Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Last Moment of Innocence

The Last Moment of Innocence refers to the moment just before one discovers that a cherished belief is not true.

Until the moment of discovery (or of disillusionment), it is still possible to belief in good faith that one's cherished belief continues to possess validity. I alluded to this in the last paragraph of "Idols -- Conclusion" posted on January 19.

What comes after the Last Moment of Innocence when the truth, or rather the falsity of a cherished belief remains unacknowledged. I don't think it requires much imagination to see that this denial is prima facie neurotic, borrowing Freud's pity definition of neurosis: the denial of a piece of reality.

The fundamental rationale for holding on to the false belief is simply that one wishes it were true. The sleight of hand in moving from wishing one's cherished belief were true to one's cherished belief actually being true is covered over with shows of logic, appeals to authority, threats of all the horrible things that will happen, if the cherished belief were acknowledged to be false.

Again I don't think much imagination is required to see that the unwillingness to let go of the Last Moment of Innocence is the well-spring of religiously sanctioned violence. Any attempt at enlightenment is a threat: the carefully hidden piece of reality might be uncovered with horrifically unknown consequences. "Religiously sanctioned" can mean approved & sanctioned by religious authorities and institutions, or approved & sanctioned by an individual's own understanding of religious duty & obligation.

The Last Moment of Innocence is another way of saying that faith is neurosis: one claims to see what one wants to see, not what one does in fact see.

This also means that by and large religion is a means of avoiding and shutting out reality, i.e., unpleasant truths. It is intrinsic to religion, especially Christianity, that anything proven empirically carries little or no weight. Consider the oxymoron of Christian Sex Education. Abstinence? Condoms preventing AIDS? Evolution? Christians have bigger fish to fry than minor virtues of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness.

As I said before, honest Christians are in principle possible, but are notoriously short-lived creatures.

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