Apologetics and Apostasy Pt. 3- Programming, Parenting & Progress.
Note from the Author: This is part three of my series on Apologetics and Apostasy. Parts 1 & 2 deal with defining confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and credulity in their respective roles within the religious mind.
There are likely to be those who disagree with the statement that credulity, confirmation bias and/or cognitive dissonance are necessities of the modern religious mind. I would argue that short of an ambiguous deism, one or more of these afflictions must necessarily be present in order to be a seriously practicing theist in the modern age.
Although we must all admit to cognitive bias, a very specific breed must be present in order to buy in “lock, stock, and barrel” with any of the major world religions. If you are to believe in the inerrancy of the bible, for example, one has to believe several unimaginable things many of which, if not squarely contrary to modern scientific knowledge, fall short of simple tests of logic.
You must believe in “special creation”- that man was created in more or less his present state by God in the face of anthropological, archaeological, biological and genetic evidence to the contrary. You must believe that each of these fields are colluding to reinforce the “false claim” of common ancestry. In essence, you must don your foil hat and join the ranks of the delusional; believing in vast, systemic conspiracies perpetrated with the sole purpose of undermining the authority of your stone age history book.
It is not a position I envy.
You must believe in talking snakes, parting seas, resurrection, and countless other things that contradict everything we understand and observe in the world around us.
The more logical step, the one increasingly popular among theists in our modern society, is to discount the majority of the bible as parable, fantasy, and fable. The Earth is billions of years old, life slightly younger, and the modern incarnation of advanced primates just in it’s infancy by this grand timescale. God still exists though, his choice to pander to the lowest intellectual denominator is just one of His many “Mysterious Ways”. These people pick and choose what words are divinely inspired fact or divinely inspired fable.
Our credulity in the twenty-first century is constantly being tested, as science marches on unhindered by the spectre of supernaturalism. It was once perfectly reasonable to be a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew and at the same time not only a rationalist but a scientist without the benefit of cognitive dissonance. As recent as the turn of the nineteenth century, one could be both a man of science and a man of God and in fact many of our greatest scientific minds were just that.
There were always contradictions in the holy tracts, there were always discrepencies, but apologetics had allowed one to feel as though their faith was not in conflict with reality.
With James Hutton, Charles Darwin and their contemporaries came the reality that the age of the earth and the origins of life were much older than could be explained within a biblical worldview and the roots of the tree of knowledge began to tear themselves from the firm soils of reality.
So it was with these realizations that the bible has gone from being literal and prerequisite to Christian faith to being allegorical and mostly optional in modern Christianity.
This brings me to my next point, that these events have spawned a modern schism within the church.
On one hand lie the fundamentalists, those Christians who have filed for divorce from reality and have committed cognitive genocide in an effort to shoehorn their “infallible” stone age history book into the hard evidence of modern genetics, biology, and paleontology. I will save their treatment for a future post.
The other faction is the more interesting case, those who realize that just as geocentrism and the firmament were embarrassingly difficult for their forebearers, so too will the growing mountain of evidence against “special creation” serve to humiliate those who cling to literalism.
The problem with this view, in my estimation, is the inevitable conclusion that the ever logical mind of man will draw. It is a conclusion that our literalist friends know all too well, even as divorced from reality as they are.
If the facts and fundamentals are flawed, so too is the foundational premise.
Science has made God a Supernatural eunuch, a vague remnant of our incredulity hardly worthy of missing a Steelers pre-game over.
It is fear and mystery that fill the pews, that turn a conflict between curiosity and incredulity into a pious parishioner.
So why then is faith still pervasive?
It starts for many when parents make that first tentative step back into reality, when they still are diligently attending church, but teaching their children that there are no talking snakes, no global floods, no instant complex creation. The children of this generation go on to maybe still attend to their cultural traditions; Easter Mass, Passover, Ramadan and the like become more intertwined with camaraderie and culture than with observance and authority.
When the seeds of credulity are not planted, or left neglected by those charged to tend them, each successive generation becomes increasingly less likely to burden themselves with the intellectual strain of cognitive dissonance.
So the general progression goes. Some are atheists by revelation, as Saul on the road to Damascus. More than likely though, atheism is an evolution, a slow inter-generational progression from apologetics to apostasy.