Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column in the Saturday Guardian is one of my regular reads. This weekend he wrote about a study of intelligent design which shows that it is more likely to be rated highly if people are made to think about death. Intelligent design implies a reassuring universe. It is existential angst that drives us into the hands of religion is the implication of the study.
But, says Ben, beliefs we believe to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff, which may correlate with, for example, personality features. A 2003 review found that political conservatism was associated with things such as death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure and closure.
These characteristics are shared by Christian conservatism, of course. It responds primarily to people’s insecurity and anxiety, offering a false security which is often dependent on a projection of God as potent and omniscient in a dangerously human way, from which some bishops and leaders take their cue. The result is a defensive, reactionary form of Christianity.
Ben Goldacre concludes by reflecting that we are living in an age of information in which vast tracts of data are being generated around the world on every question. The most interesting questions, he says, aren’t around nuggets of data (which is what conservative Christians think, hence biblical fundamentalism and naivety). Rather, the interesting questions are around how we can corral the data to create an information architecture that serves up the whole picture.
This is something which the Christian churches, dominated by the Vatican in the Catholic Church, and by dominant conservative forces in the Anglican Communion, are singularly failing to do. Both are locked into an old paradigm, defending ways of thinking they claim to be traditional but which ignore the real world in which we live, God’s world which is being continually created and renewed and in which human minds engage in new visions of reality today.
LGBT people, and especially those who are Christians and in the sub-set Anglican, and of a certain age, are very familiar with the conservative mindset which counts us as less than the heterosexual majority, not entitled to love or intimacy in the same way because it is ‘offensive to God’. Thanks be to God for those who have rejected this unexamined Biblical prejudice.
Changing Attitude is most certainly not allowing our thinking and imagination to be confined by existential angst (though the Churches do their best to sow seeds of guilt and anxiety).
Saturday’s front page headline in the Guardian referred to the battle for freedom of speech online as internet users repeatedly name on Twitter the footballer who is hiding behind a privacy injunction. Anglican conservatives – the GAFCON leadership – live with a related fantasy that they can control the future of Anglicanism and the place LGBT are allowed to occupy in church and creation. They will fail.
The internet has enabled younger LGBT people living within repressive religious and political regimes, to access information about their identity and to network with other LGBT people, forming a community of millions who know the truth about themselves and the truth in God’s creation which the churches are trying to suppress.