Anti-intellectualism and anti-science: Keep ’em on the reservation.

Karl Gilberson has another post in the Huffington Post in which he, an evangelical himself, addresses the issue of anti-intellectual, anti-science stances taken by the evangelical movement. He attributes this issue to driving away the youth from evangelical churches and cites statistics to prove his point. And his position brings to my mind the work of Richard Hofstadtner on anti-intellectualism in American history (Anti-intellectualism in American Life), a tendency which Hofstadtner links with religious and political conservatism.

Some Christians feel that God wants them to turn their brains off and not think critically. Their stance reveals a perception of God who wants to be merely adored and worshipped, who will, after “the end of the world “comes will get his jollies from having all his believers fawn over him for eternity. And “eternity” in this mind set is a quantitative term, not qualitative. In other words, it will go on and on and on forever! AND, of course, meanwhile those “non-believers” will be roasting in hell for the same “eternity.” Why is it so important for Christians to have and to maintain this perspective? (There are some revisionist interpretations of hell in evangelical circles and they are not appreciated. That is putting it mildly.)

A key issue here is the very nature of identity. People who subscribe to this world view reflect a very rigid view of themselves; for, as we see God so do we see ourselves and the rest of the world. This is just another variation of my oft-used bromide, “What we see is what we are.” This static view of the world was reality at one point in the past and still is in many cultures. And that “static world” created static identities. But reality has evolved so far beyond that limited grasp of the world.

Identity…and the rest of the world we perceive…is ephemeral. When this understanding comes to an individual whose grasp of the world is otherwise, it is admittedly disturbing and potentially catastrophic. That is why conservative believers cling so desperately to their static world-view, their static identity, and amuse themselves with mindless repetition of dogma. I must insist, however, they could “let go” of their dogma and discover that their “dogma” would still be valid, though in a radically different way. The “letter of the law” would then give way to “the spirit of the law”. When identity has been transformed, worship of “god” becomes worship of “God.”

But I must offer a caveat to any True Believer (see Eric Hoffer) who might have stumbled upon my musings— “You had better keep your kids on the reservation! Yes, home-school ‘em and try to keep them out of college. And if you let them go to college, make sure it is some diploma-mill where their belief system will not be challenged.”


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