Wednesday 18 September 2019

Why have so many people over the past two hundred years concluded that Christianity is Not The Answer?

This interests me, because I was one of them.

The question was triggered for the nth time, when reading Colin Wilson; who does this in the space of a couple of paragraphs in Poetry and Mysticism (1970) - one of his Outsider series of books that I am currently reading for the first time (it's hard to find, usually expensive to buy).

Plenty of people have made an accurate diagnosis of the problem of Modern Man - because nearly everybody suffers from it, after all. The diagnosis is followed by a rapid, almost cursory, dismissal of Christianity as The Answer.

Why is it so easy for people to reject Christianity? When by contrast the same people will be prepared to put immense time and effort into (for example) trying to rehabilitate some version of Leftist politics as a possible answer; or paganism, Hinduism or Buddhism as a possible answer?

With Christianity it is a case of glancing briefly in the general direction of whatever preconception of Christianity that one has imbibed, then... Well, I don't like the look of that - straight down the plug-hole with it!

Yet with with anything else other than Christianity it is - let's find-out more, give it some serious work, and see what can be discovered...

There are several reasons. First, that the powers of darkness increasingly rule this world; and so Christianity is subjected to By Far the most pervasive and venomous smear campaign of any ideology or religion.

(Not even excepting 'fascism' - since what people now mean by that term bears near-zero relationship to the Socialist Workers Party of Germany, nor to any other of actual various supposed-fascisms. Fascism is just a Boo word used expediently against any opposition; such that real-life actual fascists such as the black-shirted Antifa, paid for by multinational money, are exempted from criticism.)

Christianity is continually under siege from combination of Global and Western National institutions (governments, politicians, large corporations, law, science, education, the mass media - and most mainstream self-styled Christian churches).

The accusations include extreme opposites (Christian churches are a living tomb inhabited by sentimental old women; yet also highly-organised patriarchal nests of fanatical white nationalist terrorists); but one or another criticisms will strike home for someone who is looking for a convenient excuse to reject Christianity. 

Second is sex. Sex is probably the second-most-powerful mass motivator, after religion; absent religion, sex assumes primacy.

There is a strong and correct assumption that Christianity places restrictions on sexual activity; and for many people that is sufficient reason to reject it as evil. (Modern people regard any restriction of their own sexual desires as an evil of the worst - most fascist - type.)

Whatever excuse is used to reject Christianity as an answer - the real reason is very often something to do with sex. Sexual revolutionaries (of all types) have been, for more than two hundred years (starting with Byron, Shelley and their clique), at the forefront of atheism, apostasy, secularisation, Leftism. This continues post 1960s, with each successive sexual/ identity phase picking up the anti-Christian agenda. 

Since Christianity is in fact The Answer - or, more exactly, contains the answer; this means that there are many people who, for many generations, have lived and died unsatisfactory lives (and perhaps gone to a post-mortal destination other-than Heaven) because of a hasty, ill-considered, and dishonest rejection of Christianity.  

Well, it's their choice...


Maolsheachlann said...

For a long time I rejected Christianity because I saw no empirical evidence of the supernatural, and I was particularly bothered by the fact that the various prizes offered by skeptical societies and skeptics have all gone unclaimed.

Eventually the plausibility of many of the miracles in Christian history won me over, but I had to accept there is indeed a leap of faith involved.

Bruce Charlton said...

@M - That's very interesting.

I don't suppose your type conversion is very common nowadays, although Pascal regarded the miracles (along with the fulfilled prophecies) of Jesus as the main proofs of his divinity.

In my own conversion, there were two personal miracles (small scale, but tailored and timed to my heartfelt needs) in response to prayer that 'clinched' it for me.

Most people nowadays are adept at focused-disbelief (and idiotic belief), even of real-science, common sense and personal observation, for any reported miracle - even if attested by hundreds/ thousands of people, as with Fatima - to compel belief.

The first step, as CS Lewis saw, is to believe in the possibility of miracles; then go on to evaluate the specific claims. Analogously, for me the first step was to believe in the possibility of revelation.

c matt said...

Numbers-wise, I would venture that the second argument you give for rejection is the most popular. That classic syllogism:

I want to have sex with my girlfriend
The Church says I can't
Therefore, Christianity is wrong.

William Wildblood said...

A few things came to mind when I read your post.

One is that Christianity is our inheritance and we are like teenagers rejecting the way of life of our parents because we know better now.

Another is that certain aspects of Christianity, or better put, ideas that became attached to Christianity, were shown to be false by science though this applies to all other religions too but they retain a kind of exoticism.

Then we appear to be becoming less imaginative as we become more intellectually focused.

Then Christianity does require quite an extreme leap of faith compared to some other religions. The incarnation of God, the scandal of the cross and so on.

Finally, as you mention, because Christianity is true it is mercilessly attacked by forces of anti-truth.

Bruce Charlton said...

@cm - Yes, it's as simple - and dishonest - as that.

@William - I think some of these are ture, others may have been more true 100 years ago, but now they don't apply to Christianity as much as they apply to Leftism. My feeling is that things have changed since the middle nineteen sixties.

Socialism, feminism, antiracism, environmentalism, sexual permissiveness... nothing could be more traditional, stale, boring, Etsablishment and characteristic of 'our parents/ grandparents generations than the modern mainstream ideologies that all 'young people' believe. Plus of these have been disproven by 'science' (and common sense and experience) far more decisively than Christianity.

I agree completely that Christianity does indeed require a 'leap of faith' that is exceptional - it is (as I once wrote) an Incredible (i.e beyond credibility) religion. Much more so than the varieties of paganism (including Hinduism) which are quite natural and spontaneous.

Of course, not everybody wants Christianity, even if they understand it and the alternatives - it is 'rational' for some individuals not to want it, given the way they are - e.g. incapable of love. As I have said before, what makes these the end times may be that there is a high proportion of people who are incarnated that (because of their pre-mortral natures) have a low probability of salvation; the extremity and clarity of distinction between Good/true and evil/ lies that is emerging, may be their best chance of making the decision for God and Good... I also think that this may be why so many people are living so much longer than in the past - to give them chance after chance to learn what they need.

From my Christian perspective, I am making a point here about the people who are in fact capable of self-motivation, hard work and focus; but don't apply it to Christianity - unless it is in a destructive way to excuse their own sexual proclivities or to reoganise churches around their political preferences.

dearieme said...

the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus: what do you have in mind?

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - It's in Pascal's Pensees

You may have misunderstood - I meant that Jesus's life was considered to have fulfilled Old Testament prophecies - not that Jesus made prophecies. Pascal regarded this as an important proof that he was the Messiah - in context of that time and place (such evidence is, I would say, typically not convincing for modern people - not likely to be decisive anyway).

Andrew said...

As I have said before, what makes these the end times may be that there is a high proportion of people who are incarnated that (because of their pre-mortral natures) have a low probability of salvation; the extremity and clarity of distinction between Good/true and evil/ lies that is emerging,

I believe it may be just the opposite. That it is a great privilege to be born into the world in the last days. It is those in the last days who will be the ones to bring about the Kingdom of God in its fullness and that it required a certain level of testing and training to be allowed to participate. Testing and training since the spiritual forces of darkness would be at levels unseen since Noah's day and perhaps even greater than then. So any advances of the enemy we currently observe is God letting the enemy show all his cards before He pours out His Spirit on all flesh as described in Joel 2:28. This ties into the 5G discussion. From God's pov, 5G will merely allow Him to broadcast His end-time miracles, through His Church, worldwide in real-time high definition so everyone will be witnesses and partakers.

-Andrew E.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Andrew - You misunderstand me. It is neither a privilege nor anything else of the sort, nor the opposite - we are incaarnated at the best time for each of us.

Andrew said...

Okay, but you seem to be saying that things are the way they are because those least inclined towards God are the ones being born into the world in this time. Whereas I'm saying that those being born into the world now are actually the most inclined towards God, facing the strongest spiritual opposition in history (so to the un-discerning it may look like they're the least inclined) and preparing themselves for when God begins His great, end-time outpouring. Or perhaps the most-inclined and least-inclined are purposely side-by-side.

-Andrew E.

Chent said...

Of course, all the causes you guys have mentioned are true. Sex being the most common one.

In my case, as a Christian, faith is the main obstacle. I have not perceived any personal miracle and find very difficult to believe in the supernatural. I have spent decades studying philosophy and apologetics and I am convinced that God's existence is 100% true and impossible to deny.

And despite that, this is a belief from the mind and not from the guts. From the guts, I am an atheist. I find extremely difficult to belief. Maybe it is being kind of Asperger? I know I am not the only one. It is exhausting and weary-some

Bruce Charlton said...

@Andrew. "I'm saying that those being born into the world now are actually the most inclined towards God, "

That seems very obviously untrue to me. Almost perversely so!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chent - Life is about learning, which is (I think) why we never reach a steady state of satisfaction - we are meant to continue learning. The only failure is to fail to learn what we most needed to learn, despite opportunities - perhaps many opportunities.

I have no idea of your personal situation, but maybe your actual joys are of a different nature from those you think you ought to be experiencing; and there may be a reason for that. Or maybe you are blocking your own ability to experience God due to a false assumption to which you cling. Only you can discover your own exact situation.

William Wildblood said...

Anyone inclined towards God will sooner or later turn to him. The fact that so few people do shows the truth of Bruce's idea. Most actually turn away from him. After all it is human beings who have made the current condition of atheism or certainly gone happily along with it.

That people are more inclined towards God now is a new age idea not a Christian one. Christianity has always taught that at the end times the truth will be hated. Jesus in Matthew 24 talks of the increase of wickedness and says that the love of most well grow cold.

Dividualist said...

I have a very simple answer. Because of the Reformation. If there are a gazillion different kinds of Christianity, which one is the answer?

Back when there was one unified universal church, which was the central carrier of our culture, alongside with the Greco-Roman and Germanic cultural and philosophical elements it integrated, it was a very simple question, you either accept it or reject the whole of your culture altogether. Of course they thought atheists are insane.

But then there is the Reformation, you can pick and choose, they churches disagree in a lot of things, they are mostly concerned about infighting which means a secular culture outside the churches grows, and secular, national identities grow and all that.

So the atheist thinks, Christians, get your own stuff together before you wanna recruit me.

dearieme said...

"I meant that Jesus's life was considered to have fulfilled Old Testament prophecies": those who wrote the gospels no doubt made darn sure that their reports of Jesus' life appeared to fulfil OT predictions. You'd have to be supernaturally gullible to accept their claims. And you tell me that Pascal did? Oh dear.

I'm reasonably happy to accept that, on the balance of probabilities, J existed. But I doubt that we have much secure knowledge about him, his actions, and his teachings. Doubtless we "know" some stuff that is true, but we don't have much ability to distinguish it from the stuff that is false.

Some is easy: claims about his nativity are obviously rubbish. Claims that he came from a modest background in Galilee seem entirely plausible. I don't see any reason to doubt that he entered public life by being baptised by John, that he formed a cohort of disciples and other followers, that he led them to Jerusalem, attracted the ire of the Chief Priest, and was consequently executed. After that it gets difficult.

The essential facts that are purported to lie at the base of all of the three Abrahamic religions seem to me to be shaky. Moses obviously never existed and Joshua didn't conquer Canaan. We don't know much about J. All we really know about Mo was that he'd been a merchant and then became a successful warlord.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - My understanding is that the human mind has changed a lot over the past two thousand years, and even the past 400-ish since Pascal (who was clearly vastly smarter than you or I). We moderns find it easy to disbelieve ancient history of all kinds, so could never base a serious faith on any kind of documentary evidence.

If the 'John' Gospel is true (as I believe) then some of the other gospels are not true - including a considerable amount of Matthew, especially the fulfillment of prophecies. So I broadly agree with some of what you say - although for a different reason. But for the author of John, Jesus certainly did fulfil several important prophecies; and this counted as solid evidence.

Also, you are probably treating scripture as if it was an ordinary historical text; whereas if it really is scipture then that clearly cannot be the case - one must also believe in the reality of divinity, and the *possibility* that Jesus was potentially what he claimed to be.

For modern people, a here and now relationship with the living Jesus is probably the only evidence that will powerfully convince.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Div - I don't agree, it's a red herring - because the main message that people need to recognise is that Christianity is not the church, not *any* church.

This lesson is being hammered home aross all the denominations and churches - in some the churches the Christianity has been essentially destroyed and replaced, but none are immune to the corruption of leftist secularism.

And real Christians now, already, need to distinguish between Christianity and whatever church. Those who put the church before Christ will sooner or later give up Christ - because that is the direction all Western churches are moving (or where they have already arrived).

Once that point is reached, specific churches become recognised as more or less helpful/ harmful institutions (and some are extremely helpful, including one that I have been fortunate enough to live near) - but not the origin of truth and authority.

Matthew T said...

One of the things that I think, and it's quite unfortunate, because of how fatalistic it is, is the role of disgust sensitivity.

IF it's true (and it is) that sex is the main reason for dismissal of Christianity, then it follows that people who have an innately high sense of disgust towards sexual stuff are going to be advantaged when it comes to believing. And I just don't know if there's any way around that.

@Andrew - I've thought about that before too. We get criticized for being weak, effete as modern Christians. Easy to say for someone living in a culture where belief is common/"normal" and the Church isn't under withering attack!

@Bruce - I don't get what you like about the Gospel of John specifically. Any chance you can have another crack at explaining that?

Bruce Charlton said...

@MT - I presume you've not seen this?

Moose Thompson said...

While I believe in Jesus as depicted in the gospels my doubts about Christianity stem from the credibility of the theologies that grew up around him. There indeed appears to be a huckster side to traditional religions (see George Carlins bit on religion). I think this side is more apparent in the modern world. I suspect many sense a little bs from religion and conclude it's all bs, particularly if it gets in the way of sex and all of one's friends have already rejected it and the other reasons already mentioned.

You and William appear to have taken the middle path, accepting Christianity but rejecting the theologies. While interesting this also appears to be a dicey business as it seems the traditions are necessary to instruct the masses and pass on the teachings. So I don't really see any obvious way out of the conundrum for modern man en masse with regard to Christianity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Moose T - Well, these are exactly the kinds of assumptions I mean. You have assumptions about Christianity, and what one could and should be able to think and believe, that are preventing you becoming a Christian.

You seem to want to be a Christian, but find the theologies you know about to be unbelievable. You feel that being a Christian would entail approving of abuses of the religion by its leaders. You want to be a Christian, but you assume that what you believe must also be suitable for mass, multi-generational, social implementation -social control.

So you are painted-into a corner. Well, now you know your assumptions you can examine them intuitively to see whether you *really* regard them as necessarily true.

(Assumptions are, after all, that for which we have no evidence, but assume to be correct as the basis for everything else. Al systems are based on assumptions. Assumptions ought to be that which we Know to be true, by that most direct and powerful form of knowing we call intuition.)

Moose Thompson said...

I don't quite see it like that. One can have doubts and still be a Christian. I pointed to my doubts in response to the question posed by this blog. I haven't concluded that it's all Bs but I think many have, for the reason I mentioned.

Regarding assumptions, if we reject certain assumptions, then in order to remain coherent we must then accept more complicated beliefs and assumptions which then come into question requiring ever more complicated assumptions. Now I suspect the truth is indeed complicated, but this process appears to take us far afield. I intuit that it is reasonable to question the limits of knowledge based on such intuitions about our assumptions.