By the Standards of a Top British Neuroscientist, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence Are Functionally Insane

Mike Pompeo, the far-right Christian zealot with Islamophobe ties

Yes, they’re crazy, doing crazy things, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win. In fact it means their tenure is likely short-lived and they’ll go down. Resoundingly. Their delusions are not sustainable.

A 2019 article in the Financial Times included the following shocking assessment: ‘Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo are each a “genuine, end-of-days, believer in the apocalypse,” and Financial Times journalist Edward Luce said their religious beliefs about the end times exerts a troubling influence on their duties. “Generally I believe a public figure’s beliefs should be irrelevant to their job,” Luce wrote. “Whether they’re atheist, Opus Dei, Buddhist or Muslim, should have no bearing on our assessment of their fitness for office. Yet I can’t help but feel anxious that both of Donald Trump’s main global envoys, Pompeo and Pence, have a conflict between their private beliefs and what they publicly claim to be doing.”’

Luce argued that both Trump administration officials were part of a “millenarian cult,” and he worried their “militant creed” would influence their public policies to spark a “final conflagration in which the righteous will vanquish the wicked. Call me a serial fretter, but I don’t take comfort from the fact that Pence is a heartbeat away from being commander-in-chief.” (Edward Luce, “Pompeo’s Global Rapture Tour,” Financial Times, January 14, 2019)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/Reuters

Pence obviously gave Trump badly needed credibility with evangelical voters and the GOP establishment, according to Scahill, “but Pence’s selection portends a governing apocalypse…. Pence has been a reliable stalwart throughout his public life in the cause of Christian jihad — never wavering in his commitment to America-First militarism, the criminalizing of abortion, and utter hatred for gay people (unless they go into conversion therapy “to change their sexual behavior,” which Pence has suggested the government pay for).” Obviously, Pence would rather people die than have sex, gay OR straight. For this one-dimensional, monomaniacal cipher, artist Oliver Wasow has created a dimensionless background of charcoal grey, shifting to black.

Oliver Wasow, Mike Pence, 2017

Oliver Wasow calls his portrait of the VP, above: “Mike Pence, Vice-President of the Republican Party.” I append my own reading as “Vice-President of Republican Vice,” with his role as an Eschatological Archetype from the Four Riders of the Apocalypse as ‘Death,’ and posit that the subject is here portrayed as a zombie. Way back in July, Sara David pondered the VP candidate: “Who is Mike Pence, the mystery man ready to usher in the apocalypse?”

With a stunning headline, “MIKE PENCE WILL BE THE MOST POWERFUL CHRISTIAN SUPREMACIST IN U.S. HISTORY,” Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Intercept in November of 2016 that, “Donald Trump has sent shockwaves through the souls of compassionate, humane people across the country and the world. Horror that a candidate who ran on a platform of open bigotry, threats against immigrants and Muslims, and blatant misogyny will soon be president is now sinking in.” His vice-minion, Pence, has vowed to close down all Planned Parenthood clinics, dooming countless women to the life-threatening last resort of back-street abortions, denies that condoms should be supplied to halt the spread of AIDS, and once falsely asserted on CNN that, “condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”

Pence and the Fly at the 2020 Vice Presidential debate with Kamala Harris

Citing the Old Testament Book of Joshua, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced sweeping changes to the agency’s science advisory boards on October 31st, 2017, closing off scientific discourse on Climate Change, and opening the door to more input from the business world. Citing The Bible as a reason to vandalize constituent and environmental protection agencies is the natural and inevitable result of a couple of decades of concerted Christian Fundamentalist conditioning, brainwashing, and propaganda. Add to this the ongoing, unconscionable desecration and vandalism of educational standards in schools of “religious grounds,” which has made ‘an American Education’ the equivalent of a Hasidic ‘education’ in a Brooklyn Yeshiva, or a Wahhabist ‘education’ in an ISIS madrassa anywhere in the virtual ‘Second Caliphate.’ In short, it’s really not an education. It’s just overt brainwashing, resulting in measurable brain damage.

There is a British neuroscientist who is leading a movement to classify Fundamentalist belief as a form of mental illness like Stockholm Syndrome, with serious cognitive dissonance symptoms affecting performance. This approach would examine the current deplorable situation in the United States. Kathleen Taylor, an Oxford neuroscientist, maintains that Religious Fundamentalism could soon be treated as just another form of mental illness. The Oxford University researcher and author has suggested that one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness. A science writer affiliated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics,” Dr. Taylor made the suggestion during a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival at the University of Wales, Swansea, in 2013.

In response to a question about the future of neuroscience, Taylor said that “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” The Times of London noted at the time. “Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance,” Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage.” The author emphasized that she wasn’t just referring to the “obvious candidates like radical Islam,” but also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable. (Meredith Bennett-Smith, ‘Kathleen Taylor, Neuroscientist, Says Religious Fundamentalism Could Be Treated As A Mental Illness,’ The Huffington Post, 05/31/2013)

Dr. Taylor’s curriculum vitae is impressive. This is not the first time she is known to have explored the mind processes of radicals and religious extremists. In 2006, she wrote a book about mind control called Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, which explored the science behind the persuasive tactics of such groups as cults and al Qaeda. “We all change our beliefs of course,” Taylor said in a YouTube video about the book. “We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it’s the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type.”

Dr. Taylor notes that brainwashing, though extreme, is part of a the “much more widespread phenomenon” of persuasion. That is, “how we make people think things that might not be good for them, that they might not otherwise have chosen to think,” or ‘propaganda.’ She avows caution in dealing with toxic ideologies or religious dogmas and doctrines in a purely scientific or technological manner, however; “Technologies which directly scan or manipulate brains cannot be neutral tools, as open to commercial exploitation as any new gadget,” Taylor wrote in a blog post for The Huffington Post in 2012.

“The brain supremacy offers chances to improve human dignity, but it also risks abuse,” said Dr. Taylor, advocating caution in terms of the ethics of delving too deeply into the human brain’s mysterious workings. In short, she is far from advocating playing fast and loose with the changes in the brain that result from accommodating fear-based convictions instilled by religious terror, constant aggression, and violent fantasies of retribution. But her caution, issued in 2012, does not help us with the problem now manifesting itself in the Halls of Power of the most powerful and potentially destructive nation on Earth.

As I’ve reported elsewhere, The Washington Post reported toward the end of February 2017 on an alarming document, composed by a Christian conservative group connected to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, revealing plans for the promotion of Christianity in public schools and putting a definitive end to the Department of Education. The group prefaced their recommendations with a précis: “We submit this report to the Donald Trump/Betsy DeVos administration with the hope that our organization may be of assistance with the restoration of education in America, in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles.” The Education Department is to be replaced with“Presidency’s Advisory Council on Public Education Reform.” The Council would:

  1. Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools.
  2. Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
  3. Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
  4. Implement select bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project.
  5. Encourage instruction on U.S. and world history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes.
  6. Develop and recommend in-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.
  7. Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.

The Washington Post sums it up here: “The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine ‘historic Judeo-Christian principles’ as a basis for instruction.” The theocratic manifesto to “bring God into American classrooms” was tied to Trump aides Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, both Evangelical Catholics in the pay of weird billionaire funders, Robert and Rebecca Marcer. Both are part of the Council for National Policy, which just released a five-page manifesto on how to dismantle the federal Department of Education and bring “God” and “historic Judeo-Christian principles” into education. Betsy De Vos is on record with her enthusiastic response to this retrogressive petition: “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom.” (Emma Brown, ‘Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms,’ The Washington Post, February 15, 2017)

I have been watching this nihilistic, apocalyptic End Times narrative play out in the collective mind of patriarchal Judeo-Christian religiosity, with its die-hard delusion of linear time, that begins with the Creation and ends with the Apocalypse, for over 50 years, since I became aware of the tale’s political ramifications as an adolescent in the American South during my conscientious activism in the 1960s. I remember my thought, when I truly cottoned on to the power of the narrative and it’s grip on the fear-filled, xenophobic, slavery-guilt-raddled Southern imagination, which can be paraphrased as, “Uh oh! This’ll end in tears for everyone and everything.” It is truly past time that this ideological contagion be treated as the mental, intellectual and emotional disease that it is. The offices of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, Plague and War,’ shown in this woodcut from The Apoclypse Series, by Albrecht Dürer (published in 1498) can not reasonably hold sway in the imaginations of any sane person in the 21st century.

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, Plague and War,’ woodcut from The Apoclypse Series, by Albrecht Dürer (published in 1498)



I'm a writer/researcher/arts educator on Vancouver Island and all round global citizen who loves humans even though we're such a phenomenal pain-in-the-ass.

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Yvonne Owens, PhD

I'm a writer/researcher/arts educator on Vancouver Island and all round global citizen who loves humans even though we're such a phenomenal pain-in-the-ass.