Christians are modern people, about as intelligent as any other group, and yet they jump into a world of ancient mythology and act like it’s real. They’re like trekkers who dress up as Vulcans or Klingons at a Star Trek convention. Or as Imperial Storm Troopers or Wolverine at Comicon or Dragon*con.
The difference, of course, is that faux Vulcans or Klingons know that it’s just for fun. They might spend lots of time and money on their costumes. They might learn to speak Vulcan or Klingon. But at the end of the conference, they put conventional clothes back on and reenter conventional society. They realize it’s pretend.
In a similar way, Christians leave church and reenter conventional society. Some know (or suspect) that the mythology isn’t real, like a trekker who’s in it for the pageantry and camaraderie, but many Christians do live the mythology.
Wisdom from M*A*S*H
This reminds me of the M*A*S*H television episode where Radar O’Reilly tells Sidney the psychiatrist that he has a teddy bear and wonders if he’s crazy.
“Me and my teddy bear are very close,” Radar said. “I mean … sometimes I talk to it.”
“Does it ever talk back?” Sidney asked.
“You know how many people write letters to Romeo and Juliet and think that ‘I Love Lucy’ is real?” Sidney said. “Those people are living nice, safe lives, with towels and sheets. They’re not up to their ankles in mud, blood, and death the way you are.”
Sidney predicts that Radar probably won’t need the teddy bear once he leaves Korea. In Radar’s last episode, this prophecy is fulfilled.
You can get through life thinking that “I Love Lucy” or some other TV sitcom is real, or that food is produced at the grocery store, or that electricity is made somewhere on the other side of the electric plug but with no idea of how. You can imagine that 9/11 was a government conspiracy, that the Apollo moon landing was a hoax, that homeopathy works, or that we live in the end times.
Or that God exists.
Society’s increasing complexity insulates us from unpleasant reality
During medieval times and before, people did know where food came from (and horseshoes and wagons and cathedrals and any other element of their lives) because if they didn’t participate in that industry personally, they’d at least have seen how it was done.
Though they had a thorough grasp of the simple technology of their world, they also believed lots of nutty stuff, religion included. But, of course, they didn’t have an alternative. They didn’t have modern science to explain away the superstition and poorly evidenced explanations.
Medieval society was harsh and unforgiving, but modern life coddles people. It’s society with air bags and training wheels. Though they have little excuse, people can hold their unsupportable beliefs with little penalty. You want to imagine that that illness can be cured with prayer? Go for it—society will be here to catch you if you fall.
They can see science and technology deliver nine times but still doubt it the tenth time, and they can see religion fail nine times but still expect it to succeed the tenth time.
Society insulates Christians from reality as if they were Klingons at a convention. I just wish that, like the Klingons, they realized that it’s all just pretend.
God is really just the manager of a call center
with shitty customer service.
— hector jones, commenter
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 5/29/12.)
Photo credit: Wikimedia