According to Gary Lewis and the Playboys, “Everybody loves a clown.”  Many people who are terrified of clowns would disagree.  In the The Playboy’s 1965 hit, the singer is a sad, misunderstood “clown” who is never taken seriously by anyone, especially the girl he  loves. But for those suffering from Coulrophobia, Clown Phobia, a clown is not an object of pity, but an object of great fear.


Now ( September, 2016) there are Clown Sightings being reported. This is completely bizarre. A clown standing “silently by the road.”  A wooded area behind an apartment complex in Greenville, SC has been reportedly “over-run with clowns.”   Just like Alien Abductions, these “sightings” and unsubstantiated.  It could be some kind of group hysteria, it could be pranksters copycatting each other, or it could be a hidden population of psychotic clowns, their hour come at last, slouching through the woods to kidnap your kids.




 If you are afraid of a hissing rattlesnake shaking his tail like a manic tambourine player and coiled to strike, you are experiencing justifiable, life-preserving fear.  


BUT If you are so afraid of all snakes that you will not walk into any wooded area, if you won’t  go anywhere near the reptile exhibit at the zoo, if you can’t stand seeing one on TV, if you get extremely anxious just thinking about a snake, you definitely have OPHIDIOPHOBIA, extreme fear of snakes. (and you are not reading this blog post!)


Let’s face it, snakes are creepy:  they have those lidless, soulless  eyes and that horrible darting forked tongue; they don’t have legs and they slither  on the ground, for God’s sake! Snakes are the ancient enemy of humankind and there is an adaptive reason to be very wary of them – they have killed our ancestors and they could kill us. More than any other animal, snakes have been chosen throughout history to represent EVIL.

In the BIBLE, It was the Serpent, that ancient reptillian embodiment of Satan, who persuaded Eve to give the apple to Adam. 

“And the LORD GOD said unto the Serpent: “because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above every beast of the field; upon thy belly thou shalt go and dust  thy shall eat all the days of your life” – GENESIS 3:8


In GREEK MYTHOLOGY,  Medusa is a monster with a horrible female face, surrounded by hissing, writhing SNAKES instead of hair.  If you looked at her, you would turn to stone. ( Even her severed head would turn the unwary observer into stone).
In the modern day mythology of J.K. Rowling’s  Harry Potter, snakes remain powerful symbols of evil: Voldemort, the snake-faced Dark Lord, has a giant pet snake, Nagini.   He speaks to the creature in the creepy snake-speech, Parseltongue.  Of course, the Black Wizard and his Death Eaters belong to House Slytherin.  


Clearly, snakes have a bad rap.  Its very much like we have a species-level, cross-cultural  SNAKE PHOBIA.  BUT what is the real danger from snakes?  Is this DEMONIZATION of these slythering reptiles justified?


In 2013, the Center for Disease Control estimated there are about 7,000 to 8,000 venomous snake bites in the US every year, but only an average of five deaths.  In America, snake phobia seems unjustified. However, in some other areas  the deaths from “envenoming” are much higher:  ASIA – 15,000 deaths / year and SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA – 3,500 deaths / year.


Like most phobias, OPHIDIOPHOBIA, is based on some real element of danger that has been over-generalized and expanded until it causes needless and debilitating anxiety.  Looked at logically, in the U.S. you shouldn’t be that afraid of snakes, because the odds of getting hit by lightning are greater than dying from a poisonous snake.   Rattlesnakes, however, are to be avoided.  If you live in India and stumble upon a black necked spitting cobra a much  higher level of fear is justified.
Phobias are not easy to control.  Probably the most widely used method to reduce phobias is  systematic desensitization which involves slowly climbing an “anxiety hierarchy”, using relaxation techniques at each step until you actually encounter the phobic objects. EXAMPLE: (1) Thought of a snake – calm down.  (2) Picture of a snake – calm down. (3) Snake 20 ft. away in cage – calm down. (4) Snake 2 ft. away in cage – remain calm.
 BLACK-NECKED SPITTING COBRAblack-necked-spitting-cobra-naja-nigricollis-wklein
In the case of SNAKES, it will probably be impossible to ever completely unwind the deep fear of our ancient enemy.  It is always advisable to strive for a realistic assessment of danger and save your fear for when it is really needed.








continued from the RELATIVITY OF TRUTH

                                                                 THE MISINTERPRETATION OF TEXTS.


Language by it’s very nature is ambiguous, whether spoken or written.  So its hard to get at the real truth of what the speaker or the author intended.   For example, there are many interpretations of Bible verses and these multiple meanings are the key factor in creating denominational schisms throughout the history of Christianity.



American Baptist Association /  American Baptist Churches / Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America / Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists / Baptist Bible Fellowship International  /  Baptist General Conference / Baptist Missionary Association of America /Central Baptist Association  /  Christian Unity Baptist Association / Conservative Baptist Association of America / Continental Baptist Churches  / Cooperative Baptist Fellowship / Enterprise Association of Regular Baptists /Free Will Baptist /   Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship,  etc.

How does this happen when everyone in these divisions is a Christian?  The Bible is purported to be the final truth that should unite all Christians, but each of these denominations claims that their version of the truth is The Truth.  The process is simple: the  interpretation is reported as a self-evident fact ( not unlike many newscasts).  And if you see things differently, then go and start your own church.


The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, have interpreted Revelation 13:15–18, which designates the number 666 as the  Mark of the Beast, as a reference to the Pope. Uriah Smith was the first to propose the interpretation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  In The United States in the Light of Prophecy, he wrote:

The pope wears upon his pontifical crown in jeweled letters, this title: "Vicarius Filii Dei," "Viceregent of the Son of God;" [sic] the numerical value of which title is just six hundred and sixty-six. The most plausible supposition we have ever seen on this point is that here we find the number in question. It is the number of the beast, the papacy; it is the number of his name, for he adopts it as his distinctive title; it is the number of a man, for he who bears it is the "man of sin."

Is this true? Millions of Adventists used to believe so, “for the Bible tells me so.”  I get the feeling they don’t like the Catholics very much, especially the leadership.   Scholars have raised the following issues with this claim:          (1) This phrase is not on the pope’s crown. No photos or evidence of it can be found.  (2)  the numerical value of vicarius filli die was calculated as 666 by adding up the Roman Numerals in the title and conveniently equating U with V  (3)  the King James Bible  is considered by many to be  the standard reference, the True Bible, but it is a translation of a translation of a translation –  The original Hebrew into Greek into the numerous English and International versions.  And some scholars, referring to the original Hebraic have suggested that  the number 666 is incorrect.



In today’s secular world, the text that matters the most is the text message. Somehow the latest status report from a friend about what they are eating for lunch  becomes a matter of utmost urgency that demands an immediate response. But things can go drastically wrong in trying to interpret some text messages especially since the tone, stress and nuances of spoken language are not available. Consider the video below, which illustrates this point quite well.


IN SUMMARY –   Of course there is some truth out there and it is necessary to trust and believe some things.  Personal experience is probably the closest we come to an absolute truth for each of us.  It is TRUE that you had that subjective experience. This can’t really be denied or argued.  It may also be true that your experience is a universal experience shared by all humans, like love or grief.


But in a world of conflicting claims of truth, how do you choose?  What makes the Free Will Baptists right and the Full Gospel Baptists wrong?  What makes FOX NEWS right and the NBC NEWS wrong?  What makes your interpretation of an ambiguous text right and my interpretation wrong?   Everyone is free to believe whatever Truth they want to, my objection is the exportation of these truths and their enthronement into the realm of unquestioning Fact.   At least Science, which does make some claims of nearly universal truth, invites and welcomes all valid criticism.


The Relativity of Truth


The Relativity of Truth2

I never lied to you. I’ve always told you some version of the truth.”                              

 This is the desperate line of Jack Nicholson’s character in Something’s Gotta Give.  Not surprisingly,  this awkward explanation of his relationship deceptions gets little sympathy from his distraught girlfriend.


No one wants to hear some version of the truth. We want to hear the hand-on-the-Bible Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the so-help-me-God, may-the-Devil-snatch-me-to-hell, on-my-mother’s-grave, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die TRUTH. Unfortunately, this kind of ultimate truth is very difficult to find. Many people CLAIM to have found the real, complete truth and they may sincerely believe it and proclaim it. But sincerity is not a guarantee of validity and believing someone just based on their sincerity can be a recipe for disaster.  I want to examine several examples of how relative truth is promoted as absolute truth and the possible consequences.

                                                     TRUTH & the MEDIA

                             CBS EVENING NEWS with WALTER CRONKITE

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reports that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Walter Cronkite  ended every newscast with his famous sign-off line: “And that’s the way it is…” .  At the time it sounded innocent enough, but now this statement seems presumptuous and preposterous. Only an omnipotent being could truly know and be justified in saying – ” that’s the way it is.”        A more accurate sign off for Cronkite would have been: ” that’s the way some things kinda are according to CBS NEWS.”  Admittedly, this lacks a lot of the bravado of his original line.

BRIAN WILLIAMS – ENTERTAINER & LIAR: WHAT’S MY OTHER NAME?( (click on Brian Williams name above to learn his other name)


News Services, reporters, journalists, online newspapers,  news bloggers would all like to believe that they are providing facts that you need to know, like dutiful short-term historians.   But while each story or article may be more or less accurate within it’s limited confines, only certain stories can be  selected even in today’s 24/7 news cycle and the selection process is biased in many ways.   One example of this is cultural bias.


Sociological Images visually affirms the prevalence of this bias by comparison of international and American same-week editions of Time Magazine.   The story on Pakistan is not deemed politically appropriate or is considered to be less interesting than What Makes a School Great.  Once again, we are given some version of the Truth. 









human identity


French philosopher, mathematician and generally acclaimed genius Rene Descartes (1596 – 1660) is most well-known for his attempt to clarify the nature of human identity. His tortuous  self-doubt led him to systematically strip away anything he considered superfluous and in the end, he was left with one simple conclusion that has become his signature line –

                                                                              “I think, therefore I am.”


  Descartes equates identity with the mind. In short, our mind is our self.  it is very tempting to believe this.   Once we learn a language, it invades our mental world so completely that the constant self-talk we use to explain and rationalize and plan and worry seems as natural as the trees or the sunset.  But we think with words because were taught to, not because it is some inherent human condition.  



 Identity – name, rank, social security number and personality –  is constructed by language and temporary.  The true search for human essence should be about existence or being.   In summary, I think it would be very advisable if we shortened Descartes’ adage to  “I am.”