I realize that my high school chums cannot have been too happy with some of the posts here. But it is what I have been saying and believing and writing about long before they read a word. I cannot change to be sensitive to their religious philosophies.
I admit that when I saw a link on Facebook to something about “liberals” I followed the link. What I found was eye-opening. It had nothing to do with liberals but was a “creationist” site purporting to show the fallacy of evolution.
I reacted no doubt with a “I had no idea you’d gone that far around the bend.” No doubt it was not well taken, and resulted in my being advised that the “deceiver” had me well in hand, and I needed to learn the “truth.” Evolution was “mathematically impossible,” which will no doubt come as a shock to not a few tens of thousands of scientists in multiple fields of endeavor.
I draw the line. It is doubly sad because the people involved are of normal intelligence from my recollection. If there is such a thing as a self-imposed cult of one, then fundamentalism surely is that. It causes the person to willingly against all sense and reason, turn off their brain, and cling to beliefs that deal personal psychological comfort while utterly denying reality.
The psychological literature is full of such information. Many books have been written about what motivates the fundamentalist, the psychological need to have security and safety in the end overcomes one’s rational faculties. It must be this way, or all is lost, so the person simple refuses to listen to other views, and indeed seeks out pseudo-“scientific” opinion that verifies their needed conclusion.
In fact, I recall reading a rather important book on education in America some years ago, and a description of fundamentalism struck me and never left. Paraphrasing, “the mind that requires this worldview expends vast amounts of energy, all directed to keeping out the obvious reality about them. It’s really quite breathtaking.” And I admit, some psychologists have noted that, on balance, most fundamentalists are otherwise well adjusted and life reasonably happy lives.
If it were only fundamentalism as it relates to their inner religious life, then I have no problem. But it obviously goes further, into politics, where they become the unwilling dupes of politicians who have learned how to appeal to this group. That would be bad enough, but they raise children either to be uncritical thinkers like themselves, or even more likely, their kids turn on them in adulthood and become atheists. Note that when most atheists discuss what they find untrue about Christianity, it almost always denotes a fundamentalist prospective.
This got me to thinking, thus about the role of Satan in perpetuating this erroneous worldview. I’ve never thought very highly of the explanations of Satan. I note that Jewish theology is probably more in line with my thinking, in that they don’t believe Satan is the instigator of evil, but rather the announcer of humans acting with evil. Like many Christian concepts, Satan seems to have been a developing concept, and not well structured until some several hundred years into the church’s life.
Although there are undoubtedly fundamentalist, normal Protestant, and Catholic explanations, and I’ve read a few certainly, I think the entire concept of Satan plays havoc with God’s supposed omniscience and omnipotence. As I said, arguments explain this, but never to my satisfaction. I have for a very long time believed that there is no entity of evil, but merely the actions of human beings that are termed evil when they traverse a line and cause harm to others. Evil is the product of an ego whose only goal is self protection.
The presence of Satan provides an unnatural excuse, moreover, to the sinner. One has succumbed to the “temptation” sounds a good deal better than saying “I wanted a new car, so I broke in the house and stole money from the neighbor, not caring that I caused great harm to their life.” All our fallen political and religious leaders have succumbed to “temptation.”
Some might argue that this is a more humane way of seeing sin. One that allows the sinner to recoup grace by asking forgiveness. But really it’s not. Accepting full responsibility without reference to temptation, makes one merely human. And like every human, we err and sometimes quite badly. We still have the option, given by the grace of God to do better tomorrow, to be forgiven and to forgive.
Removing Satan from the equation reduces the need to fear that our thoughts are our enemy, and frees us to use our minds as they were intended. As children, we no doubt saw God as a human, an old white man with a long flowing beard, dressed in white robes. We thought of heaven as a place where he sat on a throne, and we walked in meadows in perpetual sunshine and summer.
As adults we realize that God is spirit, and the words that makes a heart soar, “I shall make them in my image, in my image I shall make them,” means that we don’t physically resemble our creator, we think like our creator. We have a mind, in microcosm to the great mind of God. We think like God, otherwise we would not conceive of him at all.
Thus, it seems to me, when we deny the obvious truth, the bones and the epochs, the extinct and the altered, the continents that once were and are no more, the eons of star formation and death, when we deny this, we deny God. We create in our minds a God who plays games with us, tests us to determine our true loyalty (again throwing omniscience out the window), a God who is small, petty, and frankly absurd. A God who writes a lousy book of instruction, where there is massive disagreement as to what it means. A God not worthy of believing in.
I’m sorry if I offend, but my truth must be said. I am but a human, and the fundamentalist may be right. I suspect the chances of that are about 1 in a billion, but there is a chance none the less. Until the numbers improve dramatically, I shall continue to believe as I do, opening my mind to the possibilities, knowing that truth will grow and mature if I pursue it with honesty and willingness to learn. If only they would do the same.