Christianity – A Symptom of a Greater Virus

Christianity – A Symptom of a Greater Virus

Christians often ask me why I hate Christianity. To this charge I usually respond by saying, I do not hate Christianity at all, just as a doctor doesn’t hate a given symptom of a virus, or disease.  She merely attempts to treat it, and if at all possible cure the disease or virus which has caused it.

Christianity, as with other religions, is not a virus in and of itself. Rather, it is, in my opinion, a symptom of a greater illness. The disease which lies at the core of this symptom, and ones like it, is fear. Our fear of suffering has the capacity to spawn very ridiculous beliefs, beliefs established to appease the psychological pressures we experience as a result of such fear. Religious beliefs often have an inbuilt sedative for the human being’s most primal fear, our mortality. Yet, this is not the fear with which I am primarily concerned. The fear I am attempting to address is the fear inspired by uncertainty, the fear of the unknown, which motivates an individual to produce and maintain ridiculous beliefs in order to avoid uncertainty. As it is with a virus, the victim of a religion is besieged by an invasion of externally derived qualities, qualities which our psychological antibodies (reason and logic) try to stave off lest the virus gain complete control over its host. When these antibodies strengthen, the believer experiences what is known as a “crisis of faith,” but the truth is that this is not a crisis at all, but an epiphany. It is the mind’s way of curing the illness that has taken over the psychological body of the human being and it works by creating cognitive dissonance in the mind to provoke the virus to surface so that it can be subjected to the healing light of reason and rational thought. When the virus wins a victory over these psychological antibodies, the believer’s ego dictates his or her reality and their beliefs beget their experience, creating a living dream world in which the believer will often dwell for their entire life. We observe this phenomenon when we hear believers attributing natural events, the perceived beauty of nature or natural disasters, to their gods. They behold a beautiful mountain range and say that such a beautiful and awe inspiring sight must be the work of their creator – or when a plane crashes, an earthquake strikes, or some other natural disaster hits, they look past the multitude of causalities and point to one or two survivors and exhort, “The Lord has spared them!” The Hindus see their gods in nature and daily life, the Christians see theirs, the Muslims experience Allah, the Jews, Yahweh – all of these infected hosts experience their own conflicting versions of reality and yet they all share a common symptom or trait, namely, fear-induced egocentrism. Such a fact led the Indian Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti to ask and add:

Why do you believe? And what difference does it make to what actually is whether you believe one thing or another? Facts are not influenced by belief or disbelief. So one has to ask why one believes at all in anything; what is the basis of belief? Is it fear, is it the uncertainty of life – the fear of the unknown the lack of security in this ever-changing world? Is it the insecurity of relationship, or is it that faced with the immensity of life, and not understanding it, one encloses oneself in the refuge of belief? So, if I may ask you, if you had no fear at all, would you have any belief? [1]

This false certainty has created, and continues to create, more problems for both the individual and the society as a whole than the temporary relief it brings to the lazy and frightened believer. Some of the problems created by the ill-gotten certainty afforded by such cowardly-begotten beliefs include, but are not limited to:

  1. War (religious/political/ethnic/nationalistic)
    2. Genocide
    3. Religious persecution
    4. Bigotry
    5. Racism
    6. Gender inequality
    7. Widespread Wilful ignorance (Evolution denial, for example)
    8. Mental illness (see; Neurosis, Paranoia, psychosis, xenophobia, egocentrism, and narcissism, for example)

To illustrate some of the chaos caused by religious certainty, I would like to quote from the work of neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, who, in his book ‘The End of Faith,’ said:

Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past. The recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews v. Muslims), the Balkans (Orthodox Serbians v. Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians v. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants v. Catholics), Kashmir (Muslims v. Hindus), Sudan (Muslims v. Christians and animists), Nigeria (Muslims v. Christians), Ethiopia and Eritrea (Muslims v. Christians), Sri Lanka (Sinhalese Buddhists v. Tamil Hindus), Indonesia (Muslims v. Timorese Christians), and the Caucasus (Orthodox Russians v. Chechen Muslims; Muslim Azerbaijanis v. Catholic and Orthodox Armenians) are merely a few cases in point. In these places religion has been the explicit cause of literally millions of deaths in the last ten years. These events should strike us like psychological experiments run amok, for that is what they are. [2]

Aside from the more tangible mayhem caused by this perverse psychological experiment, another casualty of this virus and its symptoms, is intelligence. I am almost certain that the believer who reads the previous statement will scream “hyperbole! What about Isaac Newton, Copernicus, or even Galileo?” What you need to understand is that the mind is a multidimensional composition of the brain and as such, even great minds can be held to ransom by ill-gotten and unsubstantiated beliefs. Think about it this way. When we believe something, we have arrived at a perceived truth and reached the conclusion of a given thought process, such that true unencumbered thought ceases. That is to say, if you believe you have an answer to something, you will generally stop seeking and questioning, at least in the same tenacious manner you did before you contracted this virus. Furthermore, the belief, being a product and resident of the ego, is plagued with defence mechanisms that serve to distort reality to accommodate these beliefs, so believers often find it difficult to move beyond their beliefs because they carry with them, self-perpetuating qualities like confirmation biases, disconfirmation biases, rationalizations and adaptational strategies, all seeking to preserve the primary belief by sacrificing free thought and open-minded growth. Again, we see evidence of this when the science of geology debunked the young earth propagated by the Church’s interpretation of the Bible’s chronology of the earth, enunciated primarily by Ussher’s famed chronology, a chronology to which Newton, even with his genius, subscribed. But when the facts brought to light by the science of geology debunked the belief in a 6,000 year old earth, what was the result? Those who could not immediately reconcile such a dissonance producing scenario sought to reinterpret their scripture and we saw a proliferation of theories about what the book of Genesis “actually says.” The Day Age theory, the Gap Theory and so on, all came about as a result of this virus’ ability to cause the believer to distort, rationalize and adapt their beliefs in order to continue to host this pernicious virus, along with its mentally handicapping symptoms. Alternatively, many Christians, in similar fashion to evolution deniers, simply ignored the overwhelming facts produced by the science of geology and to this day we have those who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. It is little wonder why the brilliant MIT scholar Robert Anton Wilson said that belief was the death of intelligence, [3] for we see it, not just with regards to religion’s obstinacy towards the facts produced by the various sciences, or towards its stubbornness to foster a more intelligent egalitarian society, absent gender inequality and discrimination against same-sex marriage, but we now have a study that has roundly demonstrated that religion and low-intelligence are strongly associated. [4]

Quoting from The Huffington Post:

Are religious people less intelligent than atheists?
That’s the provocative conclusion of a new review of 63 studies of intelligence and religion that span the past century. The meta-analysis showed that in 53 of the studies, conducted between 1928 to 2012, there was an inverse relation between religiosity – having religious beliefs, or performing religious rituals – and intelligence. That is, on average, non- believers scored higher than religious people on intelligence tests. What might explain the effect? Scientists behind studies included in the review most often suggested that “religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better.’” But the researchers who conducted the new meta-analysis say the answer is a bit more complicated. They suspect intelligent people might have less of a “need” for religion. “Intelligence may also lead to greater self-control ability, self-esteem, perceived control over life events, and supportive relationships, obviating some of the benefits that religion sometimes provides,” study co-author Jordan Silberman, a graduate student of neuroeconomics at the University of Rochester, told The Huffington Post in an email.”
[5]

This stupidity comes about because the virus fools its host into believing that they know that which they do not, which effectively stops them seeking further information, particularly with regards to information that comes into conflict with their beliefs.  As mentioned, psychologists refer to the strategy employed by believers to avoid the disconfirmation of a belief, as ”disconfirmation bias” and it is commonly employed in conjunction with ”confirmation bias,” which describes the motivation for individuals to place more weight and focus more attention on information that affords a reason to continue believing the things they believe. These forms of biases seem to be utilized by the believer to avoid or resolve the cognitive dissonance alluded to above, which is a kind of mental and emotional suffering brought about by the holding of two contradictory beliefs and ideas simultaneously. [6] When dissonance occurs in the mind of the believer, it is usually the established belief that wins the day (See also, confirmation bias and primacy). The rationalization processes, adaptational strategies and self-delusion that prevents a believer from growing past their beliefs has underscored some of the most insane thinking and behaviour throughout human history, yet its most tragic consequence has been the protection of those who have gained power of the masses by relying on these psychological defects in those they control. All a leader need do to achieve a desired outcome from a non- thinking/believing public is push the right emotional buttons and trigger a reaction that would be otherwise unavailable to them. This is where we get into the issue of dependency, or as Wilhelm Reich called it, “chronic dependency.” Such chronic dependency in the masses led the philosopher Immanuel Kant to say:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance, nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me. The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision will soon see to it that by far the largest part of mankind should consider the step forward to maturity not only as difficult but also as highly dangerous. Having first infatuated their domesticated animals, and carefully prevented the docile creatures from daring to take a single step without the leading-strings to which they are tied, they next show them the danger which threatens them if they try to walk unaided. Now this danger is not in fact so very great, for they would certainly learn to walk eventually after a few falls. But an example of this kind is intimidating, and usually frightens them off from further attempts. [7]

So, when I attack the religion of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, please do not take it personally, for Christianity, as with all the others, is merely the symptom of a greater virus.

References

  1. Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Urgency of Change. Harper and Row. (1977) pp. 98–99.
    2. Sam Harris. The End of Faith. W.W. Norton. (2005). p. 26.
    3. Robert Anton Wilson. Cosmic Trigger. Vol. 1: Final Secret of the Illuminati. New Falcon Publications. (1977). Preface ii.
    4. http://psr.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/02/1088868313497266
    5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/religious-people-less-intelligent- atheists_n_3750096.html
    6. For a good survey of this subject see; Leon Festinger. Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford University Press (1957); Festinger, L., Riecken, H. W., & Schachter, S. When Prophecy fails. University of Minnesota Press. (1956); Lorne L. Dawson. When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A theoretical Overview. University of California Press. (1999); and Adam Kowol. The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. http://works. adamkowol.info

One thought on “Christianity – A Symptom of a Greater Virus

  1. This is brilliant. I just discovered your blog through a tweet from Richard Dawkins and am very impressed with your succinct arguments. I have been an atheist for many decades but have been often dismayed by the tone of much of what I encounter online from advocates for atheism. Too often it becomes an exercise in effectively shooting fish in a barrel as the atheist is usually much smarter and more informed that their adversary. The atheist gleefully demolishes the ridiculous arguments he or she encounters and it becomes mostly a form of entertainment for those who come to the site to revel in their perceived superiority over their perceived enemy.

    I know too many intelligent and good-hearted believers to enjoy this approach. As dangerous and oppressive religionists can be, there is a sadness to the ease with which they fall into these afflictions and I would be happier finding a way to understand and counter this tendency than to just pile on in mocking their stupidity and celebrating my relative lack of ignorance. This approach you have outlined, seeing the real root of religiosity as something akin to a virus seems to have merit. I have been imagining it in similar terms for some time and this is a beautiful exposition of the idea. I would be especially interested in finding ways to use this understanding to begin a process of healing, for the world is in urgent need of a cure, there can be little doubt.

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