Gaslighting, revisited

I pointed a few weeks ago toward a guest post at Bruce Gerencser’s blog that likens religious teachings to a form of gaslighting, a type of psychological abuse that undermines the target’s confidence in his or her’s judgment and apprehension of reality. The author of that post revisits the analogy with a second post today and y’all should go read it, too.

This guest post is the same one as before, except that I have added some examples at Bruce’s and his editor’s request. At times, the post is a bit snarky. I have to say that I’ve used so many Biblical examples in it that it felt like preparing a Bible study. However, you might say that it’s more of an anti-Bible Bible study.

Theologians, Friedrich Nietzsche once said, cannot tell the truth.

Whatever a theologian feels to be true must be false: this is almost a criterion of truth. His most basic instinct of self-preservation forbids him to respect reality at any point or even to let it get a word in. Wherever the theologians’ instinct extends, value judgments have been stood on their heads and the concepts of “true” and “false” are of necessity reversed: whatever is most harmful to life is called “true”; whatever elevates it, enhances, affirms, justifies it, and makes it triumphant, is called “false.”

The Antichrist, §9

Christianity’s only truly indispensable metaphysical claim is Original Sin, the teaching that to be born human is to be born foul, guilty, unfit to exist, deserving of eternal torture.

If you don’t believe in Original sin, then Christianity’s promise of salvation is meaningless. It doesn’t need much imagination to reconstruct Christianity without the resurrection or virgin birth, but Christianity literally has nothing on offer without the promise of salvation — and that relies on your acceptance of Original Sin.

It is against the Holy Man’s interest that you be happy, confident, self-assured, because if you think your life is pretty good then you aren’t going to buy his claim that you deserve eternal punishment and he knows how to help you avoid it. What is more, Christian ideals were born in a defeated underclass; they re-interpreted obsequious submission — turn the other cheek — as a virtue because they had no choice but to submit to being mistreated.

There is nothing in Christian teaching that elevates men; whatever elevates men undermines the norms of the underclass in which Christianity was born — and threatens the Holy Man’s livelihood. Christianity needs for you to be sick in order to flourish. That is why Nietzsche held that theologians cannot tell the truth, because the theologian can’t admit straight-out that he means to degrade you. Thus …

  • Christianity tells the marketing lie that it is the source of family values, but teaches that good, decent, godly people will betray their family and friends on command — like Abraham.

  • Christianity tells the marketing lie that it cherishes life, but teaches that things don’t get good till you’re in the grave.

And on and on. Think about it for a bit, and you should have no difficulty thinking of more examples out of your own experience.

Though there are plenty of cynical and knowingly-abusive and self-serving Holy Men out there, I should probably add that I don’t think they’re the majority. Most, I think, are simply too unintelligent and unreflective to realize that they’ve gone over to the Dark Side.

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