Obviously the christian religion serves some purpose, a need to which society desperately clings. Yet every attempt to organize and follow the “Prince of Peace” has resulted in historical examples of war and horror. Witness the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the control and terrorizing of individuals by an all powerful church of the Middle Ages.
How did christianity come to fill such a powerful vacuum that people defend it with such fervent zeal?
Certainly we see no authorization for such power in the teachings of Jesus, or even Paul. Paul himself taught that it is impossible to “choose Christ” by our freewill efforts and develop systems that represent God(see Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9:16-22, Ephesians 2:8-10. Also see Jesus’ statements of Matthew 7: 14-21).
Why the powerful contradiction between the plain and direct teachings of Jesus, who was killed by world powers, and the emergent religion that now claims Jesus as the author of its faith?
We’ve already examined mirror neurons, and how they allow us to develop behavior by sight and imitation, incorporating the actions of others into our own brains. But are there other forces?
Marshall McLuhan, pioneer of media studies in the 50s, 60s and 70s, points out that the various media in our lives become actual extensions of our bodies. The media, said McLuhan, doesn’t “have” a message; the medium IS the message.
What does that mean, the medium is the message? According to McLuhan, every technology becomes an extension of our bodies. As the wheel becomes an extension and empowerment of the legs and feet, other technologies empower our other senses and become extensions of society itself.
The very words you’re reading now, for example, are alphabetic, interchangeable, linear, and can be used from a small base to create a virtual infinity of ideas. This is a release of psychic and social energy that allows society to organize in incredible new configurations. As McLuhan writes in Understanding Media:
“Socially, the typographic extensions of man brought in nationalism, industrialism, mass markets, and universal literacy and education. For print presented an image of repeatable precision that inspired totally new forms of extending social energies. Print released great psychic and social energies in the Renaissance…by breaking the individual out of the traditional group while providing a model of how to add individual to individual in massive agglomeration of power”…it was precisely the power to separate thought and feeling, to be able to act without reacting, that split literate man out of the tribal world of close family bonds in private and social life”.
This very force of “literate man” led to Eric Hoffer’s description of “The True Believer“, who is everywhere on the march, and both by antagonizing and condemning, he is shaping the world into his own image.
This mechanical force of mass conversion, wrote McLuhan, gained force with Gutenberg’s bible, because the first printing of the bible palced new stress on not only mechanical repeatability, but the necessary standardization of texts required for rapid reading and understanding of that text.
The immediate reaction to the mass printing of the bible was not peace and harmony, but blood in the streets, as individuals began to fight over the proper interpretations of this new book whose truth was now open to the public.
Yet that is just what jesus said would happen as more and more people tried to follow his teachings(Matthew 10:34-38)!
The printing presses, with emphasis on precision, repeatability, and linear organization of thought, with one letter following another, one word following another, one paragraph etc, building in a kind of imperialistic fashion toward an empirical understanding of all things.
The literacy created by mass publishing created a standardized, digitized human, separated from tribal and family connections, ready for addition, one at a time, into a giant democratic world family.
The human body and mind, said McLuhan seeks equilibrium. If one sense becomes dominant, the other sense seek to establish equilibrium with the other senses. With alphabetic texts and print technology, the eye became increasingly dominant, so that all truth becomes subject to the linear processes and programming of thought.
“Whence comes the urge to proselytize?” asked Eric Hoffer, who wrote that the urge to convert others was not an attempt to bestow on the world a greater truth, but to actually show, by the conversion of others, in mirror neuron fashion, that “ours” is indeed the one and only truth.
The “content” of the bible was ignored in favor of the “process” of the medium itself, which was mechanical, precise repeatability, adding more and more into larger and larger groups, while both jesus and Paul taught that such processes will NOT lead us to truth!(John 14:17, Matthew 13:11, Ephesians 2:8-10).
Truth is not a “given” as we see not only from the search for religious truth, but we now know from Godel’s theorem that it is impossible in any consistent, axiomatic formal system to place truth in one system!
Rather than learning from the content of the message, we organized according to the stresses provided by the medium itself, which created “unconscious” messages and stresses in our minds.
But if christianity rose to such powers as a result of the technological media, why does it seem to be in reversal now?
McLuhan answers that the new electronic technologies at the speed of light create a reversal of process. The “explosion” of nation-states, centralized power, religious proselytizing, and all the centralizing forces of governments and money, are now being rapidly reversed by the emerging electronic media, which places all of us instantly in a kind of world neural net, connecting individuals to individuals, rather than being forced to organize in groups.
The emergent communications systems are empowering individuals against the very collective forces that created the nation-states in the beginning. The medium IS the message!
That’s why christianity as we recognize it NEVER represented the actual “content” of Jesus’ teachings. Christianity was shaped by the mechanical, repeatable, precise and standardized functions created by print technology, which is now giving way to instant electronic technology!