Many of the “church fathers” of Christianity — Augustine, Anselm, etc. — recommended that people pretend to believe as a means to one day actually believing.
Mind you, finding actual evidence of such a God or supernatural realms wasn’t part of the process. It was just fake it ‘til you make it.
There’s some physiology behind it, as any expert transcendental meditator knows: if you mentally disassociate from physical reality long enough and intensely enough, it can eventually feel heavenly or sense a oneness with the creative force of the universe.
Which is not the same thing, of course, as being in heaven or touching the face of God.
These are subjective emotions completely isolated in each of our minds, not reflections of reality. But religion’s great con is that if you feel “heavenly” and “with God,” and your clergy describe those feelings as actual, you can accept that what you feel is actually what you choose to think it is.
As I’ve posted about this topic before (“Evil Twins: Love at First Sight, Holy Ghost” and “Pascal’s Wager: Fake It ‘Til You Make It”), it’s like “love at first sight,” which, in fact, is actually “lust at first sight,” not an affirmation that a glance can reveal a person you will love, honor, cherish and respect to the end of your days. A “soul mate,” as it were. It’s just evolution in action through the compulsive, emotional biology of sexuality.
Godliness is another practical form of evolution in action, whose genesis and original purpose are now shrouded in the mostly impenetrable mists of time. But all humans seem to embody an inborn compulsion to believe in the unbelievable, and to imagine all-powerful beings.
But we should reasonably be skeptical, because purported supernatural beings and realms so manifestly nonexistent in human history have never verifiably appeared in the real world.
So, it’s fair to say that urging people to quasi-believe until it feels like they actually do is a con. It keeps people in churches, questing toward nirvana until they feel certain — still without material evidence — that they’ve found it.
I’m thinking about this today after reading yet another pastor’s “From the Pulpit” column in my local newspaper, this one a speculation about how God, as scripture proclaims, can make the deaf hear and the blind see.
Titled “God’s Word opens our ears, creates faith,” the op-ed homily is basically another variation on “fake it ‘til you make it.” In it, he relates how Jesus reportedly took a deaf and speechless man aside from a crowd to heal him: “[H]e may have wanted his disciples to clearly see what he was going to do — to see his miracle as a sign of things to come.”
Or, as a magician might, to limit prying eyes. Who knows?
The op-ed notes, “[Jesus] touched the man’s ears and tongue. Then he said, ‘Ephphatha — Be opened.’ And suddenly the man could both hear and speak.”
A very nice, hopeful story, of course. But as with all millennia-old Christian doctrines, nothing written then can be conclusively confirmed for veracity now. It’s airy speculation. Permanently. “Faith,” in a word. And Christian clergy, as always, continue to recommend that the “faithful” to go through the motions of believing until it feels right, not that they work hard to substantiate the claims of dogma.
This is how the “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy sounds like in religious utterance, in today’s religious op-ed’s final paragraph:
“Through the Holy Spirit, God creates the faith we need by the preaching of the Gospel. And as faith is created in us we trust his Word — That we are loved, saved and forgiven.”
Note that nothing in this passage can be substantiated or verified in reality except “the Gospel,” a compendium of ancient, non-fact-checked stories and presumptions.
But, as I’ve also written about before (“Letters to Editor the ‘Energizer Bunny’ of Evangelical Christianity”), there it is in our daily newspaper.
I feel a responsibility to reason to routinely point out that religious ideas, meaning irrational ideas, litter the landscape of American culture generally uncriticized because we are a majority Christian population (although that is eroding fast).
We should challenge these ideas, even those of us still faking it ‘til we make it.