Christianity: The clever death-denying and self-salvaging meme

I tried to comment on this post on the blog JTurnOnMormonism, but find that my comments don’t appear (not even as “awaiting moderation”), so I’m posting my comment here. Maybe he’ll get the pingback from this post and let me know what’s going on.

Anyway, here is my comment:

JT:

You write,

“Perhaps, the TBM’s obdurate belief in a ‘perfect Church’ satisfies the same suite of psychological needs as the fundamentalist Christian’s belief in an inerrant Bible and the orthodox Catholic’s belief in an infallible Pope. These would be the needs for certainty, security and stability in life, driven – at least in part – by a high degree of mortality salience [2].”

I’m having trouble following your reasoning here. First, who or what is “the TBM”?

Second, you speak of the fundamentalist’s and the Catholic’s needs for certainty, security and stability. Are you saying that these needs are unique to these people? It seems to me that they are universal human needs, or at least desires or preferences. Who would not rather be certain than uncertain? Secure than insecure? Stable than unstable?

The very fact of your writing this post (and others) seems to indicate a need in yourself to increase your certainty that you are correct in your atheism.

I read the cited article on mortality salience (“MS”). What it seems to amount to is a heightened awareness that you’re going to die. Being conscious of your mortality can cause you to see things from a different perspective. Seems obvious.

However you seem to be linking mortality salience to the purported need that fundamentalists and Catholics (whom I will now refer to as “Christians” for brevity) have for certainty, security and stability. I’m not following you. Are you saying that Christians have more MS than non-Christians? If so, is it a cause or an effect? Are you saying that people with higher MS tend to become Christians, or that Christianity increases MS?

Also I don’t see anything in the article to indicate that people with a high degree of MS crave certainty, security and stability. The article does say that MS can cause “worldview defense, a psychological mechanism which strengthens people’s connection with their in-group as a defense mechanism”, which “can lead to feelings of nationalism and racial bigotry being intensified.” But it also says that “religious believers engage in cultural worldview defense to a lesser extent than nonreligious individuals”.

You write,

“This may be the same psychological driver that makes it nearly impossible for such people to comprehend that life can be meaningful without being tethered to a supernatural realm where it extends forever. Likewise, it may be what makes morality seem impossible without being grounded in god(s).”

Again I’m not following you. What is the “psychological driver” you’re referring to? Is it MS, or “the needs for certainty, security and stability”? Or both? How does a need for CS&S make it “nearly impossible for such people to comprehend that life can be meaningful without being tethered to a supernatural realm where it extends forever”? You have drawn no line of causation between the two, as far as I can see. Perhaps you mean that MS makes it impossible for people to believe life can be meaningful without a supernatural realm. But how does that follow? Again, MS simply refers to a high state of awareness that you’re going to die. Why should the knowledge that you’re mortal lead to the conclusion that life is meaningless without immortality?

(By the way, a believing Christian might have MS, but if he truly believes his religion then shouldn’t he also have IS (immortality salience)? I wonder what physchological effects result from IS? Has it been studied? Since immortality is the opposite of mortality, would the effects of IS be the opposite of those of MS? Could this be why religious people engage in less “cultural worldview defense” than the non-religious?)

Similarly, I don’t see any logical connection between MS and the belief that morality is impossible without God. Couldn’t you, as an atheist, suffer a bout of MS without it changing your moral beliefs? Why then should MS affect Christians in the way you surmise? They might have other reasons for believing there can be no morality without God; but you seem less interested in their reasons than in portraying them as driven by non-rational psychological mechanisms.

You write,

“Sadly, dogmatic religious belief compounds tragedy by denying humanity its own natural goodness. In the process it stifles rational compromise and cooperation with diverse others.”

I can’t speak for Mormonism or fundamentalism, but Catholicism certainly does not deny humanity’s natural goodness. In which case it can’t be true that Catholicism “stifles rational compromise and cooperation with diverse others” as a result of such a denial.

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2 thoughts on “Christianity: The clever death-denying and self-salvaging meme

  1. A “TBM” is a “true blue Mormon”. Basically, it’s a pejorative term that the progressive Mormons (or, disaffected Mormons, or ex-Mormons, or any host of Mormons that are proud of the fact that they’re not orthodox) use to describe those of us that have faith or testimony in the Mormon Church’s “truth claims”.

    Personally, I don’t mind being accused of being a “true blue” Mormon, as it implies a kind of loyalty to the Church that I’ve written about on my blog.

    (By the way, we “true blue” Mormons don’t believe in a perfect church. We’re well aware of the frailties of putting your faith in people instead of principles.)

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