There is a trend in academia to rubbish religion, particularly Christianity, as a kind of a sickness that needs to be treated, but their analyses lack rigor and selectively focus almost entirely on aberrations rather than on norms, argues an author.
Academics make assumptions, including that belief in God and the desire to worship God are groundless, and that acts oriented toward the supernatural are in error, may lead to harm and must be rooted out, writes William M Briggs in an opinion article for The Stream.
There are many arguments against religion: "God centers" in the brain, which can be "treated" with magnets; religion is "child abuse;" lack of education, sheer mental incapacity and indoctrination are the reason why many still "cling" to religion; and rancid smells drive people towards traditionalist principles.
Some even assert that Bible-based Christianity is "toxic," as Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico wrote in an article for Salon.
Winell and Tarico do a poor job discriminating between the good and the bad on the landscape of religious practice, and make no effort to understand the subject they study, argues Briggs, who describes himself as "a writer, philosopher and itinerant scientist." "They ignore the two-thousand years of intellectual, theological and noble cultural achievements of orthodox Christianity. Consequently, their view is stunted and their research suffers accordingly."
Certain aspects of Christian beliefs and Christian living can create stressors, even setting up multigenerational patterns of abuse, trauma, and self-abuse, write Winell and Tarico in their article, adding, "Also, over time some religious beliefs can create habitual thought patterns that actually alter brain function, making it difficult for people to heal or grow."
Because of Christianity, a person can have "panic attacks about the rapture; moods that swung from ecstasy about God's overwhelming love to suicidal self-loathing about repeated sins; or an obsession with sexual purity," they add.
The two then claim that it is a "requirement for success as a sincere Christian … to find a way to believe that which would be unbelievable under normal rules of evidence and inquiry." But Briggs says that Winell and Tarico are describing extreme fideism, a very minority view in the Christian tradition.
"The authors make a place for religion, but only religion drained of the transcendent," he writes. "They deride 'variants of Christianity' that are 'literal,' have 'a view that humans need salvation, and a focus on the spiritual world as superior to the natural world.' But the authors applaud sects that have thrown off all this superstitious stuff, namely 'liberal, progressive Christian churches with a humanistic viewpoint, a focus on the present, and social justice.'"
Instead of investigating orthodox Christianity's truth claims, the authors simply assume its falsehood and proceed accordingly, he adds. "But if it is true that God exists and man is fallen, then he is in need of salvation, and therefore an unfallen spiritual world is superior, in some sense, to the natural world. And then surely belief in such things could be supremely rational. So their judgment is based entirely on their own assumptions, not on a careful look at the evidence."
The authors are also inconsistent, Briggs goes on to say in his article. "They fail to see that their own viewpoint, which rejects God, also sees mankind as fallen and in need of the 'salvation.' It's just that their salvation comes in the form of secular education and 'social justice.'"
The authors also wrote: "In Bible-believing Christianity, psychological mind-control mechanisms are coupled with beliefs from the Iron Age, including the belief that women and children are possessions of men, that children who are not hit become spoiled, that each of us is born 'utterly depraved', and that a supernatural being demands unquestioning obedience."
Briggs calls it "a cartoonish caricature of Christianity, a view borne out of ignorance."
"God does not demand 'unquestioning obedience,' but He does ask for our love and He offers His freely," he explains.
Briggs concludes by urging academics to visit North Korea or the killing fields of Pol Pot, or the gulags of the former Soviet Union. "These were all led by new men cured of the transcendent."