Hypocrisy and cafeteria-style belief systems.
The other day, a friend of mine went into “Bible mode” on Facebook. He’s done this before, not long after I met him at a Meetup outing. I didn’t know him well back then and I just assumed he was a religious person. (Although I’m an atheist, most of my friends are believers in one form or another.) Then he broke up with his long-distance girlfriend and, six months later, was living with another woman in town. Bible mode ended abruptly. But it’s back now, and rumor has it that he’s engaged to yet another woman he met online and has seen in person only twice.
Whoa. (Honestly, I can’t make this shit up.)
“Bible mode,” in case you’re wondering, is my term for when a person starts posting social media updates that either quote the Bible or refer to Bible verses. I find it odd in general — almost as if they’re advertising their belief system — but have come to expect it of certain people, such as a young earth believer and a biblical scholar I know. It sort of makes sense for these people — who obviously hold deeply ingrained religious beliefs — to refer to the Bible in their daily life. But I find it extremely odd when it’s done by someone who normally seems to have little regard for the Bible, Ten Commandments, or the moral principles set forth in the Christian denomination he purportedly follows. You know: moral rules about things like adultery, sex before marriage, and lying.
Wikipedia defines hypocrisy as:
Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.
The way I see it, if you pretend to be a devout, Bible-quoting Christian but have cheated on your wife or screwed women you aren’t married to, you are a hypocrite.
Unless, of course, you believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and therefore you can commit as many sins as you like as long as you’re sorry for them. Jesus has you covered, right?
You know, the Christian “Get Out of Jail Free card.”
This particular person’s flicking of the religion switch bothers me a lot and I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ve seen the pattern — he turns on Bible mode when he’s hanging around a certain group of people. I’m thinking that he’s toggling the religion switch to the ON position to better fit in with these people. You know — to show that he’s a card-carrying member of their club.
I think it’s a shame that people have to pretend to be someone they’re not just to maintain certain friendships. If you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t be true to anyone. Who wants to live a lie?
Of course, maybe he really has “gotten religion” again. And maybe he’ll keep it this time. Turn over a new leaf. Get married, stay faithful to his new wife, attend church weekly, raise more children, and study the Bible with his family. Maybe the verses he’s quoting from the Bible will actually guide his life. Maybe he’ll remember and hold sacred all ten of the Commandments. Maybe he’ll be a “good Christian,” who actually follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Or maybe he’ll be another example of a “cafeteria-style Christian.” You know: the kind who picks and chooses from church doctrine to live his life the way he wants, no matter what his church of choice says he should do. And figures that just going to church and quoting the Bible will give him enough creds to get into heaven.
Of course, I don’t understand why we need organized religion or a book full of parables to guide our lives. George Carlin said it succinctly when he boiled down the Ten Commandments to just two. Other people have summed it up with just one: “Don’t be a dick.” Anyone who understands the difference between right and wrong should be able to live a good, morally sound life without worries about violating some church doctrine or pissing off an all-knowing God. But that’s my belief. Apparently, it isn’t widely shared in this world.
But what I’d really like to see is an end to religious and moral hypocrisy and the hiding of a person’s real self behind Bible quotes. Because seriously: who do you really think you’re fooling?