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Arrested Development?

By Carl S ~

Another year older and more cards kidding me about getting older, with captions like, “You may be older but you don't have to grow up," or, "You can refuse to grow up," or my favorite, "Growing up is optional." They got me to thinking (doesn’t everything?) about those who won't grow up.

Kohlberg's stages of moral developmentImage via Wikipedia
I’m talking about Christians, the eternal teenagers, who know all the answers, rejecting even constructive criticism, and who won't listen to opinions other than their own. They just go along with the groups they hang out with.

You'd think that as an adult, speaking to them "man to man" would get you respect, but when you open your mouth and start to speak your mind, they shut theirs, talk over you, or behave like children who cover their ears and yell, "I can't hear you!" Hardly an adult attitude. And why are we, who wish to have an adult discussion, talked down to as if we are children? Why are Christians so rude, behaving sometimes like privileged brats? I think you are the exception if you have not had this experience.

On this latest birthday, I waited in vain for a phone call from my Christian brother-in-law, to tell him that the reason I don’t go to church is because I have grown up, that I began growing up long, long ago simply because I was willing to listen to other beliefs and viewpoints.

Well, I've been told that I shouldn't speak out and try to "change" believers, to which I reply, I'm only trying to make them THINK; and besides, what do you think your missionaries are doing? The way I see it, I have a lot to offer and ignorance isn't bliss, despite their clinging to it, so that I won't be deterred by the attitude that I should keep my mouth shut and defer to them, to keep the peace. Because keeping the peace isn't working; they’re not willing to learn any better, and need a good kick in their complacent pants. They don't even care enough about their precious beliefs to examine them! Or to wonder if what they've been taught as innate to their natures has any substance, because growing up involves knowing the difference. It isn't easy being the adult.

There are questions they avoid with the "don't ask/don't tell" policy of faith. In a recent talk with my wife, I mentioned the "Question" thing, and she said that people in her congregation do have public questioning periods, but sometimes individuals are told to take their queries to the pastor in private! Ah, the avoidance of clergy to questions, especially in public - an art form in itself.

And then there's "innocence," which my mother saw as pre-sexual, but believers see as precious: a childhood trust, an unwillingness to let go of the security blanket, nebulous as it is. They don't want their kids exposed to "worldly" influences either (such as the aforementioned human sexuality), to find out how the world functions outside their precious belief structure.

I ask you, with all the information available to anyone willing to look for it, the accumulation of thousands of years, why is there ANY emphasis on BELIEF? There is no reason to believe what others did out of their own ignorance. One can usually find out if something is true or not, and WHY.

Let's conclude with a pertinent study of moral maturity, from the book, "The Philosophy of Moral Development," by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg. According to Kohlberg's theory of moral development, seven to ten year old children reason on a "pre-conventional" level; they defer to adult authority and obey rules based only on expectations of punishment or reward. He considers this "pre-moral." Beginning around age ten, children move to the "conventional" level of moral reasoning, when their behavior is guided by the opinions of other people and the desire to conform. At this level, obeying authority becomes a value in itself, without reference to rewards or punishments, or to higher principles. During adolescence, Kohlberg states, a few people develop beyond the "conventional" level to the third and highest level, to "post-conventional morality," which requires the individual to formulate abstract moral principles and to act on them to satisfy his own conscience, rather than to gain the approval of others. One’s reasoning is informed instead by fluid, abstract concepts such as freedom, dignity, justice, and respect for the sanctity of life.

Which level do you think believers act on? I find some are still in level one.

If there is to be an emphasis on the positive values of childhood, it ought to be to emphasize childhood curiosity and wonder. We ought to emulate the Carl Sagans and David Attenboroughs of this world. Yet, while believers with their childlike faiths remain trusting and gullible, THEY are critics against our curiosity, because, after all, doesn't curiosity lead one away from faith? It is no wonder then, that they DON'T want us looking for the men behind the curtain. Curiosity more than hinders faith, it eventually kills it.


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