Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pastoral spiritual guidance is like taking health advice from the CEO of a tobacco company.

Ever stop to think of the incredibly strong motivation that Pastors, Rabbis, Priests, Imams, etc. have when it comes to convincing their flock that God is real, and very, very necessary?

The validity of the message completely aside...consider it.

A pastor spends many, many years of their life in mentorship, training, and consideration to enter their calling under normal circumstances.  They enter churches, and over several years can build and manage a flock who literally pays their salary, making it possible for them to take care of their families.

In their communities, they often take on a certain position of respect, easily on par with Doctors, law enforcement officers, teachers.  They can be called on to be legal witnesses or be legally responsible for certain kinds of advice they offer.

They also have a kind of trust placed in them to a greater degree than many people place in their own family members.

So, at least using this example based in western culture, you can see what a pastor has to lose if they one day just decided there "was no god".

-lose their job, lose their friends, have to start over with a totally new career, disappoint everyone they know, feel the guilt of misleading so many for so long.

Often there can be other kinds of financial pressure as well. Churches are organizations that can actually house their priests or pastors, or cosign on their mortgages or help them with debt.  This means they could often lose their homes.

How much worse it is for directors of the colleges these pastors attended, or the leaders of the evangelical movements.   With Rick Warren, perhaps since he gives so much of his money away, still, the innumerable beneficiaries of his charity work would stand to lose 10s or 100s of millions of dollars in money that in many cases provides food and housing for thousands of families.

The employees of huge christian organizations all depend on their leaders to "stay the course" and be consistent, and on message.  So even if a leader doesnt care about what they stand to lose personally, their basic humanity could strongly compell them to maintain a facade of belief and "christian leadership" in order to ensure the thousands employed by their organizations can continue to have jobs and take care of their families.

One could try to argue that Richard Dawkins is similarly motivated, but could you imagine how many churches would warmly welcome a person like him into their congregations as leader and successful author if he "recanted" his atheism?  If anything, he stands to be vastly wealthier and much more popular if he "came into the flock" as a prodigal.  The same applies to almost any half credible biologist or scientist. Even then, only a tiny few trade in their scientific honesty for a career in the well funded ID movement.

So, with such strong motive, one should take sincere pause and be very wary when considering the "advice" of a Pastor, Rabbi, Imam, or Priest.  Consider where they are coming from, and the almost unbearable pressure they are under to ensure you stay "in the flock", just like you would when watching an ad that claims "smoking tastes great and makes you cool" paid for by Philip Morris.

Its important to note that almost 1 in 2 people in the western world spend at least 1-4 hours per week silent before a person giving a "sermon" who has everything to lose and nothing to gain from intellectual honesty.  Imagine if 1 in 2 men, women, and children in our society spent 1-4 hours a week getting concentrated propeganda from Phillip Morris? (I suppose they do to an extent on television...)

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