Colleen “JihadJane” LaRose had a suicide attempt in her past. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with someone who knows a massive amount about al-Qaeda and learned that the O.G. operatives — people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — are smart and dedicated men. They have interpreted a complex and bewildering set of perceptions about the world into an absolutely conspiratorial and paranoid worldview, but, as the cliche goes, they work the plan. The newer generations — people like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — just have the worldview, without the rigor. (If you’ve ever talked to a dedicated conspiracy theorist, you know how much rigor goes into marshaling disperate facts into a superficially-coherent theory.)

So I don’t want — ever — to trivialize mental illness. No one should. There are just going to be people who take whatever demons they have and direct them outward, rationalizing that nebulous forces in the world are responsible for their pain. If you can find Answer Me!‘s old issue about serial killers and mass murderers, the emerging picture of Colleen LaRose looks familiar in that regard. The difference is competence. We trivialize how personal so much of this conspiracy theory crap is by pretending that LaRose and her ilk are in any way motivated by religion. Religion is the means to a conspiratorial end.

About Shelter’s “Quest For Certainty” and why I’m putting it here. There is something that has always discomforted me about what Ray sings about here. Life is not and should not be a quest for certainty, because certainty is a method of self-deception. Life is and should be a struggle with doubt and a quest for meaning. Certainty gets people killed and gets people killing, all for mistakes that people would otherwise catch if they weren’t disposed to pursue their quest for certainty. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve read more from Ray about the path he took to his religion, I’ve been disinclined to pass such a harsh judgment — he definitely means no harm to anyone — and to admire the quest if not the destination. But we need fewer quests for certainty and greater reconciliation with uncertainty.