Recently I wrote a fake news item that took the Genesis story of man’s ejection from the Garden of Eden and transplanted it to the present day. I thought that it would be a great way to get believers to view this story in a fresh way before they even realized that they were doing so. I wanted them to judge the actions of God without realizing that it was God that we were talking about. It worked well…a little too well. Many of the believers that I routinely tussle with about religion on various forums did not immediately see the satire for what it was. They became enraged at the fictional stand-in for God, Mr. Ian Oda, and demanded in their posts that justice be done. When I pointed out the many clues to the true nature of the news story, I was criticized. My analogy was “way off” and “all wrong”, they said. I didn’t understand the bible at all, they said. God was exonerated once again. One particular forum member was quite interested in pursuing the discussion further. He made some good points. I made mine. Eventually I had him backed into a corner (at least I thought so) when I told him that it seemed clear to me that the God of the bible was a badly written fictional character created by men and reflecting all of men’s inadequacies and flaws. This was his reply.
“I guess you can say ‘I believe he is fictional’. I felt the same, before having him work in my life. I’m not going to write a book about it, but I’ve been through the worst and have seen plenty of miracles in my life. I have seen the horrors of sin, and have seen God’s work to correct that in my life. I am a better person, because of it. Something is working in my life, whether you believe it is God or just something that happens, I know the truth, because I have witnessed it. Why can’t you just accept God’s love in your life? Mike, you are a destroyer of hope.”
So there it was once again. The wall that is impossible to penetrate. The wall that I have hit many times in my discussions with believers, when they are honest enough to take me all the way up to it. It’s a wall made of the Pain and the Need that drives someone to discard rationality because the alternative is just too horrific to face. Is the only thing standing between me and a belief in God some catastrophic personal event? Do I have to become a drug addict or a cancer patient in order to understand? Do I not believe in God because I’ve been too lucky in my life? Could that be true?? My own brother, who is as staunch an atheist as I, admitted to me that when he was very sick last year he “…actually prayed”. He went on to say that it was,
“…fear of death…pure and simple. When that moment is upon you (or you perceive it is) you will do and believe anything that lets you think there is a higher power that may be able to save you from this.”
What do I hope to gain by exposing what I see as the absurdity of their beliefs? I have hit my wall, my crisis of non-faith. How can I, in good conscience, continue to be a “destroyer of hope”?
Provoked by a persistent fellow who has been haunting this site and who constantly downplays the scope, value and accuracy of science in his comments, some of us have been increasingly trying to express what it is, exactly, that makes science valuable and more “truthful” than pseudoscience. While considering this issue, I decided to reread Carl Sagan’s inspired book: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996). Sagan’s ideas reminded me of the value of Ann Druyan’s suggestion that we eliminate the term “supernatural” from our vocabulary and substitute “sub-natural.” I believe that this approach would quite often put things in better perspective.
I will quote here, at length, various passages from The Demon-Haunted World bearing on the definition and value of bona fide science. Sagan so often said it so very well:
Superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way, distracting [believers in pseudoscience], providing easy answers, dodging skeptical scrutiny, casually pressing our awe buttons and cheapening the experience, making us routine and comfortable practitioners as well as victims of credulity. Yes, the world would be a more interesting place if there were UFOs lurking in the deep waters off Bermuda and eating ships and planes, or if dead people could take control of our hands and writers messages. It would be fascinating if adolescents were able to make telephone handsets rocket off their cradles just by thinking at them or if our dreams could, more often than can be explained by chance and our knowledge of the world, actually foretell the future. These are all instances of pseudoscience. They purport to use the methods and findings of science, while in fact they are faithless to its nature-often because they are based on insufficient evidence or because they ignore clues that point the other way. They ripple with gullibility. (Page 13)
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Actually, Dale “Parenting Beyond Belief” McGowan spent his first 10 years here. On his blog, “The Meming of Life” he has a speaking schedule posted. When he posted a solid date in my town, I posted about it and sent emails. So yesterday I drove out to the local Humanist hall. I got there early [...]
I learned yesterday that a fairly recent acquaintance had died. He was 15 years younger than me, and found dead in his bed. He had joined our contradance group this year, so was in better than average health. This sort of event generally leads to sober thoughts. But, why? Lloyds of London doesn’t insure lives, [...]
About a year ago, I visited The Journey, a new church in my neighborhood. You can see that post here. Although I felt like a “misfit” at The Journey (because I don’t believe in the literal truth of any of the miraculous claims of the Bible) I reveled in the upbeat energy of the congregation [...]
I’ve been following the reviews of the Ben Stein “Expelled” movie since it was first shown. Many of them properly criticize it for its many inherent cinematic flaws. Others angrily take it to task for its clear violations of sense or sensibility. There is also ExpelledExposed.com, the not-mentioning of which I get chided for every [...]
There I was, minding my own business, when WHAM! I was damned to hell. Thankfully, my salvation is being actively prayed for, so maybe, just maybe, I still have a chance. OK, well, perhaps “minding my own business” is a bit of truth-stretch. I was actually stirring a pot, just a little. Not sure why; [...]
How often do we hear people “explaining” religious beliefs by stating ”The Bible says so,” as if the Bible fell out of the sky, pre-translated to English by God Himself? It’s not that simple, according to an impressive and clearly-written book that should be required reading for anyone who claims to know “what the Bible says.” The 2005 bestseller, Misquoting [...]