The fashionability of skepticism in a Trumpian world

Donald Trump has made skepticism fashionable, but in a bad way.

Skepticism is good when used to sharpen truth by ridding it of falsehoods but when it is used to conveniently dismiss facts, it is a dangerous weapon. Donald Trump has recruited perhaps the countries best skeptics — evangelicals. Sadly, their skepticism has been misguided. Facts are villainized and lies are celebrated.

Evangelicals have been trafficking in skepticism for centuries and Christians for millennia. It is their brand. For most of its history, Christians enjoyed a science-free world where rationality was made to submit to revelation. With the dawning of the age of science and reason, revelation was finally dethroned as the supreme source of truth… for most rational people. Unfortunately, some religiously minded stubbornly clung to biblical revelation in the name of commitment to the God of theism.

As science continues to shine its light in the distant dark corners of our universe, groups like evangelicals have dug in their heals and become more obstinate in adhering to Medieval thinking where ancient superstitions hold more authority than rationalism. The fall out of this intransigence is becoming more dire as it infects all spheres of society even finding expression in the highest levels of government and effecting policy.

One’s view of the Bible and Jesus is not a matter of opinion. It is a question of facts, logic and common sense. Nothing about Christian belief is evidentiary. It is purely faith in a supernatural presupposition without support. An objective and critical analysis of biblical data does not lead one to the claims of Christianity. The only “path” to Christian faith is through an unsubstantiated pre-conviction in Christian dogma which is then used to dismiss external sources of information.

The fact the overwhelming majority of Christians either inherit their faith or are converted before adolescence is not coincidental. Nor is the fact, many enter the faith through a personal crisis experience or out of a profound need for what Christianity claims to provide. Stable, healthy, happy, educated adults do not become believers for a reason. But Christianity has this covered. It glories in attracting the needy, desperate and fringe of society.

26”Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.”(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

31”Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31)

Once Christianity was firmly established in the Roman Empire, it began to attract a higher clientele of believers. No longer a religion exclusively of the disenfranchised of society, it began to take on the shine of respectability. Doctrines were consolidated, churches were built and those in the upper echelon of society began to convert. Today we see the ascendancy of the prosperity gospel as a desperate attempt by some Christians to profit from religion and provide justification for materialism and the accumulation of wealth.

Christianity prides itself on its survivability and resilience. Whenever it found itself in a situation where external pressure threatened it, it simply adapted to maximize its attractiveness for its adherents. American evangelicalism, which portrays itself as an accurate reflection of biblical primitivism, bears little resemblance to first century Christianity. Were it to emphasize basic biblical ideals, it would stand in stark contrast to a society from which it is hardly distinguishable.

Think for a moment how ridiculous it should be to regard the Bible as anything more than a collection of ancient writings about myths and legends associated with the early Israelites and first Christians. Were it not for Christianity’s existence as the world’s largest religion, which is not an absolute argument for its validity, it would be accorded the same validity as Greco-Roman mythology or Canaanite religions. The fact hundreds of millions have continued to cling to these fables should embarrass us as twenty-first century products of Enlightenment thinking. Instead it reveals something far deeper.

The common denominator of every Christian, and most religious people, is hope. Despite inestimable differences among individual believers on virtually every issue social, moral, ethical, political and doctrinal, all attach some value to a blissful afterlife. It’s the basis of Christianity according to Paul.

12”But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”(1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Perhaps there is no more compelling explanation for the persistence of Christian belief than this single piece of evidence. Nobody wants to surrender themselves to the fear of death and the afterlife if they don’t have to. Christianity is the perfect excuse to believe even if it means indulging the irrational part of one’s brain.

Evangelicals are no strangers to believing the bizarre and nonsensical. Their minds were a willing and fecund refuge for Donald Trump’s wildest lies and deceptions. Long standing skepticism of secular societies most trusted repositories of information and facts like universities, the scientific community and the media were easily exploited.

Believing in the eternal “Word” (‘logos’) who was conceived in a virgin woman by God’s holy spirit to live a joint life as perfect God and man. Then to die on a cross for the sins of mankind and be raised from the dead and ascend to heaven where one day he’ll return to claim those who believe in him, all based on the testimony of a handful of his closest followers mystical encounters with him, is about as outlandish a belief as one can have.

Asking these same people to subscribe to a braggart like Trump’s litany of lies and conspiracy theories feeds a faith already steeped in suspicion and incredulity. Evangelicalism thrives on rejecting conventional thinking, no matter how convincing, and substituting truth for lies and vice versa. Rationality is castigated and biblical revelation is championed as supreme.

It should surprise no one evangelicals gravitated to Trump and continue to hitch their wagon to his star and Trump to theirs, at least until the next election. He is their playground bully and they are his patsies. Evangelicals have persuaded themselves God is using Trump to advance their eschatological agenda as they await the glorious Rapture. Trump, on the other hand, will shamelessly exploit their gullibility for as long as he needs them, then discard them as he has everything else in his life for which he no longer has use. The pathetic truth is both sides are probably aware of each others motives but don’t care. Perhaps tragically, it is the rest of us who will reap the unfortunate results of this unholy union .

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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