The Psychology Hidden Behind Christianity
In the previous chapter, we investigated
how Christianity arrived in
From Parent To Child To Grandchild To Great-Grandchild…
It’s not a shocking discovery that parents
pass on their religious beliefs through their children. Muslim parents tend to
have Muslim children; Christian parents tend to have Christian children;
atheist parents tend to have atheist children. These traditions simply cannot be
maintained by chance alone. Because religious beliefs are certainly not in our
DNA, a child’s environment must necessarily affect his religious affiliation in
some manner. In fact, all children are born agnostic and remain so until
influenced by the religious convictions of their parents. I think it would be
more than fair to say that if the most avid Christian preacher of your hometown
had been born in
In almost every case, individuals become
members of their respective religious groups because their parents were also
members. Likewise, the parents are only members because their parents were also members. This pattern should prompt the
question of how far back this visionless trend continues. To answer, recall the
primary reason from the previous chapter why
As for the individual, we can easily observe how a child’s religious beliefs originate from the influence of the parents. To what extent does this coerced indoctrination occur? I won’t be the first to propose that children are mentally conditioned, more commonly and inaccurately known as brainwashed, to believe whatever their parents desire them to believe without question. If this claim sounds absurd, it’s probably due to an ignorance of what the mental conditioning process actually entails.
The activity in question is nothing more than establishing a belief system in a person’s mind, intentionally or not, using a series of simple manipulative steps. The necessary stages for such conditioning are exhausting the subject, getting the subject to admit that the current support system isn’t perfect in some way, removing the subject’s support system, introducing the subject to a new support system, explaining the consequences of not accepting the new support system, keeping the subject isolated from other support systems, explaining the urgency of accepting the new support system, offering a reward for accepting the new support system, and maintaining the subject’s new support system for the length of time desired. The first three steps are part of the cleansing phase. However, no cleansing is necessary if there’s no conflicting information already present within the subject’s beliefs. Thus, there is no need to tire a young child or remove an existing support system to install the new one.
These methods aren’t fantasy; they’re
When children are at a very young age, their parents unknowingly initiate the conditioning process by informing them that everyone is imperfect. Because they’re not perfect, they must take a role model who seemingly defines perfection: Jesus Christ. By turning their lives over to Jesus, they receive forgiveness for their imperfections and inadequacies. Next, parents must make their children fear the consequences of remaining alone with their imperfections. As a result, they are convinced that Hell is the ultimate destination for people who don’t rely on the support system. In this place called Hell, those who choose not to accept Jesus will burn in perpetual agony. Since the consequences of not accepting the support system are so horrific, and the steps necessary to eliminate the consequence are so simplistic, children will learn to adopt these beliefs if only to keep a distance from the supposed punishment. By this point, children certainly become willing to follow those who know this system best.
To continue the conditioning process, parents must successfully keep their children free from external contradicting influences by encompassing them within a Christian environment in a Christian country with weekly Christian refreshment. Other religions would obviously present conflicting information and weaken their bonds with Jesus Christ, the head of the support system. The other religions would also illustrate the contradictions and consequential uncertainties shared amongst all beliefs. This mental havoc would also create cognitive dissonance, the tendency driven by uncomfortable feelings to repel or justify contradictory information, before there is enough conditioning to stabilize the belief.
Just as Paul told the Romans that there was a sense of urgency in accepting Jesus, parents tell their children that they’ll go to Hell if they know about Jesus and refuse to worship him. Since Jesus could possibly return today or tomorrow, time is of the utmost essence. They absolutely must accept Jesus as soon as possible in order for God to save them from the perpetual punishments of Hell. If they choose not to accept Jesus before they die, that trip to Hell would certainly be in order. Finally, we must not forget about the ultimate reward for accepting Jesus: an eternal stay in Heaven with infinite happiness. How many impressionable young children could possibly refuse this “genuine” offer?
At the tender age this process usually begins, children typically aren’t able to rationalize these assertions or challenge their validity. Just the opposite, children habitually give benefit of the doubt to their parents and role models. As time goes by, the vast Christian American environment consistently pounds the imperative system into their heads day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. By their teenage years, most Christians couldn’t possibly consider the presence of an error in the Bible, much less a completely erroneous foundation, because it’s unquestionably the perfect word of God to them. They believe this notion because they’re lifelong members of a society that has continually reinforced the “special” nature of Christianity. Needless to say, every religion is “special” in its own isolated environment of observance.
When skeptics ask Christians why they think their religious beliefs are absolute facts, a semi-logical response is rarely produced. Unfortunately, they are never able to see the world as clearly as those who have freed themselves from the intangible bonds of false religions. No Christian would deny that the blood-drinking cult down the street is full of brainwashed members, but Christianity is “the one true religion” with an “authentic savior” who suffered and died for their sins. This nonsensical response comes directly from the conditioning statements reinforced ad nauseam. The defensive assertion offered is a logically unsound loop that has been centrally repeating in their minds for years.
We can utilize the exact same conditioning techniques on unwitting subjects in a number of situations. For example, these methods would work wonders in convincing obese people to lose weight through diet and exercise. First, we must make the subjects realize that they don’t have a healthy body if they haven’t already made this casual observation. Next, we must inform them of the opportunity to join a weight loss support system capable of improving their appearances. We should then warn the overweight people of consequences to their well-being if they refuse to accept the weight loss system. Along the way to losing weight, we must keep the overweight individuals free from external influences that would support their “natural shape.” We should also design the system in a way to avoid influences offering an alternative method, such as liposuction, to meet their goals. Then, we should make sure the overweight people realize that every passing day is a drastic step toward a premature death if they’re still in excess of their scientifically determined ideal weight. Following that, we should tell them that they could even suffer a heart attack tomorrow if they don’t immediately begin to lose weight. All the while, we continuously remind them that losing weight will result in obvious rewards of improved health and appearance. In fact, this change could subsequently open doors for job promotions, better-looking partners, more respect, etc.
The method used on these obese subjects matches systematically with the process of introducing developing children to Christianity. However, the overweight people are at an age where they can investigate the legitimacy of the claims by using a variety of analytical methods. Impartial studies will typically support these weight loss claims. Furthermore, these claims are much more ordinary and readily believable than the incredible ones made in the Bible. However, people can’t necessarily be conditioned with the truth as long as they’re willing to question their present beliefs upon the arrival of new evidence. In other words, we’re not presenting the weight loss system as “absolute truth.” There’s an enormous amount of evidence debunking the extraordinary claims made by the Bible, yet those who are aware of the evidence and still believe it’s the inerrant word of God are not willing to impartially analyze what’s being discussed because of the conditioning’s lasting effects.
To explain cognitive dissonance more thoroughly, I’ll start with a hypothetical experiment. Suppose we wanted to test the power of God and prayer in order to verify or debunk related Christian claims. To begin the study, we gather a group of fifty atheists and a group of fifty Christians who volunteer to have an extremely lethal dose of bacteria injected intravenously. Following the injection, we provide the fifty atheists with a regimen of broad-spectrum antibiotics to counteract the infection. We then isolate the atheists in a secret location and tell no one that they are involved in the experiment. Essentially, they don’t exist to the rest of the world. Likewise, we isolate the Christians in a secret location but refuse them the antibiotic regimen.
News of the fifty Christians injected with the lethal bacteria will then be broadcast over the entire Christian world. The report will ask everyone to pray to God for their facilitated recovery from the infection so that deductive reasoning will force the world to acknowledge the one true religion because of the unquestionable and verifiable power of God and prayer. Because no one knows about the atheists in isolation, no one is specifically praying for them. All they have are antibiotics, while the Christians have the power of prayer from hundreds of millions of certain volunteers and the omnipotence of God. After two months, we will end the experiment and see which group has the most survivors.
Whether or not the public is willing to admit it, I think everyone knows which group would fare better in this study. No semi-rational Christian would ever sign up for this deadly experiment even with the added promise of a great monetary compensation for the survivors. They know that God isn’t really going to answer the divinely directed requests of hundreds of millions of Christians because God only seems to answer prayers in some mystical and unobservable fashion. Deep down, these Christians may even realize that they can’t consider prayer dependable. Thus, the failure to acquire volunteers who won’t receive antibiotics creates friction with what the typical Christian believes is absolute truth. The uneasy feeling felt throughout the body creates a drive within the mind to explain and/or separate from the logical contradiction. We call this internal phenomenon cognitive dissonance.
As a way of irrationally explaining the lack of activity from God, a Christian would quickly assert that the almighty doesn’t like us putting him to a test. In addition, we would also hear that God wants us to believe in him based on faith, not what we determine from our own limited human understanding. As I mentioned previously, because of this proposed choice, God performs his miracles in superstitious ages or in scenarios disallowing falsifiable tests or independent observation. In other words, the power of God is there even though there’s no logical way to draw such a conclusion. This irrational explanation is a little too convenient for me. An enlightened person will realize that Christians receive answers for prayers just as often as atheists receive answers for problems. Sometimes prayers are “answered,” and sometimes they’re not; sometimes problems will have solutions, and sometimes they won’t.
It’s because of this suppressed “futileness-of-prayer” realization that I feel there is a subconscious mechanism trying to protect individuals from illogical thinking. In such a case, this hypothetical defense mechanism has simply been repressed from years of conditioning. Naturally, I don’t have the means to prove this hypothesis and wouldn’t expect any believer to accept it without the necessary support, but it makes perfect sense when you’ve been on both sides of the fence.
Matthew 21:22 and a few other biblical verses tell us that we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer. This statement is not taken out of context, and we can easily disprove a literal interpretation of Jesus’ proposal through objective testing. 2 Chronicles 16:12 condemns Asa for consulting physicians with his health problem rather than seeking God’s help. As you can see, the Bible is unambiguous on its demand for prayer over medicine, yet common sense and observation tell us how deadly a combination of prayer and medical rejection can be. This is why no Christian would sign up for the experiment. This is also why it’s illegal for parents in America to refuse medical services for their children, regardless of the parents’ personal beliefs. Medicine has proven its effectiveness; prayer has not. Because the evidence contradicts their deepest convictions, Christians provide nonsensical solutions to the perplexity and ignore valid rebuttals when they can’t answer them.
Cognitive Dissonance And The Average Christian
Cognitive dissonance also has a crescendo effect based upon the amount of belief invested in the disputed claim. Let’s consider a few more examples to illustrate this point.
Roger, our hypothetical Christian friend, bought a car for $30,000 yesterday thinking it was a great deal. He obviously doesn’t want to hear that it’s on sale for $25,000 today. In fact, he may have to “see it to believe it.” The realization of losing $5,000 by not waiting one more day creates an uneasy feeling within Roger. Although he can’t truthfully deny his losses once he sees the new price for himself, he may predictably make several casual comments along the lines of “I can’t believe it.”
The following week, a criminal burglarizes Roger’s house. The police eventually arrest Roger’s coworker, Larry, in connection with the crime. If Larry seemed like a decent individual, Roger will probably find it hard to believe that Larry was the one who robbed him. Despite tangible evidence pointing to this conclusion, Roger may not be fully convinced that Larry was acting on his own accord. He personally needs to hear Larry’s confession in order to believe the police report.
Years later, Roger’s mother is the victim of a violent murder. This time, the police arrest his father for the crime. Unlike the situation with his coworker, Roger will require a much greater amount of evidence before he even begins to acknowledge that his father may be the one who committed the heinous crime, regardless of how obvious the situation is to an impartial observer. Understandably so, he desperately wants to believe the murderer is someone other than his father. Because it’s perfectly natural for people to avoid information contradictory to what they rigidly believe, Roger may refuse to accept the story even if his father admits his guilt. The stronger the conviction in question, the stronger the resistance against contradicting evidence will be.
Now, imagine how Roger feels after receiving information that’s contradictory to the core religion that has served as his life’s foundation for the past forty years. These solid ideas tell Roger that there’s no good reason to accept the existence of his version of God or the presence of his slain mother in Heaven. Most people in Roger’s situation will repress such “baseless” information and simply not acknowledge it. Some will defer the argument to so-called experts in the same religious camp. Others will find a quick quasi-plausible justification and forget about what they heard. While these actions will successfully alleviate the uncomfortable feeling accompanying the realization of conflicting information, the individual experiencing these emotions has not actually rectified the problem. To Christians, the invalid dispute is now gone; to everyone free of conditioned thinking, it still requires a logical and justifiable resolution.
Roger’s latest problem should lead us to another important question. To what extent has society mentally conditioned Christians to believe the perfect nature of their religion? Allow me to use an unusual example to answer.
Suppose the world witnesses the descent of a great entity from the sky. This being proclaims that its name is God and the time for the world to end has finally arrived. Needless to say, most people are going to want to see proof of its claims. Whatever miracles one requests of God, he is happy to oblige. He has the power to make mountains rise and fall at will. He can set the oceans ablaze at the snap of a finger. He can even return life to those who died thousands of years ago. God can do anything asked of him. Then, someone from the gathered crowd makes an inquiry as to which religion holds the absolute truth. God replies, “The religion of truth is Islam. The Qur’an is my one and only holy word. All other religious texts, including the Bible, are entirely blasphemous. All those who don’t acknowledge my word will undergo a lengthy punishment for not following my teachings. Now is your chance to repent.”
What choice does Roger and the Christian community make in this situation? This deity has already demonstrated that it possesses the omnipotence and omniscience of a supreme being. Do Christians readily switch over to the side of observable and testable evidence, or do they declare that this being is the Devil tempting their faith in God? Think about it for a minute because it’s an interesting predicament. I believe we all know that a good portion of Christians would denounce this new being in order to please “the one true God, Heavenly Father of Jesus.” As a result of their collective decision, the supernatural entity forces them to undergo unimaginable torment for a few weeks before offering them a final chance to repent. Do the Christians embrace the teachings of this creature after experiencing its capabilities firsthand, or do they still consider it the final test and refuse to denounce their faith in the Bible?
What exactly is the meaning of this example? No matter what level of sophisticated evidence contrary to their beliefs might be provided, some Christians will always find a way to set aside reasoned thought in favor of what they have always been thoroughly conditioned to believe. If Christians won’t accept the answers of such a powerful creature, how would they ever have the capacity to make informed and impartial choices based on evidence presented by their peers?
When You Can’t Handle The Truth
In this introductory material, we investigated how and why religious beliefs have been passed on from parent to child for centuries. Parents unwittingly continue this tradition through a repeated process of mental conditioning that sharply influences the child to think along a certain path about their religion from a very mentally immature age. We can successfully utilize the same process in a variety of other real world situations to verify its utility. Psychological defenses against the absurdities of religion may be deeply repressed by those who experience a high level of religious influence. When opposing data meet the conditioned beliefs, cognitive dissonance takes over and represses such information or irrationally justifies the discrepancies in a manner that allows the confronted people to forget them. For centuries, this psychological phenomenon has prevented people from accepting rational conclusions about Christianity.