The Religious Right’s Continuing Assault on Modernity

By C.H. McDermott | 4 June 2010

(Credit: Dreamstime)

In a world that is clear cut, black and white, good or evil, and either/or there is no wiggle room, degrees, shades or nuance. Thus the world appears to the most devout of True Believers whose beliefs are fostered and spawned at the mythic level consciousness.

Jim Marion, an attorney and author of Putting on the Mind of Christ, The Death of a Mythic God, and other works, describes the mythic level of consciousness as follows:

Mythic consciousness is the level of consciousness of the child from about age 7 to adolescence; it is the first of the mental levels. It is the consciousness of the child’s emerging mind or ego. The child at this level believes that the “God in the Sky,” much like its parents, can work every sort of miracle to meet the child’s needs. It is a conformist, law-and-order level in which everything in the child’s parochial world is seen as the “true” and the “best.” The child learns to define itself by conventional rules and roles and sees its self-worth in following these “laws” and in behaving properly. Until recently, the mythic level of consciousness has been the dominant level of consciousness in all the world’s “universal” religions, including Christianity.

Prior to the renaissance the dominant world view in the West was mythic with regard to all things. The known universe was under the political and cultural finger of the Catholic Church. Uttering the idea that maybe the church and state should not be one and the same thing would get a person boiled alive in oil. Interestingly, most art was two-dimensional and of a religious theme. Three dimensions were not widely represented in art until the renaissance.

(Image by Peter H from Pixabay)

To this day, the crusade of Homo mythicus marches on. It infects our politics at every turn from the right, and continues to rail against modernity, and especially post-modernity, ceaselessly attacking it in the courts and through our various legislative bodies. And it’s always the same tired theme: guns, God and gays.

Whether conservatives really know it or not, what they are nostalgic for is a return to a simpler time when the life span was a fraction of what it is now, most women died in child birth, the average person was about a foot and a half shorter, plagues were common, and life was brutish, short and unforgiving for the average serf, which almost everyone was. But hey, at least there was none of that separation of church and state crap going on, and there were clear rules that one could follow so as to unequivocally gain entrance through the pearly gates.

No one has incurred the wrath of the mythic-believers like Charles Darwin. From the Scopes “monkey trial” to Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, their efforts to have a literal account of The Book of Genesis taught in science classes have been as unwavering as they have been unsuccessful. In Kitzmiller, Judge John E. Jones III, in the conclusion of his opinion, wrote:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of [intelligent design] make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

It is easy to see why the mythic minded are anti-intellectual and anti-science, since intellectual and scientific inquiry, the parents of the modern age, threaten the clear-cut fantasy world they spiritually inhabit. It is also easy to see why organized religion is on the decline. If religion does not change its tune, it will scarcely have any adherents a very few generations from now, according to studies and polls.

If organized religion wants to enjoy continuing viability into the 21st century it is going to have to own up to, and honor the findings of science and the advances of the modern age in general. Religion, as with any speculative and transcendent enterprise, does have a place in our world, but a pre-modern mentality does not. It is time for religion to grow up and quit insisting that we all believe and conform to the untenable, the inadequate and immature alternative that exoteric religion is.

Many people are very hungry for an understanding of the what-for of existence and are not satisfied with the explanation that we are no more than frisky dust derived wholly from physical matter against the greatest of odds. Those same people cannot stomach a religion that demands that its followers believe that the world is only 6,000 years old.

The spiritually minded crave a mature, serious source and method to aid them in their quest to understand and commune with their own transcendent natures, not crazy stuff that contradicts one’s rational experience of the world at every turn. People want strong meat, not gnashed over stunted crap of a bygone era.

Eventually, organized religion will have to reconcile itself with the 21st century and its scientific and intellectual standards and requirements. If not, the fate of religion is to die on the vine like all those things before that could not remain viable by adapting to their ever-changing environment.

Like all things, religion will have to evolve or go the way of the dodo. Either way, I’m optimistic.

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