Hi and welcome back! Lately, we’ve been talking about the Christian promise of peace of mind. (We’ll just be calling it peace here.) In fact, this kind of peace represents one of Christians’ very favorite promises. Not only is it not true, though, but it serves as a way for Christians to dehumanize their tribal enemies. To start this section, today we’ll be looking at how Christians try to make their version of peace look superior to that which they imagine exists elsewhere.
Quick li’l Christianese lesson: “the world/worldly” means anything that is not 100% centered on Jesus. So “a worldly man” is not Christian (or is but isn’t Jesus-y enough for the judge). “Worldly music” lacks the requisite 50 Jesus-es per minute (JPMs, with h/t to Blimey Cow) that Christian music consumers require. Christians freely fling the word around as an insult to each other. They also use it to express scorn regarding various activities and objects. The opposite of “worldly” might be “sanctified,” “holy,” etc.
And y’all: that’s peak Christianese there. Remember it if you ever need to fit in.
A Universal Human Emotion.
As I showed you last time, the emotion of peace is universal. Long before Christianity’s invention, ancient philosophers knew what it was and had some ideas about achieving it. And non-Christians have always seemed to find peace as well.
For example, take this 8th-century Chinese poem, “Deer Park.”
No one seen. Among empty mountains,
hints of drifting voice, faint, no more.
Entering these deep woods, late sunlight
flares on green moss again, and rises.
Its creator understood peace quite well. (And ohh, what a beautiful scene he painted with words!)
If a person fights the clear evidence of his senses he will never be able to share in genuine tranquility.
He sure ain’t wrong, as I’ve discussed recently. It was only after rejecting Christianity that I myself finally found peace.
So yeah. All through human history, people have known what this emotion was. And even worse (for sales-minded Christians), people outside their tribe have achieved and felt peace.
Creating An Arbitrary Distinction.
For years now, at least since I was a teenager myself, Christian evangelists have sought to carve out a huge distinction between Christian peace and any other kind of peace. In other words, they try their darndest to make their peace sound not only different from anybody else’s, but also vastly superior. More than that, even, they try to make all other avenues of finding peace sound ineffective.
These salespeople tell us that other methods don’t produce a peace that matches what they claim their particular flavor of Christianity can produce. If someone does claim to have feelings of peace, these salespeople inform them that it won’t last and will, when it dissipates, leave that person feeling empty and sad. Any other feeling of peace other than that derived from their flavor is (they claim) a false peace. Many Christians think Satan himself tricks humans into thinking that they can get away with finding peace through some other method than obeying Christian leaders’ demands. (See endnote.)
Thus, they call their version of peace Christian peace or true peace. Peace achieved through any other means becomes, in turn, the world’s peace or false peace.
How It’s Done.
In a way, this Christian marketing campaign reminds me of that Mad Men scene about the Lucky Strikes ad. In this scene, Don Draper finds a way to sell a particular brand of cigarettes: he’ll create an artificial distinction between his client’s product and all the other identical products on the market.
Much like manufacturing cigarettes doesn’t differ much from company to company, the process of finding inner peace probably doesn’t differ overmuch between centuries, countries, cultures, aggregate populations, religions, and even people. That kind of tranquility isn’t unique to anybody or any group or any ideology. As Don Draper says,
We have six identical companies making six identical products. We can say anything we want! . . . Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strikes is toasted. . . Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you’re doing, it’s okay. You are okay.
And that’s exactly what Christianity’s mad men did: they said whatever they wanted.
They promised everybody that their route to peace was the only valid one out of all the others in human history. Nobody else really had a way to advertise their own routes to peace, at least in cultures that gave Christians enormous power over people’s lives. In those cultures, Christian salespeople simply lapped those other religions’ salespeople.
If Christians’ route actually worked for its members in the main, it’d be a hell of a marketing coup.
As it is, this advertising promise represents a false claim–and thus, a part of why the religion’s heading downhill so quickly and so completely.
Which Peace Is Which?
Membership in Christianity became more optional over about the last 20 years. Since then, Christian salespeople have had to contend with mean ol’ non-Christians saying they feel peace just fine without Christianity.
These aren’t just atheists. They’re any folks who aren’t Christian and feel a perfectly-acceptable amount of peace in their lives. Back when Christians tightly-controlled American culture, when it could get downright dangerous to criticize them or leave their groups, those people not only existed in much smaller numbers but also didn’t dare offer up their experiences as a counterpoint to Christian claims.
Now, dissenters are as easy to find as typing a phrase into a search engine. (Not that evangelism-minded Christians tend to care. They still want dissenters to do their work for them.)
As a result of the increasing diversity in America, Christians have in turn begun drilling down very hard on the idea that their version of peace is far superior to any other version of peace.
If people outside of TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ think they feel peaceful, well, they’re just wrong–delusional, even. Because only TRUE CHRISTIANS™ can possibly hope (after fulfilling a raft of asterisked conditions) to access the real deal–according to those TRUE CHRISTIANS™ themselves.
“Chasing False Peace.”
Thus, many Christians take as a given that non-Christians lack real, genuine feelings of peace in their lives. After all, those non-Christians don’t have the only officially-sanctioned source of peace! So as these Christians see it, their task is to convince everyone that their peace is the real deal, and whatever those people say they feel isn’t.
That’s how we end up with testimonies like “Chasing False Peace.” It reads like a Chinese-American restaurant menu, very much a cookie-cutter production. Its heroine, Katie, offers her TRUE CHRISTIAN™ audience the standard three-act testimony. Yes, she chased after unapproved vices while seeking peace of mind! She names the usual culprits: drugs and alcohol (no sex–this is the 700 Club site). However, only her imaginary friend could possibly give her true peace.
After her stunning conversion (reconversion?), she ends with a flex. Now she’s married (to a man, of course) and has “two boys.” She says, “Nothing else satisfies, but he [her imaginary friend] does.”
You can find these sorts of testimonies everywhere. Christians are downright desperate to demonstrate that all the other methods they tried of finding peace failed them–until they tried their current flavor of Christianity.
Implied: … and it’ll totally bring everyone that kind of peace too! [Citation needed]
The Differences, Such As They Are.
As you can see, Katie–and many of her pals–have created some impressive lists of differences between their notion of peace and the world’s. The lists don’t vary overmuch. We can take this one as representative. Nivine Richie of Unlocking the Bible begins,
The peace offered by the world is an empty promise and can only bring temporary comfort. [Citation needed.] God’s peace is a permanent peace offered by the only One who can be trusted to keep his Word and heal our sin. [Citation needed]
She likes making statements without real-world support, doesn’t she? Remember, Christians only get these promised benefits after fulfilling many asterisked conditions–and maybe not even then. I sure didn’t get it despite trying through several completely different flavors of Christianity and Jesus-ing my little heart out.
Richie then offers her list. The world’s peace:
- is fleeting and changes with circumstances
- is built on the weak foundation of compromise
- ignores the root of the problem
Obviously, she thinks that Christian peace operates in the opposite manner. However, I’d say her list of how the world’s peace works sounds exactly and precisely like the non-peace I experienced and observed through my years as a Christian. The last one sounds especially familiar.
When “False Peace” Feels Superior to “Real Peace.”
The main dealbreaker to this Christian advertising claim is, of course, that we can clearly see that Christians tend to seriously lack inner peace despite belonging to a religion that promises it to adherents.
The other is this:
I’ve been Christian and I’m not now. And I can tell anybody who asks for 100% certain that the peace I feel now is far superior to anything I ever felt as a Christian. In fact, I’ve felt peace as a Zen Buddhist, as a Hellenic pagan, and as a happy little None. And they’re all quite lovely–and superior to anything I ever felt in Christianity. In fact, until I deconverted I really didn’t know what in the world the word “peace” even meant in emotional reality.
When I tell Christians that, all they can do at that point is try to gaslight me into thinking that I was totally wrong about how I felt as a Christian and how I feel now. But when Christians’ fake peace feels to me way more like real peace than what their ideology actually produced in my life when I was Christian, well, I will always believe “my lying eyes” over a salesperson trying desperately to score a sale.
To me, it looks like they’re trying to label doggie doo as chocolate pudding. And if Christians are content to eat doggie doo and say it’s chocolate pudding, that’s their call.
Myself, I’d rather not. Thanks, but I’ll keep eating the stuff that tastes like chocolate pudding, and avoid the stuff that stinks like doggie doo.
The Bad Roadmap.
I don’t think I have ever had a semblance of peace in my 40 years of life.
— Christian Forums, “What Does the Peace of God Feel Like?”
Like almost all of my peers in Christianity, I worked from a bad roadmap. I know that now.
It couldn’t take me from “no-peace” to “peace” any more than Google Maps can get me to Bag End in Hobbiton.
It turns out that “give it all to Jesus” and “just trust Jesus” (and “think about Heaven!”) aren’t actually valid or viable ways to find inner peace. As well, it turns out that momentary bursts of euphoria do not equal out to long-term tranquility of mind. And last and most devastating for evangelism-minded Christians, it turns out that whatever huge differences Christians imagine exist between Jesus-flavored peace and “the world’s” peace, they are neither substantial nor any selling point in Christianity’s favor.
And Christians know this fact perfectly well, though they don’t dare examine exactly why that is.
If these Christians’ “real peace” was the real deal, they wouldn’t keep asking how to get it and why they don’t feel it. Or, for that matter, they wouldn’t be asking each other what peace even feels like in the first place.
And we definitely wouldn’t be seeing studies indicating that many atheists report feelings of peace.
If there is some marked difference between Christians’ version of peace and the world’s peace, it does not work to Christians’ favor. That’s because Christians obtain peace the same old way that everyone else does–through using their emotional and physical resources, support networks, connections, and whatever fortunate circumstances they encounter.
However, way too many Christian groups disallow valid coping mechanisms and ways to find peace–and saddle themselves with methods to achieve it that don’t actually work.
If these folks could accept that people find peace just fine without their product (membership in their particular flavor of Christianity), that’d be great. But they can’t. Accepting our pushback would mean they’d have to stop trying to sell us their product. They’re pushy salespeople and control freaks all at once–and they don’t accept that no means no.
That’s why it’s important that people do push back–be they ex-Christians, lifelong atheists, people in non-Christian religions, and even Christians in non-pushy flavors of the religion. As this snippet of poetry I caught long ago says,
We all climb the mountain using different trails, but at the summit we all gaze at the same bright moon.
The most beautiful part of humanity is how different we all are, and yet how universal and interconnected we really are.
And in a way, that glorious commonality of the human situation will spell the end of Christian power more than anything else. No wonder so many of ’em deny that truth so vehemently.
NEXT UP: How Christian peace gets used as a dehumanizing tactic against non-Christians. Then, how it gets used as a control method for Christians. See you soon!
About those distinctions: Even funnier, denominational infighting makes the differences even more arbitrary. I thought that a Mormon, a Southern Baptist, or a Catholic could never find real peace. They needed to convert to MY flavor! (Back to the post!)
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