Hi and welcome back! This post was inspired by the last post we did recently about cognitive dissonance (that tension people feel when they realize they hold contradictory beliefs). Namely, I wanted to talk a bit more about that offhand comment I made at the beginning. There, I wrote about the tee-hee giggling Christians do over the idea of living a dissonant life. They desperately want their lives to look absurd to non-believers — for the right reasons. Today, let me show you a post by Catholic Sofia Carozza that riffs on a cherished Christian lie about their own imagined uniqueness: that they’re so incredibly radiant and vibrant that it should inspire non-believers to doubt their doubts.
Sofia Carozza Says Christians SHOULD Cause Cognitive Dissonance.
This past week we’ve been talking about cognitive dissonance. One favorite way for dysfunctional Christians to deal with crushing cognitive dissonance is to redefine their way out of it. They try to make this tension sound like a positive thing. Sofia Carozza did exactly that in October in a post she wrote about TRUE CHRISTIANS™. She begins the post:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.” This quip – which is often attributed to Flannery O’Connor but not actually found in any of her works – captures an essential element of being a Christian: absurdity. The encounter with Christ, who is Truth, will make you absurd.
Christianity does make Christians talk like nutbars, yes, as she just showed us. But it doesn’t actually seem absurd at all. Christianity is standard-issue manipulation, just apocalyptic mystery-religion blahblah. Then, in describing one of the leaders of a flavor of Christianity that is full of child-rapists, conjobs, and cover-up artists, she writes:
Face-to-face with a joyful monastic, or indeed any Christian who radiantly lives the Gospel, any atheist would experience a bit of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, he may be firmly committed to the belief that Christ does not exist. But on the other, he sees that one who gives her whole life to Christ is more alive than he. It is absurd!
LOL no. In her dreams, she is free indeed.
So her error begins with not understanding what atheism even is. It continues with her not understanding what cognitive dissonance actually is. And it only extends with her assuming that anybody would find a Christian holding a formal, paid role within her gang of hypocrites and criminals “absurd” for seemingly enjoying a monastic life that he probably chose for himself.
Her absurdity is in a different castle, however.
(Her fail train finally crashes and burns when she pulls a fast one by redefining “alive” on the fly to specifically serve her own interests. Oh, Christians. Where would any of you be without intellectual dishonesty?)
A Very Flattering Tribal Myth.
This post got me thinking, though not in the way Sofia Carozza would likely prefer.
Over the years, I’ve seen and heard Christians falsely and self-servingly declaring that there’s just something, I dunno, DIFFERENT about themselves. It’s a common myth in the more fervent, sales-minded flavors of the religion.
Believers in this myth think that there’s some super-vibrant, super-ethereal quality that can be accessed only by believers in their particular religion. They think their imaginary friend confers this quality upon them — and, in turn, utterly strips the capacity for it away from those leaving the religion.
Moreover, those who buy into this myth think that this quality totally confuses and bamboozles non-believers. They think we’re staring at them in speechless astonishment, wondering how Christians obtained that quality and — more importantly — how we can obtain that quality for ourselves.
We talked about this topic in terms of just general uniqueness a while ago. But today, I want to look at it from a slightly different standpoint. This time, let’s look at Christians who think that their “transfigured lives” and extreme sacrifices make outsiders doubt their doubts, so to speak.
(I joke about this quality being a ‘Jesus Aura.’)
Extremism, Transformation, and the Human Condition.
In 2019, Reuters tells us, a whole bunch of “mysterious naked holy men” showed up at Prayagraj, India for a massive holy festival. It’s not only India’s biggest holy festival and not only Hinduism’s biggest, but also the whole world’s. Normally, these holy men (called Naga sadhus) live in caves and take strict vows of poverty and celibacy. One of these men told the news people:
“It is a confluence of all Naga sadhus at the meeting point of these holy rivers,” said Anandnad Saraswati, a Naga sadhu from Mathura, a holy city in north India.
“They meet each other, they interact with each other and they meditate and pray here at the holy confluence. They give their message to the people and they transform people.”
Wait, what was that?
They transform people.
But wait! They’re not Catholic or even Christian, and yet they sound exactly like the Christian monastics that Sofia Carozza describes in her post.
How oh how can this be?
Religious Zealots: More Alike Than They’re Different.
Indeed, many of us can think of a great many similarly-radiant, similarly “alive” folks in other religions.
There’s a reason for that similarity.
Religious extremism is the product of so many little quirks in the human condition. Certain people seem more susceptible to it than others, but every single religion in the world has a few zealots in it — even paganism. Heck, extremists can be found in any ideology, not even just any religion. There’s a little streak of more-hardcore-than-thou lurking in many human hearts.
More than that, even, there’s a streak of wanting-transformation in a lot of people. They don’t want to transform themselves, though. Instead, they want to be transformed by someone or something else. They want to climb the mountain, find a teacher at the top, learn there exactly what they need to know, and then burst forth from the experience forever changed.
Religions have marketed themselves as being able to fulfill this fantasy for eons now. Their recruiters promise that people desperately need their product (active membership in their groups) in order to feel certain emotions or to achieve their full potential.
But it’s never been true.
The Many Problems with the Argument from They’re Just So, I Dunno, DIFFERENT I Guess.
Even if we woke up tomorrow to discover the vast majority of Christians putting up a front of ethereal vibrance and universal human love, which has literally never been a thing they could do in their entire history, it wouldn’t mean that their claims about their god are true. That’s what Christians like Sofia Carozza don’t get. Rational people don’t assign a source for emotions that we don’t know for sure exists. We might as well say that Arnie the Incredible Invisible Pink Unicorn caused that change — and we’d have the same exact base of facts from which to say it.
But almost no Christians manage to put up that front anyway, so we’re unlikely to have to bring Arnie up to anybody anytime soon. (More’s the pity!)
Of the ones who do display that quality, often we eventually find out they were just living behind a mask. Behind that mask, they suffered ten hells’ worth of misery. Or else we discover that this ethereally-vibrant monastic Christian was actually committing atrocities for years in private. It’s all too easy for monsters to fool authoritarians, after all. Christians have never figured out how to tell in advance if someone’s on the level or not.
So here’s how the situation shakes out:
There are way too few Christians who display this quality of ethereal vibrance, as I’m guessing Carozza means by “alive” since she never actually defines it, for us to think that it’s a natural quality for Christians.
And we know too many people outside of Christianity who seem perfectly “alive” in her redefined sense to think it’s unique to Christianity. Worse, many of us who were Christian experienced that state in and out of the religion, as I have.
So whatever it might be, “aliveness” does not rise to the level of a reason to consider joining Christianity.
(Not) Doubting Doubts.
But Sofia Carozza isn’t completely trying to make a case for joining her corrupt, perverted religion. Really, she seeks instead to make non-believers — in particular, atheists — doubt their doubts. She seems to be trying to argue that nobody would give up what monastic Catholics do for a fake god, and that their “aliveness” (again, whatever that means) demonstrates the truth of their god’s existence. And only an irrational desire to deny the totes-for-realsies capital-T “Truth” could possibly explain why atheists keep refusing to accept her claims.
Everything about her post is simply wrong, but especially that last bit.
People lack belief in Jesus because there’s no objective, compelling evidence for his existence. A little euphoria in a tiny portion of the Christian population doesn’t become evidence that he exists. Arguments aren’t evidence, and neither is an emotional state.
If Sofia Carozza really wants people to believe that her imaginary friend actually exists, one gently suggests she first figure out what counts as credible, objective evidence for any being’s existence. She’d be the first Christian in all her religion’s history to come up with any. But hopefully she’ll think of all the poor widdle atheists who need her!
(Also, one wonders if Carozza knows her reprobate religious leaders seem to have more and more trouble attracting new monastics to their monastic groups these days. Perhaps this elusive “aliveness” isn’t quite the draw that it used to be.)
Not Actually Resolving What Isn’t Cognitive Dissonance in the First Place.
As for Sofia Carozza, she gleefully compounds her initial error by speaking for the atheists she doesn’t understand in the first place:
Indeed, the atheist can always choose to resolve his cognitive dissonance by denying or trivialising the transfigured life of the Christian. But wouldn’t this be unreasonable, a narrowing of the scope of reality that he is willing to look at? Would it not, therefore, diminish his very humanity? Yet such is our freedom.
And no, this is also incorrect. She hasn’t actually yet inspired cognitive dissonance with her “joyful monastic” Catholic. Even if she had, this wouldn’t be the reaction of any atheists I have ever encountered. Her solution to this non-problem involves simply smearing the people she doesn’t understand, rather than ponying up real evidence.
How very, very Christian of her.
As for me, I don’t deny or trivialize the euphoria that some Christians can occasionally work themselves into. If someone’s supremely happy being Christian, great on them. I couldn’t ignore the suffering Christianity causes long enough to get anywhere near that state, but whatevs.
But I’m not going to agree that a god caused this euphoria without evidence. It’s all too clear that whatever she means by “alive,” it happens in and out of her religion and has nothing to do with her or any other imaginary friend.
Dehumanizing the Enemy.
More than that, though, I’ve got to chuckle at the idea of a narrow-minded, ignorant Christian claiming that only Christians can feel any particular emotional state or that only Christianity could ever get someone to some state.
That’s simply dehumanizing. That’s denying the existence of an entire emotion to a huge segment of humanity. I don’t see how someone can do that with a good conscience.
Of course, she may be very used to doing it. After all, her religion’s been treating outsiders like subhuman filth for many centuries. Christian leaders have marketed their religion as being the only possible way to achieve various emotional states for years — by claiming that non-Christians can’t possibly feel peace, or love, or joy, or whatever else they think is their territory this time. Whatever is meant by “alive,” that’s just one more emotional state to add to the pile of lies Christians tell about their enemies to make them seem alien and less-than.
This constant drumbeat of dehumanization makes Christians very incurious about the world outside their insular bubble. The mindset created by this marketing, in turn, becomes a good reason to reject Christians’ sales pitches.
Simply put: a truly loving person would not treat others like Sofia Carozza has here. She’s accidentally done the opposite of what her post set out to do.
And I’m not surprised.
Yet More Virtue Signaling.
This post — and similar ones I’ve seen over the years — is just a virtue signal. It’s meant for Christians, not the rest of us.
Fervent Christians are the only ones who’ll see it and not catch the problems with her “die for a lie” reasoning. They’ll pat themselves on the back for being so very wise and discerning as to be Christians, and mentally add her post to their vast midden heap of reasons to despise and think less of those who reject their sales pitches.
It’ll just annoy or mildly offend non-Christians, who’ll recognize its self-serving lies with ease.
In the best-case scenario, though, I hope it inspires some Christians to wonder why their tribemates keep feeling the need to lie about and smear their enemies — and worse, to call this behavior “loving.” And maybe it’ll make even some Christians wonder why they’ve never felt this “alive” quality themselves, despite giving everything they have to their faith.
I hope so. Nobody does more to destroy Christianity’s “witness” than Christians themselves, after all.
NEXT UP: The fallout from the Ravi Zacharias scandal continues — and makes me ask a pointed question. See you tomorrow!
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(Last thoughts: Whenever I see a Christian talk about capital-T “Truth,” as Sofia Carozza did here, that’s a good indication they’ve totally lost touch with little-f facts.)