Hi and welcome back! Lately, we’ve been talking about the Christian marketing claim of inner peace. In this wacky mixed-up world (that they largely created and perpetuate), that kind of peace represents a rare commodity in many people’s minds. But peace is way more than a nice feeling that most Christians don’t really understand. It’s also a way for the more toxic of Christians to dehumanize and look down on their tribal enemies. Today, let me show you how they do it–and more importantly, why.
Our Glorious Commonality of Experience.
Again, the human situation is marked more by the commonality of our experiences than by any lack of it. No matter what we feel, chances are that plenty of other people have felt it or are feeling it right now. What might be unique given circumstances, we can at least empathize with. That’s why social support networks are so important: our love and compassion both help us to put ourselves in others’ shoes.
It helps many people to know that others have experienced and felt what they’re going through. What we’re going through is something others have gone through and overcome and survived.
By the same token, though, when someone feels like their experience is utterly unique, they feel like far less of a part of the human experience. They feel like freaks, like weirdos, like they’re doing something hugely wrong.
And way too many Christians capitalize on this facet of our shared humanity.
That’s exactly how it felt to me when I was in the process of deconversion. I didn’t realize that other people were deconverting ever since Christianity was invented! I didn’t even realize that the numbers had only slowed because Christian leaders had gained the power to brutally punish anybody expressing dissent from or rejection of their claims, nor that the second that power had diminished the amount of vocal dissent and deconversions began increasing immediately.
No, I knew none of this. But just thinking that I was literally the only person losing her fervent faith, the only one who had ever doubted for what I recognized as absolutely virtuous reasons, made me feel more lost than if I’d been in Mirkwood all week.
Christians are well aware of the power of social isolation. That’s why one of their most powerful forms of retribution and retaliation is socially isolating their enemies. They call this cruel practice shunning or ostracism or disfellowshipping. In essence, they make those disagreeing with them into unknown aliens, weirdos that nobody understands or even wants to understand. Dissenters become people whose concerns make no sense at all.
Thus, those enemies must go unacknowledged and ignored until they fall back into line with the group again.
Atheists! Atheists! Barely Even Human!
Watch for how toxic Christians talk about their tribal enemies. You’d be well excused for thinking they’re discussing animals or small children. Christians treat their enemies like inferior subhumans who merit nothing more than disdain and contempt! Oh, but they’re so compassionate that they’ll take it upon themselves to provide the parenting that their enemies unfortunately missed growing up!
Most sales-minded Christians wrap their religion’s supernatural claims all up and in and around the human experience. That’s what their testimonies really are, after all: anecdotes about their experiences. The Christians who loved testimonies expect their handcrafted stories to resonate with others so strongly that they buy into the second-act miracle claim and the third act of vast improvement without much questioning the first act’s recounting of misery.
And that’s what a lot of their marketing promises really are as well.
A Promise They Can’t Deliver On.
Christian salespeople promise that humans can’t feel real love without also believing in their imaginary friend. The truest happiness only comes from Jesus-ing like our judge-of-the-moment does.
In the same way, they insist, non-Christians can’t feel peace without sharing Christians’ belief in their god.
That’s where this wide-eyed, tremulous-seeming little question on Quora came from. Gosh, y’all… d–do atheists feel this very human emotion that I feel?
It’s like the asker just found out that atheists have the capacity for communication or that they are able, somehow, to love their children. It’s almost like they think they’re PEOPLE!
Myself, I’ve heard much the same question from Christians–or simply had them assume on my behalf that I don’t possess those feelings.
Not only are these Christians sure that I don’t possess the feelings that only they get to have, but they’re sure that I lack even the capacity to possess them.
Gosh, She Sure HOPES This.
To illustrate that point, one of the first emailed comments I ever got on my blog came from a young Christian gal who expressed great anxiety over my sense of inner peace:
But I know from experience how that conversation would go, if I wanted to have it. I’d wearily reply for the umpteenth time that yes, I do indeed feel all the same emotions Christians do. In fact, I also bleed red just like them! And then my Christian judge would loftily inform me that my emotions, lacking Jesus-belief as an underpinning as they do, aren’t as real or as intense as Christians’ emotions are.
I seriously think this Christian thought that I had never Jesus-ed correctly at all. Thus, I never gained human emotions like her own. Barring that, I instantly lost them the moment I deconverted (still having Jesus-ed wrong, naturally, since nobody who Jesus-es perfectly can possibly ever deconvert). (See endnote for a visual.)
Don’t you love it when Christians’ sales pitches begin with them lying about us to our very own faces about our very own lives?
The Sales Pitch Begins: To the Wrong Target.
Following their presumption of our inhumanity and lack of the emotions they’ve reserved for themselves, they issue a sales pitch: Do I maybe wanna find out what real [emotion] is like? All I have to do is sign up for Christianity again!
The pitch proceeds from that point to even less applicability to its target.
Now, that tactic may seem utterly nonsensical. But it isn’t.
See, in broken systems, things are the way they are for a reason. That reason: they are most effective that way. When we see something nonsensical in a broken system, we need to stop and ask who’s benefiting from it being that way. People don’t generally act outside their best interests–not even toxic Christians. They can be driven into doing so quite easily if indoctrinated into enough fear, but even more easily if they’re convinced of the benefits to themselves.
In legal terms, we ask, “cui bono?” Who benefits from this situation?
In this case, these Christians’ insults to their customers benefit them enormously. In fact, the tactic makes perfect sense for them to make their greatest impact on their targets.
It’s just that the bullseyes ain’t painted where these Christians think they are.
(But we’ll talk way more about this idea next time.)
Where It Falls Apart.
This strategy faces two serious problems. Well, three. Well, okay, four.
The zeroth problem is that they can’t actually provide what they say they can to their customers.
Zeroth-point-one: the sales pitch actively insults their ostensible customers.
The first problem: These Christians’ enemies do feel those emotions and enjoy the same human situation that they claim to enjoy.
This is exactly what happened to me during my doubting phase. I could easily see that most Christians were (at least) as bad as they said worldly people were–and that most worldly people seemed really nice, especially compared to TRUE CHRISTIANS™.
By the same token, everything I thought I gained from Christianity, a lot of them experienced the same stuff outside of it–and more than that even! The peace I claimed to feel, many of them actually seemed to have. That should have been completely impossible. But I could see that it wasn’t. In fact, my own claims were technically dishonest. They were more an expression of my wishful thinking and wild hopes, more than accurate statements of my reality.
Absolutely nothing Christians claim a monopoly on actually exists as a monopoly within their culture. Period, point blank. Nothing. At all. Ever. Not kidding, not exaggerating.
The Second Problem.
And the second problem these Christians have: belonging to their tribe has become optional enough that shunning stopped being an effective threat.
That’s the real danger. Remember, a lot of their apparent success in the past happened despite their ineptitude at salesmanship, not because of it. We looked at one of their soulwinning guides–and it was hilariously bad. (See endnote reminder, because I’m in a puckish mood all of a sudden.)
They only succeeded because what in hell were people gonna do, not belong to a church group of some kind? They only got out of that obligation for the most incredibly virtuous of reasons. When that book’s author was growing up and encountering his formative
porn-caricature swingers’ parties experiences, Christians enjoyed what probably represented their period of greatest cultural power over others. They could viciously retaliate against those who skipped out on their group and even smear willy-nilly those who outright rejected them.
Even in the 1980s, people talked when someone known for attending church suddenly skipped out. Even those who were known non-attenders got talked about–often in terms of the drippiest pity for their families attending without them. My friend Marf’s husband was one of these. Bebo eventually talked her husband into attending, but he was never, like, gung-ho. Marf, though, got the full blast of the Fundagelical Pity Raygun. And my then-husband Biff got it himself, after years of gleefully dishing it out at others, when I deconverted and stopped attending.
Now? Now, I doubt many people would notice. One thing I’ve seen more and more recent ex-Christians saying is that they’re surprised at how few people say a word about their absence. Even gung-ho Christians barely attend more than a few times a month.
Words just fail me. I can’t even put into words what a huge change that is.
Too Many Problems, Not Enough Solutions.
When we talk about how Christianity’s survival as a dominant cultural force absolutely, positively depends on its members retaining/regaining their coercive social power over non-members, we are 100% not kidding around.
This narrative Christians have invented about “Christian peace” could literally only work while they controlled the religious marketplace and the dialogue springing up around it.
Now, it’s simply too easy to find people in other ideologies who are doing great–and way too easy to find Christians who very obviously are hypocrites. Thanks to their losses in cultural dominance, it’s way too easy for most people to reject Christians’ sales pitches without serious retaliation.
At this point, though, I don’t think that regaining market share is really on their Dear Leaders’ horizons. I think the battle they wage has moved its front lines, and now occurs way closer to their hearts and lifeblood than they would ever, ever have allowed years ago.
Yes, I think that now they’re fighting simply to retain the market share they still have. And that fight might be easier for them to win–in the short term.
That’s where we’ll take up next time: their new front lines.
NEXT UP: How the marketing promise of inner peace gets used to control the flocks. Seeya next time! Mwah! <3
About that: Imagine someone deconverting, reconverting, then deconverting again. Does that person instantly lose those emotions, regain them, and then lose them again? It’s so funny to me. It’s like a funhouse mirror, you see: step this direction and you look tall and skinny; step that other direction and instantly you become squat and round. If I converted and deconverted and reconverted in sequence, the POOF! and WHOOSH! of instantly-appearing and disappearing emotions would make observers downright dizzy.
What’s the mechanism of that loss? How is it measured, beyond not caring what toxic Christians want anymore? And how does it work in reverse? How can someone fake being Christian so well that their peers never know the truth till it’s explicitly revealed–and also perfectly “fake” having those emotions as well? I just have so many questions, and the answers only make me snerk harder. (Back to the post!)
I’ll just leave this here, about that book:
And this. Every “encounter” photo in the book looks exactly like an invitation to a 70s porn caricature of a swinger’s party. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless someone’s a super-uptight-acting Christian trying to sell an evangelism guide to other super-uptight-acting Christians who will use their faith to try to control people for their own good, GYAHH, y’all just hate us FER BEIN’ KRISCHIN!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand this, from the same author’s Christian diet book Help Me Lord… The Devil Wants Me Fat!:
His daughter Linda did this last one, but still. This guy just fascinates me. He just so totally lacks self-awareness. He obviously wrote his book long before it was socially okay for mainstream Americans to mock evangelicals.
Enjoy. (Back to the post!)
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