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?

We Aren’t Smart Enough for God

Such a small thing that kicked off this train of thought in me. In reply to a video from Penn Jillette, a reddit user posted the following: “Penn Jillette literally went to clown college and believes he is more capable of interpreting holy texts than religious scholars.”

The video from Penn was a 6 minute interview, if you haven’t had a chance to watch it. Basically, he states that the thing that moved him to atheism wasn’t books by Dawkins or Hitchens, it wasn’t people around him, it wasn’t media… It was the Bible. Penn said it was when he read the Bible from cover to cover that he became an atheist. I think my story is somewhat similar, though my deconversion did not begin with the Bible; my deconversion ended with it. I don’t want to be an atheist, not really. I like the more romantic ideals of religion, whether or not there are any adherents that can actually grasp them. I like the idea of Heaven, even if so few people have actually studied what Heaven will be like. But still, an afterlife — that is a nice thought.

The ideas that you can only get to Heaven via love and kindness, via humility and charity — those are romantic as well, but so seldom practiced. It is an odd thing, to read interviews with people in the American Bible Belt. Even if they do not actively preach hate, so many of them seem so bitter towards so many other people, towards homosexuals, towards atheists, towards peoples of other Churches, or (God forbid) Muslims. Listen to the replies to Coca-Cola’s frankly beautiful multicultural rendition of the American National Anthem. You may say that those people aren’t Christian, but in a country that polls nearly 80% Christian, it would be a statistical anomaly if none of those people were Christian.

So where does the rampant racism and feeling of superiority fit in with your Christian values? For those that did not click the previous link, it references Matthew 5:5, a verse in the beatitudes, and I think you know where I am going with this–blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the Earth. So go on, patriots, tell me how your country is the country God chooses, that your country is the greatest in the whole world, that your race is the greatest in the whole world, that your morals are unimpeachable, go on. Keep telling me how awesome you are and how much I suck, but please do it humbly, if you could. That would be nice.

Now that I have gone off on that tangent, back to the original point of the commenter. It has been said that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), but even though the Bible is available in my native tongue, even though God could certainly have inspired a perfect work of literature (what with the omnipotence), I should not be allowed to read it without someone to tell me how? To tell me what it means? It was so bad that many councils in the middle ages forbade owning a Bible at all, and translating it was anathema. Why is that? I think Penn is on to something; too many people now sit in Churches and listen only to the verses of the Bible read to them prior to the sermon (or during the sermon, depends on your denomination). If God is not a God of confusion, why are there such a huge number of Christian denominations in the world, all with slightly differing or outright competing views? Why did alternate views on the Bible tear the world apart not once, not twice, but three times? (Once, twice, and three times are all separate links to historical schisms in the Church.)

And even though men who study the Bible their whole lives fail to agree on a translation, and even though God is not a God of confusion, a lay person should not be able to form their opinion through careful reading of the Bible in the privacy of their own thoughts? Am I not smart enough to read it? Is that what it is?

Do I need someone to tell me what it means when Elisha kills 42 (children or men, depending on translation) via two bears, because they called him bald? Do I need someone to tell me why it is a good thing that a woman was raped to death in the service of a priest? What about drunken, incestuous rape? What about cursing an entire nation, for all of history, because of a drunken stupor that ended badly? (It should also be noted that the person who drank himself unconscious and naked was Noah.) Maybe I do need someone to tell me why that was a good thing, maybe, maybe. Certainly, in my own reading of the Bible I cannot see why a God of love and justice and tolerance would do such a thing.

My point is this; while I may not have all of the answers, I am willing to say that I have read a great deal of the Bible. I have more to read, and I am currently reading it again, and it has not brought me closer to God. It pushes me away from God, into atheism, with its sheer repulsiveness (or outright weirdness). It pushes me away because all of the powers that men attribute to God are the making of man; in the Old Testament, God seems neither omniscient nor omnipotent. He seems confused often, quick to a killing rage, unhappy, racist… I think Richard Dawkins said it best: “[God is] jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

I may have given up ground by quoting Dawkins, but only in theory. You may think you have points now, but if you’ve read the Old Testament, I challenge you to prove any one of those accusations wrong. I think that’s another part; a debate between an atheist and a theist could literally devolve into the two posing contradictory Bible quotes to each other. The Bible says many things, and it says so few of those things clearly. Oh, you have all the answers? Or your priest does? Or someone who holds a degree or PhD in theology does? Well, tell them to step forward, and we can have ourselves a universal Church.

Until then, let’s all tone it down where it comes to defending our Holy Books. For me, the Bible is nothing spectacular, a hollow bastion of hope. For you, the writings of Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris may be nothing but wastes of blasphemous paper. I don’t think we will convince each other. But before you tell people that they shouldn’t have an opinion on the Bible, perhaps you should step back and read it cover to cover. Every word. Don’t just pick and choose passages; read everything, read Deuteronomy, Leviticus, read the Book of Numbers, where it says that everyone should be killed except virgin women; read that this includes the children and the animals, any woman who has known a man. If you are offended that terrorists killed 3000 civilians on 9/11, remember that your God himself wanted to kill all of his own chosen people, that the Crusades were done in your God’s name, and that in response to the death of 3000 civilians, the United States has killed at least 18000 Afghani civilians (and that is a very low estimation by most accounts).

If you want more references, I could go on for days. For months. For years. Somehow, I feel like I could make more references than there are pages in the Bible, and I feel like that should be worrisome.

My story of deconversion is obviously not unique. As I said in a long previous post, it seems to me that it is the atheists and the skeptics in my life with the deepest knowledge of the Bible–and I think that is because so many of us were faithful and turned to the Bible in our time of crisis. And in the Bible we did not find our faith, it was in the Bible that we lost it.

The Plank in your Own Eye

Yesterday, a tragedy struck France. It was certainly a tragedy of Stalinian proportions, but not in the way you’d think. While the twelve people of Charlie Habdo were murdered by extremists (whether Muslims or other), thousands died of other causes, cancer, and heart disease, and accidental causes. I realize my attempts at perspective may sound callous, but the disproportional response to terrorism has always bothered me. That being said, some people raise many valid points.

Matt Inman reposted an old comic of his in reply to the murders yesterday, an inflammatory comic poking fun of some of the more easily insulted tenets of many popular religion. The comic is titled “How to suck at your religion.”

I am not going to call it a sophisticated criticism, it is a webcomic by a comedian. I enjoy it, and it certainly raises some valid points, if crude. The point I want to make is that it is a comic about “How to suck at your religion,” not “Why your religion sucks.” That is a very important distinction, and one that many people have certainly failed to make. I slipped into a gopher hole on this one, and found that the gopher hole runs very deep. The first article I came across was this one, a harsh criticism of the comic, calling it blasphemous, unintelligent, unfunny drivel. Helpfully, it goes panel by panel through the comic, making it easier to digest and deconstruct.

The author of this post mentions that the priest in panel one is wearing a Roman collar, a fact that they claim means Matt Inman has taken a direct shot at the author’s religion. BAM! Harsh criticism leveled! But remember the distinction; it is about how to suck at your religion. I have met many judgmental Catholic adherents, and whether you agree that the Catholic religion accepts this or not, the point is this; judging others means you suck at your religion.

The second panel deals with Galileo, and claims that it is so misrepresented that it is not even worth addressing. The author links a Catholic Education source to defend the Catholic church; on the surface, this makes sense–but when dealing with history, I prefer cross-reference. Certainly, when you are dealing with verifiable historical data, it pays to go to several sources to iron out wrinkles.

In any case, I’ll go over some details that would render Mr Inman’s take on the affair at least partially accurate, somewhat falsifying the Catholic writer’s clearly closely held beliefs. In 1614, a letter written by Galileo was delivered to the Qualifiers, a pre-torture arm of the Inquisition. In 1615, several depositions were made to the Inquisition regarding this affair, Galileo’s Heliocentric view. On February 24, 1616, the Inquisition levied their first judgment of Galileo, saying: ”

On February 24 the Qualifiers delivered their unanimous report: “…the idea that the Sun is stationary is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture…”; while the Earth’s movement “receives the same judgement in philosophy and … in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith.”

“On February 26, Galileo was called to Bellarmine’s residence and ordered, to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it… to abandon completely.” -—The Inquisition’s injunction against Galileo, 1616.

So to say “The Church was totally on his side omg you guys, why get up in arms?” is to ignore a lot of the Galileo affair. The affair was far from over, though; Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633, “for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the sun is the center of the world.”

Galileo was found guilty, and the sentence of the Inquisition, issued on 22 June 1633, was in three essential parts:
Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse, and detest” those opinions.
He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition. On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
His offending [book] Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

In 1758 the Catholic Church dropped the general prohibition of books advocating heliocentrism from the Index of Forbidden Books.

So you know what, you’re right! The Catholic Church was totally on Galileo’s side the whole time, and never stood in his way! I am glad Matt Inman got it so wrong that you didn’t have to explain yourself, because I can’t see where your explanation would contradict his comic–it would have gotten awkward had you explained yourself. That was a long rebuttal of panel 2, but I thought it was worth saying. As the very blogger I am rebutting said, “… for those who actually care enough about the facts to check them.” And I do. So I did.

The rebuttal of panel three, which addresses stem cell research, is the idea that life begins at conception. Certainly it does, that cannot be countered, but the idea that life begins at conception is to put an equal value on a blastocyst that one does on a fully conscious human being. To put it another way, which I’ve explained at greater length in the past, the blastocyst is incapable of suffering, while a human in need of stem cell therapeutics most certainly is. To minimize suffering, embryonic stem cells are a valuable source of potential. I will be addressing a second article later in this post that raises an alternate concern with embryonic stem cell research, but I am trying to group this in a point by point way, so we can wait until I get there.

Point four is what I often like to call the political gambit; while it is generally accepted that a child can be “A Catholic Child,” the idea of “A Republican Child” feels odd when rolling off the tongue. Generally, you’d say “That child’s parents vote republican.” This is a question of parenting ethics, and a deep well of research into child psychology has been performed to this end, one far more deep than I could ever hope to plumb. Generally speaking, a child will believe what they are told to believe. I think this is fairly clear when dealing with the issue of Santa Claus or Faeries; they will generally believe for a very long time, at least until they are told that it is false or find incontrovertible proof. Santa is certainly highly unlikely as a physical entity, that is easy to prove.

But how would a child become disillusioned with religion, as compared to Santa? God is often said to help those who help themselves, so a faithful person who has a very rough time is often said to be tried by God, or that God works in mysterious ways. Escape hatch opened.

What about prayer? Surely, we could test prayer! And we have, finding either that there is no discernible effect of intercessory prayer, or that there is a small effect that is traced to a placebo effect. Double blind studies tend to come out with “no discernible effect,” and that should be worrisome.

The evidence, in any case, does not point to a God that certainly exists. It doesn’t point to one that doesn’t exist, either, but that is largely because God functions exactly like Superman; when placed against a piece of evidence he hasn’t seen before, the writers will often attribute to him some power or property that works specifically and only to rebut that point. In any case, the jury is out; you can believe, or you can not believe. If you tell your children to believe, there is overwhelming data that states that most will. Some choose not to, but they are still the minority (a growing minority, mind you. Wonder why that is.).

Point five raised by this writer is a smoke bomb at best; it ignores the argument. They then say that “Of course, if the Resurrection is true, that claim is false.” The sentence rests squarely on the statement “if the resurrection is true,” with the assumption being that it is. Just two days ago I wrote about the historicity of the Bible at some length, and cited references; in any case, the Resurrection is just as much an article of faith as is the afterlife. No one has ever recorded what happens after we die (well, we die, scientifically, but you know what I mean), whether we have a soul, what makes a soul, what happens to our theoretical soul, etc. They then compare being agnostic towards the afterlife as comparable to being agnostic about the answer to 3×3. I will not take the easy way and say that this is self evident, that would be somewhat hypocritical of me. Here, have some of my legendary art as rebuttal of this point:

doingthemaths

Show me a similar proof that there is an afterlife, then we can go deeper into this discussion.

Panel six is rebutted by stating that “I totally don’t have weird anxieties about sex, it is just that it can give you broken hearts, broken homes, rampant STDs, HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!!1ii” You are right, it could. That is why safe sex is taught. Abstinence only education has been shown to fail almost universally to stop the very things you are afraid of. Your “totally not sexual anxieties” are standing in the way of real improvements in the areas of teen STD and teen pregnancy rates.

Point seven relies on the idea that “I believe my religion is the ultimate good, so it would be the ultimate evil for me to not share it,” and that is a belief you have. I am an ex-member of your Church, though, so I suppose that makes me some kind of evil. Certainly, I’ve been called similar.

I won’t lie, for point eight I am not really sure what the author is trying to prove. It completely dodges a debate and says Catholics don’t believe this thing. Again, it is important to remember that the title of the comic is “how to suck at your religion,” not “how your religion sucks.” If you don’t identify with panel 8, then maybe it isn’t about you — the thing I fear is that the author does identify with panel eight. Whatevs. We move along.

Point nine has been extensively studied, and polls show that many voters will vote strictly on, say, a pro-life stance. This is not purely religious, I will give you that; there are many people who are pro-life that are not religious, but the pro-life movement tends to be a vast majority of religious people (even if not based on explicitly religious convictions). Yes, I think it would be safe to say that some people certainly vote based on their religious beliefs; if you are not one of them, please refer to the title of the comic; maybe you don’t suck at your religion. Maybe.

Number ten calls Atheists who fear Muslims smug, and kind of implies a level of cowardice. If you feel bullied, Mr or Ms Catholic, perhaps you may remember that people were executed by the Inquisition as late as the 1860s. If you feel bullied, perhaps you should count the number of dead at the hands of the Crusades. If you think “That bullying was in the past, so it doesn’t matter,” then just wait until tomorrow, and the atheist who bullied you yesterday doesn’t matter.

There is a reason I chose “The Plank in your Own Eye” as the title for this post. For those who have not remembered the Gospels by rote, it is a reference to Matthew 7, where it says you must address your own faults before addressing those of others. Calling atheists bullies is… Well, being as the United States identifies as some 90% plus religious, I would think throwing around words like that should be done carefully. It might sound to some atheists like you are bullying them.

The author makes point eleven, citing a terrible irony, without ever feeling ironic. I would say I find that ironic, but I don’t; irony is defined by something not expected, and I was not surprised by this. Asking someone to be more tolerant as a humorist and satirist makes them “hurt, hinder, and condemn you.” You are right, the INJUSTICE OF IT ALL!

Point twelve implies that the Matt Inman is neither calm nor reasonable, but again, he is a humorist and satirist. If you wanted a respectful debate, I am afraid that The Oatmeal is no place to find it. Being as the atheist does believe that religion serves as somewhat a placebo (not believing in the afterlife, we see believing in the afterlife as a sort of wishful thinking), we are unfortunately immune to its effects. It isn’t even that we don’t want to take the placebo; I wish I could still believe. It is just that once you know a pill is sugar, the placebo effect is mostly gone. Without some major restructuring of my own beliefs, it will be very difficult for me to return to religion.

The other thing about a placebo is that if you believe it will work, it likely will work. Or at least, has a chance to work. The author’s view expressed near the end basically says “It isn’t a placebo because it is totally medicine, and I know that because I know that.” This is not meant to insult, it really isn’t, it is just meant to point out that the argument is unlikely to sway even the most casual atheist, and making it will not win any points in a debate, nor change the mind of anyone in open dialogue. This isn’t calling you down, just trying to open your mind to the point of the other side.

If God enriches your life, more power to you. I do not feel His embrace, I do not feel enriched by Him. To me, if I came back to religion, it would be in the belief that I have accepted the placebo back into my life. Just because you believe it is not a placebo does not change my own beliefs.

The final lines is perfect, because it is the line that makes it easiest to show that the author has missed the distinction between “how not to suck at your religion,” and “how your religion sucks”:

“The comic can mischaracterize and distort, but in the face of actual Catholicism, it’s silent. It has no coherent or compelling answer in response to the Catholic claim. Snark simply has no retort to truth.” – Shameless Popery

There are many Catholics who would think the comic is talking about them, and many who do not. I think there is something to that thought.

We move on to something that has been swirling in my head for a while, and it was brought about by this article. I do not want to demean Patheos, I often find their articles enlightening, even handed, and a joy to read. Even this article, while making some points I find objectionable, is at least enjoyable to read.

When I read his rebuttal to the argument of stem cells last night, it set such a fire in my mind that I could not sleep. I stayed awake, shuffling through my mind all of the points that I could write down to rebut what he says.

The Catholic stance is that adult stem cell research is the best thing that has come along in literally forever (God exists outside of time, therefore does not count in ‘forever’). He cites many good studies showing adult stem cell results as being wildly successful, and certainly they are. I would offer this statement on Brown University’s Biomedical research website to show that the Catholic line “Embryonic stem cells show no promise” can be easily rebutted with but five seconds of Google.

Even so, he is right; more has come from Adult Stem Cells, despite the statement by Brown saying Embryonic Stem Cells show broader promise. Why is that?

Well, in most of the United States (which is still politically and scientifically the most powerful nation on the Earth) embryonic stem cell research is discouraged or outright illegal. It has little investment, and research labs spend much less time on it. This obviously isn’t because it does not show promise (again, see Brown’s statement). It is because of the political pressure to not spend on it.

Denying funding to one field, and wildly encouraging another, waiting 15 years, then comparing them shows all the honesty of a parent who does the following.

Give child one 5 cents. Give child two five dollars. Tell them to go buy whatever they want.

Child one comes back with a single sour candy. Child two comes back with a bag full of candy. You reply thus: “Obviously child two is vastly superior in the world of business and financial management! Look at how good his results are!”

The above is not intended to be a straw man argument (when I use straw men intentionally, I do try to make mention of it). I can seriously not see the difference, and would ask any reader to point out any obvious flaw in my metaphor. Please do.

We move on to the Galileo affair, again. Many of the same points are made, though much better, with one glaring error. The author claims that the Inquisition dropped all charges–that is odd, as it seems to me that two guilty verdicts were delivered, 17 years separated.

While I do not agree with this author’s belief about passing religion on to your children, he makes a much better argument for it than did the author of the previous article. He is correct that he supernatural is indeed a part of human nature, but does not seem to make any point as to why his particular supernatural belief is more valid than any of the previous, which I believe is the point Inman wanted to make. In the age of rationalism we live in, though, more and more people have thrown off the shackles of the Supernatural as we are able to explain more and more of our universe without invoking the name of YWH, YVHV, God, Allah, Vishnu, Ba’al, or others. Perhaps there is a supernatural agent, but given the state of the world, I would not believe that it is the Christian God. This is my belief, of course, and you are welcome to disagree. I merely would like to point out that telling your children that your belief is the correct one and that others are wrong relies on a whole poop ton of other people who believe that same idea also being wrong.

The argument made against sexual anxieties by this author, in contrast, relies a great deal on a straw man–or at the very least, ignoring correlating and causal data. “The current (oh-so-secular) sexual culture…” he calls it, and then blames the STD rate upon it. I will agree; if teens abstained from sex, there would be fewer STDs, pregnancies, etc. But remember just above where you mentioned that supernatural belief is human nature? Well sex is human nature at its very core, and teens tend to be the most ill equipped to resist those urges. You can believe God because it is human nature, but teens should abstain from sex because… Question mark? Look, I would love it if teens would abstain from sex, I really would. I really, really would. Teens are stupid, and ill equipped to deal with the outcomes of sex. But they will keep having sex, no matter how much you try to stop them from doing it. So teach them safe sex, for God’s sake. (That was a pun. I stand by its use.)

Overall, I very much liked this author, but due to his ability to make a strong argument, I thought it worth taking the time to point out where I disagree with him. It was a wonderful piece, and I love the fairness and level-headedness on display here, and thank the author for writing it. My only fear is that because the author is so good at what he does, the parts I disagree with would go unchallenged by someone who is equally fair minded (Yes, I just stroked my own ego aggressively, but many atheists would just say “He is wrong,” and move along. They would use more colorful language. I do not believe that such language has any place in this discussion.). I wanted to rebut the points I disagree with, and acknowledge the good points.

I am truly sorry if that came across as condescending; I can see it in the words, and I apologize if that is the subtext you read. I respect your stance, I truly, truly do. Thank you for writing that article, even if it was three years ago and you will never read mine. But I do very much respect you.

To the first author, who also will never read this, I quote below the opening verses of Matthew 7, because I do not believe you have the theological legs to stand on that my second author did:

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Thanks for reading this long and winding article!