Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Intellectual Self-Loathing Of Christianity

Our current Holy Father has said a lot of stuff about faith and reason and how they should get along. A lot of folks seem to try and restrict this to Regensburg and the whole Islam thing. The real target, though, is secularism, and this weird sort of neo-Kant-without-realizing-it desire to bifurcate the two into their own little boxes.

Christians are just as likely to pile onto to this as anyone else. The main thing here, I think, is the fundamentalist reaction against Modernism and all that entails, including hubris. What we've been given in fundamentalism is a conscious choice by many to reject stuff like philosophy and science in favor of one's own closed-system interpretation of Scripture. This goes for theology, too. I've mentioned the Protestant conversation of "Theology is dead" enough times to illustrate that.

The best example of this I've ever seen was in a recent production on SkyAngel2. It's one of those high-number preacher channels on your DishNetwork. It was called End of the Harvest and is probably one of the most embarassing things a Christian could ever promote.

Basically, it starts out with a Christian college student who has decided to speak to the campus philosophy club on the subject of "Is there a God?" Good subject for a philosophy debate, right? The movie decides otherwise by removing the entire notion of philosophy from the exercise. Not only that, but apparently you can't be into philosophy and believe in God, as all members of the club are snobbish atheists wearing Dockers and sweater vests.

Let me say right now that this was offensive enough. I was a philosophy major, and there were plenty of us that believed in God. Shout out to Prof. Will Ramsey, by the way, who is an atheist but taught a freaking awesome Philo 101 anyway. And no philosophy major wore Dockers and sweater vests. Most (if not all) of us looked like hobos.

Back to the movie. The "debate" that this Christian guy gets into consists of his whining a lot and yelling, "There is a God! You just can't see Him!" Follow this up with the atheist response, "How can you believe in something you can't see?" Add a little, "I just know," "How can you prove it?" and "I don't know," and you basically have the first quarter of the film.

This is all witnessed by a group of other Christian students who are content to stand idly by watching their mentally defective comrade get blasted. These mental defects must be part of some kind of contagion because the main character (who we'll call Dawson because he looks jsut like him) whispers under his breath things like "You can't see the wind, but you know it's there. You can't feel the planet's rotation, but you know it's there," as though these actually constitute legitimate responses to the atheist mockery.

Anyways, from the get-go, what we have is a huge insult to both Christians and atheists in that both are camps of idiots.

In the post-yelling commiseration between Christians, Dawson drops a bit about a 50-year old paper he read about the end of the world. One of his buddies decides that he's going to take this end of the world topic to the philosophy club for their next "debate."

No explanation is given for what is going to be debated. Most atheists I know believe in an end to the world, so this is just more movie jackassery.

Whatever he's going to debate, Dawson's pal is convinced he's going to give those nasty atheists what-for and tells them so. The atheists are so concerned about this that they begin their own research. Do they attempt to construct arguments to demonstrate some sort of atheist view of our annihilation? No. They start digging up dirt on Dawson's friend (he got a DWI, he dated a promiscuous girl, etc.) in order to engage in ad hominem attacks.

As an aside, ad hominems will usually get you laughed at in a real philosophical exchange.

Dawson tries talking to his friend about the upcoming club meeting and to warn him about the tactics the atheists will use but is basically given the brush off because his buddy "has some more verses to look at."

That's right. The Christian is going to go to a philosophy club meeting to argue against a bunch of atheists (about what, we don't know) using Scripture verses as his main resource. What a great idea! Thank goodness there haven't been Christians who actually used logical argument to convince atheists. What a disaster that would be! Using a book that the audience would regard as a joke and completely fictional would be much more convincing.

In all this, the friend realizes he's unprepared (no kidding), so he gets Dawson to tell everyone that he won't be showing up. Dawson is then berated by the audience to discuss the topic himself because he admits that he's "studied it extensively," meaning that old paper previously mentioned. The best part is that he admits he doesn't have an argument for God's existence or why the Bible is true, so the atheists, at the urging of an audience member, CONCEDE BOTH POINTS TO HIM.

In other words, Christians can't prove anything about the Faith, so we have to rely on the charity of the atheists to even be able to discuss it.

What follows is basically Dawson giving a sermon on death, judgement, heaven, and hell. No debate. Just his quoting Scripture while one atheist makes fun of him while the others look perplexed and nod a lot.

Roll credits. I confess that there's also a sub-plot where Dawson has been dreaming about a guy cutting wheat in a field and it turns out to be the guy who wrote the old paper, but it doesn't have any real bearing on the movie's message.

What is that message? That Christianity is an irrational faith. Reason has no connection to it whatsoever. When others make use of logic or reason to refute Divine Truth, the Christian must flee or perhaps sling a few Bible verses around and hope one sticks. The intellect is relegated to an inferior position to I don't even know what. Everything, I guess. Whatever you Christians do, though, don't try to actually reason with the unbeliever. It won't do you any good anyway.

How abysmal, especially from a movie that is allegedly promoting Christianity. What it instead promotes is this inherent fear of rational thought found in some fundamentalist circles. Despite the fact that God gave us our reason to use it, many see fit to shelve it when conversing about the most important topic there can be.

I wonder if total depravity plays into this. Maybe the bedrock concept that isn't beng recognized here is that we can't trust our reason because we're all just walking turds.

Regardless, it's a crappy movie and degrading to Christians. Avoid.


Roisin said...

I'm always mystified when people berate religion for a lack of intellectual curiosity or lack of rational thought.

And then I see movie like this. Mystery solved! Goodness..

Turgonian said...

I think you're right to tie it into total depravity. It sometimes seems as if revelation is supposed to annihilate reason, as grace sometimes seems to be supposed to annihilate nature.

the hibernian said...

Good timing, as I'm reading Fides et Ratio right this moment.