Na-ked [ney-kid]

1. plain; simple; unadorned: the naked realities of the matter.
2. not accompanied or supplemented by anything else: a naked outline of the facts.
3. exposed to view or plainly revealed
4. plain-spoken; blunt: the naked truth.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The power of suggestion

I recently attended a christian funerary service for close relative of mine. At this point in my life, I attend church for one of three reasons; weddings, funerals and services that have to do with my God-son (I've explained to the parents that I would not help raise him to be a good christian, but to be a good person).

Near the beginning of the service, I told my wife that I would go on auto-pilot and see how much of church ceremony I could remember/perform since I stopped attending regular services some 20 years ago. I was shocked to realize how well I had been conditioned; Hymn after hymn, song after song, prayer after prayer, even the obscure little utterances during the ceremony had been burned into my memory over the course of my childhood and adolescence.

I came to appreciate the power of suggestion associated with the church. If you take a child and repeat a ceremony week after week, it will be absorbed. This is how religion works. Hook 'em while they're young and the rest is done. It becomes habit and tradition. Critical thought will lead many to free themselves of the shackles of tradition but many do not question the status quo and keep passing their beliefs on to their children without even thinking about it.


  1. I was honestly shocked to see how much of it you remembered. Growing up Baptist, we had a very different experience from that of the Catholic church. We sang songs together, and occasionally the pastor would have us go to a particular passage in our Bibles, and we would read it aloud as a congregation, but nothing like the repetitive nature of a Catholic service. While our services followed a similar pattern week after week (worship songs, followed by special music, followed by prayer, then sermon, and finished with another song and a prayer), it wasn't so heavily ritual based. The prayers were more impromptu, and changed from week to week. The sermon was usually a short reading from the Bible, followed by the pastor's interpretation and practical application of said passage. I don't recall ever having to recite anything from memory, except possibly the Lord's Prayer or Psalm 23 once in a blue moon.

    Attending that funeral service, and seeing you run on auto-pilot, really gave me a better understanding of some of your views on the church. I always agreed with you about how the church "hooks 'em while they're young", but I never really understood why you considered it brainwashing. Your Catholic upbringing was 100% a brainwashing experience. When you can still spout 95% of what you learned as a child, decades after leaving the church, that's absolutely drilled into your brain for life. Frightening.

  2. Based on what you've told me about your upbringing, you had a different brainwashing experience in your Baptist church; mine occurred weekly during church services, yours happened at special events.

    I was never sent to worship camps or special events where our non-christian friends were invited and later tricked into praying their way into christianity. “You’ve said the Lord’s Prayer, now you’re a christian and need to be saved.”
    We never had group settings intent on convincing children that they were sinners in need of saving (we had personal confessions for that).

    My upbringing made for the indoctrination of new christians to be a slow and steady process where as yours saw it happen amidst sobbing and sorrow. It's easy to accept something so wonderful as god(s)'s unconditional love after someone has taken the time to convince you that you are a sinning, imperfect being.

    While both approaches show merit when trying to "convert" others to their particular brand of faith, one is less traumatic than the other.


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