Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Religion, Truth, and the Five Stages of Grief

Every great scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had been discovered before. Lastly they say they always believed it.
-- Louis Agassiz (Swiss naturalist, 1807-1873)

I have a slightly different theory. I think that when religion is confronted by truth that conflicts with their most basic beliefs, it goes through the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

First, it denies it. The Earth doesn't go around the Sun. Evolution didn't happen.

Second, it gets angry. We'll burn you if you say the Earth goes around the Sun. We'll fight if you try to teach evolution in our schools.

Third, it bargains. Maybe the Earth just looks like it goes around the Sun. Maybe "Intelligent Design" is what happened.

Fourth, religious people get upset that a key part of their worldview has been proven false. Many leave.

Fifth, religion accepts the truth as its own. Of course the Earth goes around the Sun. Obviously evolution happened -- doesn't the Bible say that God created the plants before the fish before the land animals before the people?


Sadie Lou said...

We'll fight if you try to teach evolution in our schools.

Um...evolution was the staple theory taught in my school. It's the other way around, now. Christians fight to get some sort of alternative theory presented alongside evolution.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sure, but they're still fighting. I'll admit it was a pretty poor example for "Anger." I'm just making this up as I go along. :)

Sadie Lou said...

It's okay. I liked your first example of anger. Christians (Catholics) were very much angry towards people who fought the church.

JC Masterpiece said...

I'm just making this up as I go along

I've noticed. ;-)

Actually these stages apply to many things in the life of all people. It is an issue of change and loss. People have difficulty accepting change and the feeling of loss. Thus they go through these stages. As Sadie has somewhat pointed out. The liberal community is going through the first two stages of this in the aspect of the Intelligent Design Theory vs. the Evolution Theory.