Reinhard Bonnke is a German-born evangelical preacher with a large, international following. Back in the days before my enlightenment from religion, I was aware of him as one of those superstar evangelists who were regarded as saints by the saints. He’s got an active Facebook page, and one of my old friends who’s still a Christian, recently liked one of Bonnke’s posts and, in the mysterious ways of Facebook, it made it onto my news feed.
Now, there’s a lot wrong with this analogy. I’m not even going to bother with the Jesus-is-the-captain-of-my-heart thing, because I want to deal with this rash and foolish assumption that what airline passengers need, above all else, is a dogmatic pilot at the controls. This can only have been written by someone with no awareness of reality or the fact that dogmatic and arrogant airline pilots have been significant factors in several airliner crashes with the loss of many hundreds of lives.
The cockpit of a modern airliner is a very complex, busy place and the workloads on crew can be intense, even during routine take-off and landing phases, and particularly if there’s any sort of emergency. The Kegworth air disaster had, as one of its contributory factors, confusion between the pilots as to which engine was on fire and the reluctance of the cabin crew – who knew damn well which one was on fire because they could see it – to tell the pilots that the engine fire had not been put out by their actions. There are a number of other case studies where poor communication led to tragedy and can be found on Wikipedia under the article on crew resource management.
The FAA risk management handbook identifies the right stuff, wrong stuff and no-stuff attributes of pilot behaviours when it comes to flight safety. The wrong stuff group has high levels of negative traits, such as being autocratic or dictatorial. Dogmatism is the inability to be swayed by evidence or the unfounded positiveness in matters of opinion, the arrogant assertion of opinions as truths. Fundamentally, religion itself is the assertion of opinions as truths. Even the statement that something is the revealed word of some deity or another is no more than the assertion of opinion.
And that’s what Bonnke is really inviting his followers to do, to discount their own thinking and the evidence of the reality all around them and unthinkingly to hitch their waggons to his star.
And reality has a way of introducing irony into these things as well. Bonnke’s poster is supposed to suggest that heaven is somewhere out there beyond the Earth and is a glorious and wonderful place to aspire to. Well, our old friend TinEye finds the original Shutterstock image which Bonnke used, and it’s tagged: heaven, earth, planet, background, mystical, god, hell, light, armageddon, mayan, religion, carbon, ray, global, red, sky, space, globe, air-conditioning, sunlight, cataclysm, fantastic, cloud, dramatic, 2012, bright, apocalypse, orange, impressive, astrology, refrigerant, dioxide, solar, bible, climate, solution, science, blue, warming, scenic, eternity, beautiful, danger, idyllic, cloudscape, countdown, universe.
Perhaps the last thing you really want to do is fly GodAir – the pilot’s too damn dogmatic for your safety.