/ New Atheism and Christianity / Gentle Reformation

Anathema (Letter Two)

Here is the intro.  Letter One.

Letter Two

I suppose there is a touch of audacity to our efforts.  Here we find ourselves, after millions of years of mind-shaping evolution, trying to alter nature.  Can we really expect to unravel the effects of such forces in just a few short months?  Indeed layer upon layer of religious propensity has woven its way into the human consciousness, passing from parent to child, generation to generation, until at last it is so firmly embedded in the mind of the homosapien that he cannot but help appeal to deity.  He cannot help but think there is a God.  And I suppose I don’t especially blame him.  For I can almost imagine our early ancestors huddled together in the corner of some crudely built shelter riding out a terrible storm and thinking they somehow disturbed the fragile sensitivities of some divine figure.  Praying would no doubt help calm their timid hearts.  Presenting offerings would provide distraction, order, and a kind of security rooted in ritual, thus furthering their survival.  How could evolution bypass such life preserving mechanisms?  Of course, it wouldn’t.  It didn’t.  And I suppose that is precisely its genius- its sublimity- dare I say, beauty?

I don’t disparage the process.  It was necessary.  We wouldn’t be in the position we are today, actually taking the reins of evolution into our own hands and directing it towards even more glorious ends, if it were not for those elementary stages of human existence.  So please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m very thankful.  But it has made our task, at least in certain cases, monumentally difficult.  Sometimes I feel like a young sailor trying to untie unfamiliar knots.  I pick at the memes for hours to no avail.  They simply won’t budge, no matter how hard I try.

Why is that?  Why is it that some patients, after only a few weeks, and after only merely catching a whiff of certain medications, respond so positively?  And conversely, why do some, no matter the eloquence or logic, nor the sustained regiment of pills, remain so obstinate in their delusion? 

I know what Dr. Henry would say.  I can see him grinning even now.  “It’s biology, Mr. Jones.  Genes.  Not psychology, no matter how romantic the idea may seem.”  All his brilliance notwithstanding, I cannot help but think that the “God-Gene” can be removed through intensive counseling, with some medical intervention, of course.  If evolution has programmed it into man, then surely it can be programmed out.  I’m just saying that now that religion is obsolete, the crutch can be tossed aside- and it can be tossed aside by man himself.  Of course it is true that Dr. Henry wouldn’t disagree with this in theory.  It’s the timetable that’s so unreasonable for him.  Who can wait another million years or so for all the people to catch up?  And who can be absolutely sure that something won’t run amok-- that the virus wouldn’t enjoy a sudden and successful outbreak?  So I grant the point.  But as far as straight biology is concerned, I cannot see that it promises complete redemption.  The results are unclear.  In fact, I recently read about a man in a journal (I cannot recall which at the moment), a Muslim, I believe, who, after undergoing two treatments of fairly aggressive gene re-formation, lost his “social abilities,” as the article so delicately put it.  In reality, the process left him functionally retarded.  And in the end, he still felt a strong impulse to pray.  Not exactly a success story.

If I may ask, how hopeful are you with this new procedure?  I know you’ve expressed concerns about a purely biological approach, but many seem to be moving that direction.  Now that I’ve entered residency, my ability to keep up with the current literature has proven more than a little challenging.  So might there be something of particular interest I should be made aware of, something you’ve read recently?  Regardless, I feel confident that the present paradigm, the one that has had a mildly successful track record, will prove sufficient for my present tasks… though I do wonder about patient 2H-A, the one I groaned on about in my last letter- the Christian woman who is starting to give me indigestion.  I’ll fill you in on some details soon.  I could certainly use some wise counsel.  In the meantime, forgive my blathering on.  Sometimes thinking out loud like this helps focus my mind, shed light on what course of action I should take.

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

C.L. Jones