Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bush and Christianity

Although I'm an atheist myself, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to convince my atheist friends, who were not brought up as Christians, that Christianity does many excellent things. I point to the amazing social work of the Sisters of Charity and many other Christian organisations. The Sisters of Charity in particular do not proselytise while they work. Neither does the fantastic Lifeline telephone counselling service, despite being run by Wesley Mission (superintendent Gordon Moyes is a NSW Senator in horrible Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party). Unfortunately we live in a country where the government does not properly care for the needy. Thankfully some charities do incredible work for the poor, such as Bill Crews' Exodus Foundation. If you've got some dollars to spare and want to give them away, you can be sure he'll do good stuff with them.

My own experience of the Catholic church, and in particular the youth organisation Antioch, has often been fantastic. Antioch was all about unconditional love and respecting and listening to other people. Good stuff, right? There are plenty of good bits about Christianity that I've tacked onto my atheism without any inconsistencies.

The bits of Christianity that scare me, however, are the fundamentalist bits - where you're so stuck in a particular thought pattern that no amount of reasoning will allow you to escape. At uni there is a VERY strong fundamentalist Christian movement called Campus Bible Study. This movement grabs people when they have just started university; when they are lonely and confused. The first two people I ever met on campus were from CBS. Then I lived in a residential college for six months that was overrun by CBS people.

My concern is not the fact that these people are Christians. My concern is that their belief structure results in willful ignorance. Follow the chain:
  1. if you don't believe that Christ is your saviour, you will go to hell;
  2. you believe that Christ is your saviour;
  3. you change your life such that everything you do, every thought and action, revolves around Christ;
  4. friends/logic/whatever influences you to the point that you are not sure that what you believe is true;
  5. you CAN'T escape/take time off/lapse in agnosticism in order to assess your beliefs because if you die in the meantime, you'll go to hell

You MUST try to force yourself to believe, to ignore your doubts, to pray yourself into believing. And prayer works because prayer, in my opinion, is meditation. And like hypnosis, meditation is very powerful to those who can do it.

Moreover, if the first people you meet at university are from CBS, chances are all your friends are from CBS. So thinking too much about your faith might result in losing all your friends. You'll go from having an enormous social and support network to having no one.

This is bad enough. But Peter Sellick (Deacon associate at an Anglican church in WA) has shown me that it's not just Christians who are affected by their fundamentalism. It's all of us.

The anti-intellectualism that fundamentalism promotes; the black and white morality and the confidence and self-assuredness (which comes from all that doubt-denying above) has produced an American president who is impervious to reason. There is little hope. Please let there not be four more years of stupidity.