Many people born into a strongly religious family submit to that belief system throughout their lives; others undergo the long, tortuous, and painful road from believer to humanist. Others drift slowly and passively away from their cradle faith to become lukewarm Christians or "nothingarians" without fully confronting what the religious indoctrination has done to them as human beings.
Many of these lukewarm Christians who are products of mainline Christianity are eventually seduced into fundamentalism, a process that has been described by Edmund D. Cohen in his book The Mind of the Bible-Believer. Although Cohen described this process as it applies to extreme fundamentalist conversion, the seven step-wise devices used by fundamentalist god-talkers lay bare the violence done to human reason and dignity by all forms of Christian indoctrination.
In the first device, "The Benign Attractive Persona of the Bible," all kinds of extravagant claims and promises are made implicitly or explicitly in the manner of the old-fashioned snake oil salesman or the modern TV commercial. As part of the program of Christian mind control, the word love is used frequently; however, as we shall see, the word develops an idiosyncratic meaning once the individual is "inside." In the Christian commercial, promises of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting are added to the promise of love. The term "love bombing" has been applied to this process as it refers to modern cults; Cohen refers to this strategy as a "colossal bait and switch sales pitch." Once the individual is "inside," the sugar coating quickly dissolves, leaving the bitter pill.
The second device, "Discrediting the World," calls for subjects to wean themselves away from those former friends and associates who do not share the same belief. Analogously, in The Imitation of Christ [by Thomas à Kempis] we find these words: "Trust not to friends and kindred, neither do thou put off the care of thy soul's welfare til hereafter; for men will sooner forget thee than thou art aware of." However, since god-talkers cannot entirely erase human need for human contact, the phenomenon of Christian "fellowship" is encouraged to make sure that new members rub shoulders with well-indoctrinated fellow Christians. Rituals, such as prayer, hymn singing, and communion, play an important part in encouraging the neophyte to withdraw from previous human supports and focus on God and Christ.
One devastating aspect of this device is the discrediting of the individual's human capacity to reason. On this point Cohen states, "while the Bible does not explicitly say that independent thinking is a cardinal sin -- to do so would give the game away -- it is the crux of any biblically authentic definition of sin, one incompatible with doing the devotional program." Although the Bible may not have explicitly discouraged the use of human reason, it was obvious by the time of Thomas à Kempis that knowledge was to be mistrusted: "My son, in many things it is thy duty to be ignorant and to esteem thyself as dead upon earth, and as one to whom the whole world is crucified."
The third device, "Logocide," refers the killing of words, or rather, the meanings of words. As the Red Queen stated in Alice in Wonderland, words were to mean what she chose them to mean. Christian logocide concentrates on words like life, death, truth, wisdom, and, of course, love, none of which carry the accepted, consensual meaning as they issue out of the mouths of god-talkers. Life and death mean life in Christ or death to Christ, and are simply terms denoting belief or unbelief in the risen Lord. Wisdom has nothing to do with human wisdom but rather refers to the level of commitment to the Christian system of beliefs. With the word love being used so freely in god-talking commercials, it is no wonder that confused, frightened, and friendless people would be attracted to an institution promising love; as they understand or imagine love, it is something they have been deprived of and yearned for all their lives. However, it soon becomes apparent that the human love they seek is not the love of the god-talker; those worthies use the word "love" to refer to an unquestioning obedience to God in return for the promise of everlasting life. In addition to this, the kind of human love originally sought by the initiate, is gradually undermined as being inferior, untrustworthy, not to mention unsatisfying when compared to the love of God. As Cohen states, "Christian love is biblically defined as Holy Spirit-aided self-discipline in internalizing Christian doctrine and performing the devotional program. As manifested in and by the believer, Christian love has hardly anything to do with passion or affection."
Mental health is that state existing when all levels of an individual being -- the perceptual, the cognitive, the affective, the biological, the behavioral, and the verbal -- function in a more or less smooth, harmonious, integrated manner. This is akin to what Cohen refers to as integrity, which he defines in this way: "We implicitly think of one who is honest with himself about himself as having integrity." The fourth device consists of a relentless assault on this integrity. Since the entire belief system called Christianity requires the individual to accept that belief on faith and to deny the evidence of human intelligence when this conflicts with the belief system, integrity for the Christian becomes impossible.
Hand in glove with the assault on integrity is the fifth Christian device as named by Cohen, the process of "Dissociation Induction." Once the integrity of the believer is compromised to the point where he or she is "hooked," it becomes necessary for the brain-washing process to be intensified through this process of dissociation. One of the chief elements in this strategy is to make believers live in a perpetual state of fear of what is basically germane to their human nature. All emotions are frowned on except for guilt, which is encouraged as a means of mind control. The normal human emotion of anger is categorized as one of the seven deadly sins; the inevitable guilt makes it impossible for the neophyte to mobilize a healthy human response to such inhuman indoctrination.
Any forbidden feeling leading to more guilt causes further dissociation. As Cohen asserts: "The supposed renewal of the mind so that it thinks only godly thoughts, the fatuous peace and tepid joy of the person exhibiting euphoric calm, the apparent absence of friction with other people, these are side effects of a dissociated state of mind."
At a certain point in the Christian mind-control process, pressure mounts to close that mind off completely from the believer's own human intelligence, in order to protect it from any influence not in keeping with the doctrine (the sixth device named by Cohen: "Bridge Burning"). At this point the believer has moved beyond a mere dissociated state into a psychosis, in which genuine interaction between the individual and reality is impossible since the "real world" is perceived solely in terms of the Christian world view. This explains why it is impossible to carry on a true dialogue about existential issues with a committed Christian, programmed as he or she is to respond to the unbeliever with a bemused tolerance, secure in the "belief" that God has some lofty purpose in closing some minds to "the truth." As Cohen puts it, "The content of the teaching, as well as the form of social relations, is set up so as to dig a psychological moat around the believers."
The bottom line in Christian brain-washing is, of course, fear (Cohen's seventh device: "Holy Terror"), which is used only when the believer is well "inside." This fear is grounded in the punishment awaiting Christians who fail to subjugate their human intelligence and will to the wishes of the god-talkers. Cohen asserts that the authors of the New Testament "deliberately contrived the portentous New Testament statements about horrors in the afterlife to be the worst eventualities of which the mind -- or at least the ordinary minds of those who would be rank-and-file believers -- could conceive."
At first glance Cohen seems to be describing the stages of conversion to the more right-wing fundamentalist evangelical brand of Christianity, especially the electronic kind, and to the various religious cults that feed on the lost youth as well as those disenchanted with mainline Christianity. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that, in accordance with the core doctrine, the same process goes on in the mainline Christian churches, although usually in a more superficial, less fundamentalist manner. Association with one of the mainline denominations, especially if it is only a nominal, unexamined affiliation, is easier for many people who otherwise like to think of themselves as sophisticated, intelligent, and modern. However, this half-hearted attempt to humanize Christianity on the part of some of the mainline churches is proving to be their undoing. Membership in these denominations is dropping while fundamentalist TV evangelists amass huge fortunes.
The explanation for this is as follows. The core doctrine of the Christian church, coupled with the strategies used over the centuries to gain the power the church now enjoys, is so anti-human that many humanistically oriented denominations and god-talkers have tried to soften the messages to make them more palatable to "educated" congregations. This leads to one of two outcomes. The more secure and intelligent members of such congregations begin questioning, and such questioning may start them down the road toward atheism and possibly humanism. Many tarry at various points along that road. Less secure members of the congregation begin to look for a brand of religion that offers vigorous reinforcement of their flagging faith and more protection from the threat of their own human intelligence. Thus the mainline Christian churches are training millions of people to be the "marks" or "pigeons" for the money-hungry TV evangelists.
Last updated by Morgan Matthew Jul 30, 2008.