In the course of a recent exchange with a Young-Earth Creationist, I was accused of dodging what my interlocutor imagined to be “the hard questions,” all of which were pretty much on the level of Bill O’Reilly’s “OK, smart guy, how’d the moon get there?” His rapid-fire questions basically took the form, “If there’s no God, why do we see something instead of nothing?” They boiled down to the ontological difficulties concerning the origin of the universe and the origin of life, both of which (of course!) he imagined to be inadequately addressed by “evolution.” No surprises there, right?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard those objections raised by some close-minded troglodyte who had no intention of paying any attention whatsoever to any answer that involved more syllables than “God did it,” I’d be a very wealthy man by now. As any honest person recognizes, there’s still a lot to learn about the origin of the universe and of life. There’s still a lot to learn about evolution, for that matter, which is why the relatively new science of EvoDevo is so exciting: it’s starting to furnish some answers to some longstanding puzzles. But it will inevitably raise other questions, a prospect that is troubling only to a person with no native curiosity and a deep-seated need for “the sure thing.”
I think maybe it’s time to turn the tables on people who raise what they imagine to be unanswerable questions (and who, in raising them, show no sign of actually being interested in answers, but raise them rhetorically, as a “gotcha” device). My motive in doing this is to try to get Christian fundamentalists to see just how ridiculous their “questions” are. Let me counter with a few nagging theological questions. Let’s see if I can get some straight answers from fundamentalist Christians, who seem to be so damn sure that their “holy book” has all the answers we need to all the questions that are worth asking. Turns out, the Blessed Old Leather-Bound Bible leaves quite a few things unexplained.
Let’s start with the matter of feces. Does God’s Word really tell us all we need to know about that?
Continue reading “Young Earth Creationism and the Ultimate Question Concerning “Number 2””
Some of the great scientific discoveries have been syntheses that emerged more or less organically from the systematic crunching of a compendium of data accumulated over time. Plate tectonics furnishes an illustrative example: the Grand Unified Theory of Geology was made possible by a great many observations made over the course of a couple of centuries, some of them serendipitous (e.g. the discovery of deep-ocean trenches and mid-ocean ranges during the submarine era). Put enough data like that in a room with enough smart people and a really big idea is sooner or later going to take shape, in a manner that kind of resembles abiogenesis.
Others have been leaps of pure intuition so striking as to seem truly original. One of them is Darwin’s theory of evolution. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when the idea of speciation driven by natural selection occurred to him. That’s got to have been one of the greatest OMG moments in history. It must damn dear have stopped his heart: imagine having a single insight that explains everything you’re interested in! He must immediately have recognized how revolutionary an idea that was, and how much resistance and rancor it would incur. No wonder he sat on the idea for two decades before going to press with it – and even then, only out of concern of having his thunder stolen.
Continue reading “Dreaming of Darwin: Fundamentalist Night Terrors”
Moderates have funny logic. “ISIS and Westboro Baptist Church are not “real” christians or muslims.”…”Sure, just like Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon are not “real” SNL’ers; who am I? Just some Earthling who watched an episode once.”
It’s quite puzzling to me why so many people act like moderates have a more respectable opinion than fundamentalists when it comes to understanding what the holy books say. Who is going to know more – fans or super fans? Isn’t that all ISIS is after all? They really love the Qu’ran and its teachings, and now they want to turn reality into their mythological world where women are to blame for all problems (similar to the Biblical world). The majority of people who are religious moderates have never read their holy book, at least not in its entirety. Moderates claim that fundamentalists are radicals, but what they really are saying is their religion is radical, when it is followed in a fundamental way. Moderates, why do fundamentalists and cult followers have such similar behavior patterns? In other words, why is it that the closer one follows your holy book, the more delirious one appears to become?
Let’s look at a few other examples to demonstrate how ridiculous it is that people believe moderates have a better understanding than fundamentalists.
If you wanted information about Saturday Night Live, would you ask someone who watches a couple episodes a year or would you ask Will Ferrell?
Continue reading “No True Scotsman: From ISIS to Westboro to Saturday Night Live”
In our current age of the 21st century, it is commonplace to hear the slogan “America is a Christian nation” chanted by conservative Christians. That particular rightist misconception, albeit a discerning and ridiculous one, is not surprising since the majority on that side of the political spectrum are also prone to rejecting evolution and global warming (they seem to be consistently and fundamentally incorrect about the foundations of reality itself, in most cases).
Recently, members of the Republican Party in Idaho drafted a resolution which would have their state “specifically declared a Christian state.” Various supporters of the resolution went on to detail how the resolution reflected Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Christian principles that originally helped establish our nation.
But if this is a Christian nation to begin with, why are rightists always trying to slowly but surely make it one by drafting such resolutions in the first place? And why do 57% of Republicans want to make Christianity the national religion if this is already a Christian nation?
Continue reading “Conservative Christians Dream of Theocracy”
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”