Robin Williams

13-robin-williams-heart-surgery-226x300In 2009 I had the opportunity to meet Robin Williams.  I was attending the TED conference.  It was the evening before I would be speaking and I was nervous and excited. There was an evening event, a social with food and drinks.  It was opening night for TED 2009.  I had already met and talk with a number of amazing people and was about to go back to my hotel room when I found myself next to Robin.  He was sitting on a ledge.  I decided to sit next to him.  He said “Hello, how are you?”  So I told him.  I was nervous about speaking the next morning.  Then I said “And what do you do?”  He paused for a moment before I said “just kidding.”

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Gaza – Extreme, Violent Hatred of the “Other”


Talya Shilok Edry, who has more than one thousand Facebook followers, posted the following “status”: “What an orgasm to see the Israeli Defense Forces bomb buildings in Gaza with children and families at the same time. Boom boom.”  Another quote “Sweet settlers, next time you kidnap an Arab boy, call me and let me torture him!! Why do you get to have all the fun?”  These quotes have circulated widely on social media.

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TED Weekends

11-Ted-picI’ve been a huge fan of TED for many years, even before I spoke on the TED stage. I first discovered TED in 2001 after searching for “signs of intelligent life in the universe,” to quote Lili Tomlin. I became an immediate fan and set a life goal to attend TED. That goal became a reality in 2009 when I not only had the honor of attending the conference but also gave a talk.

Since then, I’ve watched TED grow to a multifaceted organization that is making the most of their “Ideas Worth Sharing” mission. They’ve recently collaborated with Huffington Post on a project called TED Weekend, which gives TED fans an opportunity to expand upon some of the most popular TED talks.  It offers a place for those talks to be elaborated upon by the person giving the talk as well as by guest bloggers.

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What is So Scary About the Word Atheist?

10-220px-ScarletLetter.svg_-220x210There is plenty to fear  when it comes to the word atheist.  It’s just not what most people think.  After all, it’s just a word.  It simply describes someone who denies the existence of a supreme being or deity.  Atheists don’t tend to be scary people.  Actual fear of physical harm from atheists isn’t what the strong reaction against atheism is about.

Fear has to do with an emotion aroused by impending danger.  The problem is, fear shows weakness.  Anger is often a safer emotion to express than fear.   Anger feels stronger, less vulnerable.  Anger is what is often expressed toward atheists.

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I am NOT a Deprogrammer – Sorry…

9-Fullscreen-capture-6142012-51202-PM-320x242I was deprogrammed from a religious cult.  This word, deprogramming,  implies my mind had been programmed, much like a computer, and that a process could be done to reverse that programming.  I see this as an analogy. Of course it is not as simple as working with computer code.  The complexity of the human mind cannot be reduced to that of computer bits…yet, but the parallel can be drawn.

Robert Lifton’ work on totalism describes criteria for thought reform. When that criterion was presented to me during my “deprogramming” it was a devastating moment.

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The Death Of Sun Myung Moon


Sun Myung Moon was an addict.  He was addicted to power and money.  He acquired a great deal of both in his lifetime.  The psychological elements he was able to exploit – to feed his addiction – are similar to those utilized by Hitler, Jim Jones, and leaders of Al Qaeda.

Driven by his desire to have more and more power – and more and more money, Sun Myung Moon was able to convince many people, including myself, that he was the manifestation of God and that I/we should devote our lives to him.  I would have done ANYTHING for him.

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“Us” versus “Them”


The concept of a memeplex is critical to a more peaceful and cooperative world.  I know that’s a strong statement, but I believe it to be true.

This concept gives us a means to view, from an evolutionary perspective, how and why we have tended to  clump together into groups with highly polarized ideologies. We can start to understand the pull to view the world from a “Us” versus “Them” perspective.  To fully understand how memeplexes work we must examine the psychological elements present in the most powerful and dangerous memeplexes currently in our existence – as well as in our history.

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Deconstructing Memeplexes

6-EagleI just returned from a wilderness raft trip.  It was spectacular.  We had no cell phone or internet access for five days.  I had no idea what was going on in the world outside my immediate surroundings and no way to connect to anyone outside our little party of eight people and the occasional rafters we waved at from our campsite.

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Being “had” by Diane Benscoter

Being “had”

Being “had” by Diane BenscoterLet’s face it; we have all been taken advantage of one time or another.  No matter how cunning you are, come on admit it, at one time or another you have bought the snake oil.  You have been “had”.

Maybe not as badly as me, probably not as badly as me, but it must have happened.  You believed the person you loved was telling you the truth when they were cheating on you, or you bought into some pyramid scheme that was supposed to make you rich, or you thought Santa Clause brought you toys for being good.  It was probably frustrating and disappointing when you realized what you thought you were getting wasn’t as expected.

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What Does a Football Player, a Moonie and a Terrorist Have in Common

What Does a Football Player, a Moonie and a Terrorist Have in Common?

What Does a Football Player, a Moonie and a Terrorist Have in CommonI am in the process of writing a series of posts about how to prevent vulnerable minds from getting infected with dangerous memes.   Memes are everywhere – coming from every direction.  The danger comes when they shut down rational thinking.

It is not rational that if a football player says a prayer before a game some invisible guy named God, who created the world, will help his team win the game.

Of course, there are players on the losing team that prayed to the same God, that same day.  So obviously it’s irrational to believe that this omnipresent, omnipotent God just happened to like the way the player on the winning team prayed that day…

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