Lately I’ve been having a general urge to record things I remember about my faith before I forget them. While I’m not presenting them in any particular order, I often don’t write them down immediately (or worse, I write a short draft and delete it). At any rate, the first thing I wanted to get at was the notion that belief is more important in Christian faith culture than anything else.
Professing belief is the best thing ever.
Church services, faith meetings, and general chit chat involves clearly broadcasting that one believes certain things regarding the Christian deity. Doing all of this reinforces these things spoken aloud. Moreover, it puts social pressure on people who want to believe but aren’t sure. They can go along with the good vibe, and they can keep their doubts to themselves.
Indeed, everything in organized faith worship (even for people at home) goes to promoting the culture of belief over all. Belief is this thing that is intrinsically good, that reaps divine rewards, that can sometimes even have real physical benefits. Non-belief can be described as inherently evil, avoided at all costs, and a path to complete divine punishment. You can see this even in how children are taught basic faith principles. Jesus loving them is repeated over and over again until it just sticks.
Belief is even more important than being correct. Disagreements regarding faith might get heated, but at the end of the day agreement that Jesus was a lord and savior was all that really mattered. People get a lot of leeway so long as they believe too. New churches spring up all the time dedicated to this idea that simply believing in Jesus is enough.
The consequences of this.
I have at certain points in my life professed belief that people could get swallowed by whales and not die, that people can come back from the dead without decomposing, and that deities are willing to cater while their people are lost in a desert. The way I’m putting this, it seems obviously silly, but remember that professing belief becomes more important than anything else one can do around any other person. Rather than consider the weight of what I believed, I just had to say it out loud and try to actually believe what I said.
Thus, I was able to largely ignore or dismiss criticism of my beliefs for reasons completely unrelated to that criticism. At the least, I would retreat to giving people their space to believe whatever they wanted, so long as they did so for me. In that way, I could protect my faith in case I needed it for later.
Unfortunately, it also helped me remain convinced of some incredibly unhealthy things. Of course, I didn’t think they were unhealthy at the time. I was so busy trying to make sure people knew I still believed in Jesus that I didn’t take the time to actually carry any doubts to their logical conclusions. For example, if I was confronted with believing in gravity if it conflicted with belief in Jesus, I would have had to have picked Jesus. That’s kind of scary to look back on.
Naturally, this can be frustrating for people who never believed any of this in the first place. How do you deal with someone who is willing to just flat out ignore the point being made? The sad answer is that in most cases nobody can. Insisting on a different point of view will only reinforce the error.
I know this, because I went through it myself. Not believing carries with it everything from emotional trauma to sheer terror. There’s a buffet of negativity one can feast upon when doubts arise. So many hidden things exist to get people to keep going back for more, even if they don’t want to.
What about those people who are starting to doubt?
At some point, I had to accept that my beliefs did not control reality; they only controlled my perception of reality. Christianity had inflated their importance to the point of sheer folly. The thing is, the world works regardless of anyone’s beliefs. Things fall down, organisms evolve, and life goes on. Nobody has to believe it for it to be true.