The Modern Damage of Romans 1:18-21

More than anything in the Gospels, more than anything in the Old Testament, more than any other passage quoted in the Epistles of Paul, Romans 1:18-21 is quoted by the Young Earth Creationists in defending their… Science? Opinion? Stance? Ignorance? I don’t even know what to call it; I don’t want to call it ignorance, but when it is said in the same breath as speaking historical science, or in the same article as calling evolution “anti-science”, it is tough to call it anything else. I don’t want to sound overly negative, but if they didn’t have this talisman I think we’d be in a very different world (or, at the very least, they’d have to pull different tools out of their tickle trunk).

I tripped down the hole that is Answers in Genesis, and was forging through the brush of their articles before coming across these two pieces of wonderful literature that I simply could not ignore. The first of my links is possibly the most broadly egregious, for it basically says that the scientific advances of the great Greek culture were only because of God. I mean, obviously they weren’t Christian or Jewish, but thanks to their MIGHTY TALISMAN (Romans 1:18-21), we can be certain that they knew God. Obviously. And because they knew God, and rejected God, then God gets all the credit for their science in absentia. I mean, it’s not like they can fight back, right?

Never mind the fact that when Eratosthenes discovered the circumference of the spherical Earth, the Jews were being passed between Egypt and Greek masters like some kind of feud over a borrowed lawn mower (The third century BC). I am sure the Jews of the day were closer to the right of it, though, and the Greeks knew about the Christian God (then again… Jesus hadn’t been around yet, and Romans 1:18-21 didn’t exist. So the Jewish God was universally a territorial, xenophobic, murderous asshole of a tribal god at the time. Oh, that isn’t true, you say? Tell me where in the Old Testament God showed his love for all peoples. Oh, I know God said he loved the Israelites, but that was generally right before he wanted to kill them all. It’s OK, though, Moses talked him out of it. Anyway, take your time. I’ll wait.).

Regardless, the spurious logic presented in the second linked article is almost laughable to anyone who even … Sorry, that was going to go to an insulting place, and I’d rather we stay civil. Anyway, the author states that because the Bible states there is uniformity in the universe that there would be no such uniformity without God. I don’t even know which of the thousand threads to pull on. I mean, the first would be what was the world like before God struck his covenant with Abraham? And even if we accept your Creator God, why does He have such a small, historically insignificant people as His chosen, despite the fact that he frequently mentions his hatred of them? Why have a chosen people at all when all people are descended of your creation? And what’s with the other gods in the old testament? The Old Testament contextually speaks of Ba’al as a rival god to YWH, and historically it seems that even the early Jews accepted Ba’al as existing, though there’s an entire body of research that goes into how that argument got settled.

If God wanted to kill the Israelites so badly after the Exodus, why didn’t He just choose another, better chosen people? To that end, why did he ACTIVELY harden the heart of Pharaoh against believing in Him? I don’t even, what is this?

But then this all goes to the damage caused by Romans 1:18-21 in the modern world. The weird thing I want to know is how does this manifest? How do I know the truth of God and reject it? How is it so plainly obvious? And I don’t just mean in my case, what of the case of a child born and raised pagan? If the child learns of the Hindu pantheon from birth to death, how was that child meant to know God clearly? The passage reads that all things are clearly seen, but what makes these miracles “clearly seen” to be of the God you were raised to believe in, as opposed to Zeus? Or Odin? Or Vishnu? What makes it so clear that these aren’t scientific processes? These aren’t rhetorical questions, they are question about the very root of the arrogance of hard line creationists who cite it as defense of their view. You are asking me to take a statement from a first century religious zealot at face value, without even a hint of explanation. Hell, with the way that this set of verses is bandied about, it seems you want me to accept it without even the slightest trace of context.

I think that very passage is at the root of the arrogance of many modern creationists, and I think it has stymied the conversation between the Christian Church in the United States and science worldwide. Usually, this would not really concern me, but as the United States is a major world power, it is a major issue worldwide. The Christian Right has certainly put a massive stopper on many very promising lines of stem cell research. That should concern the entire world, and that does concern me. When your religious dogma promotes love and tolerance, I will stand by it — but if I have to let your anti-scientific rhetoric through with it, I have serious reservations — and I think any empathetic, merciful human should have similar reservations.

It is the arrogance of belief that lets so many people stand confidently beside the idea that, to use Sam Harris’ example, a 7 year old with third degree burns over 80% of her body should suffer because the treatment for this illness lies in the destruction of a blastocyst that has no nervous system. That a soul is granted immediately upon conception. I would like to see the evidence that this is the case, in any case.

There are many who believe that life is an absolute, and destroying even a blastocyst constitutes killing, regardless of whether the being has a soul — but to assume that the blastocyst could suffer in any real way, without a nervous system, without any organs, without any identifiable features that could make it human, we must not destroy it even if in the hope of saving the above mentioned girl.

These beliefs contribute perhaps to a higher population of humans, but definitely to increased suffering in the world. But hey, 9 billion people suffering is better than 7 billion healthy people, right? Right?

Doing it Wrong

In a move that surprised no one except for the fact that it took longer than we expected, French writers and satirists were shot and killed this morning in apparent revenge for publishing … Unflattering images of the Prophet Muhammad. I do not believe the PBUH is, in this case, warranted.

The idea behind the ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are from lines stating that no graven image shall be created, out of a theological fear that the image would become more worshiped than God (or, in this case, Allah–though that is only an Arabic word for God in any case). Ironically, this has created a cult of Muhammad where I would argue that as a result of the ban on worshiping him, he has become worshiped more than God Himself. I mean, how does one even draw God?

Actually, to make it even more clear, one can draw Allah without inviting murder upon yourself. I think this article, which I will preface by saying has a piece of artwork that is INCREDIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK and WILDLY OFFENSIVE generated displeasure, but exactly zero murders. (Link to said article, provided after DISCLAIMER OF OFFENSIVE NSFW ART was provided. Here you go.)

The point is this; killing people who make fun of your religion of peace is not a good way to go about your life. Worshiping Muhammad more than you would worship God is in direct contravention of so many of your own religious tenets. I realize depictions of Muhammad go against religious tradition, but I don’t know of a direct rule of the Qur’an saying death to anyone who even draws Muhammad (my knowledge of the Qur’an is, at best, sketchy. I will admit to great ignorance of the book, in any case.).

I am not sure why or how people justify this kind of thing. I do not know why “Spreading peace via the sword” doesn’t raise more eyebrows in Islamic extremists. I just don’t understand the world of people who are willing to do these things.

If these killings were not done by Islamic extremists, I apologize for the misplaced indignation… But given the evidence, it is difficult to guess at other possible motivations.

Do not let this act of violence change you. France, don’t let it change you.

What was Written

As I read through the Bible, going from the start (Genesis 1:1) to the end (Revelation 22:21), I find things I never really knew were there. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was raised Catholic. The odd thing about Catholic services is that there is a schedule of sorts, for which chapters, verses, and from which books you will read–and certainly it does not cover the whole Bible, even in a complete cycle.

Why is that?

Well, the first reason is that there are some very odd things in the Bible (as I’ve mentioned at great length before), obviously. The second is that there are some stories in the Bible that… Well… You just know, right? The Tower of Babel is one such story, right?

I would wager that you know more about the Tower of Babel than was actually written about it. How long do you suppose the story was in the Bible? A chapter? No, it was 9 verses. It is summed up in the following:

The people all spoke one language and wanted to build a city out of brick instead of stone.

God saw this, and decided that if people built a city of brick, they could do anything. He did not like that, so he confounded their language.

Yes, that is really the gist of it. God was threatened by the humans using such advanced materials as brick, so he scattered them. This, again, seems more like God not having a lot of foresight (or human wishful thinking that really shows how little creativity people show when trying to explain something as complicated as language).

That being said, the old testament is an interesting read (or at least, parts of the old testament are very interesting) in that things are … Weird. It was Winston Churchill’s own son who was said to have quoted “God, isn’t God a shit?”

But even in the New Testament, it is the rare believer who is really familiar with the works. Certainly, the story of Jesus’ birth is a story that has as many versions as there are people who remember it. Why was Joseph in Bethlehem? Well, there are a few reasons given. Did he go to Egypt? No one is quite sure, except it is mentioned in one gospel.

Oddly for Catholics and their doctrine of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Gospel of Matthew lists Jesus’ brothers and sisters (and, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Jesus’ brother James led the early Christian Church from the council in Jerusalem). How can the most populous Christian Church in the world get something so obvious so wrong, and how can a billion people believe it? I mean, it is even in prayer and song; Blessed Marry, ever virgin. Can that be true? No.

I am not even talking about contradictions, here, I am just talking about the parts of the Bible that are written clearly that people simply don’t know, or completely ignore. It is like certain chapters and verses are straight up non-existent.
I won’t lie, I haven’t gotten to my reread of the Epistles of Paul, or the Book of Acts, so who knows what I will find there?

Paul is an odd character, both in his written works and in his historical story. He seems to just not care about the actual story of Jesus, aside from the ending (the resurrection). As I recall, he is more concerned with two things; how awesome he is (for as it says in the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 1, verse 8-9, if anyone preaches a gospel to you other than what I have preached to you now, even if it is an angel of God, let him be accursed), and how much more he knows about the TRUE JESUS than the actual apostles (the same verse is a pretty good example, actually). It is well sourced that Paul did not get along with the 12 apostles, not least of the reasons being that Paul believes that he was the best apostle, selected before his birth by God. He states in his epistles that he would have been the greatest of the apostles, except for the fact that he was born too late.

The point of this is that modern Christianity is more man-made traditions than it is revelation from God. So many modern Christians think they know what is in the Bible, because their pastor said this thing or that thing, but very few understand how many traditions in the Church come from somewhere well outside of scripture.

I don’t mean to insult you, but I think if anyone wants to debate religion, or even fully discuss religion, we (as a whole society that is still majority Christian) needs to go back to the basics. It is almost a cliche, to return to the fundamentals, and to say someone is a fundamentalist Christian is often used as a back-handed compliment… But I mean it. The Catholic Church is probably the worst for made up traditions. There’s a reason lots of Protestant faiths don’t have a very high opinion of the papal seat… But even nondenominational beliefs need to be examined.

What I am saying here is before you get all up in arms, you should probably read the Bible. There was a very good snafu lately from people having no idea what the Bible means, summed up in this image.

Good times.