Cognitive Dissonance and Christian Fundamentalism
Trigger Warning: This one's a little ranty, and a little profane. I meander a bit, and probably ended up way off track.
Thank you SodaHead for this lovely graphic. You illustrate perfectly.
I was sitting here, waking and and reading Religious Dispatches this morning. An interview with Matthew Chapman, writer and director of The Ledge, amongst other things. He's also a writer and journalist, and I urge you to take a peek at his work if you can. He's insightful and tolerant, and asks the kind of questions that most people don't want to ask.
He's also an Atheist.
I have no problem with atheists; No more problems than any other person out there, actually. I might have fewer problems with them, because politically and publicly I am pretty vocal about keeping reason in and religion out. As you know, I'm of the mind, that says religion has no real place in governing, in public, or venerated at the expense of other's rationality.
Of course, that thought process makes me evil, and secular, and I kinda like it that way. I can no more force a person to be Pagan than I can be forced to give Eucharist in a Christmas Mass against my will. The current, and long standing, actions of christian fundamentalists pushing for more religion in the public sphere fails to take into account how many religions there really are. Therefore their ideas of adding back only christianity are fatally flawed as well as Unconstitutionally incorrect.
I'm sure their bibles tell them that they have to take over the world, but I don't remember that bit. I remember the bit where Adam and Eve were told to take care of their garden, and the animals in it, and protect them. I remember the bit where Noah was told to be fruitful and multiply and have stewardship over the earth-- that's very close to the idea of conservation and protecting the planet. Noah and Adam would probably have been Greenpeace activists. Regardless of how loosely, or strictly, the fundies want to interpret “dominion over the earth”, their bible shows how Adam already fucked his shit up, otherwise he wouldn't have been thrown out of the garden, nor would Noah have been directed to make an ark to save his family.
The best interpretations I've seen say subdue the earth, and rule over the animals. Nowhere does it say rape the pillage the planet because Jesus is coming back and so he'll fix up your shit. According to Barne's notes, that you can see here, the “subduing and ruling refer not to the mere supply of his natural needs, for which provision is made in the following verse, but to the accomplishment of his various purposes of science and beneficence, whether towards the inferior animals or his own race. It is the part of intellectual and moral reason to employ power for the ends of general no less than personal good. The sway of man ought to be beneficent.”
So much for “drill baby drill” huh?
Anyway, before I go off on a rabbit trail, and I will, believe me, back to the cognitive dissonance. This has always fascinated me, how humanity has the ability to believe one thing, very strongly, but act in a manner completely opposite that belief. And we don't even fucking notice! How in the hell do we do that?!
When I was a kid, and going to the fundie chirches we did it then, too. “Everyone, except for us, is going to hell! Those poor deluded people, the atheists and Catholics and everyone. They need us to tell them about Jesus!” That was our refrain, our reason for living! Telling all these people about Jesus, to save them from hell, and so they could spend eternity with him, and us, in heaven, doing heavenly stuff. [I honestly have no idea what all we were supposed to be doing. I guess basking in the light shining off the other christians' egos? Or maybe basking in god's ego? I dunno.]
What we did, though, is spit out, “if you don't believe in Jesus you're going to hell!” Then, we'd offer them prayers, or coffee, or dinner, or “Did you see the game last night?”
We would browbeat them, and by "we" I mean the entire fucking congregation, from the elementary school kids straight through to the adult. We would pester and annoy and repeat ourselves over and over, as though the object of our verbal lashing had never heard of Jesus before, or some dumb shit.
I can't say I've ever met anyone who didn't know the name Jesus. Even those who were raised in a different faith altogether. So those who would claim to be spreading the “good news” to the world are really just screaming it into the faces of people who have grown up with christianity as the default philosophy-- at least on the North and South American continents, Australia, Europe, Russia, and most of Africa... oh, wait, that is the whole world. I guess they did their jobs, so they can fucking stop now, right?
I have admitted before and will do again, I am ashamed of what I did as a young teen in that church. I honestly have no idea what made me think I had the right-- no, the duty!-- to show up at people's houses and bother them with my own tepid, watered down, little words so I could understand it gospel. I thought I was helping, and maybe I did.
But I highly doubt it. I'm sure I did far more harm than I ever helped, and for that, I am so very sorry. I never want to hurt anyone, and knowing I did shames me. I am so sorry! I wish I could take it back :(
Anyway, the article: the interviewer, Carolyn S. Briggs (who always writes an excellent article) says, "[you have no trouble with christians in general, and once you know someone you can't hate them, but are tolerant of them... but] the beliefs themselves are hard to take. You mention a fundamentalist who told you that most people in the world will certainly end up in the fires of hell and then in the next breath, he offered you a cup of coffee. You couldn’t get your head around this “spectacular acceptance of spectacular violence.” [emphasis added]
Chapman responds with,”The concept of hell is incredibly violent. In the Bible, there are two sides to the coin. On one side, there is goodness and charity and the reward of heaven. Yet throughout the Bible is this idea that a lot of people, I mean really, most people, the majority of people, 80% of people are going to hell. And that makes God the worst butcher in history, the worst torturer who has ever existed.” [emphasis added]
I've said for years that the Christian God is a bully, a cruel, capricious nasty bastard who's only purpose is to stomp the shit out of people who don't live in an itty bitty box of perfection. I'm not the only person who's come to this conclusion, and won't be the last.
I remember asking about that whole thing when I was about 15 or so. I'd already been questioning what I read, and how the bible itself didn't mesh with history and science. I already knew that some of the bible was allegory, and some was recount of dreams, and of course, some of the stories had to be sensationalised... but how much?
“How can God be a loving god, who cares for us, arranged for a blood sacrifice for the world, and yet if someone had the misfortune to be born in a country where Christianity wasn't common, or anywhere, send them to hell? How is that loving?” I asked my mother, my pastor, the pastor's wife. I asked my youth leaders, some adults I liked and got along with (there were a couple younger soldiers who worked with the youth leader and were assistants of a sort). I asked my grandparents. Every single person I could think of. I almost wrote James Dobson because my mother held his opinion in such high regard!
The adults would look at me, like a deer in the headlights. You could see their brains ticking over some thing, Any Thing to say to me to shut me up. I wasn't nasty, I was confused and hurting, and scared for all “those people who don't know!” It was my empathy coming out, it wasn't dead, and that's something fundies don't know how to deal with. They kill their empathy as soon as they can, otherwise they, too, will ask the hard questions.
The answers I got usually followed a lengthy pause, a couple Ummms, and an OK or two. They ranged from “well, telling them is our job, it's our Great Commission!” to the christian double-speak equivalent of “well, those bastards should have known, and chosen a better place to be born, then, huh?”
There was no genuine care there, no real thought to the people, the faceless millions or billions these so-called christians were condemning to hell. They were just “those people” and had no real relevance to the now of ice cream socials, and car washes and mortgage payments.
So much for christian charity, huh? So much for “we love the world, like Jesus loves the world.”
But, they tended to be sorta decent people. Most of them didn't beat their spouses-- just their kids. They didn't tend to commit adultery, but they'd cheat on their taxes. They didn't break all the rules, but bent them a lot.
Some people who call themselves christian are truly Jesus-followers. I don't want to get into semantics of it, other than to say, if the christian in question is kind and loving, for the sake of being kind and loving, you've got yourself a genuine Jesus-follower. If they want something from you, even if it's just a “public confession of faith” you've got yourself a christian. It's that simple. The christians will be the ones protesting at teabagger rallies and screaming about how we queer people “recruit children into our lifestyles” [no, I still don't know how that works]. The christians are the ones who loudly decry the government intrusion into their what the fuck ever, but the government had damned well better climb up into every woman's uterus from the time she's 11 until she's about 55. Cant' have her making reproductive decisions on her own, now can we?
Those are the christians the most hard at work keeping that cognitive dissonance alive and well in their heads.
They're the ones who use birth control, but dammit, no one under the age of 18 and who's unmarried better need those pills [disregarding any medical reasons she might need them. She's branded a slut and that's all there is to it.]
They're the ones who will quietly have abortions, or take their daughters in for one, but abortion is eeevil and you're killing babies!!! [Because the only righteous abortion is their abortion. Theirs is the only one with any real reason, not like those other women who do it for birth control or convenience, or whatever.]
They're the ones screaming about so-called Sharia law, and keeping it out of America, but they'd be thrilled to death with Levitical law in place. [So long as they can continue to ignore the bit about lobster and mixed clothing fibre, and cutting their beards, of course, and anything else that isn't bashing gays and anyone they dislike.]
They're pro-death penalty, but anti-peace.
They're “pro-family values”, but anti-LGBT rights. The only families that mean shit to them are white, upper-class, christian, and straight.
They're the ones who have kids and aren't married, or their children do, and it's OK, Jesus love them; but those gay people better never want to get married! That shit's a sin! [Never mind that if they looked at their own book, they'd have to kill their son for knocking up some woman, or kill the woman for being pregnant and not married. Period. Stone them to death!]
They're the ones screaming about religious freedom, and how everyone’s out to hurt them, and take away their religious rights! It never crosses their mind that they're the ones persecuting Muslims or Pagans or Atheists, because we think differently than they do.
We can't have that thinking shit going on: “Getcher facts outta my opinion!”
You can see it in today's political climate. Take a good long look at the people running for the GOP's nomination. One's a Mormon, who told one of the members of his ward not to have an abortion that would have saved her life, and left her able to care for her already born children (I believe there were four living children). He told another woman that she should give up her child, place them with a local LDS family, because she was single. She was excommunicated from her church for refusing to adopt out her kid. He's OK with that. 1
Another one is so far to the right that he's a fascist, and a Roman Catholic, religious fascist at that. He would be the Vatican's spokesman if he was elected. He allowed his wife a life saving treatment when she was pregnant that he knew would result in the abortion of her pregnancy—actually chose it for her, because she was so sick she wasn't able to advocate for herself. That's OK, though, they took the corpse home and spent the night kissing, cuddling and sleeping with it! They got their living kids in on it too, letting them play with the corpse. Don't believe me? Read the book they wrote about it. He's said contraception is evil, and he would nullify any same-sex marriages that are currently legal in the US if he were elected. He also will abolish any prenatal testing, you know, the tests that saved his wife's life-- because he believes abortions go up when women have the tests done. [Nope, not sure how he came up with that one, or why it even matters, but it's ok for his family, just not yours.] 2
A third one is also Catholic-- for now. He's changed his religion about as often as he's changed his wife. He's a serial adulterer, on his third marriage, and some how thinks gay men and lesbians getting married is a bad thing? He was charged with ethics violations, stole money-- diverted, I guess-- from a scholarship program for poor kids, into his own PAC. He was fucking around on his wife while leading the charge against the sitting president for getting the odd blowie. Oh, and he thinks making insurance companies pay for contraception is going to hurt their religious consciences... because companies have those, I guess. 3
I saved the OBGYN for last. Yes, one of them is an OBGYN, so you'd think he'd be all about choice and contraception, and protecting a woman's right to her own body... but you'd be wrong. He's a fear-mongering isolationist, completely against abortion, public works and a huge fan of his own twisted version of “libertarianism”. While he's been in office (he's in the House), he's been king of pork spending on his own district, but has the audacity to point out how another did the same-- so much for those much vaunted bootstaps. He also has this lovely lie-- I mean story! Memory? Recollection? Fuckit, it's a bold faced lie-- about why he's anti-choice. He claims he saw a late-term abortion result in a life birth; the infant was then placed in a bucket and allowed to die-- breathing and everything mind you. That shit is soooooo fake! Why he didn't rescue the infant, no one ever asks. Why was the hospital allowed to do that? No one asks. Some pro-life person, huh? If this is true, then he watched a baby die in a bucket and is accessory to murder. Eh, he's not in it to win, anyway, I think he just likes the attention, it sells more newsletters. 4
You notice I didn't cite a damned thing. I don't have to. A couple minutes on Google with the info I've given you, and you'll find it yourself, and a ton more. These aren't hidden, esoteric bits of information, but shit freely broadcast. Some are things the candidate has said himself; others are widely-shared across the information superhighway.
The one thing these men have in common is that they're religious. They wear their faiths on their sleeves. They want to take America back to her roots, save her from herself, bring God back into the public, and I don't even know what else. I'm still not sure where we're supposed to want to go back to. The 1950's where women died from septic abortions? 1900's before women could vote? 1850's where slavery was legal? Where?
Freedom of conscience for these men, and many others means “whatever we tell you to think”. It means “what the pastors and Bishops say and you do”. It means “only what I'm comfortable with”. No Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, no others at all! Only this narrow thought-pattern that fits their way of life. The moment you bring anything else into the conversation, the moment you stop them from dominating everything, is the moment you're persecuting them. Don't deny it, you want them to suffer, but it's OK, they want to suffer like Jesus did!
I saw it first hand, when I tried to explain to my missionary-grandparents that they weren't persecuted when some fair in Canada refused to give them a permit for a booth. “They told you what rules you had to follow, and you guys didn't want to. Sounds like they're in the right, not you.”
She said the stupidest thing in response, “The Bible says we have to obey God, rather than men. We're going to put up a booth outside the gates, and if we get arrested, then God will get the glory!”
I admit, it took everything I had not to say, “If you get arrested you may never be allowed back into Canada again.” They ended up chickening out and not doing it, which was smart. But the idea that they can break any law they wanted, because they were on a mission from god never ceases to amaze me. The “liars for Jesus” phenomenon is alive and well in fundie circles-- and in this circle I include the LDS church, and RCC church. They're both pretty good at the spinning of shit to make themselves look good, even when they're very very wrong.
Again, though, if you ask them about it, point out their aberrant behaviour they can't see it. Their eyes glaze over, and they cannot take it in. They can't see that they're the christian Taliban. They can't see that they are like a modern day Torquemada. They just cannot see it.
1: Mitt Romney
2: Rick Santorum
3: Newt Gingrich
4: Ron Paul