Hi and welcome back to our ONE HUNDREDTH LORD SNOW PRESIDES SPECTACULAR! Originally, I had some stuff I wanted to talk about with that silly Christian book, and we’ll definitely do that next week because it is too funny not to cover. For now, though, I find my thoughts turning to another subject: one of love, grief, and ultimately hope. Today, Lord Snow Presides over yet another self-serving redefinition that tells us way more about Christians than they should really want us to know.
Dehumanizing the Enemy, As Always.
A long time ago, I showed you how and why Christians dehumanize the people they view as their enemies. Nothing’s changed since then. If anything, the religion’s polarized even further (and lost even more people) since I wrote that post. Those trends lead its most fervent adherents to mistreat their perceived enemies even worse.
Quite a few Christians think dehumanization represents an awesome recruitment tactic for their religion. Their thought leaders have developed entire lines of marketing around making non-Christians sound like poor little subhumans who lack basic human qualities like empathy, kindness, love, morality/ethics, meaningfulness, and as we’ll see today, hope.
According to these erstwhile soulwinners, these fine qualities only exist in people who believe the same exact nonsense they do. In fact, without purchasing their product, a person cannot possess those qualities. Thus, only through joining Christianity and complying with its leaders’ demands can poor little subhumans magically acquire those qualities. Otherwise, they remain little better than animals and can be abused at will by Christians.
Deconversion, of course, causes the opposite effect in these Christians’ minds: the onetime human being magically loses all of those qualities in one stroke. So pushing this line of thought also terrifies current Christians out of examining their doubts too closely or thinking too hard about any of the stuff their leaders say they must believe. If they ever were to lose their belief, they would also instantly lose everything good about themselves–and open themselves up to their onetime tribe’s retaliatory abuse–er, sorry, their “Christian love.”
(Also: Relevant xkcd.)
The Marketing Strategy’s Failure.
Dehumanization is a cruel marketing strategy whether it’s used on existing members or potential ones. But Christians have been using it for a while now. Their ongoing smear campaign against atheists likely began when they first began feeling insecure about their dominance in the 1950s. Thanks to Christians, atheists number among the most-hated, least-trusted people in America.
However, dehumanization only appeared to work because Christians could have said or done anything, literally anything, and still gained members through simple cultural dominance.
Here’s what I mean. In past years, Christians could make the lives of dissenters downright hellish through their “Christian love.” With the force of law behind them, they could–and happily did–convert and hold people captive through fire and the sword. Even after they lost the ability to straight-up murder those refusing their “good news,” rejecting their overtures still bore heavy and serious consequences.
Christians all pretended none of this was true and that people joined their religion out of sheer love for Jesus–or at least out of a heartfelt desire to avoid getting their ghosts set on fire by him forever after they died.
Now Christians are losing that dominance. In many areas, people can come or go as they wish from Christian groups.
And now, suddenly, their marketing matters quite a bit.
Hope, Hope, Who’s Got the Hope?
Marketers often begin their efforts by discussing real needs that their targets have. Laundry that needs cleaning, kids who need quick and easy meal options for school lunches, breath that needs freshening–all of these represent valid needs. Then, these marketers tell their targets how their product(s) can fulfill those needs better than anything else could. If their advertisements prove false, word gets around quickly enough–and could even open them up to legal trouble.
Charlatans, however, must go a slightly different route–especially if they seek to exploit a need that doesn’t really exist or to offer a product that can’t actually begin to fulfill the need they’ve identified.
In the case of today’s topic, hope represents one of the needs Christian marketers seek to exploit. They offer their product, membership in their particular flavor of Christianity, as the fulfillment of that need. Without their product, people can’t possibly fulfill their need for hope.
It’s a false promise, however. Even if people actually feel they need more hope in their lives, they won’t get the real thing with Christianity. And a search engine shows us that Christians themselves know this!
(I read the sites that showed up on that last link out loud to Mr. Captain till he begged me to stop. “All right, I get the point!” he laughed. “Kinda f***in’ weird, huh?” And I replied, “Not really, no. Not even by half.”)
How Christian Marketing Works.
. . . there are people out there who need what we have. Why? Because they don’t have hope beyond the weekend, vacation, drinking, partying,sex, etc which is all fleeting and ultimately depressing in the long run.
It’s such an elegant distillation of the party line held by people in her entire end of the religion. Seriously, her screed is just one long line of [CITATION NEEDED] signs.
- She assumes automatically that those outside her tribe want her product, hope, and that they cannot obtain hope from any source but through the purchase of her product.
- She never actually defines this term, however.
- Similarly, she assumes that people outside her tribe do all the things her tribe hates, while people within her tribe do none of those things. In reality, there’s never been much difference between the private lives of Christians and non-Christians.
- She assumes that the people outside her tribe are animals who do all the off-limits things to distract themselves from the ultimate sadness and meaninglessness of their poor widdle lives. Similarly, she assumes that her product would fix everything, because obviously people in her tribe never feel hopeless.
I suppose selling hope is easy–if someone redefines everything about it.
Another Redefined Word.
Christians love to redefine words, and “hope” is only one in a long line of similar redefinitions they make in their endless, tedious game of Calvinball. As my characterization of their antics might suggest, they self-servingly redefine words to make it easier to sell their product and to make themselves feel superior to their enemies.
As part of their ongoing campaign to dehumanize those who don’t buy in to their claims, Christians long ago redefined hope as a claimed feeling of certainty (despite having no support for the idea whatsoever) that there’s totally an afterlife, that it works exactly the way they’ve been taught it does, and that they’re going to like it a lot.
Under this redefinition, since non-Christians don’t believe in the same kind of nonsense Christians do, then obviously we lack their version of “hope.” We are, in their parlance, therefore hopeless. (But remember that Google search list from above? When Christians themselves say they feel “hopeless,” their peers know exactly what they mean. Equivocation for the win!)
Using Christians’ exact (il)logic, I could declare that since the word “socks” means “footwear that Captain Cassidy has personally knitted out of wrapping paper, shed cat fur, and Sunday comics,” that all Christians lack socks! (See endnotes.) And people need socks, don’t they?
Here, then, are the only socks in the world! They only cost a billion dollars a pair!
Wait, why isn’t anybody buying the world’s only 100% real and bona fide socks…?
Let Me Tell You About Hope.
Here’s the reality about hope.
Hope is a feeling that things will work out all right or improve. It’s not a total certainty. If it were, we’d call it that! Nor is it wishful thinking, which is unbounded optimism without any real reason to feel that way.
And hope is important. Hope keeps us moving forward when a situation looks dire. It makes us reach our hands out for solutions instead of letting a bad situation fester. It represents anticipation of a good future outcome and sometimes helps us work out a way to achieve that outcome.
Sometimes we have good reason to hope for an improvement in a given situation. Sometimes we don’t but we maintain our optimism all the same. Likewise, sometimes we can affect the situation’s outcome and sometimes we can’t. There are different kinds of hope.
Thus, psychologists distinguish between no hope, lost hope, false hope, and real hope and consider real hope (informed by reality to at least some extent) to be very important to people on an individual and communal basis.
And y’all, hope is a nearly universal human emotion. Nobody–no group, no ideology, nobody–can claim a monopoly on hope. No magical invisible wizard friends in the sky fling hope down from the clouds, any more than they only fling it at their special li’l buddies on the playground.
Let me repeat: Hope does not belong to Christians any more than love does, no matter how much they’d really like to think they own it.
The Time We Have Is Now.
Humans are curious creatures. The present is where we live and make our homes. But we remember the past and we look ahead to the future. Most of us can’t easily lose ourselves in the now without effort; we’re always thinking about stuff that’s already happened or stuff that will–or might, or could–happen.
And every moment of our now becomes part of our past or flits ahead into our future.
Those moments are precious. They represent our reality and our engagement with it. We find our lives’ meaning in so many different ways and construct hope for ourselves in many more, it seems. There’s no one single valid way to be human–no matter what Christians say! But there is one single end for us all, which joins us in a commonality that Christians seek to escape.
This life, this now, is really all we can say for sure that we have. We aren’t guaranteed anything past our deaths. Thus, our hopes focus on this life, this now, this cosmic stroke of fortune that we have however long it works out to be here. Once this life is gone, it’s gone.
And in life’s finite shortness and uncertainty, it becomes all the more precious.
The best scene in the movie. “The gods envy us.”
Anybody who tries to tell us what any sort of afterlife might look like is selling something. And it is not in our best interests to purchase it. These hucksters speak not from certainty or even from real hope, but from false hope. It is a hope that is not informed by anything reality tells us. And obtaining even that false hope depends entirely on complying with demands that will ultimately only harm us.
The most pressing problem that Christian leaders face is that they really can’t offer anything that people–even their own members–want or need. It’s a rare Christian group indeed that even rises to the level of basic functionality. Oh, sure, their marketing makes repeated claims to the contrary. Of course. I expect nothing less from people who (mistakenly) believe they are under a divine mandate to SELL SELL SELL WITHOUT MERCY.
But Christians themselves know the reality of their situation quite well. They can redefine important words all they like, but all they’ll do is offend people and make even fewer sales. When we reject their product–their false hope–listen for their attempt to whittle us down to subhuman level. That dehumanization effort is how they maintain their own sense of superiority–and try to make their product sound better than it really is.
Hucksters can neither bestow an essential human state upon others nor revoke it–unless we allow them to do so. They do not have the right to set terms like that. But oh, they would sure like it if we’d let them!
Today, Lord Snow Presides over hope itself, one of the most universal human conditions there could possibly be, and a condition that Christians wish they could deny their enemies.
NEXT UP: A complementarian gets really mad at me for not following his life script. See you tomorrow!
About Amy: From the sound of her entire extremely long comment, Amy grew up 100-and-crazy-percent fundagelical. She’s been alienating people from herself and pushing them away from her religion since she was a child. In fact, it doesn’t sound like she’s successfully scored a sale even once to a single person. But she doesn’t appear to comprehend that her approach–condescension, scorn, strawmanning, and unsupported claims–doesn’t work anymore without Christians regaining fire and the sword to back it up. (Back to the post!)
About that redefinition: Of course, under that exact redefinition I also lack socks. I can’t knit for beans and I’m allergic to cat dander (YES), so I’m not likely to own these “socks” any time soon. (Back to the post!)
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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. I’ve started us off on a topic, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. Pet pictures especially welcome! The series was named for Lord Snow, my recently departed white cat. He knew a lot more than he ever let on.
Go in peace, Brad, and be surrounded by love to the very end. You will be missed, dear friend. Farewell.