“What has changed everything?” asked the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.
“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell
[…] “Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”
You know what? He’s right. Faith largely thrives on ignorance. If you don’t know what caused something to happen or how something came to be then it’s pretty easy to accept “Goddidit” as a viable answer. The more you know the smaller the gaps that are left for God to hide in. With knowledge there is little need for faith. Which is a good reason why the Church (as a general thing) has so often over the history of mankind worked so hard to suppress scientific advances in knowledge if it has even a remote chance of contradicting official religious teachings. Can’t have some uppity scientist with his facts and evidence saying that the holy literature has got it all wrong! That stuff comes straight from God, dammit!
McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.
Around 15 years ago, the apologist added, when Christian youth ministries were raising money for youth projects, the big phrase was, “If you don’t reach your child by their 18th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.” What is it now? “If you do not reach your child by their 12th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.”
Again, he’s right. Which is part of why there is so much focus on getting ’em when they’re young. You gotta start fillin’ those empty heads up with nonsense as soon as you can before they’re exposed to all those facts and theories and shit. Indoctrinate them early enough and teach them to disrupt their classes with stupid questions about the curriculum and chances are good you’ll have an True Believer™ for life! But if you let those poor little bastards onto the Internet where all those nasty skeptics and atheists are just laying in wait to pounce on them with science and facts before you’ve inculcated them they’ll stand little chance in ignoring reality. Worse, they might grow up to be Liberals!
Fortunately, Mr. McDowell says there are things you can do to combat this great menace of our time:
“First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.
Surprisingly enough, I again agree with him. In fact, I think his first point is very important. It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk and I think a lot of Christians fail to practice what they preach. If more of them followed the teachings of Christ found in the Bible then Christians probably wouldn’t have as bad of an image among everyone else. Christ had some decent ideas that started with the old standby of leading by example. Having a good relationship with your kids is good advice regardless of your belief system and it definitely helps when trying to install your values in them.
The last one is amusingly ironic to me, but I do agree with it. Granted, what he considers to be proper knowledge and what I consider it to be are probably vastly different things, but it’s still good advice. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of Christians who wouldn’t benefit from reading their Bible a little more closely. At least if they’re serious about actually doing what Christ said to do.
So, yeah, the Internet has made all sorts of knowledge — good and bad — available at the click of a mouse and it can and does lead to an undermining of faith. It’s also allowed us atheists and skeptics a much broader platform to present our views and arguments in direct competition with the theists. Without the Internet I’d never have the reach that I do when I decide it’s time to blow some hot air around and I’m only a modest blogger compared to many out there on the Net. It’s a good time to be a member of the loyal opposition. Not only is our message getting out to more than ever, but it’s being listened to.