Friend of mine (M. Penn) brought up his increasing frustration with how easily the religious swallow ridiculous doctrine and unhesitatingly apply it to everyday life. He cannot stand how easy it is to live with a mind so warped that even the word "the" might mean that the End of Days will happen by noon time after a lunch at Subway. He isn't the only one just flabbergasted at how easy it is for believers to accept that God doesn't do any one on one counseling anymore, and they are oblivious to the fishy way a prophecy is changed to fit a prediction after an unexpected earthquake shatters a small mountain community in the world somewhere. He wasn't sure how to put his thoughts on the subject into words, and while I follow his line of thinking, I think a bigger discussion on the pointlessness of arguing in apologetics is more on task this time. I apologize ahead of time how semi analytical this might sound, but after a few re reads of this entry, I just don't see an easy way to make it conversational at all. It's apologetics. They suck.
So, first of all, compartmentalized thinking, especially within religion, protects one from the difficult concepts of life. Concepts such as failing in becoming successful or accepting the process of death and its permanency. Instead, compartmentalized thinking allows one to latch on to certain ideas about life and death with whatever fanciful ideology one chooses to solve the dilemma with, no matter how irrational. These notions are completely protected against scrutiny and enforce ridiculous concepts of what creates success or defines death. Notions like faith, everlasting life, and supernatural punishment for immorality are hallmarks of many Judeo-Christian faiths.
Now, much like algebra, what you do to one side, you must do to the other. For every compartmentalized idea or belief, there has to be a real answer that can shatter the carefully bricked up wall one puts around it. So how do you rationalize the truth of what you believe to actually equate into a result that you want? You have to use a handy little evangelical tactic known as dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism provides a proposed historical timeline, on an evangelical level, to reinforce the aforementioned compartmentalized religious thinking process. It provides a cushy soft barrier of excuses and rationalizations to bolster one's aspirations to achieve the sectioned off understanding of how life works. Again, reality is not required, just targeted interpretation of biblical events that are neatly divided up into sections that cover certain time periods in scripture and prophecy. These sections might blanket a time period of Tribulation, an earlier one might cover a covenant with man after the Great Flood. As you can see, this system is not overly neat. It's actually pretty stinking complicated.
While there were many influences behind this line of bullshittery, the real genius was John Darby, a British bible thumper in the early 1830's. He traveled with his message of dispensationalism and futurism all over the world, and helped found the Plymouth Brotherhood which eventually split, which found him creating his own branch of the tribe (there was a pissing match over how congregation protocols should be run so he formed his own...like we haven't seen that happen before). His influential trip to America led to the creation of the famous Scofield Reference Bible here in the States, and the rest is dispensationalist history.
For those who aren't familiar with the term dispensationalism, and what it involves, all you really need to know is that there are different types of it, and it is a form of apologetics. It tries to form a basis of proof for biblical prophecy by neatly dividing up certain events in the Bible, and show how it corresponds with history and events of current times, as well as the future. As far as the different types of application, it depends on your particular brand of theology. Do you prefer it to be classically styled where it is more simplified and not overly complicated? Maybe you prefer your prophecy laced rationale to be a bit strongly brewed? Or you are full on zealot mode and are willing to grasp at every mentioned blade of grass in the good book as a potential event?
Because we are talking about apologetic tactics, it doesn't matter which version you go for. Ultimately, it is still grasping at very short straws in order to escape from the realities of life and death as a possibility in the mind of the believer. This purposeful sectioning of the Bible is a frequent issue many observe within their religious peers simply because this practice leads to abject acceptance of discrimination against the faithless, women, homosexuals, and more. All of which is completely padded and supported by whatever brand of dispensationalism is being used to prove and enforce said discrimination. Thanks to an unwavering belief in the book's particular interpretation of the issues of homosexuality or feminism, it's hardly an effort to justify the hate and bigotry. A magical little twist of a scripture, maybe picking a different one altogether if effectively challenged, a believer can easily maintain all the little padded cells of religious belief that have been created in his/her mind.
A great example of a common unassailable belief in religion is the necessity of prayer. I don't think there is a Christian or Muslim out there who would disagree that many prayers go unanswered. Yet, most will tell you that prayer is essential in your relationship with God. When a prayer request fails, what do we often hear as the reason for the failure of the prayer request? "God has His own plan for your Aunt Martha." Or my favorite,"God doesn't help those until they help themselves." That last one really, really, chaps my ass. And there is a plethora of scripture, along with the different purposes of God during certain time periods in biblical history and prophecy, that helps account why prayer requests don't come through. Either you need to get off your ass and help yourself first, or we are at a point when God doesn't step in because End Times and stuff. It's unassailable. Everything is neatly packed up in a closet in a religious person's mind, and they have all the interpretations of the Bible to back up their understanding of what prayer is all about in their life. Those of us on the outside already know prayer is useless, and by a theist's own logic we can bury the concept of prayer. Yet, to a theist, despite the blatant logic outlined in the graphic here, it's a matter of "God working in mysterious ways".
The issue of compartmentalization and dispensationalism is why I avoid apologetics like the plague. It is truly a waste of time to engage a discussion of a religious belief's merit within the realm of apologetics. There's a pseudo philosophy for everything in that realm, and once you think you've pinned them all down so there is nowhere to turn but your view? The typical "God is beyond our realm" and we mere mortals can't understand the full extent of His being because He is .... say it together ... "beyond our understanding", flows out of the mouths of challenged believers like a quick dose of NyQuil for a nasty head cold. It treats the discomfort of your points, and allows them to move on like you'd never even had valid arguments for them to face.There's no where to go with that, and that is why apologetics are a waste of time. You can't get believers to question or doubt themselves when padded up so neatly in their religious cells. What harm can happen to their faith if you enter their realm of reasoning and do the questioning? It's a skewed playing field with different rules with every kick of the ball.
Now I'm not saying abandon all hope ye who enter the mattress covered closet of a religious believer. There are a number of them out there who are not apologetics bound, but if you're tangling with one who knows every puddle theory claim, banana shape divine designing, or William Lame Craig pseudo science claim, you might want to back away slowly and put the lock back on that cell door. A different line of remedy is definitely in order, if even possible to get them to swallow the proverbial red pill to begin with.