I feel I need to give my rebuttal to a note a close-minded Christian gave me as of late. The jist of it being, “don’t talk to me about my precious Jesus, because we can’t have peace if I hear Him mocked.”
To illustrate my point of view: I want to talk about my sister, who as a child had an invisible friend she named “Trinny”. She loved this friend dearly. This friend made her feel special, comforted her when she was lonely, made her brave and protected her from all her imaginary horrors in the night and such. This friend was someone to blame when things went wrong, and even someone whom you have control over how they manifest to you, when you feel powerless to change your life around you. Most important, an imaginary companion is a tool young children use to help them make sense of the adult world. A child living in fear will often develop imaginary friends to cope with life.
According to Wikipedia, they say that some children find their invisible friends physically indistinguishable from real people, while others say they see their imaginary friends only in their heads. There’s even a third category of imaginary friend recognition: when the child doesn’t see the imaginary friend at all, but can only feel his/her presence. Experiments and science have confirmed these imaginary friends to be all in the head, and they theorize that the delusion originates out of fear, emotional traumas and insecurity, as well as a deranged perception of reality, but that’s a whole “nother ball of wax. . .
We never believed in Santa Claus though in our family, (even though my Grandparents did give us presents from him), mainly because we had helpful older people around to enlighten our childish minds. If everyone including our peers had’ve perpetrated the lie to us though, we probably would have believed in him. I would’ve been ok with Santa even now, as there is little harm to believing in a big red happy man who brings you presents on one day a year if you were good. It’s a great inspiration to be good, and I understand that kids need as much reason for feeling motivated to be good as the rest of us do. . .although I’m not crazy about the threat of only coal in the stocking if someone deems you not good enough.
The fact is though, given normal conditions, because of teasing peers and caring adults, someone will kindly, or not so kindly, inform the child of their delusional invisible friends and they will grow out of that reality. Questioning things like: why their friend isn’t actually showing him or herself, or speaking to anyone out loud to prove their reality? And while it may burst their bubble momentarily, it is a good thing for the peers and adults to do, eventually.
It is a pretty common thing as a child to suffer this kind of delusion, but as an adult we are expected to have grown out of it. . .there are some issues with that happening though sometimes: one is that if we aren’t the only one with the delusion. ” When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.”
Disbelief in our precious invisible friends cannot easily come though if we don’t understand why we were wired or predisposed to even consider them as reality in the first place. According to neurologists and psychologists we believe in gods, not because we just feel compelled to worship them, or have a “God shaped vacuum in our lives,” though that’s exactly what Christians would claim. According to Psychologist Thomas Plante, PhD “religious thought is in many ways an unavoidable byproduct of the way our minds work. ” For more on that check out the article,
A reason to believe, or 1/3 rd through the video called Why we believe in gods.
Unlike the harmless belief in Trinny or Santa though, when adults have a belief in God, they don’t often stop at hearing and seeing things for themselves. A belief in the God of the Bible or Jesus for instance, is not the sort of belief that is easily kept to ourselves. . .although some “progressive Christians”, and introverts can do just that. If a person’s beliefs are harmless and only effecting them, then we could compare the child’s beloved invisible friend, with the Christian’s invisible friend Jesus. . .but sadly it’s not that simple. . .
Like is explained in this poem I heard this morning in my UU church:
Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness and the feeling of being especially privileged.
Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies.
Some beliefs are like shadows, clouding children’s days with fears of unknown calamities.
Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing children with the warmth of happiness.
Some beliefs are divisive, separating the “saved” from the “unsaved”, friends from enemies.
Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.
Some beliefs are like blinders, shutting off the power to choose one’s own direction.
Other beliefs are like gateways opening wide vistas for exploration.
Some beliefs weaken a person’s self-hood. They blight the growth of resourcefulness.
Other beliefs nurture self confidence and enrich the feeling of personal worth.
Some beliefs are rigid like the body of death, impotent in a changing world.
Other beliefs are pliable like the young sapling, ever growing with the upward thrust of life.
By Sophia Lyon Fahs
So it is imperative that we both strive to have beliefs that are like the “other beliefs”, and attempt to help or enlighten those with the “some beliefs”. It is past the time for humoring them for their beliefs, as we would a child, for their own best interest. If they persist (unlike a child would) in the foolishness of blind faith when you give them all the evidence that has convinced so many of the scientists and smartest people around the globe, they need to feel some peer pressure, to know it is not OK to still believe such harmful stuff, against logic and science.
While it’s not fun to burst a child’s bubble, it’s worse to tell a grown adult that their life has been wasted away in ignorance, bondage and fear! Sadly, to me though, the golden rule is clear; like a child eventually needs to be told how foolish they are to stay in their childishness, we should know that the Christian needs to be told the same, for their own good.
Unfortunately, because we know how hard it is for any person with invisible friends to see a reality without them, we know how hard of a path this is for both parties. We also know that their common first line of defense (when you do tell them of science and reality) will be denial, then anger and defensiveness. Sadly, Atheists know by experience that most often it makes us lose the very friendships we care about most. Should we still stand for truth against their delusion, and do anyways what we know is right, whether or not the person ever thanks us for it? I say definitely! We do what is right for the long term and the good of the world. . .not for personal gain. Like in the past (and now) I considered a true friend to be one who cared enough about me to be honest, even when it hurt. . .I try to do that now as always, in the best interest of my friends and family.
If a Christian simply could keep their beliefs to themselves, then it’s likely that no one would pick apart or “make fun of” their “dear Jesus” any more then people occasionally mock a general belief in Santa. . .but if they share their thoughts of a reality based on their invisible friend Jesus, share their best defense for it as “faith” and then be close-minded to new information that negates Jesus as even real, then they deserve some correction.
I could go so far as to say, that if Jesus WERE real, he would be more likely to fight against such close-minded, dogmatic, judgmental beliefs and rigid rules. He would have sided instead with the progressive religious “rebels” who use science, common sense and accept everyone as an equal. So when considering the question of the reality of your invisible friend Jesus, maybe you should ask, “what would Jesus do?”