I like this headline: “Jesus: Fast food for the masses”

People line up during mass to receive the Communion wafers intended to be the body of Jesus. They get served pretty quick and the “food” doesn’t sit very long on the tongue, so how very true.

Not quite what the writer of the piece (going by the pseudonym of Titus Aurelius) meant to imply, probably, but it works for a good example of what the piece is actually about: cognitive dissonance:

Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. In our day to day existence we are constantly bombarded by stimuli and through various processes filtered by our frame of reference, we reach closure.

The process we use to reach the closure is what defines you as a person. It is your morals and values residing in your frame of reference that is instrumental in the resolution. The question that begs answering then is, “How much information do you feed your frame of reference?”

One of the effects of cognitive dissonance is that people tend to get mired in the teachings they received as children, simply because the introduction of new information into the frame of reference will lead to dissonance.

Any logical adult should scoff at the notion of transubstantiation but Catholic kids are told that the wafer miraculously becomes the actual body of Christ once ingested and many will continue to believe that well into adulthood no matter how scientifically improbable the whole notion is. It’s spiritual alchemy. There are a lot of other impossible ideas religious folk are expected to swallow and mentally change into facts and reality: the six thousand year old earth, Noah’s Ark, Jonah surviving in a whale, etc. The bible is jam packed with stories that any skeptical person could easily discount after a few minutes of research. The work’s been done, and yet so many can still turn a blind eye and believe the “words of God” instead of the words of the educated. Other believers can put a lot of pressure on a person to remain true to what’s written in there, especially if it’s parents or spouses.

So the fear of dissonance, coupled with a possible rejection of parental approval and even societal rejection is a great deterrent in broadening one’s horizons. This leads the religious mind to conceive of belief as a mechanism to resolve cognitive dissonance, but each injection of belief regress the dissonance one level deeper (postponing it) and each regression effectively gets pushed back into the recesses of the memory where it enjoys a blissful state of non-participation.

The rest of the article delves into examples where Christianity requires creating a partition in the brain to keep the logical, rational, scientific factual area to one side and not let it leak over into the spiritual, faithful, part required to believe every fanciful, mystical thing.

One example is the sheer number of contradictions in there involving the “facts” of Jesus’ life. He also brings up something called Preterism, an early Christian belief that the end had already come as Christ supposedly fortold, and a belief later Catholics and Protestants debated. I’ll quote from Wikipedia:

Christian preterists believe that the Tribulation was a divine judgment visited upon the Jews for their sins, including rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. It occurred entirely in the past, around 70 AD when the armed forces of the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem and its temple.

A preterist discussion of the Tribulation has its focus on the Gospels, in particular the prophetic passages in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, the Olivet discourse, rather than on the Apocalypse or Book of Revelation. (Preterists apply much of the symbolism in the Revelation to Rome, the Cæsars, and their persecution of Christians, rather than to the Tribulation upon the Jews.)

Remember Harold Camping? He was the opposite of a preterist. He was fully convinced, and convinced thousands of radio listeners around the world, that the end of the world would come last year, with the great Rapture occurring in May and the destruction of the world in October. You’ll notice we’re all still here.

The article goes on with more examples from the series of miracles credited to Christ like Lazarus, walking on water, feeding a crowd with two fish, etc.; and the stories that led to people truly believing that Jesus wasn’t just a son of God like every other Jew but on par with God in a divine holy trinity.

It is therefore my contention that the truth is too much effort to even comprehend, and that the “whole” is accepted and used as a vehicle for religious equilibrium where the “whole” usually consists of an à la carte menu as listed and supported by various Bible verses.

This contention is supported by the millions of Christians that are blissfully ignorant of the individual levels and happily live their lives in “unshakable truth” with the “whole”.

I think the trouble is that truth isn’t easy to come by. We are a gullible species. We’re easily tricked by our own brains and eyes on a daily basis. That’s what makes pareidolia and other optical illusions so awesome. We can be fooled so easily. And we learn to trust from a very early age; we have to in order to survive. We have to trust our parents implicitly when they tell us what’s good to eat and what will hurt us. We have an innate trust of authority and once we decide someone is an authority, we tend to extend the trust and forget how easily we can be fooled, foolishly believing we’re not at risk of getting tricked somehow. It’s why we fall for scams and con artists. We don’t always think critically about what we’re told and weigh it against what we’ve already experienced and know to be true. We can’t jam two of every kind of animal into a boat, but Noah supposedly did. “It was a miracle.” How’s that a solution to the physical and geological flaws in that story? How can anyone be content with that. And yet so many are.

As far as I can tell, I’ve always been atheist. Even as a kid I saw the flaw in the whole Christianity/Catholic thing during Easter. What weekend did he really die on? Was it in March or April? How come his death weekend bounced around every year? I never asked anyone about that but I know I wondered. And what did rabbits and chocolate eggs have to do with it? It didn’t make any sense and as a biblical story it still doesn’t. Using it as a roundabout way of acknowledging the pagan roots of an Equinox celebration does. Do the parents of Christian kids tell them that history of Easter? I have no idea.

Following a religion sometimes means ignoring facts and realities and taking everything one’s told on faith, no matter how ridiculous it’ll seem to outsiders. Religion isn’t alone in that, though. Look to anyone who believes UFOs land regularly or Big Foot will be found or homeopathy works or Obama isn’t a true American. We are a gullible species willing to believe anything should we really put our minds to it.

It’s a good thing there’s a skeptical movement gaining some ground, at least. It’s good to know there are people doing everything they can to try and burst those gullibubbles before it’s too late. On that note, I have a Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast to catch up on…

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One Response to I like this headline: “Jesus: Fast food for the masses”

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