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?

New Year, New You

I had a little bit of an impromptu break there, but I promise that while I wasn’t writing I was definitely doing research, watching documentaries, reading books. There are ten thousand ideas swirling around in my head, and through time I am sure that I will be able to write them all down.

If you like this blog, I am sure you will find more in the New Year that will please you. If you don’t, I am not sure what I can tell you.While this blog was started without the express intention of being a religious/irreligious place to write my ideas out, it definitely ended up with an overwhelming theme. Certainly, going back to the very beginning (only three months ago? WHAT?), you can see that there was more variety… But with that variety, it was clear that there was really no true demographic.

I have a whole bunch of half finished articles from my break, but I really never truly felt that those articles were worthy of discussion. They were me spouting ideas and things that probably had no home here. When I post, I don’t want to just shove my ideas down everyone’s throat; I want to generate a bit of discussion. If you’ve been here on the blog for a while, you know that I am not nontheistic because I want to be, I am nontheistic because religion (certainly, modern branches of Christianity at the least) never gave me the answers I have been looking for. When I post an article that has my thoughts in it, I want to spark a discussion, or help people understand what is going on in my head, so that when we discuss everyone knows where I am coming from.

I am not going to post some self-serving New Year’s Resolution, though; what I am going to be doing with this blog is the same as I have been doing. I’d love to see it grow, I’d love more readers and more discussions in the comments, but I won’t resolve to grow it. The blog should grow organically, not because I will it to, or force my ideas down more people’s throats. My actual New Year’s Resolution is to get myself off of antidepressants. What will this blog look like when I am off medication? WHO KNOWS!

I really want to thank everyone who has read the blog to date. Your comments and discussion, rare or common, have given me an incredible drive to grow this. My blog is still only a quarter of a year old, but I have discussions going on, and people have mentioned they read it that I had no idea would have been interested in the materials I discuss here. There are people I haven’t met (read: Haven’t forced to read this blog) who have read and commented. I have several followers, all of whom I thank sincerely.

If I can spark discussions in under 3 months, while I am still figuring out what to write and how to write it, then what will this blog look like in a year? In two years?

I don’t plan to slow down, I want to grow and mature, journey and improve, and have a conversation with all of you about what you believe, about what I believe, and to make the world a better place (even if only in my own tiny corner of the internet). I won’t lie, if fifty people read only a small part of my blog and if fifty people can come together to make the world a better place, then I will feel like I have had an incredible impact. I am not saying “If fifty readers of my blog lose their religion”, that isn’t what I want, but if fifty people can just be kind to others, and think about their own actions in respect to how they impact everyone around them… Well, those fifty people can talk to one person each, and maybe those people will then think about how they act towards others.

Maybe I am being optimistic, but I am just so happy that even one person thinks what I write is worth reading.

As we move forward into the depth of 2015, let’s all become better people together. If you are theistic, I wish you to grow a deeper relationship with your deity. If you are nontheistic, I let’s grow together in respect and tolerance of those around us, but understand ourselves and each other with greater empathy.

In the New Year, let’s all be better people. It’ll be awesome.

If we start small, start with only one person (ourselves) we can make a huge impact on the world. I think it is important to remember that.

No one snowflake ever feels responsible for an avalanche, but if each individual snowflake makes an impact, imagine what we can do!

I think my break is over, the seal is broken, and content will start filling this blog again at an obnoxious rate. Just like before. It’ll be awesome!

Words are Hard

You know what’s funny is how often people will use a word to describe themselves when almost no one can agree what that word means.

For the purposes of my own ongoing narrative, there are four words that people use, three of which no one agrees on. The first of the four, and the one that is easiest to define, is theist. A theist believes in a God or gods. A theist Christian believes in the Biblical God, for example.

Now we enter muddy waters, and what I am about to tell you is not a strong definition but my own personal use of the words. Let’s start with agnostic. This is a weird one, actually, as gnostic generally means seeker of knowledge, or just knowledge… So to be agnostic would, from an etymological reading, be a person who denies seeking knowledge. Like Astrology, however, the meaning of the word’s roots has been dropped over time, and now an agnostic is a person who does claim knowledge of theistic truths. That bears some additional definition, I fear.

It is sometimes said that a person is a “teapot agnostic”, which evokes the narrative of Bertrand Russell’s space teapot. Russell, a late nineteenth-early twentieth century atheist, once posited that there was a teapot floating around in space, and it was his right to believe in it because you could not prove that it did not exist. To prove that it did not exist would be to make a constantly evolving, exhaustive map of the entire solar system at all point simultaneously (the teapot moves, obviously). A teapot agnostic, therefore, is said to believe that the likelihood of God existing is comparable to that of the teapot; very unlikely, but possible.

Atheist, then, is a word I use to describe those that believe, actively, that there is no God. These are the people who tell religious people they are wrong, and that they should update their thought processes and stop being so… So wrong! I am not this thing, or at least, I would not describe myself this way. I certainly am not one who holds to the belief that there is no God.

Nontheist is a somewhat newer word, though I do not know the detailed etymological history of it. I know for a fact that it has been in frequent use since the 90s, and was used by Richard Dawkins in his 2002 TED talk on atheism.. But to me, it signifies something slightly different than atheist. To me, a nontheist is not someone who believes there is no God, or believes in a God, they are just someone who does not believe in a God. That… That is admittedly a very difficult statement to explain, and very difficult to understand, and it took me many years to iron down even the way I felt, let alone a word to use to describe it.

How to describe it without sounding atheist or agnostic? I don’t even truly know. I certainly do not have an active belief that there is no God. I am certainly partially agnostic, but not in the traditional “Could be or not could be,” sense. I just… Don’t believe there is a God (or, perhaps, a Personal God who cares what I think or do on a daily, moment-by-moment basis). I am sorry, even to me this is a deeply unsatisfying definition. In my head it evokes a wide-reaching set of ideas and feelings that I seem not to be able to put into words.

Anyway, words are hard. That’s really the point here.