My 3rd CIE Paper

November 8, 2006

Enjoy this preview of my upcoming CIE Paper. I’ll post the final copy when it’s done. Until then, enjoy.

Will Christianity Outgrow Its Childhood?
In the modern world, a many situations offer a threat to humanity. However, perhaps the most egregious of these is religious fundamentalism. The Western World (America especially) has no problem seeing the craziness of Muslim’s. What we do have a problem doing, though, is seeing that very same craziness in our own backyard: in the square states. In Kansas, where evolution has been banned, on and off, over the past century. In the megachurches of America, where preachers wrap messages of materialism and sadism in nice love-clothe.

Now, admittedly, there are MANY well intentioned Christians. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Christians would not act in bad faith if they knew that they were doing so. What they don’t know is that they are. That different faiths abound, and acting like there aren’t is a silly thing to do.

But before we go condemning Christianity, it is important that we take a step back and look at the larger picture. That bigger picture is the goal of this paper, asking not whether or not Christianity is a childish religion, but whether the masses that practice it will ever move beyond the childish fascination with creator gods and apocalyptic deaths.

What is the larger picture? Simply put, that picture involves evolution, interestingly the bane of Christian Fundamentalism. Ironically, this may also be the only hope to save Christianity form itself. Basically, when speaking of evolution in this context, we will explore Christianity in a developmental context, as both a social institution and as a worldview held by the people who practice it.

A great deal of this paper will be a simplification and application of the ideas proposed by Ken Wilber in Integral Spirituality (among numerous other works) regarding the place of spirituality, and by extension religion, in the modern and postmodern world.

The bulk of Wilber’s work in this area can be seen as anthropological: he examines societies and tries to categorize them. However, he goes beyond the typical approach of lumping to instead form a cogent picture of what a truly integral framework might look like. The greatly simplify his work for this paper, humans go through 3 major developmental stages: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. Pre-conventionality deals with “me” and with egocentric. Conventionality (where most of modern Christianity now resides) focuses on “us” and has a more ethnocentric slant. Finally, the next stop, though in no way the final stop, along the path is at the post-conventional, a place emphasized by focus on “all of us” and on worldcentric issues.

Another way to think of this development in less abstract terms is to view the growth of a person from a baby, to a child, to an adolescent, to an adult. As a baby, the baby has no choice but to be egocentric, focused on the very tactile world around himself. In fact, at this stage, the child and his surroundings are completely undifferentiated: the child literally does not know that he and it are different. Moving through childhood, the child continues to differentiate and integrate itself and its surroundings until it reaches a more ethnocentric view of the world, focusing on himself, his family, his friends, his nation, etc. Basically, this is the “Boyscout/Girlscout” age of conformity. The child unites itself to some higher purpose outside of itself and in the process loses its individuality to the group. Think Hitler. Think the Ku Klux Klan. Think nation-states. Finally (or hopefully), the child eventually reaches adolescence, a time of great turmoil physically, mentally, and emotionally. For our cases, let’s just focus on the mental side (the other two would be entire papers unto themselves). As a teenager, a young man might find himself suddenly fighting his parents, fighting his teachers, and fighting with himself. Identity with the group loses its importance, even as some regress to more group identification under the sway of peer pressure. Suddenly, the most important issue is to make one’s own way in the world. To get beyond the labels and just be themself. Finally, in adulthood, the healthy adult integrates all of these components into a healthy individual, where healthy means an individuated self integrated into a larger world context.

Now, why say this? Basically, because ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (regardless of the fact that this theory, in biology is bullshit). As discussed in Up from Eden and The Atman Project, the development of civilizations follow very closely the development of individuals, as it must since civilization is merely the intersubjective representation of the subjective experience of an individual. So, if we take the basic model of pre-conventional to conventional to post conventional, or even more illustrative, the view of a person going through stages of development, and apply it to the development of a culture, in this case Christianity, we may draw some very interesting comparisons.

It’s important to note that the fact that Christianity went through stages of development does not mean that Jesus himself was not post-conventional. That’s the thing about developmental filters and by proxy social norms: they influence what they interpret.

Clearly Christianity comes in any number of flavors: the infant ones (think vodoo based Christianity or the Rapture-based violence), the childhood ones (Churches, the current Pope claiming Catholicism is the one and only way [Boyscouts, anyone?), or the adult variety (Deism, rational Christianity, any of those numerous nummy flavors). But let’s go into more detail with the second two types of Christianity, since they involve the two types most commonly found in the world.
“Traditional” Christianity has very little tradition about it. Sure, Saint Paul made some great comments. But he didn’t match up at all with Jesus. Unfortunately, those red highlighted words often get ignored in the sea of black around Paul’s letters. So, regardless of the lack of tradition (blah blah blah this doesn’t matter). Christianity at the traditional phase is how we commonly think of it: churches, fundamentalists, a strict adherence to moral codes, and a belief that Jesus is the only one Way and Truth and Light.

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2 Responses to “My 3rd CIE Paper”

  1. Davum said

    Sounds like a good paper. Just make sure that you’re not so subjective… mainly in the beginning… and try not to use the word “nummy,” lol.

    But I’m sure that you know that. Also, bullshit is not a good idea, just in case you were wondering :) Good luck Dave

  2. Ed A. said

    Hahaha.

    He said “nummy.”

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