I was perusing the reviews for a book called “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman to see if it might be something that I’d want to read, and one of the reviews really stuck out to me… First off, it was written by someone who obviously didn’t read the book, but beyond that I was struck by the content. The review, written by Amazon user Suz617, states:
“So very sorry I ordered any of these books. They were recommended by someone I know, and it is entirely my fault for not researching the author before ordering. I believe you can become “too informed” to be a believer, and this man seems to have done that. While the book is well written, I was very disappointed to learn that he is not a believer – nor does he seem to believe in God.”
At first glance, the review doesn’t seem too bad, but as I read it again the part “I believe you can become “too informed” to be a believer, and this man seems to have done that.” Hmm… She seems to be stating that the more you know and learn the less likely it is that you’ll be a believer, but paints this as a… bad thing? She seems to be saying “Don’t study! Don’t research! If you do, you’ll lose your faith!” Ok… But… If a belief doesn’t stand up to reason, logic, and reality, isn’t it better that it be rejected as false? Should we have rejected medical science to continue believing that evil spirits cause illness? What is wrong with learning enough to realize you’ve been wrong? I am sad to admit, but I used to be the very same way as Suz617. As my sister and I frequently discuss our basic deconversion from religion, one of the main questions that consistently arises is “How were we misled for so long? How did we not see the glaring contradictions?” The only answer I can come up with is that from a young age religious leaders teach you not to question, not to think for yourself, they even hint that education itself is somehow corrupt and will lead you astray if you’re not careful, and these ideas are backed up by scripture.
From the very beginning of the Bible, knowledge is taught to be something wicked, something we should avoid. What is the one big mistake that Adam and Eve made that got them kicked out of the garden? The answer is that they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was knowledge that got them expelled from the garden. There are even more verses in the Bible that seem to paint an “ignorance is bliss” (Or in this case, “ignorance is your key to eternal life”) picture:
“Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly.” – Isaiah 47:10-11
“At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” – Matthew 11:25
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith Grace be with you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20-21
“For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” – 1 Corinthians 1:19
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” – 1 Corinthians 8:1
“Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom . . . but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” – Ecclesiastes 1:17-18
…and lastly, one I was told frequently growing up in the goold ol’ Assemblies of God:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5
Or in other words trust blindly that a higher power will fix everything for you.
As I’ve pointed out, Adam and Eve were tossed out of the garden for eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge and also the infamous tale of Solomon is about a man having too much wisdom. These are just a few verses from the Bible that paint knowledge and wisdom in a bad light. It doesn’t just make it seem sinful, it makes learning seem downright dangerous, with threats of severe destruction and retribution.
But the question is why? Why do fundamentalist Christian leaders warn against knowledge? Why do they teach their children from a young age not to question? Why has this anti-knowledge sentiment been written into the scriptures? Is it
perhaps because, as Suz617 says, you can become too learned to be a believer and because it threatens church power? Because it’s easier to control those who don’t question and who won’t bother to study the Bible and its history on their own? Could it be because fundamentalist leaders, past and present, like Joyce Meyers, with her massive compound (complete with several mansions and golf course), or Pat Robertson with his own massive homes and personal diamond mine, need their parishioners not to ask why their spiritual leaders get to fly around in personal jets while they are expected to hand over 10% of their meager income every week? Maybe, for these “leaders” ignorance actually is bliss. But in their case, their followers remain ignorant, while keeping the Joyce Meyers of the world living in luxurious bliss. Sounds like a great trade off, doesn’t it?