12/25/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Kalos ~
Niccolo Machiavelli (who actually devoted much of his life and work to free republics, which leads some to think "The Prince" was a sort of satire) pointed out the sad truth that people will more readily follow someone they fear than someone they love. He goes on to say "I conclude that since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon what he and not others can control." It breaks down like this: you are less likely to revolt against someone you are afraid of then you are to revolt against someone you love. Love can be a fickle thing, if the ruler does something you do not like you may decide you do not love them anymore. This is what Machiavelli means when he says "men love as they themselves determine."
Image by IceNineJon via FlickrReligion, especially Christianity, has found a way to harness and balance both of these powerful emotions to get people into a lasting submission. Machiavelli says a ruler should invoke both feared and loved for a reason. The more people fear you, the more they want to avoid your disapproval. The only flaw with being feared is that sometimes the fear turns to hate. Machiavelli says with good reason to avoid being hated. That's where love comes in. The more people love you, the more atrocities they will forgive. They will also be good servants, going above and beyond what you ask of them. Common methods of evangelism give people a reason both to fear and love god.
The common way that many evangelists open is by convincing you that you are not a good person or at least that you can't be one on your own. (Not even "The Prince" sunk that low) They usually use a mix of the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount to peg you as a liar, adulterer, a blasphemer, and more. Then they give the person a reason to fear god by saying something along the lines of "If you were to walk out into the street over there and get hit by a car and you were standing in front of the judgment seat of god, what would you have to say for yourself?" They don't even have to mention hell because it's already so engrained into our culture. By doing these two things the evangelist has established that 1) you are nothing without god and 2) you better do something quick because you could die in an instant and be sent to hell. You know, maybe the term Machiavellian should be revised; I think Niccolo was a good guy. Why not rename the word for manipulative, two-facedness something like Evangelian or Christian.
Fear? Check. Now for the love. The guy that wants you to believe you need him to not be worthless and deserving of the eternal torture pit he made to scare people into submission gives you a chance to be good. "He wants to help you and have a personal relationship with you! You are saved!" If the evangelist was successful in making the person feel worthless and afraid, then this is very good news to them and they are likely to become a Christian. What worthless person doesn't want to feel that someone loves them unconditionally and wants to make them worth something?
Now that the Xian loves and fears god, they will forgive atrocities like the great flood, genocide, child sacrifice, bigotry, and the like. Even more, they will try and defend these actions as just. They will also believe that they need to force others into the submission because they feel that it is a good thing and they want to share it. Also the big guy tells them to.
Of course the "loving relationship" is based on a lie. No healthy relationship involves one feeling worthless if it were not for another. Can you imagine a husband trying to teach the same lesson to his wife? He would say something along the lines of, "Without me you have no money, no marketable skills, and no friends. You need me, but the good news is I love you and will always provide for you. You don't have to worry!" We would call this man a manipulative bastard, why is it different with god? If he truly loved her he would want her to feel that she has value independently and he would want her to choose him willingly, not because of fear and feelings of self doubt.
No healthy relationship involves one feeling worthless if it were not for another. Can you imagine a husband trying to teach the same lesson to his wife? He would say something along the lines of, "Without me you have no money, no marketable skills, and no friends. You need me, but the good news is I love you and will always provide for you. You don't have to worry!" I must make a point here to acknowledge that some insecure people have probably found some help in religion. If they already felt worthless the thought of a loving god was probably comforting and helpful in overcoming their insecurity. This combined with a new community of friendly people that welcome the person can make life a lot better. The problem with this "solution" is that it is sort of like a drug. Rather than solving the core of one's problems, one is likely to just dive deeper into their religion. They are just as dependent as a crack head and many of them would proudly admit that. Evangelists are really just unknowing drug dealers.
Should we support a religion ran by a fictional character that makes the "ideal" Prince from Machiavelli's famous work look like a noble figure? Should we support a philosophy that relies upon feeling worthless as a vital pillar? Should we believe that a relationship started by fear and self doubt is one that has love in it? Obviously not, but if you are that insecure person living in a social circle that accepts you only as long as you believe as they do, it sure is hard to break free.
Too often we non-theists are abrasive. We usually focus on the cold logic behind why god doesn't exist in our rebuttal to theism. A Christian is such because of emotional reasons so we are more likely to reach them on that level, however we hardly ever give them any replacement for the comfort they had from Christianity. On top of that we probably often seem self righteous and judgmental. I'm not saying we shouldn't keep up the attacks on the logic of Christianity, I am simply proposing we use more tact and offer something a replacement for the void created in someone's life after leaving Christianity.
I was approached today by a bubbly red-head that used all of the above techniques of evangelism on me. She was nice and I knew she was just misguided so I didn't feel any ill-will toward her. I even wondered if I had a right to make her question this thing that was giving her such happiness. People like that make the best evangelists because others want what they have, but what many don't see is that you can be happy, at peace, and together without any religion. This is my challenge: show people that you have that "something" they want. Be kind to people, show them what it means to actually love someone. Show them how happy and content you are with yourself.
When you debate with someone on theism, don't think about the many asshats and their illogical bullshit. Those thoughts will just make you angry and the theist will not react well to your anger. Focus on the living, breathing person in front of you and care about them. Want them to be free from the lie and the drug that is making them a slave. The world will be plagued with religion until we show people by example that it is oppressive and that non-theism is a healthy, freeing alternative.