This is part 1 in a two part series.
It must be strange for someone who isn’t a Christian to go to a Protestant church service. There is row after row of nicely dressed, well mannered people, standing and staring at projection screens. We seem to be singing the words written there mindlessly. “I could sing of your love forever…”
We even make motions the songs tell us to. “Oh, I feel like dancing,” they sing, and do some half-hearted side-to-side-step. It all must seem to the uninitiated like some Orwellian indoctrination, and I’m not sure in some sense that it isn’t.
We teach our children Bible songs that are easy for them to remember and sing along to. “Jesus loves me, this I know…” We hope that they get these songs into their head and they echo around in there for the rest of their lives, like some Christian It’s a Small World After All. This indoctrination works quite well, in fact.
I learned this when I was a boy, with a paper route. This was back in the days when people would actually buy news that was over a couple of hours old, and printed on actual paper. At the age of 8, I would wake up before dawn, fold and band the newspapers, and then deliver them on my bike to a nearby neighborhood. I enjoyed this job, and it built a great work ethic, although I was really bad at the part where I actually had to collect money.
Some mornings when it was cold and dark, I would ride my bike alone and see shadows coming to life. Every corner hid an escaped murderer, and every bush housed a probable pack of marauding wolves. I remember feeling quite scared. In those times, I would start to sing songs to myself and God. Some were simple Bible songs I learned from Christian records my Mom would play on the stereo, and some were songs we sang together in church. I knew at those moments that God was with me, and that I was under His protection.
An atheist would say that we are deluding ourselves and our children with brain-washing propaganda, but I don’t see it that way at all. Sometimes intellectual indoctrination is true and necessary. We know this is true in other areas of life, often regarding safety and emergencies.
My wife is prone to fires. These don’t usually occur because she is intentionally starting them, but they do just tend to happen around her. She is very wise and measured in her approach to everything, but when emergencies happen she tends to throw composure out the window in favor of a Chicken Little approach. I am the opposite of her on this. I realized recently that I had to pound into her head the mantra of Stop—Drop—and Roll, in case one of her spontaneous combustions were to happen.
I think that she doesn’t do well in emergencies because she is so thoughtful. She likes to deeply analyze the details of a situation in her mind until she has looked at it from every angle. But when there is no time to analyze, she goes all spinning-pinwheel.
I wanted to burn the Stop-Drop-and Roll into her RAM so that in a moment when she couldn’t analyze, she would instinctively know what to do. When her mind says “FIRE!” she wouldn’t think, the meme would kick in, and she’d act. It might save her life.
The point in all of this is that there are many things that need to be stored in our heads as automatic default routines because we can’t completely rely on our ability to analyze a situation. Our minds are full of system errors, faults, and competing memes. We also don’t always have the time for a thorough debate on things. Sometimes we just have to operate on something that we know is a basic truth, a fact that our mind must assume is a given in the equation. If we aren’t allowed this, we get into internal debates on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
Continued in part 2