Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Faith is nonsense: Part 1: It picks on the young because they are an easy target.

If I were an atheist, I think I would attack Christianity on a couple of different fronts.   I will begin to go into detail on this blog on several of them.  The first one is the age of impression.

Why does faith continue to exist?  It is simple, because it is still encouraged among the young.

Just think of it.  When do people get introduced into the concept of God?  When they are children.  The reason that it happens in childhood would be many:

1.  In childhood, young minds are more open to fantasy and story.  They are not as skilled in possibilities and criticism of ideas.  They hear a story and believe it.  Dawkins argued in "The God Delusion" that this is a holdover from evolution.  When the young are impressionable, they listen to their elders.  Those that listen to their elders are more likely to survive childhood and pass those genes on to the next generation.

2.  For parents, the idea that a story can explain something (especially when the parent has no clue of how to explain it) is enticing.  Sometimes it is too enticing. Perhaps sometimes the lure of having the answers for the next generation coupled with motives of sustaining power may lead the elder generation to present the story of a god, gods or goddesses so that the circle of power fits tightly around those that convey the "truths' to the next generation.  It also serves as a way to make sure that these mouthpieces of divinity express the right way of conduct (which happens to simultaneously serve the elder generation).  Hmmmmm . . .

Imagine: "the gods have told me that you should respect your father and your mother.  If you do not respect them then the gods will be very upset with you."

Sounds like a nice way to enforce the values on the next generation.  Just create the impression in young people of an ultimate authority as the young grow out of their need for the family they come from.  By introducing them to a god or gods that not only enforces certain behaviors, but also wields power higher than any human, you have successfully found a way to leverage power over other people's behavior - particularly young men and women.  

3.  Humans have a need to explain patterns that they observe but can't make sense of.  This is part of what makes us human.  If a dog or a cat sees a shape on the wall move, it will switch into fight or flight mode - bark or be gone.  The same is true for humans, but after watching it for a while we switch into explanatory mode.  Correction, we NEED to switch into explanatory mode.  It needs to fit within our understanding of existence.  If we are strict scientists, then the shapes on the wall are projected shadows from a light source interfered with by an object somewhere outside of our observable powers.  If we are predisposed to faith, it is a message from the gods.  If we feel guilty for the lives we have led, it is a message from beyond the grave - someone is upset with us . . . and on it goes.

So the young are targeted for faith because we look for people to think the same way that we do because when we have created an existence that is congruent with our values (whether scientists or religious nuts) we have created the illusion of 'reality.'  The more people that think and accept a particular way of thinking, the more we achieve stasis - the calmness of soul, the absence of question.

And if you haven't guessed it . . . this is precisely why the atheistic argument falls woefully short.  It is the question.

The power of the question is the one thing that both ignites the fire of debate about whether God is there and yet simultaneously extinguishes all hope of partiality on the subject.

It lights the fire by burning in our minds.  Dogs and cats could care less about the meaning of existence.  Warm fire, fresh food and water, a gentle master . . . all is well.  We are plagued by the meaning of it all.  Meaning is arrived at with the answer of the question - "what is this all about?"  "Why am I here?"  "Where is this all going to?"

These questions are more than evolutionary by products of the quest for safety.  We are haunted by the question of meaning because there is an answer to it.  LIke C.S. Lewis said in "Mere Christianity", “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning”[i]

But because the question exists, the haunting remains.  We are haunted with the purpose of things, not because we have evolutionary drives toward answers, but because the world is animated with echoes of something other.  Even rigid scientific logic is driven toward the quest for an answer.  The greatest atheistic position would be the position that is okay with mystery and no answer for the questions that burn within us.  The strongest hand that the atheist could play would be to laugh in the face of meaning and claim that even science is a hopeless endeavor because all it seeks to do is shine the light on the fact that there is nothing outside of human consciousness.

But it doesn't.  Even the scientist claims to have the truth.

And the truth comes from a supposed answer.

And the answer is an attempt at a question.

And the question is what burns inside us when confronted with the unknown.

So the unknown may very well be the presence of God . . .

[i] Lewis, Mere Christianity.  Part 2, Chapter 6

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