The Psychology of Christianity Part II

Posted: October 3, 2008 in The Psychology of Christianity

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CHRISTIANITY

Part II

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then He is not omnipotent…
Is He able, but not willing?
Then He is malevolent…
Is God both willing and able?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither willing nor able?
Then why call Him God?

–Epicurus, Greek philosopher

Christians and God

If God (the big ‘G’), is indeed the Creator, wouldn’t He/She/It be self-evident? In fact how could one escape such a grand being? Furthermore, if God is God, why does He/She/It need the Christians to act as a mouthpiece? Why all the coy disguises and cloak-and-dagger stuff? Has God become crippled or diminished somehow? If so, then it’s not God.

Most Christians act as if they knew God’s mind and could speak for Him/Her/It. The convenient fallback position is: “God uses us Christians to carry out His work,” or “He speaks to me through the Bible.” When confronted with questions as to why God can’t speak to just any old person, the typical response is: “Well, He just doesn’t work that way.” This statement illustrates a trend among “Believers” to make claims about God and His/Her/Its nature that seem to be contradictory as to the fundamental nature of God. Such statements as: “Let God into your heart,” “God can’t work unless you allow Him to,” and “God only works in certain ways,” are instructive as to the regard that most Christians give Him/Her/It. The words “God” and “can’t” should never be used in the same sentence; it’s contradictory. By creating such conditions, Christians reduce God to a god, similar to a lapdog that they can use to intimidate, judge, polarize, and wield as if He/She/It were on a short leash. The Christian God has essentially been diminished to resemble a caricature of Himself, a figment of Christian dogma, easily manipulated. In fact, subconsciously, most Christians act as if God were dead and that they are His/Her/Its defenders and apologists as if God were somehow in need of defending. If God is indeed God, why the need for using sales tactics and powerful oratory techniques to ensnare hapless followers?

Part of the allure of Christianity is its popularity and large membership. Despite having grown to become the largest religion in the world, there is a common myth among Christians that they are a minority in a largely secular world. When you look at comparable data of the eight most industrialized nations of the world as compared to their religious practices, you will find that seven of these nations have mostly Christian populations, while only one, Japan, is Buddhist. None are Muslim. So not only do Christians outnumber other religious adherents, but also outweigh others in terms of wealth per capita. So where does this idea of persecution come from? There are definitely cases of ongoing religious persecution throughout the world, including acts against Christians, but there still exists a rather disproportional view that Christian influence is somehow outside of the mainstream.

It is easier to accept an idea if there is at least the appearance of strength behind it. When large groups of people agree on a particular set of beliefs, those beliefs become the standard, no matter how unsubstantiated or fallible they might be. Christianity presents a facade of having the power of God behind it, carried out by the mob majority of its followers. This subterfuge is reinforced by the flaunting of worldly wealth and prosperity by the Church and its members, which are meant to signify God’s favor. Obversely, the rejection of other faiths, ideas and lifestyles is manifested in the attitude that God causes calamities upon non-“Believing” nations. This extremist view was made clear during the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and hurricane Katrina in 2005. Both disasters, Christian opportunists argued, were God’s way of punishing the “sinful” lifestyles of the regions inflicted.

Being a moral person doesn’t stem from any one particular set of religious beliefs. How is it that a person prior to becoming “Born Again” is capable of love, charity, compassion, and many other virtues? Are there a different set of virtues for the “Believer” and the non-“Believer,” if the outcomes and intentions are the same? The only difference I see, is that Christianity has an organizing force both with money and charity to better serve its own ends. Which ends are these? Only the total assimilation of “all tongues and nations” to believe in the Christian message.

An important question to ask is: When does a cult cease to be a cult and enter into the mainstream acceptance as a religion? Christianity certainly began as a cult with only a few followers scattered around the Mediterranean Sea area. The conclusion that I have come to, is that a cult becomes a bona fide religion when enough people believe in it to wield significant political power. Devout “Believers” often view other offshoots of Christianity such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses to be possessed of a cult mentality. Some Christians even go as far as to deny their Catholic predecessors as being right with God. With all of these different flavors of Christianity, which branch is right? Surely not everyone can be right. Does God glean some sort of cosmic amusement from all of these squabbling factions trying to figure out His purpose for them? What a cruel God indeed.

The Bible as a self-reinforcing argument

The Bible, or holy scriptures, are considered, among Christian adherents, to be the authoritative words and thoughts of God. There are those “Believers” who take the Bible literally and those who consider it allegorical, but in the spirit of being the designer religion that it is, most followers believe in both literal and allegorical interpretations. If so, which passages are to be taken literally? Which allegorically? Typically, when confronted about a particular passage that happens to be out of date with current trends, or is culturally biased, as is the case with most of the Old Testament, the average Christian will promote an allegorical interpretation. Christianity, after all, has evolved with the times. One only need to examine the various different translations and the trend towards modernization of language and concepts in order to make the Biblical text more relatable to the contemporary reader. If the Bible is the inerrant and perfect Word of God, why the need for such sweeping editing measures? Which version is correct?

The truth of the matter is, if you believe in the Bible, then by default, you subscribe to the institutions of xenophobia, slavery, and systematic misogyny. All of these facets of social bigotry have been shown to be outmoded forms of behavior in a civil society. Many Christians will argue that Old Testament law isn’t as relevant as the New Testament, or that Jesus Christ came to absolve the old Mosaic Law. If this is the case, then most of the so-called Bible should be considered extrinsic. So either the Bible is perfect or it isn’t. If it isn’t, or if certain verses and concepts can be cherry-picked out of convenience for the believer, how valid can that system be?

If the teachings of Christ are central to Christianity, why don’t they begin and end with Christ? Why, for instance, do modern Christians put so much emphasis on the teachings of the self-proclaimed apostle Paul, who incidentally wrote 2/3 of the “books” of the New Testament? Paul was certainly an inspirational and eloquent writer, but to essentially equate or elevate his writings with the teachings of Jesus shows the common Christian’s lack of faith in the soundness of Christ’s teachings. With so much influence residing outside of Christ’s teachings, why not call themselves Paulites? It is this very idea of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets who add their own commentary to the Bible story which makes it less valid as a direct communication from God. The Bible certainly tells a story, but is it from God, or is it similar to a cosmic guestbook, where inspired scribes can indefinitely add their own melee to the canon?

The Bible, and in fact, Christianity itself, are examples of self-reinforcing systems of reason. The Bible must be true because Bible verses say that they are. This is evident when debating a Christian, as all evidence they inevitably point to is Scripturally-based. The “proofs” of the Scriptural approach for explaining moral truths is merely anecdotal. There are grains of truth, some based on historical fact, but once again, which parts are totally true, and which parts are exaggerated by the subjective nature that the “books” of the Bible were written? This brings me to the next point of faith.

Faith As A Novelty

As humans, we have learned to take a great many things on faith. Do most people check a chair for its structural integrity before sitting down? Typically not. Do most people count the number of Q-tips to see if they are getting their money’s worth? Or inspect the contents of a milkshake to ensure its freshness? My guess is, only if you’ve had a bad experience will you check, or if you are extremely compulsive. But most people have become so trusting and accepting of the reliability of the world around them that conscious faith has become all but obsolete. But are faith and trust the same thing?

Trust comes with time and experience, while faith is more reckless in the sense that one can have faith in something without needing logical proof of its fidelity. Our currency proclaims: “In God We Trust,” but how much do “Believers” really trust God? How much more readily do people have faith in money, than in God, even though money is intrinsically worthless and has proven to be unreliable at times?

Has God always been faithful to His creation? When He wanted a do-over, He simply wiped out the human race, save one family, as told in the Great Flood story in the Bible (Genesis, chapter 7). God plans to take us out again in the End-Times (read the book of Revelations), even though He promised to never annihilate us again (Genesis 8:21). The Bible is replete with the phrase, “I am the Lord¾ I do not change!” (Malachi 3:6). Where is God’s faith in us? To me this illustrates that trust is, perhaps, a two way street, while faith in God is a one-sided devotion.

Obviously, it takes a lot of faith to believe in the Bible, perhaps even more so than trusting that gravity will keep you from floating away. Typically when debating Christians, any sort of inexplicable conclusion or contradiction will lead to the statement, “You just have to have faith (in God).” This, to me, is a cop out and a very convenient way to wriggle out of sticky problems and dead ends that exist with the Bible-centric point of view. The fact is, that most Christians appear to have more faith in the institutions of humankind than in God. Take for instance the hoarding of money and material wealth. If one had the “treasures in Heaven” philosophy that Jesus advocated (Matthew 6:19-34), how would Earthly treasures matter? The same is true with governments. If God is in charge of your life, why subjugate yourself to Earthly leaders? Why pray for them? This is, of course, to make one’s Earthly sojourn more comfortable for the “Believer.”

What about prayer? The very fact that most Christians ritualistically pray out loud betrays their faith in the institution, rather than God. Jesus himself taught others to pray in secret where only God can hear (Matthew 6:5-8). If God is all-powerful, why would He need to hear prayers vocalized?

Pastors and religious leaders routinely use the same techniques used by hypnotists to bring their subjects into an altered state of consciousness, such as implementing rhythmic speech patterns and suggestive phrases. The subjects, under hypnosis of prayer, have slower breathing patterns, closed eyes, and passive minds. These are subtle ways to influence the direction of thought and lead the group into the territory of the orator’s own agenda. This also happens with smaller social circles within church groups as a way of vocal support. It is apparent that prayers spoken out loud are more for the benefit of the prayer-giver, and perhaps the listening audience, than to speak to God. Of course, intention is what matters in prayer, and who can really speak on behalf of another as to the sincerity of their prayers? Speaking affirming words to another can definitely bring positive results, but why call it prayer? Why not call it encouragement or affirmation?

Prayer is also the language that “Believers” use to manifest their will into the world. Such arbitrary prayers as “May Your will be done,” shows the utter lack of faith in God’s sovereignty. God, being all-powerful, will have his way regardless of the whimsies of humans. He/She/It looks through the eyes of the infinitesimal, not the mortal, impatient eyes of humans. This is evident in the prayers of feuding groups. This could be in war or sporting engagements. If both sports teams pray for victory before the game, which side will God favor? Furthermore, why would God be concerned about the petty dealings of humans? This is an example of the idea that God is so personal that He watches over every second of every moment of every person’s life, and intervenes according to how each person interacts with Him. This is like saying that humans can have an effect on God’s will. Talk about ego-centric!

One can compare Christian belief to superstitious belief. For instance, the belief that walking under ladders will bring you bad luck is synonymous with the Christian belief that if I commit this sin__________(fill in the blank), then I am going to Hell. There is no fundamental scientific law in nature that says that either is true. In both scenarios, the outcomes are ambiguous and unprovable, but people adhere to the belief just the same. Arguably, the same can be said for comparing Christian belief to having a phobia. It takes just as much faith to hold onto kooky religious beliefs as it does to hold onto a fear of water, or heights, or enclosed spaces.

COMING SOON: FINAL SEGMENT ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CHRISTIANITY: SATAN, HEAVEN, HELL, THE RAPTURE, AND HOW IT ALL TIES TOGETHER…

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