The Fundamentalist Christian Mindset
Do you remember Aesop's fable about a thirsty fox? It provides an extraordinary insight into the fundamentalist mind-set. The fox sees a cluster of grapes he knows will quench his desperate thirst. With absolute confidence the fox leaps and leaps. Much to his dismay the delicious-looking grapes remain out of reach of his grasping jaws.
The fox is confronted with cognitive dissonance, a distressing mental state experienced when we find ourselves faced with facts that do not match what we want to believe. Cognitively, the fox is forced to accept that his belief that he could have the prized grapes was false. He senses his prized belief system is in jeopardy. Reality prohibits him from what he desperately wants to believe. To maintain his beliefs he will evade reality without regard to cost.
His new challenge becomes how to overcome this cognitive dissonance. Innocently and perhaps sub-conscientiously he overcomes this challenge by simply lying to himself. He says, “Those grapes are sour, and even if I had some I wouldn't eat them anyway.”
Humans are very clever at avoiding cognitive dissonance and like the fox, we deceive ourselves by inventing reasons why we do not have to accept reality. The more important the issue and the greater the difference between false belief and reality, the greater the determination to avoid the dissonance. SoS So we fabricate whatever line of “sour grapes” reasoning is needed. This develops into a fixed mind-set called “DENIAL”.
This denial of reality has serious side effects. When faced with facts contradictory to what we thought was true, especially teachings that threaten punishment or disapproval for rejection, the mind automatically goes into survival mode. The mind is shut off to objective, rational thought and instead embraces whatever rationale will avoid the imagined punishment and loss of approval.
The fundamentalist religious mind-set, whether Muslim or Christian have no tolerance for alternative or contradictory teaching. Their success is rooted in fear of disapproval and a God's vindictive punishment. The psychological cost for this self-accepted intimidation is the inability to think clearly. Worse, the adherent's sense of courage to change course is neutralized.
Reality is difficult when our identity, self-image, and peer acceptance is jeopardized. The fundamentalist “state of denial” engenders an acceptance of sophistry and prevarication. Thoughtlessly throwing a bible verse or dismissing the offending party as “of the devil,” “bigoted”, “close-minded”, “anti-Christ”, is the usual response. The superficial use of a bible verse, label, or name-calling is more than just a convenient substitute for dealing with reality. This unthinking reactionary religious survival act steals the individual's ability to reason. They become imprisoned in their own state of “denial”.
The State of Denial Reality Test
Following are samples of favorite fundamentalist Christian doctrines. When challenged by fact or reason, the fundamentalist “denial” mentality kicks in using its tools of sophistry and prevarication.
#1 The Bible is infallible. The Bible is far from infallible. The fact is, it is inundated with contradictions, inconsistencies, and errors. Some simple examples are:
“David took from him a thousand and seven hundred horsemen” II Sam 8:4 Compared to “David took from him …seven thousand horsemen” I Chron. 18:4. Both scripture verses describe the identical event. The verses contradict each other. Is it 1,700 or 7,000?
Jesus said Abiathar was high priest when David was hungered and ate the show bread. Mk 2:26. Compared to: “Then came David to…Ahimelech the priest…the priest gave him holy bread, for there was no bread there but the show bread” I Sam 21:1-6. Both verses describe the identical event. Who was high priest? Jesus said Abiathar, Samuel said Ahimelech?
After the wise men worshiped the new born Jesus, Joseph, following the angel’s instruction, immediately flees with Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid King Herod's death squad Mt. 2:13-15 Compared to: After Jesus' birth, Mary obediently awaits her 40 days of purification in Bethlehem and then Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus go to Jerusalem. Herod is indifferent to the celebration in Jerusalem. Jesus is presented to the Lord's prophets Simeon and Anna. Herod's death squad is unknown. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus then return to Nazareth where the child grew and waxed strong…and when Jesus was 12 went up to Jerusalem Lk 2:22-42 Luke and Matthew are contradictory, irreconcilable accounts.
Does God want to save all? YES! “God our Savior will have all men to be saved.” I Tim. 2:3-4 Compared to NO! “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. John 12:40. So, is the answer YES or NO? Take your choice.
The “denial” reaction calls for the theological “now you see it-now you don't” mental sleight-of-hand learned through what is aptly called apologetics. A polite term for apologetics is mental gymnastics, but in essence it is sophistry and prevarication. Apologetics is the fabricating of justifications for why God did or did not mean what the scripture said. The apologist tactics will be to accuse the skeptic of being misinformed or taking scripture out of context. The apologist will switch between literal and spiritual interpretations and redefine the meaning of words as needed. Suppose the same thought processes used in apologetics were used in business. Wouldn’t our revered men/women of the cloth be indicted for fraud?
#2 The Bible is the Christian's guidebook for living. Fundamentalist Christians encounter cognitive dissonance rationalizing why many Bible verses are ignored.
* Jesus said "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out...If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off" Mt 5:29-30. So, where are the one-eyed, one-handed Christians? Or do Christians no longer sin?
* Jesus said, “do not swear (oaths or pledges) at all...but let your ‘Yes be Yes’ and your ‘No be No’” Mt 5:37. Yet, Christians ignore Jesus’ words and pledge allegiance to an earthly nation's flag.
* Jesus said, “when you pray you will not be like the hypocrites...who love to pray in the synagogues and in the streets that they may be seen of men. But when you pray, go into your closet, shut the door and pray to your Father in secret” Mt 6: 5-6. Christian political leaders ignore Jesus' clear words. Could it be the daily prayers read before our U.S. Congress are to be seen of men? The Congress is the most partisan, contentious in U.S. history.
* Jesus encouraged men to make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven Mt 19:12. Eunuchs? Are you kidding? It’s the profits from Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis that pay for the pharmaceutical company lobbyists? When Jerry Falwell offers castration for the real disciples of Jesus, we will know he is serious about Jesus.
* Tithing is an Old Testament principle meaning to give 10% of one's income to God. Jesus gave a New Testament principle for giving by telling the rich young ruler that if he'd be perfect, he should sell what he owned and give it to the poor. Jesus then declared that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God Mt 19:16-24. Surveys show only 6% of Christians tithe. Where are the New Testament Christians who give 100%?
* Jesus said these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they will cast out devils and speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." Mk 16:17-18 Pentecostals like Pat Robertson pray in tongues, a few claim to cast out devils, fewer still handle snakes. Will believers ever drink cyanide?
The list goes on ad nauseam as do the alibis and “state of denial” apologetics used to explain away many such verses. Apologists will claim these verses are fulfilled spiritually (invisibly); that Christians should never test God; that expecting God to honor his word may not be God's will; that Christians they are in a different dispensation and that those verses were just for the early church. In reality, fundamentalist Christians look at the Bible like food at the cafeteria. They pick and choose which looks the best.
#3 God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jn3:16. What is the quality of God's love? When someone has truly given, the giver does not take the gift back. Yet, isn't that precisely what God did? The Bible teaches God the Father and Jesus knew before the foundations of the world that Jesus would be slain for the sins of the world and that Jesus would then be resurrected to sit at the right hand of God. The gift was given with advance knowledge that it would be taken back. So, was Jesus a gift? At best, all God did was loan his Son for a brief stint on earth. This conditional watered-down love dictates the quality of most Christian’s love.
In the military, a leader deserting his troops for protected surroundings is called a coward. If Jesus had the courage of his convictions and truly desired to rid the world of sin, he would have stayed on earth until every last sinner was saved rather than escaping to sit in heaven while his followers bungled the job on earth. Do Jesus’ actions qualify as cowardice? Does today's church follow suit? It's escapist mentality dreams of an illusionary rapture to gratify their lust for self-exaltation.
#4 God loves all, male and female. There is no book more responsible for legitimizing blame, inferiority, insult, disrespect, accusation and brutality toward women than the Bible. The sin of the world is Eve's fault. Abraham, the father of the faithful prostitutes his wife Sarah to save his own skin. Righteous Lot offers his daughters to a lust-ravished crowd. God's Tenth Commandment equates women to property. Proverbs warns, its the women who seduce men and suggests finding a good woman is rare, never the opposite. Jesus shows kindness to a few women, but than speaks rudely to his own mother. Paul greets some women helpers, but then orders woman to shut up in church, tells women they are inferior to men, tells women they are to be in submission to man, and that women's salvation comes through bearing children. In the book of Revelation, John speaks of men losing their reward by being defiled by woman. When will Christian men insist that women quit defiling innocent men? In our Judeo-Christian society, when a woman is raped, often she is blamed for tempting the poor helpless guy.
What has been the women believer's “denial” response? Sadly, they've been taught to accept this slander about themselves from childhood. Like good little girls, they submit to this pathetic male chauvinism. Christian women say, “It's easier to just submit than think about it and get mad.”
#5 For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God Rom 3:23. If the glory of God and His behavior is the standard by which we are judged a sinner, than Christianity has a real problem. Read the Bible and you will find this God is a mass murderer, he condones stealing, he lies, he instigates gang rape, he endorses slavery, he incites intolerance and ethnic cleansing. His alleged creative genius has resulted in tsunami floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and innumerable human infirmities and suffering. Humans are sinless compared to this God.
Sin is purely a religious construct. Fundamentalists absorb and project their obsession with sin on others. The only sinners on this earth are those buying into the Bible's attempt to explain human failure. Fundamentalism's constant preaching against sin achieves the same result as telling a child it cannot have candy. Fundamentalism stimulates sin as verified in Christian surveys.
#6 Morality is only found though religion and the fear of not being accepted into heaven. The Jan. 05 Christianity Today article “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” tells another story. Dr. Ronald Sider, Theology Professor at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary cites survey after survey showing evangelical Christian immorality. “Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most Christians regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.” The truth is the morals of Christians are no better than the morals of the secular non-religious. In some areas such as spousal abuse and divorce, Christian behavior is considerably worse.
The “denial” strategy is the tired “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Apologists will say no true Christian commits immoral acts just like no true Christian participated in the Crusades, the Inquisition, or witch burning. How about no true Christian church would “freeload” by expecting others to pay its fair share of real estate taxes for police and fire protection? “Freeloader” is the Christian church’s middle name. Christian morals are conveniently relative.
#7 The historicity of Jesus and all he said and did are historical fact. Why do the surviving documents of some 35 to 40 First Century Jewish, Greek, and Roman theologians, historians, poets, moralists, and scientists make no mention of a Jesus of Nazareth? The one and only exception desperately claimed by apologists is the Jewish historian Josephus' alleged Jesus Testimony. Interestingly, no church father ever once referred to this Jesus testimony until the 4th Century indicating it is a later fraudulent insertion, probably by Eusebius, the so-called Father of Church History. The above mentioned writers wrote many books whose writings have survived until today. Most prominent is the Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria. He lived contemporaneously with Jesus, 25 BCE to 40 CE and had family in Jerusalem. Philo's Messianic writings closely parallel John's gospel. He wrote of the Messiah who “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”…”who came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Yet Philo never mentions a Jesus of Nazareth or a Messiah being crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem. The absence of contemporary references to Jesus and the alleged miracles surrounding his life suggests the very strong probability that there was no historical Jesus. The reality is that there is no credible non-Christian evidence for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth any more credible than the evidence for King Arthur or Robin Hood.
the “denial” response? Millions of people cannot be wrong. If that line of
reasoning is true, than Allah might be God. Or how about Christianity must
be true because it has survived so long? If that reasoning is true, than the
Hindu God Vishnu is God. See:
Silence About Jesus
#8 Archaeology proves the events of the Bible. Archaeology not only does not support Bible stories, it contradicts them. Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel in his book The Bible Unearthed unequivocally states the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses' Exodus account is myth. Finkelstein states the stories of Israel under David and Solomon are greatly exaggerated in the Bible. Archaeological evidence showing these important personages and events is hardly confirmation for the Bible. The “denial” response? Finkelstein must be incompetent.
#9 Evolution is just a theory, not fact. Scientists give equal credibility to the theories of evolution, heliocentricity, and gravity. Each has graduated from an idea, to a hypothesis, to a scientific theory. A scientific theory is an explanation of related observations or events based on proven hypotheses and verified multiple times over many years by detached groups of researchers. The “just a theory” proponents should then be consistent and reject the sun as the center of our solar system and gravity because heliocentricity and gravity are also “just a theory” Evolution is a fact! The evolution dispute is how a species evolves into another species. “Denial” theology rejects science, not because of science, but because it contradicts the Bible, particularly the “must believe” Adam, Eve, and talking snake story. “Denial” rejected Galileo and must do the same with Darwin.
#10 The fulfillment of Bible prophecy proves the Bible is from God. The Bible has many nonexistent, unfulfilled and false prophecies, some by Jesus himself, whose time is long past. Not one Old Testament verse alleged to prophecy of Jesus states the Messiah shall, for example, be born of a virgin or be born in Bethlehem. The alleged Jesus prophecies are "cut and paste" bits of miscellaneous information super-imposed on the Jesus story by later gospel authors.
Jesus failed at prophecy when he told his disciples that some would not taste death until they saw the Son of man coming in his kingdom Mt 16:27-28. If Jesus prophesied truthfully, some of Jesus' disciples would still be alive today since we're still waiting for his return.
An excellent book covering many of these points is Biblical Nonsense by another ex-Christian, Dr. Jason Long.
“Denial” of reality or at a minimum “denial” of valid counter arguments prevent objective thought. Fundamentalists are determined to accept only their version of truth. They say, “you have to have faith” as if faith is a sacrosanct virtue. Faith is not a virtue. Faith is a way of thinking which circumvents evidence, reason, and common sense. Fundamentalist faith says, “here is a Bible verse proving God's on my side.” This “I'm right, everybody else is wrong” mind-set exposes the divisiveness of fundamentalism and explains why fundamentalists cannot even agree among themselves on many issues.
Religion and faith are everyone's prerogative, but the fundamentalist mind-set has infiltrated our political life and legislative processes with pseudo-Christian legislation so contrary to American precepts that the fundamentalism must be called to task. Fundamentalist Christians whether Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, or Bauer have all made their religion a political issue by seeking to impose their fundamentalist dogma through legislative mandate. The time has come when every dimension of fundamentalist beliefs must be openly questioned as well as the tactics they use to impose them on others. Otherwise, their self-appointed theocratic agenda will overrule all that democracy has contributed to making America great.
Lee Salisbury is a former evangelical preacher, founder of the Critical Thinking Club of Minnesota, and writes for www.axisoflogic.com and www.dissendentvoice.org.
Other Articles by Lee Salisbury
is Anathema to Bible-believing Creationists