I’m a professional modeler. That is, I get paid to present explanations that predict effects from specific causes. While I have modeled consumer products, markets, and biological functions, my favorite thing to model is the human thought process. This is best done by posing conflicts or situations to people and gauging their responses.
When it comes to thinking about religion, I have found people tend to gravitate towards three general categories: “traditionalist”, “modern”, or “post-modern”. While all three categories are learned and people can start as a modern or a post modern, it appears people tend to start off as a traditionalist because it is the simplest category to understand and traditionalists are most energized towards converting people. Let me explain what I mean by these terms…
“Traditionalists” think “we have everything we need and we aren’t supposed to learn anything more”. They see progress as a man-made creation. Although they want you to change, they see their lack of change as proof they are right. Their personal goal is to oppose change. They try to accomplish this by emphasizing tradition and past beliefs. They also tend to reduce everything to an objective dichotomy (“black or white”).
As Christians, this leads to a literal interpretation of the Bible: a superficial (fundamental) explanation for everything. When they argue, they focus on the individual and try to make them the same as all the other “true believers”. They quote Bible verses and use zeal to compensate for their lack of understanding. However, when you identify something they can’t explain, their ultimate response is “We aren’t supposed to know the answer.”
“Moderns” use current information to make intentional progress. For instance, long ago people found that when they crushed grapes and allowed them to stand, the juice unexpectedly turned into alcohol. Eventually, they found this was due to the yeast on the skins of some grapes. The traditionalist would just keep crushing grapes and hope for the best. The modern would update his understanding and action with this heretofore unknown knowledge and add yeast to intentionally make wine.
The biggest problem with being a modern is eventually people are hurt as a direct result of progress, especially if the “progress” is eventually found to be untrue. Two examples of “untrue progress” that resulted in deaths are the Crusades and the Inquisition. It seems the only way to stay a modern for any extended period of time is to focus on risk/reward and rationalize “acceptable damage”.
However, if you are a modern who wants to completely avoid hurting people, there seems to be only two options. The first way is to become a traditionalist, “simplify”, go back to fundamentals, and only progress people up to your personal safe level. The second way is to progress beyond modernism. That is, to become a “post modern”.
“Post Moderns” want to create a culture that can’t EVER cause pain to anyone. They realize the traditionalist’s belief, that they know the right answers, naturally leads to modernism because they will eventually try to explain something completely new. However, they watch traditionalists alienate numerous people on their way to finding the one person who responds to their specific, limited “safe” message. Post moderns believe the only way to stop traditionalists from hurting people is to say that no one can know anything for sure.
Their method is to describe everything as abstract and convince people nothing can be defined objectively. In fact, this group is consistent by showing they can’t be defined. Even though they also call themselves “post moderns”, they will say there is no objective definition. When you identify something they can’t explain their ultimate response is “We can’t know the answer.”
As Christians, these individuals have deep, objective personal beliefs. However, since they focus on people as a group, they argue for subjective indefinable beliefs. They know post modernism isn’t the ultimate answer, but they are convinced it is better than traditionalism. They believe it is better to do nothing than to continue hurting more people than are being helped.