01 June 2006

Forget Darwin. Here is the real enemy of Christianity

I like the Christian concept of forgiveness. And every year I am moved by the aesthetics and the pathos of the Greek Easter, a powerful story of fall and rise.
But I think these are the only things I find attractive in Christianity.

It is just that I always felt that the metaphysical assumptions about the existence of god, heaven and hell, demons and angels etc. just don’t make sense, were too big and arbitrary and counterintuitive to swallow. Not to mention the contrast, aesthetical and logical between the Old and the New Testament, or the internal inconsistencies in the stories etc. Since I was 15 I was convinced that Christianity is fiction -of a low aesthetical quality.

However, after the DaVinci Code movie, I observed that many people were actually shocked with the new idea that Jesus was mortal; it was like a revelation to them. Personally, I was shocked that they were shocked, who are these people that never even thought of that? Or, maybe the right question is how they choose their religion.

The critical factor is the good old “peer pressure”: as it happends with believers in other religions, 99% of the time, Christians are raised in a Christian family. Unavoidably there is a strong emotional pressure to preserve the tradition and Christians just inherit the religion of their families.
However, many times, this emotional pressure tends to be challenged by an opposing force: a skepticism caused by the inconsistencies of the whole Christian tale itself. I would say that the conditions for the success of this offsetting “skeptical pressure” are:
-a minimum level of education, and
-decently high analytical skills

The first condition can easily reach a limit -a high portion of the population getting the necessary education. Thus, is pretty much static.
That leaves us with the analytical skills of the individuals as the only dynamic factor that can increase the "skeptical resistance" to the peer pressure. I say dynamic because it has been observed that every generation is significantly smarter than the previous one, a well-substantiated finding in psychology called the Flynn effect.

Now, I guess you see where this is going: The Flynn Effect is a long-term existential threat to Christianity.

The policy implications? Maybe the church should shift its resoruces and focus on banning IQ enhancers like computer games; or even more boldly, start some extensive malnutrirition programs, free junk food for the masses.


Sophia said...

Although I agree with your general belief about religion, I think that your idea that increases in IQ and analytical skills (as part of IQ) will threaten Christianity is very narrow and clearly stated from the perspective of someone who does not believe in religion. I do not think that IQ correlates with belief in Christianity or any religion. Many examples of highly intelligent people who are fanatics is only an empirical support of this view. The "religious feeling" has not decreased over the last years despite the increase in IQ for several reasons.

S G said...

I am almost certain that IQ and education correlate negatively with religious fanaticism.

But the correlation with religious feeling is not so strong. Plus, over some certain IQ I think there is no correlation. Explanation:

very low IQ people tend to believe anything they are told. If they are born Christian they remain Christian.
When IQ is higher, they tend to question their upbringing a bit more. However this effect does not grow indefinitely. After some point, people question everything so it is just a matter of choice, and some people just choose to believe. I think the percentage of people who choose to believe should not correlate much with any other variable.

Konon said...

I think that these highly intelligent people that are religious fanatics are the exception, not the rule. I dont remember any numbers but I am pretty certain that atheism correlates positively with IQ and education.

In any case, the piece was not meant to be scientific or very serious. It looks that people need religion to define their identity -thus christianity can easily survive by just transforming itself from a dogmatic system of beliefs to a philanthropic organisation with a philosophical pretension.

Anonymous said...

Interesting site. Useful information. Bookmarked.