"Don't pay any attention to that man behind the screen."— Wizard of Oz
Dogmatic Christians tend to be some of the most confident people I know — at least in pubic.
I was one of those Christians.
Secretly I was skeptical... of myself. I'd put on the expected airs and broadcast self-assurance. But, barely hidden under a thin leaf of conviction lay naked self-doubt.
How could I, an average guy, be entirely sure I really knew what I was talking about when it came to impossibly supernatural things? Even a minute of honest self assessment would clue me in that my limited mental capacities were probably not up for the job.
The solution to this frustrating dichotomy was infantile in its simplicity: I tried not to think about it.
But that only worked for awhile. Eventually I started thinking again: "What if I'm just kidding myself, and none of this weird religious stuff is true? What if I've been deceived or am just mistaken? What makes me think that I am so enlightened when untold millions of people both living today and throughout history have seen things completely differently?"
So, to counter these returning misgivings, I'd turn to the Bible: "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your heart?" (Luke 24:38)
"Well, because I have a brain, Jesus."
In Christianity doubt is considered a fairly big sin against God. "Without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God." (Hebrews 11:16, emphasis added)
Impossible. No way. Can't do it. If you want to please God, you just can't let any doubt take root in your head. That would make you a bad seed, or something.
"But Lord, I don't understand how you could allow your Holy Word to contain so many contradictions in tallying of numbers, blatantly unfulfilled prophecies, conflicting and contradictory Old Testament narratives, historical inaccuracies, and confusing Gospel accounts that simply don't jibe with one another! Then, You still want me to consider this stuff Your infallible Word? I don't understand. I'm beginning to think I might wrong about all this — HELP!"
"The natural man does not accept the things of God ... he cannot understand them." (I Cor 2:14) "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise"(1 Cor 1:27)
"Boy, you've got an answer for everything, don't you Lord?"
I am rebuked for being "natural" and complimented for being stupid. Meanwhile, my questions go unanswered. Christians are discouraged from asking too many questions — being foolish is better than being wise. Christians are admonished to resist doubt and to "believe" no matter what their heads might tell them.
Do we generally "just believe" anything else we are told in our lives?
"This car is a great deal." "This house would be ideal for you" "That dress makes you look fantastic." "You have just got to invest in this stock." "You know I love you, honey. Don't let that lipstick on my pants fill you with doubt."
Isn't it a good idea to submit things to careful scrutiny?
Questioning and doubt are things Christians are constantly warned to avoid.
"He must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." (James 1:6)
Why do you suppose that so much time and effort is invested in teaching Christians to embrace faith and excise doubt? Why is it bad to put a microscope on one's religion? Could it be because skepticism provides a natural protection against flim-flam? Could it be that a practiced ability for question and doubt is really an ally? Will those qualities help protect us from becoming stooges and the victims of circumstance?
Children, on the other hand, pretty much believe whatever they are told. Maybe that's why Christians are encouraged to become like Children. Children are easier to manipulate.
Is it any wonder that there are so many Christian charlatans out there? What with Christians being told to turn off their protective skepticism, it's surprising there are not more stories of crime and punishment by pastors and priests.
Think about it. When people are trained to turn off their brains, they can be made to believe that ridiculous myths of magical beasts and super-powered humans describe real historical events, and that an immaterial, invisible, undead, inexplicably three-in-one Palestinian god-man wants to be their bosom buddy.
When skepticism and critical thought are shelved, lunacy runs the floor.
What do you think?
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