Friday, January 28, 2011

Reason Doesn't Come Easily

Most people want to be reasonable and think that they are. The problem is that everyone is subjected to familial and societal norms and pressures that warp their reasoning powers.

A baby comes into this world as a blank slate. That slate doesn't stay blank for very long.

Most children accept whatever their mothers and fathers and other older members of their family and social group tell them with no question.

Occasionally, a child will challenge or “push” what they are told, but for the most part they won't.

I have a cousin who lived with her grandparents on their North Dakota farm for several years while her divorced mother tried to get things together and have the wherewithal to care for her herself. She was a very bright and somewhat courageous and daring little girl.

One day, her grandmother warned her about venturing out to the barn by herself, for her protection, of course. To set up the required amount of fear and trepidation about that supposedly dangerous environment, she told her the “boogey man” might get her. Just one of those “little white lies” people fall back on.

Grandma relaxed, thinking she had accomplished her goal. Soon after, she glanced out the window and saw my little cousin marching straight to the barn. She called her back and asked her what she was doing. She replied, “I was looking for the boogey man.”

She has never lost that questioning and daring personality trait. She and my wife recognize each other as kindred spirits.

Sometimes, discovering the truth about things like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy will set off a bit of skepticism in some young minds, but it usually doesn't run too deep. The pressures and norms of a set society tend to take over and the cultural tapes become deeply buried in our subconsciousness. Anything contrary just seems to cascade off like the proverbial water off a ducks back.

Not always, though. Phyllis, my soul mate wife, was another exception. As a child, she regularly attended Sunday school and visited the religious services of several denominations. Mainly, she enjoyed the social atmosphere and the pleasant activities.

When she was invited to a taffy pull by one of her “holy roller” friends, she asked her mother if she could go, and mama said, “sure.” What could be more harmless than a taffy pull?

Well, the minister happened to take this event as an excellent opportunity to preach a hell and damnation sermon to the little captives at that party, assuring them that Jesus was coming back “tomorrow” and anyone who wasn't saved was bound straight to hell.

The other attendees had heard this type of bombast before and patiently waited until it was over and went after the real fun.

Poor Phyllis was terrified!

She knew her rough and tough old career police officer father didn't go to church and she was sure he would be damned to hell for eternity.


Her mother had a terrible time trying to reassure her that nothing like that was going to happen. She spent the whole day and night in horrible trepidation. Her father was livid when he heard about it and demanded to know why her mother had permitted her to go to such an event put on by such idiots.

The day finally passed. Jesus was nowhere to be found. Nobody went to hell. Phyllis finally calmed down.

It was not long after when she was walking home on a cold Montana night, looked up into that “big sky” at all those brilliant stars and said to herself, “There's no one up there!”

She's still of that opinion.

There's a cartoon on the Painful Truth blog that shows very graphically how science and faith differ in their approach to reasoning. The scientist looks up from his scientific instruments and says, “Here are the facts, what conclusions can we draw from them?” The faith strapped creationist holds up a Bible and states, “Here are the conclusions, what facts can we find to support it?”

That's how we used to think in the old WCG, and a great many have never been able to bring themselves to abandon it.

It's not easy getting one's warped thinking straightened out. I'm still at the task and I still find the old “tapes” wanting to play again.

The end is worth the struggle.

All I can advise is, Keep at it.

Don't be afraid to think.

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