Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fundamental differences

Some of my friends on social media follow the daily musings of a fundamentalist Creationist preacher in western America. How do I know this? Their responses to him pop up on my Facebook timeline. Every now and again I go to read what's being argued about.

Opening statements

The preacher usually makes one sweeping remark: "The words of Jesus have made the common sparrow a daily reminder that we are never forgotten by God." A particularly bland example, this; the others that week concerned the Boston marathon bombers who "think that God doesn’t see their crimes", an ad for the preacher's book "67% off", "Genesis Chapter 1 one solves the mystery of human origins" and "Psalms 6,8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21 Written for atheists: 10:4 tells why they don’t seek God and 14:1 speaks to their intellectual capacity." The latter two in particular are recurring themes - Creationism and the baiting or "pursuing" of atheists: "Christians are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of the Godless."

He then bows out.

The replies from the twitterati range from "I hate sparrows" to "You should see the seagulls round our way, mugging people for chips!" and "Sparrows seem to be all over the planet. I have seen them in several countries. God is good!" While the comment, "The waves of Neptune have made the common clam a daily reminder that we are never forgotten by Neptune" brings the riposte, "Blasphemer! His name is Poseidon!"

All of which is harmless fun for a Monday morning. Even the occasional "AMEN!" in shouty ALL CAPS is only mildly annoying.

Critical thought

But critical questions and counter-statements then occur, like "Why do Christians need a daily reminder that they are not forgotten by God?" or "we are evolved beings, part of a massive complex and beautiful ecosystem, not the by-product of an angry, malevolent and egotistical god." These provoke outbursts from the preacher's followers that bear no relation at all to the original post. (See my paragraph about the preacher's recurrent themes; the answers are all over the page, in any case.)

I sometimes copy a particularly vitriolic set of exchanges and save it. They're usually too multi-threaded and rambling to be re-posted in their entirety, but as a writer I can see they'll be useful in a story at some time! The arguments go round and round cyclically in almost every post and its responses, so it's possible to reconstruct the flavour of the discussion by putting representative examples together.

Some examples

"Dear atheists. You are not going to change the Christian mind. Give up."

"You don't even know what atheism means."

"Atheists are blind and lost. They need the Bible and the Almighty Savior."

"Hey Einstein. The bible isn't necessary to tell why atheists don't seek god is it? We know why. We don't believe he exists do we?"

"Thank you Lord for defeating sin and death at the cross. Grant mercy to many who oppose You here today."

"The words of the preacher are a daily reminder that religious people will always find a way of seeing whatever they want to see."

"As far as I am concerned we CHRISTIANS are here doing what NO OTHER god or religion will do for you. Try to open your eyes to what is to come."

"I guess you've never encountered a JW, Mormon, or Muslim?"

"Ha, ha. We don’t need to prove it. We are fully convinced and we DO NOT NEED TO prove this to you."  (More shouty ALL CAPS.)

"Just because you're personally convinced, that doesn't mean it's true."

"Why is it so hard to believe that God created everything good and then when sin entered the world things changed?"

"As I understand Creationist belief, god created everything. If nothing existed before god made it, where did evil come from in order to 'enter the world'? If he created everything, then as well as the finches and sparrows and amoebae and microbes and whales and cedars and horses and mountains he also created evil, pain and suffering. Either god created everything, in which case he's got a nasty side, or else he didn't, so evil may not be his fault but that in turn makes him NOT omipotent. Or, and this is the view that makes most sense, we as humans have projected qualities from ourselves onto our idea of 'a god' to explain the vast range of events we observe in the world/universe."


Because of this preacher's obsession with Creationism, he has a personal beef with Darwin (not with anyone else, as far as I can gather; not with Alfred Russel Wallace nor David Attenborough nor anyone in between. Oh, unless you count Richard Dawkins).

A word that both sides use of the other's literature is "fantasy." The Creationists frequently use it of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the atheists, of the Bible.

"I read every page of Origin of Species. I'm sure you will agree that it's the driest, most boring book ever written...about a fantasy that has no scientific basis."

"Religion says: Before you read this book you have to believe it's all true.

"Science says: Before you read this book - be ready to question everything you read so that you understand it."

Personally, I refuse to worship a figment of somebody else's imagination. That inevitably puts me on the scientific side of this argument.

I didn't know I was an atheist until quite recently; but this preacher and his ignorance and his generally ignorant followers have convinced me that I really don't want to go to any heaven they may have imagined. So by definition I must be an atheist. Okay, I can live with that.

Have a nice day.

Here's a picture to consider while you're doing that.

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