Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Soul SearchingWhile scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across this web comic by Adam4d.com. The term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” was new to me, so I did a bit of digging. What I found was that the concept describes very well what I believed before I came to know Christ.

What is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

The term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (or MTD) was coined by American sociologist Christian Smith in his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. What Smith found was that many if not most self-identified Christian young people he surveyed did not hold to the traditional beliefs of any particular church or denomination, but their theology instead boiled down to a handful of beliefs he dubbed “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:”

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Smith concluded from his research that, when it came to the most fundamental questions of faith and beliefs, most adolescents reacted with, “Whatever.” Yet, they all seemed to have some vague, basic beliefs. Most believe in a moralistic god who wants people to be good; a therapeutic god who wants people to feel good about themselves; and a deistic god who is “out there somewhere” but not especially involved in people’s everyday lives.

Smith primarily identified MTD with youth in American churches, but, from my experience, it’s not just a youth thing. Many of the religious adults I know are Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. Most of so-called “liberal Christianity” is in reality a form of MTD.

Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the same as Christianity?

MTDgodMoralistic Therapeutic Deism is just a fancy name for religious humanism. It’s the theology of American liberalism, of Oprah and Joel Osteen. MTD denies fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, original sin, personal salvation, and Hell. To a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist, the Gospel is about how God loves everyone and wants us to be the good people he created us to be, rather than that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It teaches that good people who do good things go to Heaven, rather than that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

MTD is not Biblical Christianity. It cannot save a person from Hell. All it does is fools people into feeling good about themselves, without dealing with the reality that each of us is separated from God because of sin – a separation that can only be reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ.

My personal conversion from Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

I grew up in a liberal denomination. A typical Sunday sermon was little more than a pep talk to go out and be a good person. I believed in God, but God was an impersonal spirit out there somewhere, who created everything good, and wanted everyone to love each other and get along. I cannot remember ever hearing in church that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Hell was a place reserved only for the truly evil people like Hitler if it existed at all. My religious purpose was to be a good person, to feel good about myself, and to help others be good and feel good. This, to me, was what Christianity was all about.

I remember during freshman orientation week in college taking a survey. The survey contained many questions about my political, religious, and social views. Two questions buried among the hundreds on the survey, I remember quite well: Do you consider yourself a Christian? Do you consider yourself a born-again Christian? I answered yes to the first, but no to the second. To me, being a Christian was about being moral, feeling good about myself and others, and belief in God. “Born again” Christians were legalistic nut cases.

In reality, my theology was extremely shallow. I gave very little thought to what I believed, and even less to why I believed it. “All you need is love” pretty much summed up my theology.

My theology (or lack thereof) was shattered by the simple question, “Who is Jesus?”

I realized that if Jesus was just a man, then the cross was nonsense. But, if Jesus is God in the flesh, then the cross was the most important event in history. If Jesus was just a man, then “all you need is love” is a nice sentiment, but nothing more. But, if Jesus is truly God, then “all you need is love” is just flat-out wrong.

I came to realize that my sin separated me from God and that only God in the flesh as Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, could pay the penalty for my sin. I placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I came to realize that, while God does want people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, being good cannot get me into Heaven. My purpose in life isn’t to be happy and make others happy; it’s to know Jesus and point others to Him. God is only distant for people who don’t know Him. For those who are saved, the Holy Spirit lives in us and is intimately involved with every aspect of our lives.

I came to reject MTD and to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Why is any of this important?

“Why is all of this so tragic? Because MTD is not Christianity. It’s not even a version of Christianity.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a false religion created by and for members of the most rich, catered, defensive, politically-correct, over-protected, over-nurtured, over-fed society the world has ever known, and the fact that it uses the name Jesus and various select Christian buzzwords allows it to be passed off as Christianity.

It has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. It’s not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t teach it. Paul wouldn’t recognize it.

And yet it calls itself Christianity and it’s taught every Sunday by pastors in church buildings all over the place.” adam4d.com/mtd/

How many of us have loved ones who subscribe to MTD? How many of our friends think they’re Christians, but aren’t, and are on the path to Hell?

What about yourself? Do you subscribe to the feel-good, do good distant god? Or do you know the God who sent His only begotten Son to die for your sin? Do you believe you’re basically a good person, or a sinner who needs a Savior?

Make sure you know the Truth. There are eternal consequences if you don’t.

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Why I’m a Climate Change Skeptic

The question of whether or not human beings are changing the climate is a critical issue in today’s world. If it is indeed true, then steps must be taken to reduce human impact on climate. If is not true, but is a hoax being perpetrated for political gain, then it needs to be refuted and put behind us.

ClimateChangePersonally, I am highly skeptical that human activity is significantly changing the climate, because I can’t find any actual evidence to support the theory. What I find is a lot of spin. I see claims without any supporting evidence. I see politicians appealing to global warming as the cause for the rise of ISIS. I see laws being enacted to reduce our “carbon footprint” without any evidence to support the need to do so. I see pseudo-science being sold as fact to support political ideology. What I can’t seem to find is actual observational evidence that man-made global warming actually exists.

In order to establish that man-made global warming is fact, two questions must be answered: Is the climate changing? And if so, is humanity responsible?

Is the climate changing? Yes, the climate is changing, but, that’s what climate does. There have been warming and cooling trends throughout recorded history, as well as evidence that climate has always changed. The question is, is there any statistically significant difference between recent changes in climate and changes that have occurred in the past? From what I have been able to find, there is no credible evidence that the climate changes today are any greater than climate changes in the past; in fact, from what I can tell, recent changes have been very minor when compared to historical data.

polarbearAre humans responsible for the changes we see? Again, I can’t seem to find any actual evidence supporting the claim that human activity significantly changes climate. There is evidence that carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is slightly higher today than it was in the recent past. What’s missing is direct evidence showing that this slight rise is due to human activity rather than natural causes, and that this rise has had any effect on climate. The evidence I find is that water vapor is the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate variation, not carbon dioxide, and that variations in solar intensity account for the majority of changes in climate.

Here’s a challenge to those who believe man-made climate change is real:

  1. Show me the evidence that recent changes in climate show a statistically significant difference from historical data.
  2. Show me the evidence that humans are responsible for these changes, ruling out all natural causes.

Don’t show me scientific opinions, political spin, or pictures of polar bears. Show me the empirical evidence. Don’t show me biased interpretations of the evidence, and don’t show me polls telling me what people believe. Show me the actual facts.

Social Media Fallacies, Part 1

A trend I consistently see on social media sites it the use of illogical arguments to try to make a point.  It seems that the more emotional the discussion, the more ridiculous the arguments.  The irksome thing to me is that most of the people making these arguments have no idea just how irrational they are.

The current discussion of the Paris terrorist attacks and debate over President Obama’s push to bring Syrian refugees to the United States is a case in point.   I took a random sampling from my Facebook newsfeed, and found numerous quotes and memes that are utter nonsense.  Here are a sampling of them:

The M&M Argument

M&Ms

This is an example of a weak analogy.  The argument is that since you would reject all of the M&Ms rather than risk eating a poison one, we should reject all Syrian refugees because there may be some terrorists embedded.

The analogy breaks down for a couple of reasons.  First, M&Ms aren’t people.  Throwing away M&Ms isn’t a moral issue.  Whether or not we help refugees is a moral issue.  Second, the analogy implies that it’s impossible to determine whether any of the M&Ms are poison – they are all identical.  Refugees aren’t identical.  Some – small children, for example – can be fairly easily determined to not be terrorists.  Unlike the M&Ms, there are vetting procedures in place that can reliably identify some people as terrorists, and some people as non-threats.  Granted, these protocols aren’t foolproof, and extreme caution should be taken.  Still, unlike the M&Ms, it’s not random chance.

The Problem is Religion

The Problem Is ReligionThis one is an example of the fallacy of prejudicial conjecture.  An emotional, arbitrary, and ill-informed opinion is substituted for an accurate and factual assessment of the issue.  There is no factual basis for this argument.

It’s also an example of wishful thinking and manipulative propaganda.  Just because someone has an anti-religious beliefs doesn’t make religion bad.  Propaganda is defined by Webster as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”  This argument is really nothing more than a weak attempt to exploit the legitimate issue of terrorism in order to discredit God.

It’s also an example of a red herring argument.  It’s an attempt to distract from the actual issue being debated or discussed.

The entire argument is shown as preposterous when one uses the same form to argue against other issues:

FOOD poisoning

Homeless Before Refugees

Here are a couple that are very similar:

Homeless

There are a couple of logical fallacies embedded in these memes.

First, like many memes, the pictures are selected for their appeal to emotion.  Look at that poor little child!  Look at those homeless veterans!  How could you be so cruel as to ignore them and help refugees?  Tugging on people’s emotions is not a rational argument.

A second fallacy is the either – or fallacy, also known as bifurcation or a false dilemma.  These memes present us with a choice:  Either you support the American homeless, or you can support refugees.  It’s one or the other.  We can’t do both.  The fallacy is that in reality, we do not have to choose one or the other – we can do both.  In a bifurcated argument, the possibility of alternative solutions is ignored.

You’re an Idiot!  Look – a Squirrel!

obama-manilaIllogical arguments aren’t limited to social media memes.  There was a link on my newsfeed to a news report of President Obama making the following statement in regards to those who oppose Syrian refugee immigration:  “Apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America.”

This is a typical ad hominem attack.  An ad hominem attack is simply an insult or name-calling.  It’s not a rational argument; it’s attacking the person, rather than their argument.  It’s typically used when the person making the attack has run out of valid arguments, and so they resort to name-calling.

It’s also a classic strawman argument.  A strawman argument first distorts the opponent’s actual position, making it easier to argue against.  Almost nobody is claiming that Syrian widow and orphan refugees pose a threat; it’s mostly the males of military service age that people have expressed concern over.  However, by falsely implying that those who oppose Syrian refugee immigration are against widows and orphans, it’s much easier to argue against than their actual position.

Not So Scary

Refugees in Cincinnati

This photo was posted by several people, and was accompanied by this text:

I saw a friend of a friend post this picture and felt I needed to share it. It is a picture of the first refugee family from Syria to be settled in Cincinnati, Ohio after they arrived yesterday.

A big faceless unknown is scary, I know, but when you put a face to it and see exactly who these refugees are, I believe that’s where we can all start seeing the truth behind this crisis and exactly who is being effected by this.

When we understand something, it’s a lot less scary and a whole lot easier to be compassionate towards others. This is something I feel relates to almost all aspects of life, not just this single issue.

Again, the photo is an appeal to emotion.  Look at those faces.  They’re not so scary, are they?

The language is also an appeal to emotion, not a rational argument.  A friend posted this.  The unknown is scary.  We need compassion.  This is nothing but playing on people’s emotions, and is not a rational basis for determining public policy.

This also falls under the fallacy of a biased sample.  The argument is that these people are representative of all of the 30,000 refugees we plan to bring in to the United States.  Just because someone posts one photo of one refugee family, it doesn’t mean all refugees are the same.  There are also photos of scary-looking male refugees floating around the Internet – which are just as biased.

Don’t be a Hypocrite!

Let’s look at one more:

Hypocrite!

This is a Tu Quoque argument.  Tu Quoque, or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser.  It basically says, since you don’t live up to your own position, your position is invalid.  This is a form of red herring argument – an argument designed to distract from the real issue.  It’s just creating a diversion, and it’s not a rational argument.

Conclusions

My point with all of this isn’t to argue for or against Syrian immigration, but rather, to point out how silly and misleading many of the arguments are.  It’s also to point out just how gullible people are, since they see these silly arguments, but have no idea they’re nonsense.

This isn’t to say that illogical arguments can’t be effective.  We all use common fallacies when trying to persuade others, and these arguments can often drive a point home.  The problem is, these arguments are misleading and often play on emotions rather than reality.

Fallacious arguments aren’t limited to social media or to political discussion.  They’re found in science textbooks, legal cases, and the network news; they are used in discussions involving religion, politics, sports, and just about every other topic, especially when attempted persuasion is involved.  We all must be discerning and learn to spot faulty logic in order to not be persuaded by ignorance.