Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

“–where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”
~Thomas Gray (from “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College“)

This well-known quote came to mind for me as I read this latest installment in “Que?tion of the Week” on The Mother Church’s youth-oriented website time4thinkers. A regular feature on this website, Que?tion of the Week addresses questions that I believe are submitted by visitors to the site regarding Christian Science, its theology, practice, and culture. The answers are usually given by Christian Science practitioners. I’ve discussed a previous question/answer on this website in this post. These Q & A sessions are somewhat interesting to me, as they address some of the tough questions regarding Christian Science that I always harboured when I was a Christian Scientist. Now, as a former Christian Scientist, my doubts have largely been answered by the blanket fact that Christian Science is largely fanciful bullshit and no longer has to be explained for me, but it’s still interesting to see how devoted and seemingly “expert” Christian Scientists address these questions.

The latest Que?tion of the Week is: If God doesn’t know about suffering or sickness, how is He supposed to help me? This is a very legitimate question, and similar to ones I once had when I actually cared about Christian Science and being a “good” Christian Scientist. As with the last time I read an answer to a Que?tion of the Week, the answer, given by Christian Science practitioner and teacher Deborah Huebsch was one I found to be predictable, trite, and evasive of the underlying doubt that forms the basis of the question.

Huebsch uses the analogy of the various effects of the action of the sun here on Earth, such as the growth of plants, drying of clothes, warming and comforting us, and other nice things like that. She points out that the sun doesn’t exist to do those things, it “just is what it is, and the effects are practical, useful, and good.” Yes, that is indeed nice, and yes indeed, the sun does do those things and more. But, she goes on to say that the same could be said for God. Here is where my bullshit detector starts to beep. Christian Scientists are masters of the metaphor. After all, metaphors are the only way to explain the un-explainable (ie. bullshit), and while they have their uses, they only go so far, and this one crumbles under logical and/or critical analysis.

One big difference for me between God and the sun is that God (if it exists) is supposedly a sentient, and extremely intelligent being that acts capriciously in accordance with a consciousness and will of its own–sometimes in very violent and genocidal ways, if you read the Bible. The sun is a star; a thermonuclear ball of super-heated gas that acts according to laws of physics, chemistry, and other scientific principles. Unlike God, the sun is not a sentient being with a consciousness or will of its own. It simply exists and acts according to the natural laws that govern its existence, yes, it “just is”. However, God isn’t “just is” like the sun is, as Huebsch posits in her answer. As I said before, big difference.

So, how is God supposed to help you if “He” supposedly doesn’t know about suffering or sickness? My feeling is that God can do nothing to help you in that case. It would be akin to asking a dentist to cure me of stomach cancer–it’s not the dentist’s wheelhouse. Better to go see an oncologist. This question points out one of the biggest fallacies in Christian Science–its complete denial of very real pain and suffering. The rose-coloured vision of a blissful and perfect world as depicted in Christian Science is absolutely irreconcilable with the reality that the world is not perfect. There is sin, injustice, pain, and suffering. Sure, we’d like to see a world where there aren’t such things, but that’s just not the reality. Is this suffering the will of God or some other divine being? I don’t think so. It is part of the experience we all have. It’s part of life. It happens. Nothing more, nothing less. To turn Huebsch’s phrase on its side, I would say that it “just is”. Deal with it, learn from it, and gain strength from it. That’s what I choose to do. Denying it is like sticking your head in the sand. It’s not going to make the bad stuff go away. Ignorance is not bliss.

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2 thoughts on “Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

  1. I appreciate your comments today. Every time I have driven a Christian Scientist clandestinely to medical help, I have encouraged the person to see that ignorance is not bliss, and that by knowing more, we can make better choices and decisions. I wish I could rewire my brain, because I still have trouble articulating symptoms and asking for help myself.
    Leslie Saunders

    • Knowledge is power, and ignorance is peril. The acts of denial and ignorance I see on the part of Christian Scientists annoys me to no end, not to mention my own remaining proclivities to still ignore physical symptoms longer than I should. It’s hard to turn the ship around, and many of us are still working on it.

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