7 Signs of a Religious Charlatan

One of my favorite bloggers to follow is Vox Day.

I follow him not necessarily because I care what he is talking about. I follow him to learn how to analyze anything.

In my reckoning, the most valuable video/post Vox ever produced is called “7 Signs of an Intellectual Charlatan.” The video is well worth watching in its entirety.

Identifying charlatans is a skill that is woefully lacking among the Body of Christ today. And I am indebted to Vox for pointing out the core patterns of charlatanry. In retrospect, it seems obvious. But until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t quite know how to tell whether I was being duped or not.

So with the aim of equipping fellow believers to avoid the craftiness of false teachers, I’d like to share some observations on how Vox’s Charlatan framework applies specifically to deception in the church.

The 7 Signs of a Religious Charlatan

1. Uses imprecise biblical terms – Under the teaching of a charlatan, the Scripture loses it’s precision. For example, “sexual immorality” is made out to be anything from seeing a nude woman, touching yourself, or “pressuring” your wife to have sex. This gives religious authorities great leverage for guilt manipulation over men. But a quick check in a Greek lexicon shows that the word was simply used to describe prostitution and other forms of promiscuous sex.

2. Does not accurately quote the Scriptures – There’s a reason that Satan deceived Eve through the spoken word. It was easier to misquote God while still sounding correct. Always check what the Scripture in question actually says before believing a teacher. You’d be surprised how often it’s blatantly misquoted.

3. Uses theological jargon to answer simple questions – there are many things in the Bible that appear to contradict church doctrine. For example, the Bible teaches that God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), yet church doctrine teaches that, at least so far, most people have gone to hell. So a simple question is, does this mean God is not able to bring about what he desires? An honest person will admit he doesn’t know yet or will have a straight answer. A charlatan will provide a long-winded theological explanation that leaves you scratching your head.

4. Uses systematic theology and catechisms to justify his answers – Religious Charlatans utilize the coherence theory of truth (do the ideas logically fit together?) rather than the correspondence theory of truth (does the idea accurately describe what I can observe?). Systematic theologies and catechisms are the most effective way to make blatant errors acceptable. The Apostle Paul warns us that immature believers are “being carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception.” (Eph 4:14, Concordant Literal Version)

5. Quotes Bible teachers and theologians rather than the Scriptures – There’s nothing wrong with quoting other teachers to reinforce a biblical truth. But it should be an immediate red flag if the opinion of a famous teacher or theologian is used as the basis for an argument. Powerful rhetoric does not equal biblical truth.

6. Ignores the context – There is a world of difference between quoting what the Bible says and understanding what it means in context. Just because the Bible says something that can support an argument doesn’t mean that’s what the author meant or that what was said is even relevant to us. As Paul instructed Timothy: “Endeavor to present yourself to God qualified, an unashamed worker, correctly cutting the word of truth.” It’s the correct “cutting” of the word that matters. God does not give bonus points for creative uses of His Word.

7. Talks about the value of “theological training” instead of knowing the Scriptures – “Theological training” is code word for indoctrination. The more a mind can be trained to follow the pleasant grooves of a perfectly coherent system, the less he will question the underlying assumptions of the system. And the longer he is trained, the more he believes he is correct and the more passionately he will defend his inherited doctrines when they are criticized. Thus is error propagated into the church.

 

How to Manipulate Weak Women for Fun and Profit

If you wish to build your own religious empire, the formula for success can be found right in the Bible:

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 3:6-7)

The key to religious power is guilt manipulation. The formula is simple:

Perpetual Guilt + Long Education Program = Captive Convert

If you run out of actual sins, you can invent your own! There’s no limit to the amount of guilt that can be manufactured if you only apply your imagination.

Women are particularly susceptible to guilt manipulation and will enthusiastically join any program with a vague promise to help them find relief.

Now, as for the men, they are a bit more difficult…

You see, men have this obnoxious thing called “testosterone” and it makes them quite difficult to control.

Men, in their natural state, do not want to stay still. They will not submit easily to authority. Rather than accepting their external circumstances, they will bend reality to their will. There is virtually no limit to what a man can accomplish through sheer willpower. To make matters worse, men have an innate ability to set aside their differences and join forces when they are threatened or wish to accomplish a task.

The male naturally judges others in terms of their utility to his mission. The male has no problem severing connections with anything or anyone that hinders his pursuit. He is not susceptible to guilt manipulation like the woman. He evaluates everything in terms of his mission. He will even shun loved ones if necessary.

Hopefully you can see how this is problematic.

But, in recent times, our Social Experimentation team has discovered a way to control men. It was found that if young boys are educated in the same manner as girls, they will grow up to be, as far as our purpose is concerned, functionally like women. Namely, you can condition a young boy to think of his “maleness” as “toxic” by punishing early expressions of his male instincts.

The fruit of this operant conditioning will be in full effect by time the boy reaches young adulthood. You now have a relatively docile male who is burdened with guilt over his male instincts. The doctrine of “lust” is particularly effective towards controlling the male as he has already been trained to feel guilty over “objectifying women.”

It’s best that the male does not learn to study the Scriptures on his own, for then he would discover our sleight-of-hand maneuvers that were necessary to formulate our doctrines. Best to lead him to believe that he is “unqualified” to handle the Scriptures and that it is “dangerous” to reach conclusions on his own without the aid of an “expert.”. This is relatively easy to do as the young man’s self-confidence is all but non-existent as a result of his earlier education. He has been trained to study, memorize, and restate answers that have been taught to him rather than to think for himself.

Nevertheless the man still retains some remnants of his instincts. He does not wish to be blatantly controlled so it is best to loosen his leash a little. Let him feel like he is being a “spiritual leader” to his family. We provide a wide range of programs for that, including:

  • Sunday morning sermons
  • Wednesday night Bible studies
  • New member classes
  • Revivals
  • Seminars
  • Retreats
  • Radio programs
  • Podcasts
  • Bible colleges
  • Daily Bible reading plans
  • Bible seminaries
  • Sunday night sermons
  • Daily devotions
  • Bible conferences
  • Training programs
  • Bible Institutes

It is ideal that the male join or follow these programs at the request of his wife. By this time, he is already persuaded he is guilty of objectifying women, so appeasing his wife’s requests by stepping up to be a “spiritual leader” is an excellent way to help him feel a brief sense of relief from his guilt.

Furthermore, men also have an instinct to provide for and protect their offspring. So we offer a variety of programs to satisfy that need as well:

  • Sunday School
  • Awanas
  • Children’s churches
  • Summer Bible camps
  • Christian schools
  • Vacation Bible School

Don’t get too hung up on the format of the learning. That’s not what matters. The program will be effective so long as it meets two criteria:

  1. Provides the illusion of progress while remaining ambiguous enough to leave the student confused
  2. Engages enough of the student’s time and energy so he is sufficiently distracted from examining the Scriptures

With a group of guilt-ridden men and women, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to control. So long as you never fully relieve the student of his or her guilt, they will always assume the problem is with themselves rather than the system.

It’s elegant self-reinforcing system: the guilt prompts them to join a program and the resulting confusion from the teaching causes them to feel more inadequate, prompting them to seek out more programs to remedy the problem.

Isn’t religion great? There’s no other industry like it.

On a serious note, if you find that you’ve been learning about the Bible for years and still get confused when you read it, you are NOT the problem. You’re operating in the wrong system.

Here’s one clue that has shed a lot of light on the Scriptures for me recently:

Start with 2 Timothy. This is the most logical place to start.

Think of it like visiting a blog.

When you visit a blog, you skim some of the articles to get an idea what it’s about. Then you check the “About” page.

On this particular “About page” you learn that the author is Paul, a messenger of good news to the Gentiles.

“Perfect!” you think to yourself. “I’m a Gentile. And I could use some good news right now.”

So you’re ready to start reading. Where do you start?

The most recent post, of course! The one on the top. That’s the one with the most relative and up-to-date information.

This most recent post is titled, “All of Asia Has Abandoned Me…”

Uh-oh. Something just went wrong. What’s going on?

Let’s start reading and find out…

(If you want a good commentary on 2 Timothy to aid your study, I recommend “The Church in Ruins” by Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr. I think he occasionally reads too much into the text, but he provides a lot of solid observations. Plus, it’s a short read.)

 

Confessions of a Heretic

Call me a heretic if you will, but I think any Christian would do well do adopt the mindset of A.E. Knoch:

The adherents of creeds and confessions are satisfied that they have “the truth” and that all else is false. They exalt human deductions from the Bible above the Scriptures themselves and denounce all who do not bow down to their dictum. Oh, that the saints would awaken to the deceptive nature of the present day delusion!

Let us rid ourselves of the idea that we are pure, that we have no error, and that we can apostatize only by departing from our present position. Almost all of the saints are stupefied by this fond delusion. It takes no reasoning power at all to show that the conflicting camps in Christendom cannot all be right.

Let us rather take every doctrine and subject it to the rigid scrutiny of the inspired text. Let us hold it subject to such modifications as the further study of the Scriptures may impose. In other words, let us hold to God’s Word and not cling to creeds.

We are well aware that our refusal to subscribe to man-made statements of doctrine may be made the basis of serious charges against us. Nevertheless, we wish to repeat that we absolutely refuse to sign any unscriptural or extra-scriptural creed or doctrine – even if we believe it. A statement which cannot be expressed in the words of divine inspiration is inspired by the enemy of truth, and has no claim on the man of God.

Creeds which conform to the truth of the Scriptures are useless; those which do not are dangerous. If we believe a truth of Scripture, let us express it in the language of Scripture. It is almost invariably the case that any change from the inspired form of sound words indicates a deviation from the full and perfect truth itself.

We desire to believe all that God has spoken, and to reject all that man has imported into it.

— Editorial
Unsearchable Riches, Volume 13 (1922)
(edited)

Quoted from the Bible Student’s Notebook.

The Modern Life Flow vs. the Abundant Life Flow

It’s no secret that most people (Christians) are stressed, anxious, and generally not enjoying life.

I think I’ve identified the root cause. It’s something I call the “Modern Life” vs. the “Abundant Life.”

The Modern Life Flow goes something like this:

  1. Sacrifice time and energy to acquire (and manage) money and possessions
  2. Invest minimal to no time or money learning new skills
  3. Use “to do” lists to direct one’s life
  4. Feel perpetually behind, tired and unable to handle any more “blessing”

I like to contrast that with what I call the Abundant Life Flow:

  1. Use time and money to learn new skills and create energy (i.e. rest, nourishment, strong body, mindset, vision & purpose, fellowship, gratitude)
  2. Use excess energy to labor for (just enough) money to replenish immediate needs
  3. Use new skills and knowledge to create systems and find investments that make money for you
  4. Create life and shine your light in the world

It doesn’t matter so much what you do or how far advanced you are in the “program”. What matters is what comes first. Most people put “mammon” first. Few people put life first. They are contradicting priorities.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Yet Another Reason to Not Trust the Church for Sex Advice

I don’t know how much truth is behind this recent sensational headline found on the Drudge Report, but it fits the larger pattern:

Priests found in bed together in Rome face being expelled…

I’m astonished that we still allow such perverts to authoritatively teach us what constitutes “good” sexual expression.

And it’s not just gay priests that are the problem. Every time I’ve encountered the sexual teachings of a teacher the church venerates as a “man of God” I’ve been disappointed to say the least. Here are just a couple examples (emphasis mine):

Augustine:

For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting has not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it has venial fault: but adultery or fornication has deadly fault, and, through this, continence from all intercourse is indeed better even than the intercourse of marriage itself, which takes place for the sake of begetting.

But because that Continence is of larger desert, but to pay the due of marriage is no crime, but to demand it beyond the necessity of begetting is a venial fault, but to commit fornication or adultery is a crime to be punished…

John MacArthur:

At no point is a man’s depravity more manifest than in the procreative act. We know man is a sinner by what he says. We know man is a sinner by what he does… We can see on the outside sinful deeds. But how do we know man is a sinner at the base of his character? How do we know man is a sinner at the root of his existence? The answer: by what he creates. Whatever comes from the loins of man is wicked because man is wicked.

Nowhere then, in the anatomy of a man, or in the activity of a man, is depravity more manifest than in the procreative act. Because it is precisely at that point which he demonstrates the depth of his sinfulness because he produces a sinner…

I would remind you that Jesus Christ had no human father. Because there was no human father who could produce a perfect person. The Spirit of God had to plant a perfect seed in Mary and bypass a human father. The male organ, then, is the point at which human depravity is most demonstrated. You see, not the deeds of sin, but the nature of sin passed on to the next generation.

Why we continue to tolerate such sexually retarded teachings in the church is beyond me.

If It Talks Like a Snake…

Something seems fishy about the language and examples chosen for this recent Gospel Coalition piece called “A Hidden Epidemic God Hates.”

“A hidden epidemic” sounds eerily similar to the opening rhetoric of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique:

The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women.

Now let’s see what the Gospel Coalition is up to…

TGC: Tom micromanages his wife Sarah’s physical appearance to fit his personal tastes. He picks out her clothes, tells her how she can do her hair, and restricts her diet so she remains thin.

God: So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

[…]

TGC: Miranda is an overprotective mother. She homeschools her 17-year-old daughter, Kate, to prevent her from being exposed to rebellious teenagers. She won’t allow her to play sports, attend dances, or get her driver’s license.

God: He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

[…]

TGC: Bill forces his wife Angie to have sex against her will. He’s rough in bed and occasionally strikes her when they’re being intimate.

God: Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.

[…]

(I wouldn’t be surprised if many female readers suddenly started fantasizing about “Bill” after reading the article. That’s about as erotic as Christian writing gets for a woman.)

Evil rhetoric always starts by emphasizing the restriction and omitting the blessing. Rather than liberating people from their burdens, it manufactures burdens from thin air by re-framing the situation.

If it acts like a snake and talks like a snake…

3 Types of Influencers: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Godly Influence:

  1. Empathize with the pain
  2. Show the consequences of the present path
  3. Show the bliss of the path of wisdom
  4. Provide sensible boundaries to protect the bliss
  5. Re-frame struggles into triumphs

 

Evil Influence:

  1. Draw attention to a restriction (manufacture pain)
  2. Deny the consequences of breaking the restriction
  3. Highlight the desirability of transgression

 

Churchian Influence:

  1. Add restrictions and expand the definition of sin
  2. Preach the consequences of transgression
  3. Exhort people to try harder to do good
  4. Act shocked and appalled when the younger generation leaves the church and turns to evil
  5. Adapt the new evil into the church to be more “relevant”

 

Sequence matters.

Christian Men Can’t Have “Affairs”

Some more subtle anti-male rhetoric from Desiring God:

Most Christian guys nowadays have been so emasculated, I doubt they even possess the seduction skills or the sexual attractiveness required to even tempt an affair. But aside from that, DG gets this message wrong on two counts.

First, an “affair” is a cultural sin, not a biblical sin. The biblical sin is adultery, which occurs when one man has sex with another man’s wife. It’s a sin against the man that is analogous to property theft. An “affair”, on the other hand, is a sin against the woman. Same event, different meanings.

Secondly, men do not have affairs because they are searching for “true love.” They have affairs because they’re not getting any action at home and come across an opportunity to sleep with a younger, hotter woman.

I give Desiring God credit for waking me up to some important spiritual truths during my college years. But they have since proven themselves to be incapable of providing truthful commentary on either the Bible or sexuality. I suspect they have been converged by the Enemy. Some of the readers are noticing:

The Heavy Burden of Lazy Thinking

Ambiguity is the devil’s best friend.

The author at GodRules.net illustrates the heavy burden placed on Christians when precise teaching and thinking is replaced with “spiritual” ambiguity:

The Conservative Church has taken terms like “fornication” and “adultery” and made them mean everything. Everything is fornication. Seeing a nude woman is fornication. Even touching yourself is adultery. Do you see the error? Further, they neglect the precision of scripture and altogether cut out the offenses of idolatry that are connected to adultery, fornication and many of the sins mentioned in scripture…

This is not something that can be easily dismissed. It is almost like some Christians want to take the precision out of scripture. To take the power out of scripture as well. To Gnosticize the Bible into a war between your physical desire and your spirit. When, in reality, they have minimized the sins of the spirit.

This is why I’m skeptical of confessions and catechisms. They make no sense to me and lack the precision found in Scripture. The “conspiracy theorist” part of me suspects they are nothing more than an excuse to browbeat men into submission by expanding the definition of what it means to be a sinner.

I know many people use them with good intentions, and I can see the appeal of having a summary of the Scripture. But I tend to agree with Mark Twain’s assessment:

[Most Christians are] credulous people who venerate the Bible but do not examine it carefully, preferring to rely on what preachers or biblical commentators want them to believe… [M]ost Christians want little more than reinforcement for their sectarian indoctrination.

Tragically, Christians do this at the expense of both church unity and personal freedom. Living in a perpetual state of ambiguous guilt is a heavy burden to bear.

 

A New Paradigm for Sexual Abuse Healing

NOTE: This is an article I wrote about 8 months ago but forgot to publish. Other than a couple minor edits, I left it unaltered. I may visit this topic more in the future if I detect a need.

This article is intended to give husbands a new perspective on how they might help their wives heal from past sexual abuse.

I discovered this by accident (or by providence) one day while discussing Proverbs 5:19 with my wife. Surprisingly, I’ve never heard anything like this from any sexual abuse “specialists” (Christian or secular).

After five years of struggling to find a solution for my wife through counseling and therapy books, a spontaneous 20 minute conversation immediately flipped a switch of such powerful healing that I was baffled why it took me so long to find it. It certainly didn’t solve every practical problem at once, but it was a fundamental breakthrough unlike anything I had seen before. In retrospect, it seems obvious. But if you don’t know what to look for, it remains hidden.

In order to avoid revealing anything to personal and hopefully make the point more obvious, I’m going to explain what I discovered through an analogy that men might find more relatable.

“Ugly” Sex

Pretend that you’re living in an alternate world. This world is almost exactly like our own world except for one thing: Whenever men get together, a common conversation theme is how “repulsive” it is when women wear revealing clothing. But other than that one difference, everything else is the same. You still have the same biology and women still act and dress the same.

As a “sexually awakened” teenage boy in this alternate world, you begin to wonder if something is wrong with you. Based on the conversations you hear, you conclude that it is wrong to be aroused by seeing a woman’s cleavage or the curves of her body. After all, it is “disgusting.” You hear that “sex is good”… it’s just women’s body parts that are gross.

But you can’t help feeling the way you do. You get aroused by women’s body parts. What is wrong with you?

When you become a young adult you decide to marry. After all, marriage is good. It’s the only way your sexuality can be purified.

Unfortunately, your problems don’t go away. You are unable to become aroused enough to “do the deed.” It seems that the only way you can be turned on is when you see your wife’s body parts. But you know that is wrong. That’s part of your of your corrupted sexuality that needs to be put away. So you stuff it down and don’t give yourself any opportunity to act on it.

You begin to despair. Why is sex so difficult? What caused you to be this way?

After doing some research, you think you’ve found the answer. You were sexually abused. You’ve tried to repress the memory but it’s coming back to you now…

When you were a 12 years old, your aunt touched your penis. Actually, it was more than just a touch. You were confused. It awakened a thrilling sensation inside of you that you didn’t know your body was capable of. And yet, you knew it was wrong. Your brain couldn’t make sense of the experience. So you buried it.

But now you read that it’s common for boys who’ve been abused to have similar fantasies about women that you are having.

That must be it! You’re a victim. It’s not your fault.

Now if you can only heal from this past experience, you’ll be made a whole again… and all those gross fantasies you’ve been having about women’s bodies will go away.

The Hidden War on Women

I hope you can see the absurdity of this story. The boy was perfectly normal. His biology was simply functioning as it was created to. Even when his aunt inappropriately touched him, the excitement he felt was a natural response. And it certainly wasn’t this inappropriate touching that triggered his fantasies.

As absurd as the story may seem, this is exactly the sort of thing our society does to women. The only difference is women have a different sort of fantasy.

It’s well documented that “rape fantasies” are one of the most popular sexual fantasies among women. And yet our culture spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about how wrong it is for a man to “have his way” with a woman. A woman is not a “sex object” we say.

On the surface, this “anti-rape” hysteria seems to be an attack on men. But I’ve now come to believe it is primarily a subtle attack on women.

Imagine a woman growing up in such a culture while secretly having such sexual fantasies. She’s practically forced to respond in at least one of three ways:

  1. Accept that she’s broken beyond repair for some unknown reason
  2. Speak out against rape in attempt to signal to others and herself that she is “normal” (The SJW)
  3. Find some other person or event to blame for these “dirty” fantasies she has (The Victim)

Even when we try to help sexual abuse victims, in our naivity, we often do more harm than good. For what do we tell them? “What he did to you was wrong. You are NOT a sex object. You are a wonderful person.”

Yet the real message she receives is “Rape is bad. You’re a disgusting person for fantasizing about being a man’s sexual object. People think that you’re a good person so don’t let them know about these gross fantasies you’re having.”

But is this what the Scripture teaches?

Beastly Passion in the Bible

Consider Proverbs 5:19:

Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe;
let her breasts satisfy thee at all times;
and be thou ravished always with her love.

The scripture compares sexuality to an animal. Most modern translations hide the animal-like passion by saying a “graceful” doe… implying that the woman is to be elegant like some sort of fancy ball from a Jane Austin novel. But the Hebrew word used is chen which literally means to “find favor in the eyes of someone” (e.g. a sexually charged man.)

Dalrock described it well when he said the proverb is “exhorting husbands to approach their wives with the same kind of passion a rutting buck has for a doe.”

“Ravished” is translated from shagah. This is the same word used to describe someone who sins or strays from the right path without knowledge. The idea is that the wife is so irresistible to her husband that the husband literally loses control of himself without even realizing what he is doing, acting purely on instinct like the “rutting buck.”

“Always” is translated from tamiyd. This word is used to describe something that is constantly available. The same word is used to describe the “bread of the Presence” that the Lord commanded Israel to set before him in the tabernacle at all times. The idea is that the woman is available at anytime for her husband to ravish.

When this proverb is explained, it sounds an awful lot like a woman’s “rape fantasy.” It’s closer to a trashy erotic novel than the gentle “relationship-centered” sex found in marriage advice books.

Furthermore, it seems that the key to igniting this sexual passion is less about the man developing seduction skills and more about the woman embracing her fantasy for unbridled, almost rape-like sex.

If this is the case, the man is not responsible for getting his wife “in the mood.” Rather, he is to take responsibility for his wife’s well being by confronting her and showing her from the Scriptures that she has been deceived and needs to embrace her God-given sexuality…even if society says it’s wrong.

The Path to Healing

Yes, rape and sexual abuse is wrong. But not in the way our society tells us. It is not wrong because of the act itself. It is wrong because of the context. When it is done outside of a marriage, it is harmful.

But within the context of a marriage, there is no such thing as rape. As far as I can tell, God only gave us two rules to govern sexual passion:

  1. Don’t have sex with anyone who’s not your spouse
  2. Don’t do anything that might put your spouse in the hospital (as a general courtesy)

A woman’s “rape fantasies” are not unscriptural. In fact, they may be closer to the biblical model than anything else. A woman who’s been victimized through sexual abuse (and anti-rape propaganda) will not be healed until she recognizes and embraces her God-given sexual passion.

So if nothing else is working, try this path:

  1. Show your wife that it’s not demeaning to be a “sex object” (Proverbs 5:19)
  2. Teach her that there’s nothing wrong with having “rape fantasies”, and even to embrace them within the context of a marriage
  3. Teach her that what was done to her in the past was wrong, but there’s nothing wrong with her… her supposed “damaged” sexuality is a myth
  4. Teach her that even if she’s not a “Perfect 10”, that you are still turned on by her body. After all, you married her because you wanted to have sex with her!
  5. Teach her to take small steps to act out her sexuality towards you. This will drive out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  6. Remind her of the above truths whenever she falls into old habits and thoughts