see the Yankee boot across the world and in every home.

          The following is a rather cheerful tune, hope you enjoy this too.


          The movie clip below is historically accurate concerning provocation of the shooting war. Speech by Stonewall Jackson before he got the name “Stonewall”.


          Kudos to the prosecutors for vowing to retry Bill Cosby.

        • Stephane G says:

          « It is impossible that these people are men; because if we thought of them as men, one would begin to think that we ourselves are not Christians. »

          When Montesquieu, whose work certainly had some influence on Jefferson, wrote these famous and ironical words in “The spirit of laws », he underlined this contradiction between Christianity and enslavement or slave trade, and how reason was used to address this dilemma by developing historical racism, that is: the negation of colored people humaneness as a result from an apparent but perverted syllogism. An interesting theory states that racism as it was at he turn of the 18th century, was then a necessary consequence of enslavement (the missing piece in this logic), and could be religiously justified. Or more accurately, enslavement and religion were not in contraction by nature.

          In that same text, and in several occasions, the advocate of enslavement he pretends to be, and gently mocks, uses God, and later religion (among a few other things), and generally a superior external cause, as justifications / excuses. And before God himself, he places trade and economical constraints.

          Note that Montesquieu himself tried to understand and explain enslavement using other rational means that would be considered racist today.

    • Bob says:

      It’s troubling that Christianity appears to generate the same negativity as Isis.

      • Stephane G says:

        A same negativity would surely be surprising. But did any international coalition bomb the Vatican lately or did I misunderstand something? 🙂

  4. Tom Zupancic says:

    While I was sitting around waiting for Godot I had a chance to read your latest blog post. I found it fascinating, enlightening, revealing, and disturbing.

    I think you’re right; systemic coercion of the imprisoned is a reality… oops, I meant to say ‘a fact’ (ie. an objective and verifiable observation).

    The quantifiable fact that discrimination based on religion exists, and is apparently a fundamental aspect of the American criminal justice system, needs to be taken seriously. After all, isn’t having the government coerce people to accept some particular religious belief Un-American?

  5. Wayne L. Elley says:

    I was s pleased to see your article, having been incarcerated in a Texas prison for DWI. I was housed just down the road from the Carol Vance Unit, a “faith-based prison” with programs run by Prison Fellowship Ministries, a Christian fundamentalist with an ideology I find particularly repugnant (do read the Wikipedia entry for Carol Vance Unit, it highlights the privileges of those housed there, and their attitude toward homosexuality, etc.). I had a friend, a fellow atheist, who completed their 18-month program in order to be paroled (He was convicted for a particularly heinous crime, completely out of character for him, but in the courts, one is judged by their worst acts.), although he also found their ideology repugnant. And he was paroled, and I believe his participation in this program was the only way that this could happen.
    As you stated, clergy (and religious volunteers) get privileges not granted to secular persons in the prisons. Simple things – college instructors are never allowed to bring in outside food to reward their students. People involved with religious programs are never denied this.
    As a now sober person with a history of chemical abuse, forced participation in religious groups is a particular concern. Here in San Antonio, I am involved with a secular recovery group (nominally an A.A. group, but without the dogma). I will pass your article on to them and to an atheist friend still in a Texas prison. I want to become more involved in this issue. Correspondence would be welcomed.

  6. Tom Mininger says:

    That’s interesting. You enlighten on the system manipulating prisoners with religion. I’m used to hearing the opposite angle. I’ve watched 6 seasons of Homicide Hunter where retired homicide detective Joe Kenda discusses cases throughout his career. You can feel his frustration when defendants and convicts, who he has solid evidence against, manipulate jurors and parole boards with their newfound religion.

    This also reminds me of retired FBI profiler John Douglas’ frustration when predators manipulate prison psychiatrists. He describes how psychiatrists are trained and grow accustomed to an environment where patients struggle to be honest with them. And this is true for most inmates. But Douglas has dealt with the worst of the worst, and talented pathological liars can take well-meaning psychiatrists for a ride.

    I’m seeing the other side of the coin now thanks to you.

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