Archive for the ‘The Psychology of Christianity’ Category

“…I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.” — Abraham Lincoln

The Role of Satan

One of the common threads within the structure of the myth is the hero. This person is usually the central character in the story who must overcome adversity to triumph in the end or learn some valuable truth. There are many heroes within the pages of the Bible, but arguably, Jesus stands out as the central character. For every hero, there is also the villain or antagonist. This character represents challenge or adversity to the goals of the hero. In the case of the Bible, this character is none other than the mega-villain, Satan.

Typically, Satan is attributed to any sort of force opposing God’s work. Apparently, Satan is able to enter the human mind at will, speaking with a voice that is at least as clear as God’s own voice. So insidious is Satan, that he is able to organize sinners and angels to rebel against God. With a work ethic that must rival only God’s own, Satan works tirelessly to subvert the thoughts and minds of vulnerable humans, causing them to sin. He is also conveniently the force behind any doubtful assessment or contradictory criticism against Christianity itself. The eternal souls of humanity are what hangs in the balance of this cosmic tug of war between God and Satan. The Bible foretells of Satan’s ultimate demise (20:10), but despite this, he is as determined as ever to win his share of souls.

Satan has bore many names throughout the Bible including the Devil, Interloper, Adversary, Deceiver, Serpent, among others. While all of these personas, in actuality, were written in context as different characters, they have been generalized into one all-encapsulating villain.
What fascinates me is the degree to which “Believers” use Satan as a scapegoat. Blaming some unseen malicious character for the cause of evil that exists within humankind is a useful way to remain aloof from owning up to “sinful” impulses and behaviors as being part of the whole self. It is also a rather convenient reason to have God around. Many modern Christians especially like to embellish the idea that Satan is powerful enough to keep a person from hearing God’s voice. When challenged as to the Devil’s purported omni-pervasiveness as being equivalent to God’s, Christians often demur, claiming that Satan has multitudes under his command like some kind of grand army or bureaucracy. According to the way in which Satan is presented by the Church, he is at the very least, extremely efficient at what he does, lurking around every corner of the mind, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to inspire those of us who are susceptible to sin.

This whole idea plays into the fantasy of some grand cosmic drama taking place with humans placed at the center. This is not the only instance of a human-centric philosophy. Throughout our existence, humans have tended to believe in a misunderstood presumption that we are at the center of everything. We once believed that we were the axis of the which the sun revolved around, for instance. Unrestrained, the human ego may think that it is central to everything, and all else is a mechanism designed for the purpose of facilitating the ego. This is evident within Bible literature, whereas humans were given dominion over the Earth by God (Genesis 1:28). This is yet another representation of the cultural bias of the monarchial system, where one group rules over all others with God sitting on his throne at the top of it all. This is both exploitative and imbalanced with the order of ecology, a subject of little or no importance to the traditions of the Bible.

But each time the veil of understanding is lifted a little further, our perspective shifts, and we realize that the universe is much bigger and more complex than we have understood. The more we learn about the universe, the more we see that we are mutual players with other organisms and realize our interdependence with the whole scheme of totality. If drama is what the average “Believer” seeks, what better than the infinitesimally complex grander drama of interconnectedness that exists between all organisms, rather than the simplistic, limited scope that the Bible presents?

Heaven or Hell…Flip A Coin

“If you died tomorrow, do you know where you’ll go?” Such rhetoric is intended to provoke doubt in the un-“Believer,” and project some sort of secret knowledge from the part of the “Believer” as to the afterlife. Inevitably, any serious debate about Christianity will land on whether or not a given person will end up in Heaven or Hell. This is usually the final arguing point of any devout Christian, the proverbial “ace up the sleeve.” This argument doesn’t hold up to basic logic however. If God (the big ’G,’ remember?), is omnipresent, or is everywhere, then how can there exist a place where He/She/It is not? Furthermore, the idea of Hell surely illustrates God’s un-love. If He/She/It loves us all, as the Bible clearly says, why would anyone be sent to Hell?

The whole premise of Christianity only works if you believe in Heaven and Hell. The idea that humans are potentially Hellbound comes from the Biblical concept of original sin found in Genesis, chapter 3. According to the Scriptures, Adam and Eve sinned by rebelling against God who, in turn, doomed all of their offspring (the entirety of humankind) to the potentiality of sin and death. This fundamental belief asserts that all humans, babies included, are born as “marked souls,” whether or not they have committed any sins. This puts every person in the rather unfortunate position of automatically requiring a Savior and therefore, the institution of Christianity.

The concept of Heaven/Hell polarization reveals much about the psychology of Christianity. Firstly, it reveals the Christian’s obsession with judgment of Earthly, or material matters. To equate one’s short-term actions in this transitory world as having eternal consequences worthy of Heaven or Hell is both unrealistic and shortsighted. Surely when one dies, the agendas and values of their Earthly existence cease to matter, or at the very least, change. For example, you can’t take your house, or cars or worldly prestige, or accomplishments with you to the grave; once you’re dead, you’re dead. Even if there is a Heaven or Hell, the things that matter to us now surely pale in comparison to the things that are eternal. If one has the scope of eternity, how miniscule the dealings and drama of Earth would be. It is only through our short-sighted human eyes that we get caught up in the act.

Another aspect of the Heaven/Hell concept is how Christians use it as a point of exclusion. Essentially, if you are a Christian, you belong to an exclusive club. But it is only through another Christian that a person can find out about this club and join in. Once you are in, you will be rewarded with eternal life. If you don’t accept, you will suffer eternal damnation. This is an example of in- and out-grouping. One group has the “inside scoop” on matters dealing with eternity, a subject to which humans are dismally suited to explain. This in-group believes that they are in touch with God and therefore have the ability to mediate between He/She/It and the others, or out-group. This comes out in the form of judgment, self-righteousness, exclusion, and many other negative forms of separatism. This divisiveness extends into nearly every aspect of Christian principles which are deeply rooted in the belief of possessing “God’s favor” through “divine right.” This is at best annoying, and at worst, deadly. How is it that Christians feel that they are more qualified to discuss matters of the afterlife, than non-“Believers?”

The in-group maintains that they are God’s spokespeople in a world where God’s voice is conspicuously absent. Their only “proof” is the subjective method of “hearing God’s voice, and relying on the Bible, a flawed and fallible collection of culturally-biased, humanly-tainted, and politically-motivated literature. Who could ever argue against those who claim to be right with God? Here is a case of one group of humans trying to lever superiority over another group of humans based on the dubious claims of in-group mentality. Who feels compelled to dissent if they are the ones on the “winning side?”

Feeling Rapturous anyone?

The idea of the Rapture, the eschatological event which heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ and the subsequent rescuing of the Church by him, is a fascinating concept. True “Believers” alive and dead will be swept away with Jesus in the clouds, sparing them from the horrors of the ensuing Tribulations that will envelop the Earth. A whole industry has sprung forth from this idea. Fictional book series proposing possible “Doomsday” scenarios have become bestsellers. Websites such as “RaptureReady.com,” have sprung up, promoting preparedness for the coming Rapture. In extreme cases, “Believers” might refrain from any sort of financial investment towards the future, as they are convinced that Jesus will return in their time.
There have been many anticipatory Doomsday cult-like groups that have emerged over the last 2000 years, each fervently believing that it will be their generation that will witness the second coming of Christ. The political map of the world has indeed changed, witnessing robust empires rising and falling, which has influenced the tides of perception towards “End-Times” events, but still no second coming.

The concept of the Rapture illustrates a deeper desire for escapism among Christians. By design, the Rapture implies both a fast track to escape the coming calamities that God will unleash upon the Earth, and a means to “live on” by never actually dying. This thirst for the Rapture among eager “Believers” is congruent with their fetish towards immortality. Immortality is arguably, the most extreme form of ego attachment that exists. It is completely askew from the natural order that can be observed within nature. Death is just as natural a part of life as birth, and to try to escape death is a futile endeavor.

The Christian’s aversion to death betrays their underlying fear of death. To most people, the idea of losing it all, the ground they’ve gained, the honor, the lessons, knowledge, and acquisition that comes from experiencing life is a dreadful thought. But to the eternal traveler, the journey goes ever on. It is only the ego that we fear to lose in the transition from this life to the next.

The escape from impending Earthly doom alludes to a deeper belief in the Earth as being a diseased, temporary planet. Just as God opted for a do-over according to Genesis 6, leading to the Great Flood and subsequent annihilation of life on Earth, He is foretold to seek vengeance against future generations by means of the Great Tribulation and destruction of Heaven and Earth. If one believes in such stories, they also believe that this world is a temporary, sickly planet which will be destroyed by God who will create a new Heaven and Earth. If this is true, why put forth energy into any sort of ecological conservation? This view is practiced in part, by those who put off any sort of future plans or investment into the environment and future generations, who claim that it is pointless to be good custodians of the Earth when clearly the Bible states that there will be a new Earth. They view humans as somehow being separate from everything else. Christians are taught that the world belongs to the Devil, and will be subsequently destroyed with him.

Putting It All Together

So what does all of this mean? Why have I spent so much time and energy on the subject of the psychology of Christianity? The sheer organizational capacity and staggering industry of Christianity should be a cause of concern among moderate-thinking individuals. Do I believe that Christians are inherently evil? By no means am I suggesting that the sincere believer in higher morals is out of touch with reality or has no inspiration toward doing good. Obviously, there are those who draw inspiration from the example of Jesus, and are therefore motivated in a positive direction. Sincere practitioners from different faiths have done the world at large a good service. But it is the very practice of division, exclusion, bigotry, intolerance, and absolutism that the extreme dogmatism of the Bible promotes, and which inherently undermines the greater need for progressive humanitarian objectives. Just as the institution of slavery has been abolished in most civilized societies, so should religious intolerance. There has been no greater need for humanity to draw together under the umbrella of our common inheritance.

We are at a crucial moment in our history, as the lines between church and state have been blurred in a frenzy of fearmongering brought on by fundamentalist groups pushing their agendas. The ultimate direction that they would take us is a new American Theocracy based on Christianity. This movement has used “freedom of religion” to promote their agenda, but in actuality, they would use this precept of liberty to undermine religious freedoms from other religious groups in America. Pastors and other Church leaders continuously flaunt our nation’s laws against campaigning for, or endorsing political causes from the pulpit, which is in violation of their tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization. According to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code, organizations with this classification are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to influence elections to public office. This nation, contrary to popular belief, was not founded as a Christian nation, but a strongly secular one. Regardless of the spiritual leanings of the Founding Fathers, they advocated the separation of church and state, which, like parts the Bible, some Christians have conveniently chosen to ignore.

We live in a dangerous time when our elected leaders skillfully use Christianity to appeal to those who believe that current world events are tied to the whole storybook fantasy of the Bible and exploit this belief to spread fear, hate, and push America back towards a society of intolerance. For those Christians who have taken to warmongering and believe in a militant Christian nation, I would direct them to the teachings of Jesus, who advocated peace, turning the other cheek, and loving one’s enemies (Luke 6:27-31). Jesus was an iconoclast, fervently anti-imperialist and who scoffed at the institutional religions of the time. These are undeniable facts about the teachings and philosophy of the central character that Christianity is based around. So before you rush to call yourself a “Christian,” or follower of Christ, you might want to study and really learn about what he stood for. There’s some good stuff in there…

FINAL NOTE:

This essay on the psychology of Christianity has been a labor of love for me. It is something that I have had in the works for a very long time, and it feels good to finally have it finished. It has taken me years of working through the psychological damage of indoctrination and oppression that the institution of Christianity brought to be able to articulate my feelings on the matter. There are many forms of prison, some without bars, and some that we create for ourselves. Now that I have put aside the blinders of Christianity, I have been able to experience a richer, fuller life and to seek a much broader divinity, which I believe, resides within each and every one of us.

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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…

The Psychology of Christianity Part I

Blogger’s Note:

The following article is not meant to provide a comprehensive philosophical dissection of the religious establishment of Christianity, but to merely postulate my own observations and theories as to the psychological underpinnings and ramifications that exist within the structure of modern Christianity. Having been an “insider,” at one point, I feel that I am in a good position to report on some of the common themes and fundamental innerworkings of this religious juggernaut. My interest is in the psychology behind it, rather than proposing a counter-theology, or antithesis to Christianity.

I am sure that, despite my best efforts to promote an intellectual presentation of these concepts, there will be those who will take offense to them and will therefore, rush to defend their precious Christianity. To that fact, I will only say this: Any belief system worth believing in should stand up to scrutiny and be subject to review. All too often, people blindly devote themselves to a cause without really understanding it or why they have bound themselves to a particular ideology. If you are easily offended by a critique of Christianity, ask yourself why. If you are secure in your beliefs, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone says to the contrary. Plus God is big enough to defend Himself, right?

To clarify a few necessary points, and hopefully avoid tedious rebuttals and interjections over semantics, I will spell out my definitions of commonly used phrases such as “Christian, Christianity, God, Church, Heaven, Hell, prayer, Born-Again.
Here are my definitions as follows:

Christian– a person that professes to follow the teachings of the Bible, and respectively consider it to be the “word of God.”

Christianity– a religious cultural movement based on the Judeo-centric teachings of the bible.

God*- or as I like to refer to it as “the big ‘G.'” The God character of the Bible, who is presumably the creator of all existence, who is incidentally omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, which is to say, all-powerful. Not to be confused with the little ‘g’ god(s) of a lower order. *When referring to the accepted Christian interpretation of the God of the Bible, I will refer to this entity in the masculine “He,” “Him,” “His,” etc., to keep in tradition with the Bible.

Church– not only the building that houses Christians during services but the Church Body Politic itself. When referring to the latter, I will use the pro-noun version for clarity.

Heaven– the eternal realm where God exists outside of time. This is often interpreted as eternal paradise where most Christians believe they will finally end up after Judgment Day.

Hell– where everyone else is destined to end up. An eternal realm of separation from God, where occupants will be subjected to torment, suffering, and everlasting damnation.

Prayer– one way communication with God. This usually takes the form of requests to God for the perceived needs of self and others. This is not to be confused with a dialogue with God, which by definition is a two-way conversation.

Born-Again– this is the status of a person after accepting Jesus into their life. They are essentially re-born into a new life of devotion to Christ and the Church, thus someone who is “Born-Again” becomes a practicing Christian.

A Word on Christians

The name ‘Christian’ is supposed to signify a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings. However, this title can be misleading. While the early Christian church was formed from the cult of Christ that originated with the 12 disciples, modern Christianity has strayed from the teachings of Jesus in some amazingly fundamental ways. One such way is the philosophy of mainstream churches concerning money. A common thread of teachings among especially evangelical middle class Churches is the emphasis of monetary and material prosperity among members who tithe. This trend is supported by a singular, rather obscure verse in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:10), which actually considers tithes in this context to be food.

This practice of money-hoarding by the Church, is blatantly at odds with Jesus’ philosophy concerning money, and also betrays the lack of faith in God to provide what is needed. Bible literature is replete with examples of Jesus’ recognition of the corrupting effect that money can have on people, and therefore maintained a rather consistent position on the rejection of materialism (see such verses as: Luke 16:13, Mark 10:17-25, Matthew 16:24-26). The accumulated wealth of the church was to be used for charitable purposes. Where is the televangelist that has committed him- or herself to a life of poverty, and where are his/her followers? One only need visit a large modern church to observe the lavish facilities, cars, equipment, and production materials that good money can buy.

This double-standard has not only strayed off-course from a very straightforward precept that Jesus taught and practiced, but also has the effect of reducing Christianity to a mere designer religion. Believers can cherry-pick which teachings best fit their lifestyles and there are just as many churches that exist to accommodate any belief. Just as Western civilization has created an arena for seemingly limitless accommodation, this is true for the Church as well. Such avenues of Christianity I call Americanized Christianity, or Westernized Christianity. If the goal and purpose of a Christian, is to closely follow and practice the teachings of Jesus, wouldn’t it be important to mimic ALL of them as laid out by the Gospels regardless of the fickle cultures of the times?

In fact, Christianist would be a more accurate title for the modern churchgoers who are enchanted with Christ and of Judeo-centric culture. I define a Christianist as someone who is infatuated with the dogma and syntax of the culture that rose out of the cult of Christ, rather than a true practitioner of Christ’s direct teachings. For example, by my definition, a true Christian would emulate Christ in word and deed, and not rely on the interpretations given to them by their clergy or apocryphal text such as Paul’s letters in the New Testament. A Christianist, by contrast, would approach the study of Christ much like a historian, incorporating the ever-evolving mythos of Christian-centric culture into their own beliefs. They are more interested in Christianity than Christ. This is, arguably, the approach that many modern so-called Christians take.

Just because one is “Born-Again,” it doesn’t mean that they cease to be a regular person, or lose bestial impulses, or are now protected under some sort of supernatural forcefield that keeps their desires away. In my experience, I have seen quite the contrary. Christianity gives a person a pious mask to wear in front of others, while inside, the person is still driven and tempted by the gamut of human desires and emotions that non-Christians are subject to. The pressure to “act the part” is compounded by the expectations from society to “fit the role,” and may be the force behind “binge sinning” that is so widespread among ostensible “Believers.” Or perhaps it is simply that their normal human behaviors come to the surface more visibly because they have taken the path of religious idealism.

This brings me to an important observation of the practice of dissociation among Christians. There has been a movement in recent years to make Christianity more user-friendly. One such method has been to euphemize certain name associations. Christians have become “Believers,” the more authoritarian, “Scriptures” are used in place of the Bible, Jesus has been traded for the monarchical “Lord,” and Satan or the Devil have been ambiguously re-labeled the “Enemy.” This softening of traditional names not only has had the effect of dissociation from, perhaps, negative connotations that these names have historically implied, but also to return the Bible story to a more archetypal form, much like the Jedi “Force” in the Star Wars mythos. This euphemization has had the subtle but powerful effect of appealing to the broader humanistic sensibility towards myths.

Christianity as a myth

To study the psychology of Christianity, we must understand the power of the myth as a function within a society. I use the term myth to signify symbolism and imagery that permeates through culture and time. From ancient myths such as Beowulf, Homer’s Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, to the modern myths of the comic book superheroes Superman, Spiderman, and Batman, the power of the myth has lost none of its potency to inform, entertain and teach us. Common myths have been passed along through generations and seem to cross barriers of differing races and cultures, presenting common themes and lessons.

The Bible, as it is contemporarily presented, is one such myth. But more accurately, it is a myth derived from previous myths. Many of the stories contained within the Bible have more ancient origins and have been adapted and mutated over the years, but this fact is hardly, if at all, recognized within the ranks of the “Believers.” The one “book” that is the Bible is actually comprised of several “books” and letters that have been authored by many and compiled over centuries. It was only through the organization and political influence of the Roman empire, which was incidentally a man-made institution, that gave birth to the compilation known as the Bible. This point is historical fact, but rarely scrutinized or acknowledged by the average “Believer.” Once again we are presented with the practice of cherry-picking and convenient denial of important facts by “Believers” as to the foundational structure of Christianity.
This is important because in most cases, the “Believer” will resort to the Bible as the final authority on any matter, whether they interpret it literally or allegorically. This practice would be similar to pointing to Homer- and Plato’s epic storytelling of the Greek gods as a final authority on spiritual and moral matters. To contemporary Christians, this idea would be ludicrous, but strangely, they see no connection between the abandoned arbitrary worship of the dim gods of the ancient world, and the similar faith of Christians in mythological storybook heroes.

The Bible borrows its creation story from a much older version that originated in ancient Mesopotamia, most notably elements from Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, and Sumerian cultures. There are many creation stories from the ancient world and there are also various recognized “Cradles of Life,” Mesopotamia being only one of which. Is it just mere coincidence that the world’s most dominant religion sprang from the part of the world that birthed the first empires? This is a testament to the exploitative nature that influential civilizations have on their subjugates, rather than the power of the message itself (the Bible). When Christianity became the standard of the land, it only needed be enforced and imposed by its zealous followers.
Still other myths and rituals taken from surrounding cultures were incorporated into the mythos of Christianity in order to better assimilate the heathens and pagans, making a smoother transition for the potentially converted. Christmas and Easter are perfect examples of how Christian and pagan traditions were blended to bring together different ways of spiritual practice in order to bring more followers into the fold. This once again illustrates the “designer” appeal of Christianity, and also its adaptability as a “borrower” of other traditions.

Coming Soon: Part II: Christians, God, The Bible, and Faith