Anti-intellectualism is on the rise. The above screenshot is from one of the first public conversations that I ever had about my atheism. It was underneath a photo that I posted detailing a bunch of biblical contradictions. After a while, some of my atheist friends hopped in, because after someone whips out gems like “Oh, so you just think we come from rocks, huh?”, you kinda realize that you need reinforcements. Too bad all those reinforcements had college degrees.
Modern Christians seem to be in a state of paralysis when it comes to knowledge and the pursuit of it. They can’t seem to figure out whether they love it or hate it, whether to fear it or embrace it. And I think there’s a good reason for that.
Christians pretend to like knowledge
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Christians enjoy talking about knowledge and truth, it’s one of their favorite topics. They’ll use quotes from scientists, bubble over with condescension like Reza Aslan discussing their numerous laureates, and some will actually brag about their non-existent laureates (and yes, Patriot Bible University would totally be in the “non-existent” category), just to prove they know stuff, too. In the Christian worldview, clearly, truth is an important thing, and being the salt of the earth or the light of the world means that you care deeply about the truth of men’s souls, the afterlife, and the existential joy to be found in the bosom of Jesus Christ. It’s important to be right about that kind of thing.
…But they totally hate it
One note in my Andrews Study Bible actually says that Eve’s first mistake was engaging in dialogue with the snake. It’s pretty telling that the way that Christians envision talking to those who have different ideas than them is…well, not doing it at all.
I think the Christian fear of knowledge is actually shared in large part by others, hardly confined to, but quite spurred on by religion. In the movie Chocolat, it’s Johnny Depp’s roving band of pirates that will bring the downfall of the character of the good townsfolk, and in Inception, it was an idea that led to the fate of Leo’s wife, and an idea alone.
Now, no matter what we do, we can’t deny what Robin Williams wanted us to know while he was pretending to be Professor John Keating: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” They are the engines that drive how the world functions, for good and bad. And the problem with ideas is that they are uncontrollable. Once you have a fishing port where people talk while they unload their boats, a salon where people pontificate on current events while smoking Cuban cigars, or a church where blacks gather to find solidarity in a society ruled by whites, you lose control.
The Antibodies of Christ
In the end, what I think is happening is that the body of Christ functions just like any other body. It says, “What is foreign is bad”. It will first attempt to suppress and reject everything that is foreign, and if something foreign does make it into its midst, then that thing just walked down the wrong alley.
And this analogy of the body might give us insight into what’s going on with Christianity right now. It’s becoming more and more apparent, as the marketplace of ideas becomes larger, that certain beliefs will not be able to survive, and indeed they haven’t. Just as parents learn when their kids go to school for the first time or when they go to college out of state, once you do not have complete control over all input, you lose monopoly on output. This is a microcosm of what’s happening in religion in general, I think.
So what we’ve narrowed down is that:
1. Change is difficult.
2. Foreign is bad.
3. Foreign must be destroyed.
Yup, totally never seen those dynamics before.
Tim Hucks blogs at Now That We’re Here. He writes about atheism news, philosophy, and other commentary with new posts added every Wednesday and Friday. If you like this post, comment below and consider becoming a patron on Patreon.
You can also find Tim on Twitter @Ame0baRepublic
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