Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In-breeding

Reading through deconversion accounts, we see many different precipitating factors for why a person would start to question a firmly held belief. Perhaps it was a traumatic, painful hurt within their life. Perhaps it was other believers not acting in a consistent manner. Perhaps it was being thrown in a situation where they were confronted with different belief. Perhaps it was a search for knowledge.

Regardless of what it was, the stories converge on a consistent theme—eventually the person searches for information outside their normal parameters. They start reading books they would never think of reading before. Perusing websites and programs previously uninvestigated. Talking to persons with contrary beliefs, unlike before.

Eventually it is this new information, this new study that causes the person to modify their belief.

And really—this is no surprise. New information presents us opportunities to change all the time. Listen to the radio on the way to work; hear of traffic tie-ups and this new insight causes you to change your route. We learned of microwave ovens; modifying how we cook popcorn forever. We learned of DVD; good-bye VHS. We learned the wrong way to change tires, new words, greater discoveries.

What does surprise me is how many Christians actively limit learning new information. As if, somehow, this new information could possibly require them to change their mind and as long as they stick their finger in their ears, close their eyes and hum real loud, they will never have to address the problem.

If you cut-off access to the information in the first place, you never have to worry about dealing with it. They become in-breed.

I recently held a debate with a theist, who wanted it posted on his forum--Faith and Fellowship Forum. A forum with interesting Rules:
You will not use any aspect of FF Forums to promote a religion, belief, faith or doctrine other than "Christianity" as stated in the Nicene Creed. A post that merely provides information about a non-Nicene Christian belief is allowed for informational purposes only (with references provided) and without promotion. Promotion is defined as encouragement of the progress, growth, or acceptance of something including advertising and publicity. For the purposes of this rule, atheism and witchcraft/psychics are to be considered faiths.



A. You will not post content regarding the following subjects anywhere on FFF except in Ethics & Morality.

drug use
gambling
polygamy
extramarital or premarital sexual activity
homosexuality
transsexuality

*You will not make posts promoting or endorsing any of these subjects.


So if one dares to…say…argue the existence of God, one could easily be accused of “promoting atheism” and the posts would be deleted. Perhaps the poster banned. The ONLY thing one is allowed to do is promote the same belief as the administrator.

Think about the natural outcome of such a place. Pantheist?—good-bye. Deist?—right out. Mormon?—Sorry, we require the Nicene Creed; there’s the door. Eventually, by process of elimination, the only persons left would be the ones that believe the same as you do!

Now—if the only people you talk to know the same things you do; what is the chance of learning new information? Exactly! Zero. What a great insulation from ever having to be confronted with a possible contrary opinion—never allow it in the front door in the first place.

For obvious reasons, in order to even HAVE a debate within such a format, one of the parameters was my being exempted from the rules. (Wouldn’t be possible, otherwise.)

Doesn’t matter. The Administrator has now deleted the debate off the forum. Gone, as if it never existed.

This is by no means unique. I hadn’t been on Christian Forums in years and years. I happened to wander back, looking for an old post and guess what I found? The same blocked door to information! As of this fall, it was no longer open for non-Christians to respond to posts. All Christian All The Time.

I have been on blogs who politely informed me they were Christian blogs, only looking for Christian responses (or seekers looking to become Christians) and my information was not welcome.

My own family and friends, upon learning of my deconversion, did not ask why. (With the exception of one friend.) They didn’t want the information. They didn’t want to deal with it.

Growing up Christian we only learned of evolution what our Christian leaders wanted us to learn. Minute bits and rare out-of-context quotes designed to show the ridiculousness of the theory. We were NOT encouraged to read scientists. We were NOT encouraged to read scientific journals. Oh, most certainly not! Those doors must be barred. If we learned that information…why…we would have to address it!

How many conversations have we had on the topic, only to learn the creationist has not read one single book from a scientific standpoint, while demanding we read dozens of theirs?

If your belief cannot stand to look at new information—I have no use for it. If your belief cannot allow scrutiny by those in disagreement—it is a sham.

10 comments:

  1. Ugh, I'm very saddened--but not surprised--to read that your debate at xnforums.com was deleted. That was some marvelous argumentation on your part. Apparently, it was too good...
    But anyone who's ventured to discuss theology online with Christians can immediately relate to your experience.

    The effect of their controls is to create an echo chamber in which only officially sanitized messages are heard. It's a self-defeating tactic, however. Inevitably, the believer will come across contrary information, whether accidentally or deliberately, that they have no defense against because their exposure has been so limited. The sense of cognitive dissonance can be profound and lead to a crisis of faith.

    Only falsehood needs to be so coddled and protected. Real truth encourages itself to be tested, over and over again.

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  2. Robert,

    To clarify, the debate on XnForums is still there. We were posting the debate on two (2) forums—one being Xn, the other this Faith and Fellowship. The fellow I was debating (goes by “Woffie” on F&F and “The Real WOFman” on Xn) is the Administrator on F&F.

    The lesson learned from this, is NEVER post a debate against an Administrator on their own website. Luckily, (seeing this coming) I posted it on Xn as well.

    The Moderators/Administrators at Xn are very cool and are very open to such discussions. They would never delete this debate.

    In the future, if I ever did this, I would not rely upon the participants to self-moderate. I would require a third person to be the designated moderator. Sad, isn’t it?

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  3. I'm not surprised. Your arguments were clear and damning. In contrast, your opponent looked uneducated and foolish. Apparently even he recognized that.

    I agree, I've never understood people who refuse to face the evidence simply because they don't like where it leads. I've seen this many times before, even in the "sophisticated" arguments for the existence of god..."God must exist," they'll say, "because if God doesn't exist, life is meaningless and ends in the grave." ("And I hate that idea!")

    I'm sure many of us who became atheists were shocked and dismayed at some point to learn that there was no loving god watching over us - I know I was. But I simply couldn't deny the evidence (or lack of it) and where it led.

    As Sagan said somewhere, "It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is that to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sad thing too is that this stuff works. I was talking to a friend this weekend. Smart girl. Been a Christian her whole life. She knows I'm a skeptic now, so she was asking about my take on the Bible. She assumed I paid no attention to it these days, but I told her that I still enjoyed studying it. Stuff like the documentary hypothesis. Of course she had absolutely no clue what that referred to. Doesn't know that Mark is the earliest gospel or that the others borrowed from it. Never heard of Q. In my world now these are fundamentals of biblical study.

    Like I said, smart girl. Been in church her whole life. But doesn't really know the most fundamental things about the Bible. Imagine if the church spent time actually teaching about the text. As much time as these people spent in church, they'd be geniuses. Instead they are utterly clueless. These are capable people that just are never exposed to the information.

    DagoodS, do you have a link to that debate?

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  5. Here is the debate.

    I know what you mean, Jon. One night, after my deconversion, I asked my father (Christian of many, many decades) if he had ever read the books of the New Testament in the order they were written. How innocuous is THAT?

    Never had. Never will.

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  6. That's too bad they have to 'censor' what is being out on the site - waste of a site if you ask me - leaves no room for healthy disagreeance.

    In-breeding is the correct term - when someone won't hear anything but something they already know - now that's keeping it in the family!

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. It is hardly surprising. It is like they really don't believe in the truth of what they are saying and so have to keep contrary information out.

    A woman I knew in undergrad started having conversations with me about religion after she found out I was an atheist. She was clearly a theist - and apparently at some point she mentioned to someone she knew some of the issues I pointed out to her. What I found interesting was that the basic response she got from this person to answer the questions I had reasied was that she should stop talking to me. I guess asking questions that she could not answer was a corrupting influence. She did eventually stop talking to me, but only after she first came over to my place one last time and made out with me. I think she wanted to be with what was to her a "bad boy" (a label I'd not really give myself) or something - at least, that's what I thought after that. She was a bit odd, to say the least.

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  9. Love the title. I had been mentally terming this stuff "inbred knowledge" for some time. Dunno if I got it from some passing comment of yours a long time ago or what, but it seems the perfect description, anyway. It's amazing how well a system of unenforced, entirely voluntary informational screening can work.

    ReplyDelete