But why?

So I was watching the new episode of Creation Today and I just… Am so sad at what they think of how lowly they think of other human beings. The episode itself is about pain and suffering, but for the most part they focus on the low hanging fruit, ignoring what others would consider the real issue.

They talk about how pain is important for our survival, citing a child with CIP (does not feel pain) who constantly injures herself as a result. “Obviously,” their reasoning goes, “pain is important. Case closed.”

What’s really funny is that they opened the episode with Stephen Fry asking why God would give children bone cancer, but ignore that point. “Christianity is the only religion that explains why pain is important.” They never touch on how children with cancer improve our world, but they do argue that general pain does. I mean, often the YEC will resort to misdirection, but they are the ones who brought up Stephen Fry, they are the ones who highlighted this clip of him lamenting children who live short, painful lives, then die, and then they are the ones who completely ignore the point they brought up. That is quite odd, even for them.

The weird part is where they get into ethics; “Atheists just think we are matter doing things to other matter, and why should that matter? Atheists really believe there is nothing wrong with murder!” Why do you get to say that? Why do you think there are no scientific reasons for morality and ethics? Why do you so strongly think you know what I believe more than I do?

I am sad that they think so little of people who are not Christian. They will tell you that they love all people, that they want to spread the word, that they want to convert people… And it works on some, but their methods are so insidious. “You are worthless except to God,” goes their logic, “Your morals are bad, your ethics are bad, you are going to hell, you are ignoring science, facts, and knowledge, you are looking at the world wrong, your thoughts are wrong. So join us, and all of that goes away!”

Wow. I am glad you think so highly of me. I am glad you are so reasonable.

They go further, in the episode; “Forest fires kill hundreds of humans, destroy life, damage habitats. So we should stop them, right? WRONG! Ecosystems require forest fires to thrive!” That is correct, of course; many lives, many trees, many ecosystems rely on forest fires for their regenerative purposes, for clearing out the old to make way for the new. We cannot stop them, and many will die in the future, many homes lost, many lives destroyed, because there is a greater good that comes from it.

But why?

Why did God create the ecosystem, as they would assert, that requires the destruction of so much, the death of so many? Is that pain good? Is it required? Did He have to create it that way? They tackled the question of forest fires from only the first level, assuming they are a given, but why should they be a given in a world created by an all loving, all caring creator? I am not attacking the fact that God did create these forest fires, the true question is “Why?” Why did God create an ecosystem that not only kills His Chosen people, but requires killing.

To me, it is always odd when people cite The Exodus as a reason that God loved his Chosen people. “He went to bat for us! He destroyed the Egyptians! He helped us escape oppression!”

First, he helped you escape after 400 or more years of oppression, by your own count. Second, once you escaped, he didn’t give you a home–you wandered for 40 years in the desert. Not only that, but He, the God who loves you, put strange, almost crazy restrictions on the Chosen people, the people that He loved. Dietary restrictions? You know it! Restrictions requiring the painful and occasionally horrific modification of male genitalia? Absolutely! How about we go back even further, because right out of the gate, even long before this, He cursed all women to monthly menstrual cycles and the pain of child birth, due to them eating a fruit! And, if one thinks about this at even the shallowest level, you have to remember that Eve did not know it was wrong. She and Adam had not yet eaten of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which means they would not have known their actions were evil. Oh, they may have found it odd that they were going against something God said, but all people go against their parents via our apparently God-given instincts. What do you do if your child disobeys you for the VERY FIRST TIME? Do you punish them slightly? Ground them? Get unhappy with them?

I am going to assume you would not curse their entire gender. I would say their entire species, but that isn’t true, is it? God is not good at targeting His curses, for He hit the females of every animal species because of Eve. Those are not the actions of a loving God. Those aren’t the actions of a stable God. Those aren’t the actions of a sane God.

This might seem an unjust attack on Christianity, or on a loving God, but that isn’t what I intended. I wanted to build context. “Why do you believe God loves us?”

Is it the Exodus? We covered that, the Exodus took his “Chosen” people from 400 years of slavery into 40 years of starvation and thirst. During that, His people were subjected to harsh Laws and restrictions. Hell, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he calls what God did “The curse of the Law.” That’s right, God saved His chosen people… Then immediately cursed them. Did He curse the Chinese, who did not know of him? The North American Native peoples? The Mayans? No, He did not curse those people. He cursed His chosen, but not any of his non-Chosen, except for the Egyptians… But thinking about that, they rebounded FAR BETTER than the Jewish people.

During any point in history prior to, and for several years after, Jesus Christ, being a Chosen Person of God was TERRIBLE. It was a curse, a hamper, it required pain and suffering. Pain and suffering of the kind that no other people had to suffer.

Hell, even after Christianity was accepted as the official religion of Rome, being a chosen person of God was awful. Right up through World War 2, where Hitler killed so many Jews, following that ancient religion has been a burden more terrible than God has set out for His non-Chosen. Being a Christian was not flowery, either, for there was the wars with the Muslims, the Crusades, the Inquisition. I hope you were born believing the right version of being God’s Chosen, because even being a Christian could get you killed by other Christians. There is a saying that I love that goes back many decades, and I do not know the original source, but it basically states that prior to the eighteenth century, Muslims were more tolerant of Christians than Christians were tolerant of other Christians.

“But for our pain, we are granted eternal paradise!” But why would God require you to suffer for the blink of an eye, for 10 or 20 or 70 years under oppression and pain, then give you eternal life? That seems such an odd choice.

And then, of course, come the odd questions–if someone has never heard of Christianity, will they go to Heaven? There is an old joke about African Missionaries converting pagans to Christianity. A pagan woman asks “If I become a Christian, will I go to Heaven?”

“Yes,” replies the Missionary.

“But,” continues the woman, “Would I have gone to Hell if I had never heard of your Christianity?”

“No,” the Missionary answers, “You would have been judged by your works, since you had never heard of God, He would not have punished you for it.”

“Then why,” the woman says, exasperated, “Did you tell me about your God?”

It’s sort of funny, but it’s more sad. Do you not read the implication there? In what the Missionary said? “You would have been better off had you never heard of our God, for you would not have had to Believe this particular story to go to Heaven.”

Again, not only are God’s own people punished, but people who are not of His own flock are rewarded for never having heard of his flock. And God loves His Chosen?

It sounds like He loves everyone except His Chosen.

So why?

But why?

Why?

Why do you believe God loves you? Why do you believe God cares? I simply do not have the tools at my disposal to answer that question for myself.

A Deeply Seeded Misunderstanding

Whenever I feel listless, a passing depression, I can always go to AiG to inflame my passions (the floweriest way to reaffirm my living, if only to be angry at people purposefully misrepresenting my views, and the views of my peers).

To wit, this article that misses no opportunity to misrepresent the views of a very large swathe of the scientific community. Claiming evolution is a god of the gaps, and claiming that a high school biology professor would be stumped by a question as simple as “How does biology work?” To be fair, that last point may be less a show of weakness in the Theory of Evolution so much as it is a weakness of the public education system in certain regions. That’s neither here nor there, I suppose, just incidental.

To claim evolution is a god of the gaps shows either blatant willful ignorance or malicious intent; no one can live in the 21st century and display such a wild misunderstanding of evolution, and of the scientific field in general (though I recognize that I am being optimistic at best). The author draws frequent parallels to common “god of the gaps” terminology, repeatedly claiming that a professor of microbiology will answer any query regarding evolution with “evolution did it,” an obvious parody of “god did it.”

I recognize that there are many well respected scientists who will say that there was no supernatural agent involved in Creation, as a strong prediction rather than a hypothesis, but it seems even to me that the fairest conversation between the greater scientific community and the Creation science community would start and end with “Why do you fight science? If your God did it, will we not find his fingerprints as we move closer and closer to the answers we seek?”

The Creation Science movement had their hypothesis written for them several hundred years ago, and have decided that there is no room for improvement, studying all evidence through that lens, trying to come to a conclusion that was already written. Science does make hypotheses, and even makes strong predictions, but evidence that does not fit the hypothesis is (ideally) not bent to fit. The hypothesis is modified, and experimentation continues. Humans, of course, will attempt to justify their own hypothesis and bend evidence to make it fit, but that highlights the importance of blind peer review.

I think a fairly pure hypothesis, without the biases on display here, is this: “Life likely began via a natural process of which we are currently unaware.” Now we try to find what the process is. If we find God, then God it is. If we find another process, it is very easy to predict the line of the YEC; God kicked it off. When we find the process that started biology, they will claim God created chemistry as a precursor to biology. If we find out the mechanism of how the first matter formed, we will be told that God created the laws of physics to allow chemistry. When we find out how the laws of physics formed… Well, I don’t know where the goalpost will move to, but I will likely be dead by this time, and smarter people than I will be carrying this debate on.

That is the ultimate weakness of the YEC; the dogged reliance on a bronze age text, and the constantly moving goalposts make it seem almost like children who constantly change the rules to make sure they win. Now we enter territory that is almost quintessentially American; the idea of the flip flopper. No, I am not accusing the YEC to do so, that would be silly.

Evolution is the core of a flip-flopper, and that is not an insult. Based on what you know, you make a call. Then if the information available changes, so does the call. This is not a weakness, this is prudent. If you stand by something in opposition of all evidence, “on principle,” you have erred greatly–and yet, as the documentary “Outfoxed” showed constantly, changing your vote as information changes is apparently shameful to certain demographics in the United States. I believe, truly I do, that young earth creationism has taken root in the United States because of the fertile soil that praises strong predictions, and for some reason demonizes changing your mind. Science seldom makes blind strong predictions; you need evidence. Science is a shifting field, admittedly, because evidence is constantly changing. Scientists are getting better, getting smarter, coming up with ever more ingenious experiments and tests… To compare science in the 21st century to Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (as the YEC movement often does) is incredibly disingenuous. We know more than Darwin did, we have better data collection than Darwin did, and as the saying often goes, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” We do not take Darwin’s work wholesale, we have improved on his ideas, refined the field. We have, to use the American colloquialism, flip flopped–but we did it because the evidence required it of us.

And the fact that the YEC will stand on a single hypothesis against all evidence… That is the true weakness.

There is one line that shows the true misdirection of the AiG writer more clearly than any other. “Evolution makes no useful contribution to scientific and technological advances.”

You see, the YEC will tell you that adaptation, not evolution, is the mechanism that makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics. They will tell you that adaptation, not evolution, at play when a new strain of a deadly virus comes into play.

Adaptation is evolution, and I still can’t even begin to understand how the mind of anyone can so fully ignore the very idea of evolution that they are completely blind to the fact that they admit that evolution is the mechanism by which every living thing operates.

The only part they disagree with, it seems to me, is where it all started. As science moves closer and closer to the answer to that question, it is only a matter of time until we watch them pick up the goalpost and move it again. And again. And again.

Arguing Against Invisible Opponents

A lot of the animosity that exists right now between Atheists and the Christian sects in North America is just poorly aimed propaganda that causes undue inflammation and fighting.

To say something similarly obvious to the previous statement, water is wet.

That being said, despite it being obvious, Christians and Atheists keep fighting in the public arena and it is truly bothersome–especially when they show they are self aware, but do it anyway. That is a topic for another day, I fear; the point I am making here is that too many people don’t understand what they are fighting–a grave breach of Sun Tsu’s Art of War. Know your enemy as you know yourself.

I am given to rhetoric, but I want any Christian reading this to know that I don’t truly consider them an enemy–but in debate, I think, it is more important that you understand your opponent’s side than it is that you understand your own in many cases.

I have not had a conversation with a Christian who actually understands (or cares to understand) what exactly it means to be an atheist; to the most evangelical, the very idea of understanding an atheist is somewhat absurd, and that is a problem (Romans 1:18-23 and all that). Conversely, the issue with atheists is that many of our side generalize all Christianity as backwards thinking (at least, the most vocal members do), or those that admit much of Christianity is net positive still think of most Christians as “the enemy.” (Ominous music plays.)

The thing is, in most cases (please note the wording, I did not say “in all cases”), atheists are not debating Christians and Christians are not debating atheists. Both sides are debating their own idea of the other side, and not listening to each other (though, admittedly, no one is ignoring the rest of the world as well as the modern US YEC movement is ignoring literally any dissenting voice). It makes me sad when I read something like this.

This Christian, in a nation that is VASTLY majority Christian, seems to feel that she is truly persecuted, and that Fox News is her only place of safety and trust. To quote, “Roger Ailes’s Fox News has succeeded in no small part because he doesn’t treat Christians as though they’re Darwin’s missing link.” No, Ms Author, Fox News does not treat Christianity like a missing link–Fox News treats Christianity like the only link. You might think this positive, and Fox News’ viewership numbers would certainly corroborate that, but the issue is that ignoring minorities is kind of similar to persecuting them in the exact same way you feel persecuted. But it’s ok, I suppose, for Christians to persecute those evil atheists who murder babies; after all, Christians are the majority, therefore persecution is TOTALLY ok, so long as it is pointed at the minority.

Where have I heard that idea before? Eh, I’m sure it’s not overly important.

Another article by the same author advocates teaching Intelligent Design in schools, due to the fact that ID is not Creationism with a God, it is just the hypothesis that the universe was created by an intelligence that may or may not be God, therefore, TOTALLY NOT RELIGIOUS. The article was written in 2005 and ID was fairly young at the time, so I almost gave the disingenuity of the article a pass before I recalled that the author was still citing that article in her current works. To claim that ID is totally free from Christian (or other) religious influence is an outright fabrication these days, or any day, really.

You know what, though? I am fully aware of the irony of what I am about to say, but I don’t have many people I know who would fill the gap of evangelical Christian…

I feel like we could solve the issue much more easily if we would stop posting Op-Eds and blog posts and actually… You know… Spoke with each other. I mean, it might be crazy, but it could work (maybe) even better than shooting blindly at where we think the other person is.

“But what about the Nye vs Ham debate, and other debates?!”

Those aren’t conversations. Nye and Ham worked within the rules of the debate to completely ignore each other in favor of trying to convert a straw man to their side; that is kind of how debates work. To be fair, that is kind of how they are supposed to work–but they aren’t exactly the right tool.

I don’t know, sometimes I just wish I could sit with a strong evangelical Christian and have a conversation. I have in the past, but I was too immature to use it for the opportunity it truly was at the time. I think I could have a better, less adversarial conversation if I tried again today. If only my younger years (like… At least a year or two ago!) hadn’t poisoned the well, so to speak.

Absolute Truths

Absolute truths are absolute, unless they are inconvenient, then we can throw them out (temporarily) and pick them back up–like setting aside jewelry before a fight.

I was getting a little bit jittery for Creationist Propaganda, since it is currently the off-season for Creation Today’s broadcasts, so I just decided to hit up some random articles on AiG to get those creative juices flowing. I was not disappointed.

This particular article details the fight between absolute Creationists (we were created as we are, and that’s an end to it) and evolutionary Creationists (God created the universe billions of years ago, and then set the pieces to moving).

It is almost comical to read the AiG writer, who toes the line of calling the Scientist in question “racist” but never actually crosses, for his handling of Neanderthals. Reasons to Believe (RtB) posits that Neanderthals were created as animals before Adam and Eve, and thus likely didn’t have souls. AiG argues that of course they had souls, because they could use tools and communicate, and for some reason that counts as (this term was new to me) “image-of-God behaviour”.

AiG even posits that Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred with humans, meaning they accept the evolutionary worldview of human development with the only exception being timeline. They even argue that you can see the fingerprint on our DNA left by breeding with Denisovans! Of course, the survival of the fittest, advantageous traits being passed on idea at play here is not evolution! It is adaptation! Which is totally different, guys! Because we can’t compromise; once we’ve told you that the sky is purple, the sky stays purple.

The thing is that this seems almost a tacit admission that non-humans interbred with humans, though I feel like I can smell their counter-argument coming; Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Humans share a Biblical Kind, a kind of superspecies that exists to make their scientific models work–and it did hurt me a little, to write “scientific” in that context. The ultimate concession, a line that would actually have found a warm, friendly home in any paper refuting young earth creationism, comes in the statement: “Neanderthals must, based on genetic evidence, have either been cousins, cohabitants, or ancestors of anatomically modern humans.”

We have a genetically distinct species as an ancestor of a more modern genetically distinct species, but it’s not evolution, guys! The fact that you just described one of the major foundations of evolution be damned (literally)!

The thing is this; AiG is willing to slip into evolutionary talk as long as they never say the word evolution, and generally only so long as they are refuting someone they don’t like (admitting humans share a kind with other species comes dangerously close to admitting we are just another animal, but maybe I’m the crazy one).

The other thing they lean on is not just short time frames for this human genetic distinction, but incredibly short time frames. Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other ancient human species (ancient according to that dirty “science” crowd), developed, lived, and went extinct within the last 3500 years or so. Their evidence for this is “ignoring any and all dating methods”, stating that “fossilization is always rapid,” and that “The tower of Babel.” If that last one seems a little bit decontextualized, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. That is a quote; all genetic diversity in humans happened only after Babel. For some reason. In fact, all diversity is “easily understood as the natural consequence of the dispersion from the Tower of Babel.” I decided to use their exact words; the problem I have when anyone says something is so easily understood that they needn’t explain it is that sometimes I don’t understand–and finding an explanation can be difficult sometimes.

I suppose I understand to a degree, but only in a wildly theoretical, ridiculously impractical world view. Since the Tower of Babel probably instantly teleported humans to the ends of the Earth– I mean, I doubt they just started migrating slowly, otherwise how would there have been fully realized civilizations that bear absolutely no resemblance to Judaism in North and South America millennia ago? They needed time to set up shop, build some truly impressive structures, generate new religions, forget their roots (And that would have been hard, since the first post Babel generation had heard the voice of God), and then meet with their new Christian Overlords, all within a thousand years or so.

I understand that humans work hard, but what I want to know is this; how is it that Judaism was born in the Middle East, survived the flood in the Middle East, and after all humans were scattered to the furthest reaches of the Earth, it was only the Jewish people in the Middle East who remembered their God? Every single other faction magically forgetting him? That seems… Improbable to me.

I will close with a statement that boils the absurdity down as far as I can:

“Humans were created, fully formed and free from the need of evolution, 6000 years ago. The fact that we are arguing for large scale genetic diversity and massive changes through adaptation don’t affect the first sentence for some reason.”

Cheers.

Can God and Evil Co-exist?

So I was watching a speech/lecture given by Mark Spence, who works for the Living Waters ministry. In it, he speaks about the conscience that is placed in all humans by God (You can read the preamble and watch the video here.)

During his lecture, he brings up the story of a little girl who went missing. Investigation found that she had been kidnapped, raped, and then tied up and buried alive. The story was truly difficult to listen to, but the way he parleys it into his next point is the part that staggered me.

“Don’t you want justice? Doesn’t it boil up inside of you?!

“That is your conscience, given to you by God!

“And if we have always felt that this type of thing is wrong, that means it did not evolve.”

I… Ok. Ok. Let’s decide where to start with this. These three statements contain so much wrong.

Have to calm myself down.

The first problem; he says the conscience is universal, but where was the conscience of the rapist/murderer? Did he know what he did was wrong?

The third line, there, is an unholy (ehehehe) amalgamation of evolution and religion. Of course our morals could have evolved; they had billions of years to evolve group dynamics and relative morality before there was anything even resembling a human on the Earth.

Your statement, that it had to come into existence fully formed, already assumes that humans were created all at once. There is no science that speaks to this idea.

Why is your Bible an absolute? Can you attest to its having been written by God? Can you attest even to the Pentateuch being written by Moses? Because I can attest to its having been finalized by a group of humans in the fourth century. How many Gospels were thrown out? What about the Christians between say the year 100 and 397? For those 297 years, did they accidentally read blasphemous Bibles that contained things that were later thrown out? Why did God wait until 360 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection to have a Canonized Bible?

If we are going down that rabbit hole, I really have to ask a question, one I have asked before, one I will ask again: If Adam sinned right out of the gate, and Jesus didn’t come until some 4000 years after Creation (by their own timeline). What was God doing for those 4000 years? Those people all just went to hell?

The reason I went down this train of thought is because things are not so clean and pristine as I’m being sold. The Bible is not a clean work, free of human corruption. And there are many pieces of provenance that show many of the hands that have touched the Bible.

Why does your messy conglomerate of books count as “Absolute, objective morality?”

If a book was written by a man, then edited by a second, then a third, then a fourth, repeat for x, you would question the authenticity of the book. If that man’s hand was Moses, apparently “Oh yes, absolutely correct,” is valid… But if that hand was “Dawkins”, you would ask a thousand questions. And when you have standards that only apply to your opponents, you should think about those standards.

Now, I realize as a human that I am flawed, and I have double standards–but I do try to resolve them where I find them. The issue with the double standards of “The Bible” versus “Literally anything else,” is that the double standard is institutionalized, codified, subscribed to, and referenced as “A good thing,” by many in the creationist movement…

Why is that? How is that?

Sorry, this got a little scatterbrained. I just don’t understand how it is so easy to write off certain questions for those in the Creationist movement, while levying those same complaints against their opponents, and when I try to follow that thread through my head I end up all over the place.

Another Quick Thought

So I had more white noise (read: Strongly Christian documentary film propaganda) on in the background, and heard a few things that piqued my interest. The filmmaker interviewed a few PhDs and dropped several names, names of Nobel Prize winners who believe in God or believed, as the case may be, and during the interviews I really got the feeling that the message was “Look at all these smart people who believe in God! You want to be smart, too, don’t you?! Then you should believe in God.”

The problem I have is that argument misses any sort of coherent point, because what does a person’s personal belief have to do with their work?

If a person wins a Nobel Prize in Physics, or Chemistry, it is generally because the contribution they have made to their field is exceptional–and to get that far, you have to have had your work peer reviewed by hundreds of men and women. And for me, I have never asked what the religious conviction is when reading about a specific revolutionary scientific breakthrough. The person might secretly be a Neo-Nazi, might be a Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist. Don’t care. I don’t care so much that it isn’t even a question I would ever ask.

There are brilliant men who are atheists, as there are brilliant men who are religious — but one thing you will never hear me say or imply is “You should be an atheist because Richard Dawkins is an atheist.”

Religion, in any form, is largely a personal venture and belief system. Oh yes, you can believe in your Church, or your Bible, but generally you have a say in those beliefs. You can decide whether your pastor is intelligent or whether he is a liar (or both, which is often the case). For me, I did not become an atheist because it was the cool thing to do, or because I thought Dawkins was just like… So dreamy, you guys, like Oh. Em. Gee. No, I read the Bible, I went to Church, I read Dawkins and Hitchens, I read a bit of Sam Harris, and I read some Reza Aslan. And by combining their ideas in my head, I came out the way I am.

So I think we can all agree name dropping for the sake of name dropping (as opposed, say, making a proper citation) is the most shallow mechanism for creating converts, and has no place in the modern discourse.

Correlation vs Causation (2015 edition, Part 4)

And now we conclude our rebuttal of this article, which is purportedly about what makes New Atheists stay up at night, sweating in fear of the Truth of Religion (I think).

The fourth section lasted several paragraphs before tripping over a line that shows a misunderstanding of general atheism by the author. I suppose this isn’t surprising, and his misunderstanding is slightly less militant than Phil Robertson’s (Duck Dynasty) who seems to think that Atheism is a path whose inevitable conclusion is killing and raping your family. 

I think the misunderstanding starts with the author’s assertion that “Above all, these unevangelical atheists accepted that religion is definitively human.” I think he takes that to be a validation, that humans are religious because … Reasons? The evolutionary psychology of Religion is an incredibly interesting field, and while we certainly cannot say with definitive conclusion what caused religion to spawn across time and distance as it has, we have very compelling theories as to why religion may be built into the human brain.

The issue I have, then, is that the author claims “Why should religion be universal in this way? For atheist missionaries this is a decidedly awkward question,” as though he knows the mind of the atheist.

I have not had questions about this very idea for a long time–I do not even recall the source from which I took a compelling answer. The odd thing is that the author seems to be so sure that religion is part of the human experience, yet ignores the fact that the staggering number of religions and superstitions seem to indicate a disparate beginning. Certainly this author writes from the standpoint of a Christian, but there are many hundreds or thousands of religions, most forgotten now, that predate even the earliest records of Judaism. Considering Adam and Eve are supposed to have regularly talked with God, starting only shortly after creation, it is odd that there would be religions older than such ideas.

Now, we have to consider geography in looking for religious roots and histories. I cannot say I am a historian, just a layperson who reads about this stuff frequently, but why should North American religions have so little in common with middle Eastern religions which again have so little in common with sub-Saharan religions?

The Creation narrative shoots itself in the foot, especially considering how recently all of humankind is supposed to have been in close geographical proximity (more recently than 4400 years ago, according to young earth creationists). But let’s give the author the benefit of a doubt and assume he does not subscribe to young earth views–I would still ask him why he would think religion is universal because of his particular God, and not because of any other mechanism? Certainly, evolution gives us a good reason for having many different religions (and a reason for having religions at all), but why should an all-knowing Creator-God spawn as many religions as there are peoples?

And I am not going to assert this question is awkward to you; my mother, a devout Catholic, answered that question for me in an instant and without hesitation. Her answer was not based in doctrine, but her answer was at least logically sound.

“Yet they never ask what evolutionary function this species-wide phenomenon serves.” I’ve answered this indirectly (and directly) during this series, but that statement is objectively false. Rallying around an idea larger than we are allows us to form strong tribal bonds. Even the ideas of theism (rather than just the idea of theism) even crafts rules almost hilarious transparent to scrutiny that would create group relationships. A Christian sect that preaches love and tolerance will gain members who wish to love and tolerate, and they will defend each other, give each other food and money. Charity, a core doctrine of the Church, gains additional members and gains members powerfully.

Pagan cults? Even fertility cults? They create a strong endorphin and dopamine reaction within its members, a simulation of love (or just ‘love’ as the case may be) between its members, again creating strong tribal bonds.

The idea of having a ruler chosen by a higher power, such as Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman Emperors, and Middle Ages Kings, gives the people following that leader a reason to swear fealty. Many who have sworn fealty to a single person will defend each other, defend the tribe, defend the border.

No, Mr Author, this is not a question I am afraid of. The evolutionary benefits of religion are far reaching and apparent.

“If religions are natural for humans and give value to their lives, why spend your life trying to persuade others to give them up?” If your version of giving value to a life is standing in opposition of rights for homosexuals, picketing abortion clinics that serve women who have been raped, kill doctors in the name of … Not killing? If those are the things that give meaning to your life, I think the idea of love and tolerance have flown over your head. If you think your religion of love and tolerance allows for racism, or hatred, then it is not a religion of love and tolerance.

Oh, I realize that not all Christians spew bigoted hatred, and that is why I don’t preach for the abolition of religion. That being said, I do have to admit that I do not have a clear idea of how we can make the world a better place in the context of religion. The Bible belt, with its latent racism, weird cult offshoots of your religion (Warren Jeffs still creeps me out something fierce)… There’s so much wrong with the world.

There are things wrong with Atheists, too — I won’t say there is something wrong with Atheism, because not believing in God is an incredibly wide net. Most atheists don’t believe in atheism, as many religious adherents tend to frame it–that is a uniquely religious view of atheism–we just don’t believe in God one way or another. While the metaphor isn’t perfect, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have each posited in their own way that “I don’t play tennis, therefore should I identify as ‘a-tennisist’?” Like non tennis players simply don’t think about tennis, many atheists simply do not think about God in any of His/Her/Their incarnations.

Obviously I do not fall under that umbrella; I think about it in that I am here writing. Many religious adherents have stated they believe atheists “hate” God, or some variation of that thought, but I don’t hate God–I just think the general conception of God has so many faults I cannot believe in Him or Her as He or She stands. Too many humans have given God too many different and wildly incongruous personality traits over too many years for me to believe that God is timeless and eternal and wholly separate from Earth. There are too many inconsistencies in the Bible, for all Kent and Eric Hovind have tried to convince me otherwise (even a cursory reading of only the most popular parts of the Bible can find several inconsistencies).

“More than anything else, our unbelievers seek relief from the panic that grips them when they realise their values are rejected by much of humankind.” No, Author — why must you ascribe thoughts to me that I have never had? I am not panicked any more than you are by the fact that there are people who do not believe as you believe–I just despair that there is so much sadness and inequality, I despair that there are those that are starving not because of a lack of food, but because of a lack of human decency. I despair that there are sweatshops in far too many countries, and that so many people so readily support them in the quest for a dollar. If there is a flaw in my vision of morality, please tell me and I will attempt to rectify. I do not believe my morality is flawed merely because a 9th century BC shepherd didn’t think of it first, nor because a 1st century Ascetic did not preach them on a mountain (though, to a degree, he did what with the Golden Rule and all).

What I want is not to press my ideals upon others–what I want is a dialogue whose goal is purely to identify how to improve the human condition, to improve happiness worldwide. I understand there are those who would want to stand by their prejudices and racism, but here is my rule of thumb in a nutshell (if you can find fault in my method, I will attempt to improve it):

Homosexuality, whose happiness does it damage? Strict religious devotees. Why does it damage their happiness? Because someone told them to.

Strict religious devotees, whose happiness do they damage? Homosexuals. Why does it damage their happiness? Because a 4th century book told those devotees to treat other humans as less than human (or at least as less than themselves).

Which seems more grounded in the ideals of the Golden Rule?

This is obviously a small scale application, but I do hope it paints a picture of how we could use a series of similar questions to create a morality that maximizes universal happiness.

Then again, maybe I am just a crazy optimist…

That wraps up the article. I think I have, through the last four parts of this series, tackled his most egregious statements he made as to my own personal beliefs. I think his article shows a closed mindedness, and being as made simple statements that a conversation with even a single atheist could have proven false, I feel as though the author is as set in his beliefs as he believes your everyday atheist is.

I realize I may have asked similarly vacuous questions in the past, I am young, I am no professional writer, and I started this blog largely to work through my own personal crises. Given the audience that John Gray (the author) is writing for, I would expect a higher level of journalistic integrity from him than I would hold myself to–and yet while well written from the standpoint of “Yes, I can read that easily,” it is poorly sourced and contains no small hints of biases and latent … Theicism?

I like that word. I am keeping it.

Anyway, I think the average atheist is far more reasonable and open to skepticism and doubt than the author believes. Certainly, I am open to free discussion and alteration of my ideas, and I certainly am not free from the doubt of what happens to me when I die, so maybe it is just that I am the wrong kind of atheist. *Shrug*