Christianity, Self-Worth and Conspiracy

Christianity, Self-Worth and Conspiracy

Where do self-worth and self-esteem come from? By definition, they have to come from inside yourself. Knowing that you are loved by others is important, but it’s not enough. Especially if you are told that you are loved unconditionally — loved despite your flaws — loved anyway, then this love is no help to your self-worth. In fact, this kind of declaration of love asks us to debase ourselves, to admit and agree that we are not worthy. The tricky part is that it upholds the idea of your worth in the eyes of someone else but asks you to reject your self-worth at the same time. It says ‘I love you, but not because you deserve love.’

A quick Google search for the “Christian view of self worth” lead me to “What does the Bible say about self-worth?” which basically makes my point for me.

But notice the wording in each of the above phrases: “are made,” “are fearfully and wonderfully made,” “were written,” “God chose His children,” “we are God’s own possession,” and “we have an inheritance.” These phrases all have one thing in common: they are things done to us or for us by God. These are not things we have done for ourselves, nor have we earned or deserved them. We are, in fact, merely the recipients of “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Therefore, we can conclude that our worth is not really of the “self” at all; rather, it is worth given to us by God. We are of inestimable value to Him because of the price He paid to make us worthy—the death of His Son on the cross.

This is not the end of it. The Bible says we should doubt our own reason (“lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)), that wisdom from outside Christian teaching is really foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) and that we should distrust our feelings (the heart is “deceitful” and “wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9)). A hallmark of the abusive tactic known as gaslighting is that it makes its victim doubt her own memories and judgement — to make her feel that her reasoning and feelings are not to be trusted. Similarly, in fundamentalist Christianity you must believe things without evidence, pushing down your mind’s very tendency to question, on fear of some kind of punishment after death — even in the face of contradictory facts in “the world” (that is, everything outside the Christian church). In some fundamentalist and evangelical denominations it is even taught that Satan is essentially running the world therefore everyone outside the church is involved in a conspiracy (though they may not know it) to turn you away from God and cause you to lose your salvation. The most obvious example is in the rampant denial of the Theory of Evolution and all cosmological theories of the beginning and evolution of the universe because they are not compatible with the creation myths in Genesis.

For an example of how the conspiracy theory is constructed, here is the explanation from a creationist text I was given as a child to explain why many scientists don’t believe in God. Basically, according to the author of this book, the atheistic scientists all have some sort pact to suppress all the evidence that might point to a supernatural creator of the world. So don’t trust science and don’t trust the scientists. Don’t even trust your reason if it leads to doubt their teachings. This sort of thinking is not only in books from my childhood, but is also present in the Ark Encounter park which was just opened in my home state.

“The only reasonable explanation we can imagine [for the existence of the universe] is God. But still there are many people who don’t believe in God! Why? Romans 1:18 says men who don’t believe “suppress the truth.” That is, they simply will not believe, whatever the evidence!”

“It’s also important to realize that some scientists even argue for their theories against the evidence because they exist on trying to explain things without God.”

source: It Couldn’t Just Happen: Amazing Facts about God’s World, by Lawrence O. Richards

I grew up believing that I was a sinner. No one ever told me explicitly that I deserved hell, or that I was unworthy. They didn’t have to, because those concepts were fully engrained in the songs we sang and the scriptures we held to be the ‘Word of God.’ I could put two and two together. God loved me because he created me and he chose to love me, though he would never tell me personally for some reason and it wasn’t because I had any merit whatsoever on my own.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” I always had to keep in mind that I was sinful and unworthy because if I didn’t I’d be guilty of spiritual pride. There were also the countless ‘testimonies’ I heard from adults declaring that when they tried to do what they wanted with their own lives rather than submitting to God’s will, they ended up mired in drugs and alcohol or financial ruin or depression or some other really bad situation. “When I tried to live my own life, according to my own thoughts and feelings” they all declared in their own words, “I was a complete and total failure.” The implication being that if I tried to run my own life instead of waiting for God to tell me what to do, the same things would happen to me.

What better way to imprison the mind of a child? I can’t help thinking maybe other kids growing up in the church had other mitigating social influences from outside — from school guidance counselors, perhaps, or participation in youth sports — but I guess I wasn’t so fortunate in that area in my teen years. My world opened up tremendously in my college years, but my lack of confidence in myself and my fear of failure lasted long after I gave up my belief in God. Even when I successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree and got a job in my field soon after, showing that I was fully capable to reach my goals.

I have been an atheist for over ten years now and living my life as I wish, and it all hasn’t gone to shit yet. In fact, I have a wonderful marriage, a beautiful baby daughter, and a community with relationships richer than any I found within the church. I suppose those who do well in life without God don’t return to their church to give their side of the story though, do they? I’m still working on some issues of self-worth and on trusting my own judgement and feelings, but I’ve certainly come a long way from the fear of God’s disapproval and of all things “worldly.”

Now my goal is to protect my own daughter from being taught those same messages of unworthiness and distrust of science and reason. No one will teach her that she is defective or unworthy on my watch, even if their intentions are golden.

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Emotional First Aid

In my last post, I wrote about why I was disappointed by bell hook’s book All About Love. On further reflection, I think it reminds me too much of how I’d listen to sermons in church that would lay out the very real human problems of emotional pain but then — while I was eagerly waiting a good bit of advice — would say something like “keep your eyes on Jesus” or some such useless guidance. I did read further into hook’s book, but the next chapter went into a sermon about how “perfect love casts out fear” according to the Bible and therefore if your love has any fear in it is not perfect. Sorry what? I think the problem here is the idea of searching for some sort of perfect transcendent ideal spiritual love — which, sorry, we are always going to fall short of. But that is fine because it not what we need. That is still basically religion. While hooks doesn’t advocate anything like fundamentalist religion — even harshly criticizing  “organized religion” frequently — there is still this sense that we are broken as human beings and need something spiritual to fix us. But really what we really need is belonging and acceptance and personal worth and social support, not some unattainable ideal of “perfect love.”

I returned the book and went was looking for an alternative, and I think I found a good one. I was going searching though TED talks for something inspirational to watch and came across this.

After watching the TED talk I went ahead and got his book Emotional First Aid on my Kindle.  While you can’t expect to buy a self-help book to solve all your problems, I have found this one to very accurate in describing basic emotional wounds — failure, loneliness, rumination, and others — and very simple and practical ways of helping them heal. (Also, importantly, there is guidance on when simple ‘first aid’ isn’t enough and you should probably see a professional therapist.) It’s what I always wished from those sermons but never got. And none of it involves praying, or looking to a higher power, or any spiritual fluff. It’s not an atheist book exactly, and I have no clue what religious beliefs the author might hold, but it’s godless in the best kind of way.

After my complaints about the other book, I decided it would be good to mention a good alternative. So here it is.

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Soil Disproves Evolution? Pbbt

Soil Disproves Evolution? Pbbt

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was going to write about a particular creationist text that I’d been given when I was a child. I’ve been flipping through the book and finding out that I remember all of this stuff really well because I frikin’ memorized this book and thought it was a coolest thing ever when I was a kid. It has also reminded me that I still have some lingering anger at some of the crap I was taught and believed because I thought Christians wouldn’t lie to me. So instead of spending a lot of time on this topic, I’m going to zoom in on the main argument in the book that I found convincing in my ignorance and even repeated to others, to my embarrassment.img_2282-1

Starting on page 50, the author argues that soil disproves the theory of evolution.

If we look at the surface of the Earth and ask what is necessary to support life, we have to give this answer. We need soil made of weathered rock, and we need the chemicals and water washed from the rocks. We need air and water. But soil must contain organic matter. And soil must have millions of tiny living organisms in it if anything is to grow.

This poses a difficult problem for those who believe in the slow evolution of Earth’s surface and of living things. Where did the soil that living things need in order to exist come from before there were living things to fill the soil with organic matter?

The only possible explanation is that Earth and life did not develop as scientists now think. When God created the world, he must have covered its continents with soil already filled with the living creatures that Earth must have in order to support life.

Seriously. Anyone who has even a casual knowledge of natural history knows that the first living things did not evolve in soil, and did not depend on preexisting organisms in soil (or anywhere else). It makes me think that the author was either writing in total ignorance — having no business writing a “science” book for children — or was deliberately lying. This is not even picking at the boundaries of our knowledge, like a discussion of where the laws of the universe come from and why they are the way they are. This is so easily upturned with only basic education. And the rest of the book is pretty much like this.

So why does he think that scientists are so dense as to not see the obvious proof of God in front of their faces?

The only option [for the beginning of the universe] we can imagine is God. But still, there are many people who don’t believe in God! Why?

Romans 1:18 says that men who do not believe “suppress the truth.” That is, they simply will not believe, whatever the evidence. And there is evidence!

Yep, child, there is a conspiracy of atheistic scientists who are suppressing the evidence for God. And I believed it. And that makes me angry. I think there is someone suppressing the truth here, but it’s not the scientists.

So for the preservation of my mental health, this is the last I have to say on this book.

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Evolution in Bob Jones Biology Textbook

Evolution in Bob Jones Biology Textbook

I’m not going to write a post rebutting this now, and I’ll make the assumption that my readers are familiar enough with evolutionary theory to see what is wrong here. (Edit: I have added captions to the pictures.) These are a few pictures from the pages of the Biology for Christian Schools textbook that I mentioned in my previous post. This is actually what I was taught as fact in my Christian homeschool experience. If I had never gone to university and been exposed to different ideas, I might still even think this crap is true.

I may go into more detail why these are wrong in later posts, but for now I’ll just let the images speak for themselves (I’ve gone ahead and added rebuttals to the captions).

Click the images for a larger, legible view.

 

 

Edit: Just in case you felt your IQ slip a few points after seeing that, here is a good basic account of human evolution from Berkeley’s Understanding Evolution site.

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My favorite fact of science

One of the fan questions in last night’s COSMOS panel (live streamed on Tuesday night ahead of the TV première of COSMOS 2104 on Sunday) was about the panel member’s favorite fact about science. It’s such a huge question that it would be hard to answer on the spot. My answer to this (after some thought), is that science is weird beyond what we can imagine and yet it is everyday, and all around us. Ever think about why, when you put your hand on a tabletop your hand does not just slip right though, although supposedly the atoms both are made of are mostly empty space? It’s because the electrons in the tightly packed atoms of your hand repel the electrons in the tightly packed atoms that make up the table—what you feel is the result of electromagnetic repulsion. I know I’m a big geek but when I first read about that I started tapping my hand against the table and felt slightly giddy with fascination. (NOTE: My understanding of how that actually works is not precise. Feel free to send corrections my way if I have described it incorrectly.)

Then there is that favorite fact that I learned first from my astronomy prof at UofL, and then heard again from Carl Sagan, that we are made of “starstuff.” It’s a bit of a romantic notion since people have long mystified the stars, but there is such an incredible depth to the idea that I never entirely get used to it. It encompasses the Big Bang and the formation of the simplest atoms of hydrogen. Those hydrogen atoms then clump together from gravity (since the expansion of matter from the Big Bang was not entirely uniform) into big balls of gas so massive that the pressure of gravity at their centers started smashing those hydrogen atoms together so hard that they fused together to make helium—producing vast amounts of heat and light in the process. Then the new star took billions of years to burn up all its hydrogen, so it then starts fusing the hydrogen into carbon—the basic elemental building block for life—and then carbon into iron (assuming it was a really massive star) and then exploded as a supernova since a star can’t sustain itself on iron fusion. And the heat and pressure from the supernova (which sometimes outshine their entire galaxy!) finishes the job and fuses the elements that are heavier than iron. *Deep breath, ‘cause that was a mouthful.* The supernova blasted those atoms out into space where they eventually formed dust clouds and new stars and solar systems, and…us. The wonder of massive stars far away and long, long ago, and the strangeness of atoms and nuclear processes, time scales beyond our innate comprehension…that’s what we’re made of. When you really get it, doesn’t it make your heart pound?

For a more technical and in-depth, yet simple and concise, explanation of the life cycle of stars and the building of elements, visit http://burro.astr.cwru.edu/stu/stars_lifedeath.html.

You can also view the panel discussion for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey online at COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY Live Event.

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