(repost) The Roots of Sciolism

(originally posted April 8, 2007 on Mock, Paper, Scissors)

Ah, you came back. Thanks for that. This won’t be so long, because the thing that makes a group of people tend towards the dismissive is fairly easily identified.

Neoconservatives are very quick to dismiss the “Blogging Against Theocracy” endeavor as one born of fear. We are apparently so afraid of Christianity, that even allowing a piffle—a tish, a skosh, a teeny bit—of it in our lives is too much to bear. Yes, yes, I know. It’d be a wonderful life if everything were so obvious! But of course, despite its inherent untruth, this argument is the most commonly chosen because it is the one stance with which they can readily identify.

One of the things which continually strikes me as I discuss “faith” with my religious friends, is that they tend to forget the entire premise of faith: that that in which they believe might well not be true. For if it was inherently true, there would be no need to have “faith” in its truth. If all the elements of a religious belief were known, scientific fact, faith would cease to exist, replaced by knowledge. And yet repeatedly, evangelicals speak about their “faith” in terms of what they know. They know the Word of their God is Inspired. They know He died for their sins. They know He rose from the grave. And yet, somehow, they wrap it all up and refer to this supposed knowledge as faith, implying that their knowledge may well be unfounded!

Yeah, have a sip of that wine or beer or whatever. This stuff makes my head hurt, too.

This happens because so very many of them practice their one true universal talent of sciolism on themselves. Oh certainly, there are many believers who understand what their faith is about, and who appreciate the inherent risk of believing in something that others don’t believe in. But there are many more whose faith amounts to the steadfast belief that what they think they know is right and true and pure and immutable and holy and…and…and…well, it’s just right! Because they’ve been taught that it is right in Sunday School, told that it is right in their households, and instructed that nonbelievers (and oftentimes those who practice the same religion in different ways) are simply wrong and going to Hell. I can’t even count the number of times during my own childhood when I was frustrated with my friends for not believing in our own cultish practice of Christianity, that I was told something to the effect, “Oh, don’t worry about them. They’re not going to share the Kingdom of Heaven with you.”

Answers like that, and the rebuttals you see to this endeavor from the evangelicals, are easy. I don’t think they’re malicious by any means—and let’s do keep in mind that most of these people merely do what they believe is the right thing to do!—but such responses are a form of fear-mongering. And fear is the root of sciolism. After all, the most formative periods of growth in any religion are during those times when it’s being persecuted. It’s a human nature thing: we perform more efficiently, and often more effectively, under duress. And goodness knows that with the ease of making a few Moslem extremists look like an entire religious society (a theocracy, no less) is set against “America” (which to fundamentalists means “Christians”), the neoconservatives are under a lot of duress. Even acknowledging that there is at least one religion in the world that is practiced by more people than those who subscribe to the tenets of their own faith must have been difficult.

One last sip. We’re almost done.

So now, they claim their religion is being attacked on all sides. All they want to do is have a little prayer, and we “unfairly” want to keep them from doing so. Read Bob’s interpretation of the tenets of this endeavor that I shared with you yesterday. It is written from fear. We’re out to get them. We’re out to force them to change their ways. We’re out to undo all the good they’re doing. We’re out to redefine their definition of “good” and “right”. And it’s oh-so-easy, and ever so disingenuous, to describe us in this manner, because Bob and people like him honestly fear the fact that responsible members of society might hold a faith that differs from their presumption of knowledge. That’s a by-product of sciolism, for they have failed to understand what we’re talking about, just as they fail to understand the true intent behind the actions of church leaders on the national level. People like Bob may not intentionally be wanting a theocratic state (and for what it’s worth, I believe his assertion in this regard), but I do not believe the same is true for those for whom neoconservatism is abusiness.

But what is most striking—and of most concern—to me is the depth to which these fundamentalists fear themselves. If they truly had faith in their religion and their ability to teach and enforce its tenets, then what would they have to fear by not infusing public education, political discourse, and state and federal legislation with their religious beliefs, practices, and interpretations? If their God is truly all-powerful, what risk is there in leaving the religious education of their children to home and church? Let us not forget, that no matter what happens in the world at large or in their private lives, they will say that it was God’s Will that whatever-it-was came to pass. And if that’s really true, what is the harm in leaving science to scientists, literature to academics, and religion to the priests and ministers?

If they truly have faith in their chosen way of life, then people like myself would simply be targets for that “Go Ye Therefore” doctrine, right? We wouldn’t be “the enemy”, and neither would anyone else. Instead, due to their sciolistic review of their own religion, “preach the gospel” has become “make up a new ‘science’ and try to teach it” and “attempt to pass anti-abortion legislation instead of trying to extend the definition of ‘life’”. Because those things are easier to do, dismissively treating dissenting views as reactionary.

It’s easier, you see, because that way, proponents of their “faith” will band together and work harder for their “cause” under this manufactured duress, as opposed to having faith, even in themselves. Fear has become the new faith for them, and Fear is a much more demanding god than what they had before.

A pity, that.

{published on the otherwhirled as well}