Friday, October 05, 2007

MORE MALE-FEMALE HEAD COUNTING: A CONCLUSION

Taking the average of figures I have posted on the above subject gives a 42%-58% split between males and females at NCBC services. Last Wednesday night I had the opportunity to take a peek at the list of names of people who have signed up for NCBC’s “Christianity Explored” course. I tallied up the males and females (excluding one or two foreign looking names I was unable to identify as either male or female) and arrived at 14 males against 23 females; that is a 38%-62% split. Once again we have the approximate 4:6 ratio popping out of the woodwork. What makes this result interesting is that the same value now emerges in a rather different situation to the services – namely, the take up of a course which is probably populated by a younger cross section, but nevertheless returns a similar ratio. Interestingly, and I don’t know if this means anything, I got exactly the same 38%-62% ratio in the morning service, a service that includes widows. Is this evidence of “first in last out” effect amongst women?

So what does it all mean? Well, I’ve rattled on about the feminization of Christianity, and that may be a factor, but is this bias toward the feminine part of something more general? After all, the readers of astrology columns and the members of a stage spiritualist’s audience have a female majority. Likewise, although I did no sample counting on the evening, the Benny Hinn rally in Norwich (which I endured for research reasons), looked as though it had a female majority amongst the white members of the audience. Is the female mind more likely to tune into the ‘spiritual’ than the male mind? In attempting to explain all this, my best shot at the moment is what follows.

The mind has at least two modes of working. Mode 1: It uses a series of prefabricated heuristics and algorithms. Mode 2: it is capable of actually constructing new heuristics and algorithms. Mode 1 is often loosely associated with the’ limbic’ system; it is instinctual, intuitive, emotional, inscrutable, mysterious and largely unconscious in operation apart from its end results perhaps. Its pros and cons are that it is fast in producing results, embeds much age-old wisdom, but its inflexibility makes it error prone and its inscrutability makes it difficult to correct. Mode 2 is associated with cerebral and conscious thinking. It is clearly a much more complex and difficult activity. Its disadvantages are that it is painstaking, doesn’t quickly arrive at conclusions and can be indecisive, but it is flexible, adaptable, accountable and correctable.

Now here is the rub: these two different modes can be at odds: in fact industrial society, which is largely the product of mode 2, has created conditions in which the prefabricated mental structures of the intuitive mind often feel like a fish out of water. It’s the old head verses heart cliché in another guise. Religion, which so often uses the limbic as its main resource, may find itself alienated from the products of conscious cognition. Rather than a negotiated peace between two complimentary modes of mind there is, in some religious circles, a war on, a head versus heart war. And one can see this in Christianity. Take for example these two quotes that I have culled from Christian circles:

If you always process salvation through your mind you will never enter the fuller things in your walk. You must move from a place of cognitive reasoning ability to a place where faith and belief flows through your spirit and not your head … God is beyond your logic.

A softer and perhaps less objectionable version of a similar thing:

I have met many people over the years who have tried to build their faith in their minds. However the mind is based on logic and sometimes the things of God are not logical! The key, I find, is to have your faith in your heart, here needing to understand every detail is not important as all you believe in is based and surrounded by the ultimate truth that God loves you!

(Interestingly in the audience listening to speaker of the first quote I estimated a 35%-65% male-female mix) These quotes attempt to elevate the 'limbic' by heightening its inscrutable mystique and defame the cerebral by suggesting it is mundane, prosaic, earthly, dead and cold. But the fact is that both modes are human and both modes are error prone and yet at the same time both are deeply mysterious in their operation and function under Divine sovereignty. They are complimentary and they should negotiate and not be set against one another.

Now here is the second rub: the female mentality is slightly more skewed toward the limbic mind than the male mentality and hence (I submit) the 4-6 mix of males to females found in churches and other ‘spiritual’ connections. Religion often exploits the age-old limbic system. I wouldn’t want deny that revelations come via this system, but its inscrutability leaves it wide open to exploitation by charlatans and religious quacks. I would be the first admit that we need different kinds of folk in church: intuitive oracles and conscious thinkers and they should compliment one another. However, it seems that looking back at the recent history of western Christianity the swing betrayed by my male-female statistic is not just a statistic – it is thermometer indicating a swing in values toward the limbic: limbic responses are considered to be a sign of a superior spirituality. As limbic Christians have become more and more alienated from the results of a science based society whose main resource is the cerebral mode of thinking, there has been a reaction against the cerebral in favour of the intuitive, emotional, and instinctive and this reaches its extreme in Gnostic flavours of Christianity.

There is an irony here: Christians place a heavy emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to faith. That’s true enough, but it seems that the Holy Spirit is not transgressing the properties of His own creation: The same subtle pressures found in the current social milieu which favour a retreat of a cross section of religious people into the inscrutable world of limbic reactions are also found amongst Christians. The limbic appeal of Christian churches, like astrology columns and spiritualist churches, is betrayed by the side effect of a skew toward female majorities. This doesn’t invalidate Christianity but it suggests that the Holy Spirit is working very much within the parameters of His own creation.

How does someone like myself fit into all this? The ‘skeptic’ Larry Moran on Sandwalk, is likely to accuse someone like myself of being a deist. In his own terms he may be right as I am inclined to stress the full range of options that the Divine has available without resort to the overtly miraculous. In defence I would have to say to Larry that with the passing of the Newtonian universe deism is a less clear cut category than it was – the day by day providence of God is seen in the vicissitudes of chaos and randomness. But of course redneck limbic Christains will have none of this: they react instinctively against any thing that goes against their instincts and they have no truck with such fine distinctions. This attitude is at once both conceit and self-deceit.

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