Christianity Infantilizes Adults

Cross Examined is a novel about Christian apologetics and atheismYeah, I know the Christmas season is over, but have you heard the song “Christmas Shoes,” which came out about ten years ago?  Patton Oswalt tore it up in a clever comedy bit (video, rated R), and he makes an excellent point about the illogic of what Christians tell themselves.

The song tells the story of a guy who’s in yet another long line before Christmas, not really in the Christmas spirit.  Ahead of him in line is a grubby kid holding a pair of shoes.  When it’s the kid’s turn, he tells the clerk his story, that he’s buying his mom shoes to make her feel better.  She’s sick, and he wants her to look her best if she meets Jesus that night.

The kid counts out the price in pennies, and it turns out that he doesn’t have enough.  So he turns to our hero who feels sorry for the kid and pays for the shoes.  The story concludes:

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about.

It’s a sweet story, and lots of people filter life’s events through a Christian lens in this way to see God’s benevolent purpose behind things.  But let’s analyze this to see how “heaven’s love” worked in this situation.

God sees the cranky guy in line.  He gives the kid’s mom some hideous disease, puts the kid in line in front of Mr. Cranky, and makes the kid a little short on cash so that this Christmas miracle could happen.  In other words, God needs to make someone die and leave a kid motherless to spread a little Christmas spirit.

Is that the best explanation for the evidence?  Is that an explanation that a Christian would want?  What kind of insane deity would do that?  Perhaps good and bad things just happen, without divine cause, and we can use events in our lives to prod us to consider what’s important.  We don’t need God and we don’t need to be a Christian to be delighted by life, find silver linings, and use everyday events to remind us of things to be thankful for.

It’s easy to reinterpret events through a Christian lens.  It can be comforting, and it patches leaks in the Good Ship Christianity where reason leaks in.  But this is simply a rationalization to support a presupposition, not an honest following of the evidence, and when you stop to think of what you’re actually saying, you’ll see that the reality you’ve invented makes no sense.

When Christians wonder why atheists get agitated, this kind of empty childish thinking is often the cause.

Consider another story.  Suppose a girl sick with cancer throws a coin into a wishing well and wishes to get better.  The net effect is that the girl is a little happier, like she took a happiness pill.

But this wishing well belief is just an ancient custom.  We all know that wishing wells don’t really do anything.  Should you break the news to her?

Few of us would.  What’s the point?  She actually does feel better, and she’ll have plenty of time as an adult to deal with reality.  She has adults in her life who will protect her as necessary, shielding her so that she can hold this belief.

But as she becomes an adult, she must grow up.  We leave behind wishing wells, Santa Claus, and other false beliefs as we become independent.  No longer are the necessities of life given to us; as adults, we must fend for ourselves—indeed, we want to fend for ourselves.  The parent who sugarcoats reality or keeps the child dependent for too long is doing that child no favors.

Reality is better than delusion, happy though that delusion may be.  The doctor saying, “You’ll be just fine” feels a lot better than “You have cancer,” but if I really have cancer, which one allows me to take steps to improve my future?

Religion infantilizes adults and keeps them dependent.  That’s a good thing for the 100-billion-dollar-a-year U.S. religion industry, but what is best for the individual—a pat on the head or reality?

Photo credit: seq

31 thoughts on “Christianity Infantilizes Adults

  1. Selected excerpts from my “Quotations” file regarding reality:

    = = = = = =
    The engineering graduate says: “The equations are an approximation of reality.”.
    The mathematics graduate says: “Reality is an approximation of the equations.”.
    The liberal-arts graduate says: “Would you like fries with that?”.

    = = = = = =
    Yesterday upon the stair
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today.
    I wish that man would go away.

    — Hughes Mearns (1875-1965)

    = = = = = =
    World’s most dreaded dialog box:

    ?woN noisseS ytilaeR lautriV etanimreT
    oN _ seY X

    = = = = = =
    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

    — Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer

    = = = = = =
    Atheism is not a religion, it’s a personal relationship with reality.

    — Dr. Dave, 2010 July 1

    = = = = = =
    Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol.

    = = = = = =
    Reality: A crutch for those unable to handle science fiction.

    = = = = = =
    Reality? That’s where the pizza-delivery guy comes from!

    — bumper sticker

    = = = = = =
    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    — attributed to Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), English novelist, essayist, critic, and poet

    = = = = = =
    Okay, who stopped the payment on my reality check?

    — bumper sticker

    = = = = = =
    Reality is a cheap substitute for Prozac.

    — lapel button

  2. It is true that Christianity, as Islam, makes little chuildren out of adulty. The Christiasn belief systtem is out of sync with the realities of the day. The organized religion uses organized crime to impose ity dogma. People whi refuses to accept Christianity in the West particularly the immigra, are threatened with deportation and had to face the joblessnes; they cannot go to the courts which are filled with most lawyers & judges.

  3. you guys are killing me! lol
    why can’t you just be atheists and get on with life? why all the angry, in your face stuff?
    are you unable to accept other people’s beliefs? seems like it. WHY?
    i can hear it now: “no, we can’t take it, when the “fundies” are trying to make all the laws and rule our lives…..”
    my answer: there are many laws which support your position (e.g. prayer is outlawed in schools, abortion is legal, gay marriage is legal is some states). the constitution says the majority rules and minority has rights. you are the minority. the minority was never meant to rule over the majority in this country, according to the constitution at least; that would be communism, oligarchy, socialism, what have you (maybe that is what you want?). but atheists do have rights.
    so, why the continuous nagging?!?
    it truly is very unattractive and puerile.
    my suggestion: if you are happy being an atheist, then be one and chill. don’t be a hater. it is soooo unbecoming. this is the kind of BS that gives nice atheists a bad name!

    • why can’t you just be atheists and get on with life? why all the angry, in your face stuff?

      Atheists very often aren’t acting; they’re reacting. If Christianity was just something that one did and it did nothing to affect anyone else, who would care? It’s when Christianity pushes outside its boundaries that atheists sometimes get annoyed.

      are you unable to accept other people’s beliefs? seems like it. WHY?

      The US Constitution guarantees religion’s right to exist (within modest boundaries), and I support that right. But again, it’s when Christianity slops outside its boundaries that I have a complaint.

      there are many laws which support your position

      It’s not my position! It’s our position. Outlawing prayer in schools is what one does when one follows the Constitution–our Constitution. A win-win, right?

      my suggestion: if you are happy being an atheist, then be one and chill. don’t be a hater. it is soooo unbecoming. this is the kind of BS that gives nice atheists a bad name!

      OK, thanks for that input, but do you now understand the reason for the energy on atheists’ part? It’s not some philosophical nit-picking but complaints about how society is being attacked.

      If the Constitution were followed by all Christians, I’d find another hobby. It’s not. See the problem?

  4. Some good points with many errors. There is a distinct degree of arrogance involved with that your process which translates into a way of life. We should not fret for ideologies appear and disappear. Neglecting truths or reasons of the hearts is only the way of the infatuated. People elaborate too much when offering a lie. And rather than being hesistant, and being willing to falter, a liar is too prolific in their response. The One –the creator- is infinite and eternal. Hear! Hear! :-)

  5. Hi Bob. It is obvious from you comments that you are a thoughtful person. The writing in the post is a thin veil for ignorance and hatred.
    What is the most dangerous extreme in the world: rationalist extremism of justifying killings of innocent people and invading other countries? Where do we place the brash English bandit of intellectual thought? Christopher Hitchens’ hands were bloody just like G.W. Bush’s. He was an atheist but a nihilist.

    • I’m not sure if “ignorance and hatred” is exactly what you meant, but OK.

      Atheism means simply the rejection of god belief. No other belief (or lack of belief) comes along. If you dislike Hitchens (or Stalin or any other atheist), keep in mind that there are no atheist dogmas that cause any particular action.

      • Making money on the misery and blood of people appear to be sick hearts common traits. Asserting that Atheism has any substance is like succeeding in being deceitful one great big blob. A distorted view of the world and of the self.
        Atheism is a secular religion like so many others having different forms, and changing over time. Atheism is a shallow conclusion which is more dependent on tragedy than observance of the wonder of a blade of grass or a sense of the infinite one beholds in a mountain.
        “Atheism is a non-prophet organization.”
        –George Carlin

        • However, the Darwinian beliefs of Hitler and his embracing of eugenics can be.

          I dismantle this connection here. In short, atheists are not compelled to accept evolution or indeed any tenet of science (though the correlation is strong). Further, eugenics isn’t science. It’s policy. If you don’t like eugenics, don’t blame scientists; blame politicians.

    • If the entire episode was God’s plan, that’s an obvious consequence, right?

      The alternative is that the mom got some disease just because (for no celestial reason), and the kid just happened to be in line by luck, and the guy just happened to conclude, “Wow–I’ve been a selfish jerk today, and I have so much to be thankful for!” That’s a totally natural explanation, which makes way more sense.

      • How about just saying that God made a thing come from something bad? To automatically assume that God made the woman sick is actually pretty presumptuous and quite careless. NOW, if you were just talking about a generic god and did not assign Christian to him then you could possibly be right. But since you said he was the Christian god then you should know about him before making judgments on His character. Do you agree?

        Just because God allows someone to be sick does not mean He is the author of it.

        • I think I’m reading the story correctly, but tell me if I’m not.

          We’re talking about the Christian god, since he says “to remind me just what Christmas is all about.”

          This was all God’s doing because he says “I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love.” That is, he credits the entire episode to God’s hand.

      • Have you the power to come into existence or decline the offer? Dealing with delusion is not a pleasant experience. One can shake up the very perception of the self and then flounder in a state of bewilderment for a period of time.

  6. All unbelief is foolishness, for 
it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain, and measuring infinity by that petty scale,
 concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible.
 Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument.
    St. Hilary of Poitiers (c. AD 315—67)

  7. Bob, the man in the song was crediting the experience at the store as God’s plan. He was not suggesting that God gave someone a sickness so that he (man at store) could realize what Christmas was all about. God is the god who heals people, He does not give them diseases.

    That is what I mean, you should have a better understanding of who God is before making judgments on Him. Not that I am offended or anything. I just think it is irresponsible. :)
    Thanks

    • He was not suggesting that God gave someone a sickness so that he (man at store) could realize what Christmas was all about.

      So you’re saying that God’s plan was only to place the grubby kid in front of Mr. Cranky. OK, but if God is going to help out the guy by improving his Christmas spirit, why not cure the kid’s mother? God must have weird priorities, I think.

      And keep in mind that you’re simply trying to put the best face on things–that is, fit things the way you would do them if you were God. Understandable, but then if that’s the way we judge God’s actions, it makes the genocide and Flood elements of God’s personality very difficult to explain.

      God is the god who heals people, He does not give them diseases.

      That’s one argument you could make from the Bible. Of course, you could also make the argument that he’s a genocidal maniac who, when someone has some choice real estate, kills everyone on it so that his peeps can have it.

      That is what I mean, you should have a better understanding of who God is before making judgments on Him.

      What is God?? The Bible is a sock puppet that you can make say just about whatever you want. It can speak words of love and compassion, and it can speak words of vengeance and rage.

      Take your pick.

      • Bob, I do not know about the song. I am merely explaining that God does not give people diseases.

        For arguments sake, lets say that God does exist. And if He created everything then He has the right to do what He will with it. It’s His.

        God had laws in the Old Testament and He still does today. Thankfully under the new convenant the penalties are much less severe.

        Our discussion will ultimately move into a debate on the existence of God. I don’t think either one of us wants to go there. I assume we have had too many of them.
        So it is probably not worth going too much further.

        Do you believe in good and evil?

        • Mitchell:

          Bob, I do not know about the song. I am merely explaining that God does not give people diseases.

          The Bible makes clear that God does all sorts of nasty stuff. Seems to me that this includes disease.

          “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

          “When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6)

          “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:38)

          “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’” (Jeremiah 18:11)

          “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 20:25-26)

          if He created everything then He has the right to do what He will with it. It’s His.

          But you’re switching gears. Now you’re not justifying God’s actions, you’re just saying that might makes right.

          And no, just because something is yours doesn’t mean it doesn’t have rights that you must respect. Am I entitled to burn ants with a magnifying glass?

          You may say that when I create the ants myself that I can without moral implication. In the first place, no I can’t, and in the second place, suppose we create sentient robots 100 years from now. Will we be entitled to kill them just for laughs?

          God had laws in the Old Testament and He still does today. Thankfully under the new convenant the penalties are much less severe.

          So are all the OT laws discarded? For example, if Lev. 20 says to stone to death adulterers, witches, and kids who sass their parents, does that mean that we also discard the anti-gay law in the very same chapter?

          How can the old covenant be discarded when the Bible says, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7).

          Do you believe in good and evil?

          Who doesn’t think that good and evil exist?

  8. The song is a Christian metaphor: God engages only in good, loving and charitable acts; God does not bring about bad things in people’s lives. What, then, is the explanation for the Mom’s cancer in the song? Or their poverty? To apply the metaphor broadly, where do wars, torture, illness, oppression and all the other world’s evils originate? Are they generated randomly? If so, then God surely has the wherewithal to prevent these things. Why doesn’t he? As has been pointed out many times, God is either not omnipotent and can’t prevent evil or he is not all-loving in that he allows “his” people to suffer horrendously. The question of evil has been addressed continuously over the last two millennia, including several times in Bob’s posts. None of the commenters to this post have dealt with that question; instead, they have attempted to excuse God.

    Dave

    • Dave, as you know we have a free will. If we are not allowed to express our will then we are not free.

      Because God has the ability to prevent something does not mean He is the author or the provoker of them.

      Just like our country has laws, so does God. There are laws against stealing but should our gov lock everyone up before they have a chance to steal, in order to “prevent” it from happening?

      I understand that some people have a negative view of the Christian God and arent interested in changing it. Im not saying you are one of them.

      I think that some people take this negative view and then look for scripture or other istances in order to affirm that view. The better way would be to have no view and read about someone or somethign so you are not tainted by a particular bias. Then you can have a view of how someone or somethign reall is, when you have failry filtered all the information.

      As far as the song is concerned, where does it mention that God made the woman sick or the family poor?

      On another note, just because someone writes a song with God in it, does not mean they are His mouthpiece and represent Him the way He is. It is the political season and just because someone does an ad for Obama does not mean it represents Obama. Okay?

      Also, I think it would be a better idea to research a deity in the actual books allegedly inspired by them rather than in Christmas music. If I wanted to learn about Buddah I would not go to Itunes. Thanks

      • Mitchell:

        Because God has the ability to prevent something does not mean He is the author or the provoker of them.

        And yet in our society, if you could help someone and didn’t, you could be criminally liable. God stands by while rape and murder happens? Not cool.

        There are laws against stealing but should our gov lock everyone up before they have a chance to steal, in order to “prevent” it from happening?

        The free will defense doesn’t make much sense. In the first place, God obviously doesn’t much care about free will because he stands by while people’s free will is stepped on (rape victims, murder victims). Second, this doesn’t get God off the hook for natural evil (tsunamis, tornadoes).

        The better way would be to have no view and read about someone or somethign so you are not tainted by a particular bias.

        OK. But then you have a Bible in which God does a mix of noble things and petty things.

        Also, I think it would be a better idea to research a deity in the actual books allegedly inspired by them rather than in Christmas music.

        The point of the post was not how God is portrayed in the Bible but rather how Christians reinterpret life to support their beliefs (and how that can lead to some bizarre consequences … that they would see if they thought about it in the right way).

      • Dave, as you know we have a free will.
        Not necessarily. There is considerable scientific, religious and philosophical debate around free will, both over the definition and its existence.

        Just like our country has laws, so does God. There are laws against stealing but should our gov lock everyone up before they have a chance to steal, in order to “prevent” it from happening?
        If God is “all-loving,” why wouldn’t he prevent evil deeds instead of allowing people to suffer?

        The better way would be to have no view and read about someone or somethign so you are not tainted by a particular bias. Then you can have a view of how someone or somethign reall is, when you have failry filtered all the information.
        There’s no way to have “no view” and as soon as you read something, anything, on a given topic, you have a point of view (or “tainted” if you’d rather).

        As far as the song is concerned, where does it mention that God made the woman sick or the family poor?
        Back to my original point: we want to credit God with the good things but where do the “bad” things come from? Is God omnipotent and all-loving or not?

        Also, I think it would be a better idea to research a deity in the actual books allegedly inspired by them rather than in Christmas music. If I wanted to learn about Buddah I would not go to Itunes.
        Good point, except for the “books actually inspired by them.” I much prefer to expand my sources of knowledge to take in, and ponder, other points of view.

        Dave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s