Friday, January 17, 2014

Christian Naivete

Recently at another blog I used my fundamentalist Christian mom as an example of Christian naivete - unquestioning, totally immersed and comfortable in her faith. A reader left a response that I didn't particularly care for. Not that I was offended, really. But it did get me thinking about Christian naivete.
My parents weren't scholars. Most people aren't. They were in large part a product of their culture. So was I.
They weren't cowards for not looking outside the confines of their faith. They placed great stock in the ability of well-versed Bible scholars and theologians to iron out the logical difficulties of their faith. They accepted religious authority. Neither of my parents were afraid to admit they didn't know the answers to perplexing religious questions. But that ignorance didn't persuade to them to bail out of their religious community.
No, they didn't spend their little free time reading "infidel" literature or listening to atheist or agnostic apologists. I don't think this was fear on their part at all, nor a desire to remain ignorant. It would be more like a believer in modern evolution theory taking the time to read creationist literature. What would be the point? They weren't "anti-science," even though they had no patience with science as a weapon to use against religion. (Of course it goes without saying that this line wasn't very well defined.)
Religious apologists have read the masters of unbelief and have "answered" their criticisms already. Those perplexed can look there. And sometimes my parents did.
Apologists for non-belief have tackled the works of the authorities on religious faith and have responded adequately for their community of nonbelievers. The average atheist or agnostic spends little time reading religious apologetics nor have they a real need to. .
Evangelical atheists and agnostics know their Bibles (at least superficially) better than the average Christian. They take great pride in that.
They also miss the point. Christianity is a religious tradition based on an attitude about life instead of logical postulates. It is a matter of the heart (emotions), not the head (logic). Jesus summed up the whole of religious belief in two points: (1) love God supremely and (2) love your fellow humans. Christians are followers of Jesus.
As I read and reread the orthodox version of Jesus (that is to say, the Jesus of the four canonical gospels), I am struck with the thought that Jesus would not have made a good fundamentalist. His religion was more practical than theological. And even an atheist philosopher like Betrand Russell could offer: "What the world needs is love, Christian love, or compassion."
Yes, there is a Christian naivete. My mom is naive, so was my dad, and so was I at one time. But I can embrace my mom and did my dad because I believe compassion is of greater value than mere knowledge alone.



  1. That is exactly why I wouldn't want to try and deconvert anyone. Those who can have faith, I think that is good for them. Our minds all work so differently, don't they? Some never (really) question and it works for them. Others try to draw in near and find that what they thought the deal was wasn't the deal (me).

    I think if we as humans can show compassion above all, then this world could be rather heavenly.

    1. When I was at my bitterest (after my rather traumatic deconversion) and "drunk" on the freedom of non-belief, I did have a urge to help everybody else get their heads straight. Now I see that for what it was and am embarrassed. It wasn't very compassionate for me to fail so miserably understanding my fellow travelers, was it?

  2. Great post, Doug. I think Christian beliefs are contradictory and irrational but that doesn't matter. Like you state in this post, the value of religious faith does not lie in the particular beliefs. No atheist is going to argue a Christian out of their beliefs. It is more complex than that. My own deconversion has many factors and it would be simplistic to say I only deconverted because of the "evidence."

    Like Alice, I have no desire to convert anyone. I am one man with a story to tell. If a person's beliefs give them meaning and purpose and help them get through the day, who am I to object? As long as they don't try to convert me or turn the country I live in into a theocracy, I am content to leave them alone. Of course, Evangelicalism is not a passive, live let live, religion and this is why we must push back.

    As always, Doug, I appreciate your writing,


    1. Thanks, Bruce. It's funny - I know both the objections to religious faith and the religious responses. I studied all that for years as I wavered. I have had to be honest with myself. It was my emotions that always tipped the scales one way or the other. As you point out, taking a leap of faith or refusing to leap at all is really more complex than examining the evidence. Again being honest: some days I feel more "spiritual" than others.