A survey for those of religious faith

Standard

download

This is inspired by an exchange I had today with another blogger as well as the CARM survey that I filled out awhile back. These are three questions that I would ask of any fundamentalist or young earth creationist. They are as follows:

1. According to a 2014 Pew poll, 64% of Americans don’t believe in Darwinian evolution.

I decided to look at this through a different lens, and I have a statistic that I would like to throw into the mix here. According to a National Geographic survey, 77% of all Americans “believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth.” That would seem to suggest that 77% of Americans believe aliens exist. If the Pew poll was accurate, shouldn’t that number be a lot closer to 36%? Because if you do not believe in Darwinian evolution, then either a) aliens shouldn’t exist, b) life comes about through neither God nor evolution, or c) God also created aliens. The latter two options are not supported by young earth creationists like Ken Ham. So if we combine the two statistics, we’re left with 13% of Americans that believe that God created aliens or some other variation on the two popular explanations for how life came to exist. 

I would argue that these two statistics are reflective of the fact that it isn’t as simple as either “you believe in Darwinian evolution or you believe that God created man as outlined in x religious document.” To me, these two statistics would suggest that religious/spiritual and scientific beliefs lie on a wider spectrum.

How would you, as a person who interprets scripture literally, explain these two statistics?

2. Let’s talk about cosmic expansion or inflation. In this sense I’m not talking about inflationary theory–that everything suddenly expanded at a distant point in the past but after the big bang occurred. In this sense, I’m talking about the fact that things in the universe are moving away from each other.

This is observable by anyone. You can look into a telescope and observe the red/blue shifts that denote movement. The Doppler effect has been scientifically demonstrated to accurately explain such shifts in relation to movement. Again, we can verify this in a lab.

This is my question to fundamentalists: if x religious text is a literal document–it historically and scientifically represents an accurate account of how the universe came to be and why it is the way we see it (this last part is particularly important)–can you provide evidence in scripture that supports the expanding universe that we see?

3. This last question deals with evolution. A common criticism leveled at scientists who support evolution is that it has never been observed. But just because something has never been observed does not mean it can’t happen. Saying something did not happen is NOT the same thing as saying something can’t or won’t happen.

So consider the following. Organisms can physically change in response to their environments. We can and have observed this happening: appendages/sensors/etc. can change length, color patterns and the like can change, etc. While this is not in and of itself “proof” that evolution is a real process in nature from the standpoint of a young earth creationist or other fundamentalist, in that light it WOULD be proof that God created the creatures on the earth so that they may physically change in accordance with a change in their environment.

If this is true or at least possible, is it not then possible that God designed the creatures on the earth to be able to change to such an extent that they become a “new” creature if necessitated by future environmental changes?

I honestly am curious to know how religious fundamentalists would answer these questions. This is of course open to anyone to answer, regardless of faith, background, or scientific training. Feel free to answer as many of the questions as you wish. Thank you for your participation!

The faith gambit

Standard

This is a pretty popular trope that creationists and fundamentalists often level against atheists and scientists. I’ve termed in the faith gambit. It goes like this. Science deals with uncertainty; uncertainty requires faith; science therefore requires faith. 

It’s a nifty little tactic designed to equate science with religion, aiming to elevate faith to the same position as science (or, conversely, to bring science down to the level of faith). Any atheist who’s ever discussed belief with a creationist has probably heard this argument or something akin to it before. Evolution is “only a theory” is a derivative of the idea that it takes faith to believe in science. The whole argument, though, is a fallacy. Faith is not the same thing as trust. One trusts science; one does not have faith in it. Let’s start with some simple definitions from Webster’s dictionary. 

Faith: belief that is not based on proof

Trust: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing;confidence.

Gravity is a “theory” inasmuch as evolution is, yet it’s ludicrous to say that I “have faith” that a ball I throw in the air will return to the ground. Nobody would say that. Because there exists thousands and thousands of years of experience and experimentation and evidence that causes me to trust that the ball will return the ground. 

Let’s take this a step further. A common thing I hear from creationists and other fundamentalists is something like the following: “When you drive over a bridge, you have faith that the materials will hold, don’t you? You have faith the the engineer did his job well, don’t you? You have faith that none of the workers cut corners on the job, don’t you?” None of these things require faith. 

I can stand at a bridge every day for a week, a month, or a year, and watch car after car drive over with without any problems. I can inquire as to the competence of the engineer. I can look into his background and other projects. I can actually go and physically inspect the bridge to test the materials and construction. There is a whole body of evidence that would lead me to trust that the bridge is safe; no faith required. 

How can this be extended to God? There is no body of experience or evidence or experimentation when it comes to God. I’ve never seen God, met God, witnessed a miracle. Nobody has discovered the Garden of Eden, and there is no geological evidence that there was a world wide flood within the last 6,000 years. A belief in God is a belief without proof; belief that a bridge will not collapse when I drive over it is belief based on evidence, things I can test and measure. 

Of course, the creationist or fundamentalist will come back and try and tie this to a hypothesis which science cannot test, like the big bang theory. They will contend that since it’s impossible to go back in time and observe the big bang, and since it’s impossible to recreate the events for experimentation, that any belief in the big bang will require some degree of faith. Again, though, the difference is in the evidence. 

The fact that the universe is expanding, for one thing. If God created everything, the entire universe, exactly as we see it today, I see no reason why we should see expansion. There is also the recent discovery of the gravity waves predicted by cosmic inflation and the big bang by BICEP2. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…it’s probably a duck. It’s Occum’s razor: if all of the evidence points to an explosion from a central point, then the simplest explanation is an explosion from a central point. 

Again, creationists and fundamentalists will take a reductionist point of view and argue that it’s impossible to know what created the big bang and so forth. To which I would say that that isn’t indicative of the validity of the theory; it simply means there are more things to discover, to understand. It doesn’t automatically require a supernatural explanation. 

tBn1SJl

We seem to have a little contradiction here…

Standard

I stole this photo from another blog today. I had to post about it because I think it’s evidence that creationists and creation science can’t reconcile real facts with biblical stories. The Creation Museum in Kentucky was created by none other than everyone’s favorite creationist, Ken Ham. Alright, here’s something that anyone who visits the museum will actually see:

enhanced-2246-1391701685-2-1

Yes, you all read that correctly. Animals used trees as rafts during the great flood! And that’s why we see the distribution of animals that we see today! I have no idea what these animals were eating for the 150 days that everything was flooded. That’s a quite a fast. And is it just me, or does this support something I posted awhile back about what happened to all the trees and plants? This poster would seem to acknowledge that they were all destroyed by the flood–it flat out says that. But forget all of the geological evidence against this narrative (Notice how the purple and yellow areas line up according to the Pangaea theory? The one supported by evidence and science…). There’s some biblical evidence that this explanation is flat out wrong.

These kinds of beliefs require a literal interpretation of the bible. And if we read the scripture surrounding these events, what does it tell us? Well, here are some passages.

So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it.

Well. That seems pretty clear. If one subscribes to a literal interpretation of the biblical narrative, it’s right there in black and white: EVERYTHING ON THE PLANET THAT WASN’T IN THE ARK DIED. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t really leave a lot of room for animals hitching a ride on trees and bobbing around in the ocean for 150 days, does it?

Of course it doesn’t. Because the flood story in the bible makes no sense and didn’t happen. And it seems pretty clear that Ham and his ilk cannot use the bible to explain the geological distribution of life we find on this planet. There’s no explanation for how jaguars could have made it all the way from Central Asia to South America after the flood. And so Ham and his cronies had to invent this totally BS theory that not only isn’t realistic or supported by evidence, but goes against the very scripture that they hold so near and dear.

And that ultimately makes perfect sense to me, because the events in scripture aren’t supported by reality. Further proof that the bible should not be taken as a literal, scientific and historical document. If you want to use the bible as a moral compass or a spiritual foundation, fine. More power to you. But please, enough with trying to turn it into science. It clearly doesn’t work.

Your kids aren’t a “get of work free pass” when the holidays roll around

Standard

7387633_f520

There’s a phenomenon in the workplace sometimes. Many of you who don’t have children have probably experienced it before. For some reason, every person with children automatically assumes that they’ll get the holiday off and everyone without kids can work! Which is total bullshit.

I have nothing to do with your children. They’re yours. They’re your responsibility. It is NOT my responsibility to come in and work every holiday so you can spend time with your kids, the same kids you see the other 364 days of the year.

Even though I don’t have kids, I still have a family. And sometimes they like to see me at holidays! Imagine that?! Crazy, I know.

But I am not going to sacrifice my time and my personal life because you decided to have kids. Get over it.

Some new rules moving forward

Standard

new_rules

Now that I’ve started to post about religion again, I feel like I need to lay down some ground rules. First, I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings, beliefs, and values, and I will always try to respect them even if I don’t agree with them.

On that same token, since I’m included in “everyone” that means that I, too, am free to believe and value whatever I want. This blog is a means for me to share my thoughts. Sometimes they may evolve as I continue to learn and grow. But they may not. And you may not agree or like them. And that’s fine.

But I will no longer spend time on this blog arguing with people, and I will no longer spend any time on this blog justifying my views or beliefs to anyone who disagrees with them. We can disagree with each in a mutually respectful way and that will be that. You can continue on with your beliefs and views and I with mine. And that’s perfectly fine. My intention with this blog isn’t to convert people or change anyone’s mind. It’s simply to air my own thoughts and complaints.

Feel free to not read things if you feel so inclined. And if you do feel inclined to respond to something I have written feel free to do so. I will not close down comments or block people or censor things in any way. If you do choose to leave a comment, I will thoughtfully consider it and respond in some fashion. But no longer will I enter into circular arguments with people, and no longer will I try to justify to another person the way I feel. If you want to thoughtfully and respectfully question something I have written or believe, I will try to respond with equal thought and respect, so long as your intent is to genuinely try and understand me and what I’ve written better…NOT to proselytize, tell me I’m an idiot, tell me I’m wrong (unless I’ve made a factual error–in which case feel free to fact check me) or otherwise antagonize me. Such actions only serve to waste my time, your time, and the time of my readers.

Thank you. Now let’s move on.

Why should I take the bible literally?

Standard

GOD_SAID_IT-300x228

I think this is a perfectly valid question. I can’t really think of a good reason why I should take it literally, and I haven’t been presented with a good reason by anyone else. But more importantly, plenty of other religious people haven’t and don’t. So what gives? What changed? I think looking back at history can shed some light on this phenomenon.

We can take this all the way back to the 4th century. St. Augustine of Hippo (Yes, that’s right, a freaking saint), wrote extensively about how Genesis should be considered allegorical, and that the timeline presented in the text is not a literal one, but rather a logical framework. According to Augustine, when Genesis says it took the lord six days to create the earth and the heavens, it isn’t talking about human days. It’s talking about what a day to God, an eternal being, would be. Which, according to him and many other biblical scholars, should probably be considered a reeeeeally long time (like maybe 14 billion years?). 

Moreover, Augustine was pretty progressive for his day. He believed that our interpretation of the bible should change based on available knowledge. On this subject, he wrote, in matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision … we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture. Wow. Mind you, Augustine died in 430 AD. But he goes on:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

And this was about a thousand years before the development of modern science! These quotes, by the way, are taken from Augustine’s work, “On the Literal Meaning of Genesis.” In case anyone is interested in exploring this more. But it’s pretty clear that Augustine believed that the bible was more of an allegorical guide to God–not a literal historical, scientific document. It also seems pretty clear that he believed such a belief was damaging to the faith in general. And that prediction seems to be true. As Christians increasingly reject science and fact, they alienate people. That’s probably why atheism and agnosticism are on the rise. 

And it’s hard to make the argument that Augustine was a quack, considering his works were used at the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople. Clearly, the religious who’s who of the day believed Augustine was a very learned and wise man, and his views profoundly influenced the church. And that attitude continued well into the 20th century. Take a gander at what Pope Pius XII had to say about evolution back in 1950:

The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experiences in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

Here’s a wonderful scene from the film “Religulous” where Bill Maher interviews a Vatican astronomer. This scene is interspersed with a second interview with our old favorite here on this blog, Ken Ham. The comparison between Ham and a Vatican scientist is quite nice. Here’s another speech given by the same priest about the age of the universe. The views of modern science are not incompatible with the beliefs of Christians. Unless of course you take everything in the bible to be literal. The problem with that viewpoint, though, is that there literally is no reason to do so. I think Father Coyne and St. Augustine and the freakin’ Pope make that pretty clear. Hell, the Vatican employs astronomers! Let that sink it. 

So where did the fundamentalist, literal movement we see today come from? Why do people see the bible as a scientific document? Well, young earth creationists are the main proponents of this way of viewing the bible. This movement can be traced back to the work of George McCready Price. Price was not a scientist and was not an accredited geologist. Yet he felt compelled to write science-like papers about the subject in relation to genesis and evolution. It’s very crucial to note here that absolutely no science whatsoever took place here. Price did ZERO FIELD RESEARCH, no experimentation, or anything else that could remotely be considered scientific. He simply critiqued work which was already published and established that he personally did not like. 

I feel this bears repeating. In no way did Price scientifically discredit any modern science. Zero. None. Zilch. What he DID do was start with biblical suppositions and then if he encountered evidence to the contrary, simply refused to believe it. That is not science. There is nothing scientific about the way young earth creationism was born, and there’s nothing scientific about the way it exists now. Presenting it as “creation science” is completely and utterly disingenuous. 

I think there’s pretty strong evidence that the bible should NOT be taken literally. That seems to the standpoint of the majority of biblical scholars, religious historical figures, and a fair amount of the faithful every man today in the 21st century. Hell, even people in 430 AD who had no concept of the scientific process knew better than to take the bible as a literal scientific document. I’m particularly fond of this quote:

shaw-taking the bible literally

You don’t need to take the bible literally to follow the teachings in it. Even young earth creationists don’t take everything in the bible literally. If they did, I would assume people would get stoned to death for working on Sunday and that they’d be arguing that the bible justifies us bringing back slavery. But they don’t. I hope that’s because they know those two things are wrong, and not just because it isn’t looked upon favorably in our society anymore.

Regardless, the bible does contain great teachings. Loving thy neighbor, treating others how you want to be treated, turning the other cheek, the parable of the good Samaritan. All of these things, they’re all things that I, as an atheist, can get behind 100% from a philosophical sense. There are a lot of good things in the bible that shouldn’t be ignored and that everyone, regardless of faith, should probably try to incorporate into their lives. But please, stop taking the bible literally. It makes no sense. Besides, what impact could that possibly have on one’s faith? Why can’t you embrace Jesus as your lord and savior–which is the crux of the religion–and believe that God created a universe that is 14 billion years old? 

Do young earth creationists and other fundamentalists really, truly believe that if they don’t believe that the earth is 6,000 years old that God will hold it against them? Do they really, truly think that if they spend their lives having accepted Christ as their savior and lord and living according to the teachings of Jesus, that when they finally die and get to the pearly gates that St. Peter is going to say, “Ooh, sorry. If only you’d believed that man coexisted with dinosaurs. That was the most important part of the test!” and pull the lever and send them to hell? 

Come on, get real. 

tumblr_m9759j0k141r9ecbmo1_500