On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us

Should any fundamentalist Christians happen to read this post, I hope you’ll find it both illuminating and entertaining.

 

For about five centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church had an absolute lock on information so far as the Western world is concerned. (Emperor Theodosius had unwittingly seen to that by making Christianity the state religion a little over a century earlier. To this day, in secular America, there are Christians who think Theodosius had the right idea and pray for the rise of Mike Huckadosius to set things right.) That’s why we call that era the Dark Ages: it was an age of dogma and the uncritical acceptance thereof, an age of serfdom and tractable compliance therein. The prerogatives of barons and bishops went unchallenged. People’s beliefs weren’t founded on their Bible reading; they were illiterate, and they didn’t own Bibles. They just believed whatever the clergy told them to believe. And they believed in outlandish stuff, like faeries and witches and demon possession and the evil eye, in zombies and unicorns and sea monsters. Almost everyone was ignorant as shit.

 

Then after about 1000 C.E., when a calendric millennium turned without the skies being rent asunder by a rider on a white horse, and it thus became apparent that Christ’s promised return may in fact lie a long time in the future, people slowly but surely began turning outward. The earliest gains were almost exclusively mercenary, but with trade comes exposure to more of the world and a gradual relaxation of strictures, and people’s minds began to churn. But it would still be another half-millennium until the sciences were born, beginning with that first great generation of discoverers from Bacon to Newton, and including the likes of such pioneering luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, and Boyle. Despite a gradual, almost imperceptible, loosening of their shackles, most people remained ignorant as shit, and even the so-called scholars were more deeply versed in the black arts than in observable phenomena.
Continue reading “On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us”

Fundamentally Fundamental about the Fundamentals of Fundies: Facepalms of Biblical Proportions

Despite loose usage of the term and the tossing about of its diminutive form, “fundamentalist” is not a pejorative: the word was invented by conservative Christians for purposes of self-identification and bears an exact meaning that has only secondarily to do with attitude. I’m well acquainted with the history of this word because it is my interesting fortune to have been raised in one of the small, fractious, separatist, backwater Christian sects that coined it around the turn of the 20th century.

 

By the time I was born at mid-century, Missionary Baptist churches all over the U.S. South proudly touted their fundamentalist bona fides on the signs that identified them: “Independent – Bible-believing – Fundamental.” While dismissing the historic creeds as the inventions of fallen man, such churches showed not the least hesitation in publishing “statements of faith” (as though “creed” meant something different) sometimes disguised as “church covenants,” and those published statements always included an article such as “We believe the Bible to be the divinely-inspired and wholly inerrant Word of God.” Fundamentalists of the other monotheistic religions hold a similar attitude regarding their various “holy books.” Belief in the divine origin of a “sacred scripture” is essential to fundamentalists of all sects, because it’s the primary premise – often unspoken – in all of their arguments.

 

What I wish I could say to fundamentalists of all stripes (and wish they could hear me when I say it) is that their foundational premise is false. The Bible is most certainly not the Word of God: it has no more to do with the (alleged) creator of the universe than the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon or the Left Behind series.
Continue reading “Fundamentally Fundamental about the Fundamentals of Fundies: Facepalms of Biblical Proportions”

Some Thoughts on “Rules of Engagement”

I see words like “tolerance,” “open-mindedness” and “respect” bandied about quite a bit by right-leaning Christians, often expressed in the negative (intolerance, close-mindedness and disrespect) with the latter aimed as charges against leftists and atheists. Those words and their adjectival derivatives have frequently been thrown in my teeth, and I imagine that among readers of, and contributors to, this board I’m not alone in that experience. It seems to me that some discussion of these terms is perhaps in order. TOLERANCE In human affairs (as opposed to the way engineers use the word), tolerance is a term that describes legal standing and the limits of governance.

It concerns that which is permitted by law, as its antithesis has to do with what is proscribed.  In the United States, tolerated behaviors are enumerated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights; the list includes such things as free expression, freedom to assemble peaceably, freedom to worship whatever one wishes in whatever manner one pleases, and the right to move freely about the country and associate with whomever one will (and, yes, the right to bear arms – the most problematic of those Constitutionally-guaranteed rights, and the one most in need of revisiting for the sake of our society’s health).  Those activities are all tolerated by the government: such Constitutional guarantees are a hedge against powerful interests (corporations, religious institutions, moneyed interests) that might seek to curtail such activities.

A cursory glance at history should be enough to make it clear, why such guarantees are precious and worth defending. With this understanding of the term in view, it should be obvious that – allowing for the exceptions of child-rearing and classroom management, in which case intolerance of certain behaviors becomes a matter of parental and social responsibility – an individual cannot, strictly-speaking, be either tolerant or intolerant: tolerance is not mine to extend or withhold. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on “Rules of Engagement””