Artificial emotional stimulation … in the name of Jesus

Before you click on the video below, I want you to read the following words and examine how they make you feel:

In this life there will be many struggles. You may suffer; you may fall; you may think that you are alone. But fear not, my child. I am with you. I have always been with you. I’ve been with you when you’ve laughed. In your joy, in your sorrow, I am with you. You are a child of God. You are wonderfully made. You are here for a purpose. And I will guide you. I will lift you up; I will carry you; I will rescue you. For I love you and will never leave you, simply because you are my child and I am your Father.

For me, the words represent wishful thinking that is entirely disconnected from reality, and so they evoke no positive feelings whatsoever. I think of the reality of life for a starving child in Africa and I ask myself, “What do the words ‘I will rescue you’ mean to that child?” Absolutely nothing, that’s what.

For a Christian, I suppose the words communicate some vague sense of positivity about their relationship with God – something that provides warm fuzzies without the necessity for any actual thinking about whether the statements ring true in practical day-to-day living.

Now, watch the following video and take careful note of what’s being done to your emotions and why.

With the aid of evocative music and photographs (especially the cute kid at the end), a few empty phrases are turned into words of immense power. Check out the comments on the video:

  • “Amazing I near cried at this. This is inspired by the Holy Spirit”
  • “AMEN! In Jesus name…This is so comforting!!!”
  • “why did this make me almost cry ?”
  • “FANTASTIC. Beautiful and inspiring.”
  • “Really inspiring , thx & may God shine his Face upon u.”
  • “oh wow…. thankyou so much for making this..”

It’s obvious emotional manipulation, using the tried-and-true tactics of commercial television advertising, and yet there’s not a single Christian in the room who is even remotely aware of how he is being played. Those words either have power – raw, honest, rational power coming from truth – or they don’t. If the words have it, then they should evoke the strong feelings without your emotions needing to be artificially stimulated. If reading the words felt different from watching the video, then you are being played.

Like I’ve often said, religion is a tool that preys upon human weakness – in this case, our need to be loved. Many of us will suck on any teat offered, as long as we don’t have to face the painful truth – that we are not divinely protected by God, and anything might happen to us. If you want evidence that religion today is for weak-minded and non-thinking people, look no further.

I feel like putting together a remix of this video, only substituting the existing photos for shots of starving children, victims of abuse, and horrible accidents. I would leave the words and music the same. Now, that would really mess with your head. Bad taste, maybe, but a damn sight more honest.

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7 thoughts on “Artificial emotional stimulation … in the name of Jesus

  1. Robert says:

    I don’t know about emotional manipulation – although in reference to weak-minded / non-thinking a former Archbishop of Canterbury described the church as like a swimming pool with all the noise being at the shallow end. That rings very true, most of what is discussed and thought on is trivial and unnecessary and has nothing to do with reality.

    However, this morning we sent a number of people to a school / health center / rescue center in Sierra Leone. A team that will be working with children who no doubt would be starving, abused, or maimed were it not for people who have seen the realities in the world and have come to an understanding through their faith that they can make a difference. Those who go there and then return to a life of relative wealth and comfort, will certainly have their perspective shift.

    Likewise in terms of those who suffer, there are those who still have faith despite or in spite of what would be considered debilitating and earth-shattering. For instance, Joni Eareckson Tada is hardly unthinking or detached from reality:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/october/12.30.html

    That is all – and remember to stop tarring everyone involved in “religion” with the same brush. We’re not all going to reach the same conclusions as you (let alone each other) 😉

  2. Darryl says:

    A swimming pool with all the noise at the shallow end – decent analogy. But not nearly accurate enough. As you know, Rob, I have been an outspoken critic of Christianity for over three years now. And I can tell you from personal experience of engaging in countless debates, there are almost no rational voices on offer.

    I say “almost” because there is you, there is my Jehovah’s Witness friend Will Hadcroft, and a handful of others. But, my goodness, Rob, the crap that is spewed in my ear unbelievable. If I ever came to appreciate the message of the Gospel again, I would be totally embarrassed to call myself a Christian.

    And your religion only has itself to blame, because it literally attracts the weak. It presents itself as a solution for people who need help. It presents itself in such a way that no intellect whatsoever is required, only simple-minded belief. So it should be no surprise that your pews are filled with foolish and gullible people.

    I can understand people like you and me getting sucked into this thing when we were in our teens. And it was so difficult for me to emerge from, due to the manner in which is gets its claws in you.

    Joni Eareckson (whose autobiography I read some years ago) is somebody whom life dealt a terrible blow. And it isn’t anything other than terrible. She talks about how her sufferings make her closer to Christ and give her unique opportunities for evangelism – all of that is an attempt to mask the horror of what happened to her. You can make any bad thing seem good as long as you can point to something good that came out of it.

    “Stop tarring everyone involved in ‘religion’ with the same brush.” But I don’t, Rob. When I speak to you, I speak to an individual, not a Christian. If you feel you must identify yourself as “Christian,” that’s nothing to do with me. But if I were you, I would be embarrassed to call myself a Christian, due to all the “noise.” I have nothing but contempt for Christianity, because it is a false religion that brainwashes its followers.

    I know you think that your team of aid workers are the real good guys, but I could almost guarantee that if I had an online debate with them, all of the usual manipulative BS would be spewed. Take my relationship with the Barrs for example: “Oh, Darryl, you won’t be a Christian? Then we’re done.” Twenty years of a relationship, pop! Because I won’t allow myself to be bulliled into belief.

    You’re on the wrong side of the equation, Rob. Maybe you have to walk in my shoes to see it. To give you a cheeky analogy: you’re like a human being standing in the middle of a crowd of rowdy zombies, trying to convince yourself that you belong there.

  3. Robert says:

    Let me ask you, independently of any faith or belief structure – if people on the whole remained optimistic after tragedy rather than pessimistic, is an optimistic attitude not more wholesome than that of pessimism.

    Again independently of any faith structure if you were starving and homeless and someone came and offered you food, clothes, and shelter as opposed to those who walk on by, who would leave a lasting impression on you?

    Were your home washed away, blown away, or burned away, and people came to help you rebuild and get back on your feet, would this not leave more of an impression than no-one coming to your aid at all.

    For me tangible ways of responding to these situations are more beneficial than saying this is the way things have to be. Of course these acts would need to be altruistic and nothing would be expected in return. It is a matter of having a sense of responsibility to each person, and living in right relationship with those around us, and despite all the flaws, irresponsibility, and anti-intellectualism, the church in general can and does provide a framework in which opportunities to effect positive change exist, through being a voice for the voiceless and advocating for justice on behalf of those treated unjustly.

    Unfortunately neither you nor I could say what any of those aid workers would do, until you get to know them individually. However, I would almost guarantee that the person in charge of overseeing the effort would not be the manipulative BS type.

  4. Darryl says:

    I’m trying to grasp what you’re essentially getting at above, but I don’t get it. I don’t see a connection between Christianity and acts of atruism. An atheist can have all of the same pursuits, without any motivation from God. You can me tell me Christianity makes you a better person and makes the world a better place. We can pit the bad against the good, but from where I’m sitting, the bad outweighs the good hands down.

    I probably haven’t made this clear, but I do see the heart of the problem as people, not religion. Religion is just a tool that people wield. If all religion were demolished tomorrow, stupid and callous people would just find another way to cause trouble. What I contest is that, by and large, religion happens to be the tool that such people use to cause a great deal of harm. And there are a lot of people like that – where Christianity is both a crutch to lean on and a baton to hit others with.

    I’m happy for you if you’ve got to a good place in your life, and if you feel that Christianity was instrumental in getting you there. But you are the exception, in my experience of dealing with Christians.

    Ultimately, Rob, I am against Christianity because,objectively speaking, from a purely research perspective, it isn’t true.

  5. Robert says:

    “We can pit the bad against the good, but from where I’m sitting, the bad outweighs the good hands down” …. when you say that to what are you referring – bad in the world generally or in terms of religion?

    I’m just thinking in type, all I was saying/asking is that in the face of tragedy is it more compelling to have an optimistic attitude or pessimistic attitude (of course maybe a realistic attitude would be more the case).

    And sure anyone can have motivation for being a help/comfort/aid to those in distress, however many of the relief agencies that exist have their foundations in faith based structures so it just happens to be easier to plug in to relief/aid/charitable work in this way. Of course it is also easier to bring about change collectively rather than individually, of course the collective can be an instrument for bad too.

    My brain is a little frazzled as it is late – how is your internet connection for voice chat?

  6. Darryl says:

    “bad in the world generally or in terms of religion?”

    Well, here I’m specifically referring to bad caused by religion. I could site numerous examples, like how religion has often been the rallying point under which atrocities are committed. But religion itself is not evil. People are. They made religions in the first place, so the blame always goes back to man.

    The general argument about justifying or condemning religion on the basis of how much good or ill it causes in the world misses the heart of the matter. Religion is a tool. People are the problem.

    Christianity, by design, attracts the simple, the non-thinking. And too often, simple people are inwardly nasty people, incapable of self-examination and pursuing their own betterment. If Christianity is to work, it needs to have a far more effective selection process. But as it stands, it’s happy to accept everyone and anyone who says “I believe.” This is why hypocrisy abounds.

    Do you do SKYPE? Send me a private email for me ID.

  7. Joanne says:

    Optimism following adversity is naturally more empowering than pessimism. However, there’s a difference between, “Something bad has happened to me, and I’m going to make the best of it,” and “Something bad has happened to me, but my steps are ordered of the Lord. Therefore, God has caused this to punish me or teach me a lesson, and I will endure it because all things work together for good.” (Or perhaps Satan had a hand in it and God was unable or unwilling to intervene.)

    I remember reading Joni Erickson when I was a teen. I was terrified God would do something terrible to me to increase my faith. But why would a “father” who causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust drop a woman onto the ground from an airplane? Nonsense. And what sort of father would hurt his child to teach it a lesson?

    As for altruism, one would hope that all people would be kind and caring of others. You don’t need religion to promote that sort of behavior. You just need a lack of cynicism in the world. And more personal responsibility. Religion hasn’t cornered the market on good works, but it has seemingly cornered the market on judgmentalism, condemnation, and exclusivity–all backed by the threat of eternal suffering in fire for noncompliance. Dat’s messed up.

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