Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Price of Leaving Christian Conformity

I was listening to Stefan Molyneux's podcast entitled, "The Economics of Conformity," and I was struck by his description of the reasons why power structures levy high costs for apostasy, in an effort to coerce members from abandoning conformity to the group. For certain political groups, violence or the threat of violence is the typical cost, but for groups without that power, it's more typical to attack the apostate's (or potential apostate's) social network and reputation.

It occurred to me that this effect explains perfectly the fascination with atheists, and particularly ex-Christians, that I've seen with a number of Christians. Interactions between the two groups are never productive- they generally devolve into denigration of the apostate's personal history, particularly religious history. I never could understand why this was the ultimate conclusion of their argument, because aside from being immaterial logically, it never really seemed to matter to the apostate. Ultimately, of course, the legitimacy of one's own religious convictions are subjective, and it's impossible for another person to speak confidently of one's intent. So it seemed like an absurd accusation/conclusion, and I just chalked it up to the incoherent nature of religious thought.

But I think it makes more sense to look at it from the perspective of constructing a high cost to abandoning Christian conformity. Christians who attack atheists and question their religious history aren't doing so to make a point to the atheists themselves; they're doing so to make a point to other Christians. If you allow yourself to question the validity of Chrisitanity, your reputation will be attacked and your present legitimacy as a Christian will be thrown out. When debating with an atheist, it doesn't matter for the Christian to actually win objectively- all he has to do is make Christian-relevant points against his atheist opponent, and his job is complete. It's almost as if the debating Christian isn't really speaking to his opponent- he's constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure that his points resonate with the choir.

EDIT: By sheer coincidence, Evan May at Triablogue has reinforced my point.
"But, when a Christian comes across an apostate in an apologetic vehicle, it should be viewed as an opportunity. Perhaps, to be used to reach to this person’s life, but more so to portray the goodness of the gospel to those who are watching. It isn’t for my own benefit that I show the opposition to the faith to be the foolishness that it is. And it might not even be for the benefit of the opponent. However, in all of this the Christian faith will come out looking glorious to those who watch. Christians will be strengthened; religious seekers will find a home in Christ. The gospel will be proclaimed. Though it will harden some (which is, we must not forget, God’s work as well), it will save God’s chosen."

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At 3/20/2006 6:51 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Exactly. It is like the rinse cycle to the brainwashing. The apostate cannot be allowed to leave without public outcry and some attempt at embarrasment and discrediting.

At 3/20/2006 11:42 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Fear of nonconformity is something many people are familiar with. Everyone wants to fit in with, and have standing within, their respective cliques and support groups.

I am quite sure that the judgements of one's Christian peers have a big influence on the way one will be open to new ideas, being proven wrong, or otherwise shaking up their worldview.

At 3/21/2006 3:25 PM, Blogger mathyoo declaimed...

That totally makes sense. I've long held that many, if not most, Christians go to church and hold on to their religious beliefs more for the social aspects than they do because of truly believing. This would explain not only why apologetics feel that they can use so many logical fallacies to "prove" their points, but why they get so wound up about atheists. I suspect that it goes a long way towards explaining why they're so insistent on forcing religion into politics and the public sphere as well.

At 3/21/2006 6:16 PM, Blogger evanmay declaimed...

EDIT: By sheer coincidence, Evan May at Triablogue has reinforced my point.

Well, what do you know? A Christian helped you prove your point about Christians that they believe the statements of the Bible....

At 3/21/2006 6:27 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

No, you helped me prove my point that Christians follow completely predictible patterns seen in all power structures that seek to enforce conformity.

The fact that those patterns are written into Christian theology is secondary.

But thanks, anyway. ;)

At 3/24/2006 1:45 AM, Blogger Pavielle declaimed...

Stupid. Every Christian faces doubts. Critiquing atheists is not about "looking good." Beleive me, it aint. If you are in a room full of atheists (I have been) and you are the only Christian there (Done that to), you think it is easy to tell everyone that they are wrong? Besides, it goes both ways. Have you ever considered that atheism might not be the right way? Or have you simply assumed without any proof in advance? Hmmm? Be honest now. Would you sudennly publicly deny atheism before all your atheist friends?

At 3/24/2006 2:14 AM, Blogger Pavielle declaimed...


Just think about that with an open mind, an open heart. I know you don't believe me but I love you guys. I don't know you, but I genuinely care about you. Ultimately is not who can use the fanciest logical argument, or skew science to support their arguemnts, it is about what the truth really is. Personally, I don't require scientific evidence to believe in God. I just know He exists. I have felt Him. But you guys are seeking proof. Proof is all good, I don't fault you for it. But WHAT are you trying to prove? That God doesn't exist? Well, if that is the case you will certainly find some way to show that. That He does? You can find evidence for that too. I say we stop trying to prove our points and start being truly objective. What is the truth? Isn't that what you are after? The truth. That is what we must seek, not through proof as to what is or what is not, but through open minds that have the ability to see the whole.

I was not always a Christian. I was once an atheist. But the more I found out about the world, and the more I tried to prove atheism, the more stongly I was forced to believe in God. That was my discovery of truth.

Don't seek to be proved right. Seek what is true and right and just. Here is what I have found. This one verse summarizes my entire belief and understanding of truth:

Eph 2:4-5, 8-9
But God, who is rich in mercy, becuase of His great love with which He hath loved us even when we were dead in our tresspasses, made us alive together with Christ By grace you have been saved. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.

In other words:

God loved the world soooo much, that he granted us mercy. Even though we all sin and some spit in His face, God loves us. For this reason He sent Jesus to die for our sins. It is only through accepting God that you are saved. No matter how good you are, it is never enough to get you into heaven. God does not require us to buy passage into Heaven. He only requires us to love Him. this is the grace of God.

You guys are probably rolling on the floor with laughter by now, but don't laugh too hard. For a moment, imagine that you know for sure that there truly, undeniably, without a doubt was a God. You totally believed in His existence. Now imagine what it would feel like if you also knew that this God loved you. Imagine the feeling of Him putting His arms around you.... Pretty cool, huh? Well, that is what I feel at this exact moment.



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