How did we get here (or, how we argue about it)?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, listening, and thinking lately (so I’ve a billion things going through my head), and one of those things has been the creation/evolution debate. I am ashamed to say that I used to be a creationist. “Why ashamed?” you may well ask. Well, as I’ve watched debates (I’m enjoying YouTube so much!) between evolutionists and creationists, I’ve realized some very important things.

  1. Science and religion do not, indeed cannot, mix. I am sure they can overlap a little (after all, the bible, for example, does mention things in the world such as trees and water and mountains), but they are fundamentally different. They begin at completely different places. Science begins with a hypothesis, which is tested and tested to see if it can be disproved. A hypothesis cannot be proved, but it can be disproved (so my stats professor drummed into me). However, there are probability values that can be assigned to events. The higher the probability, the lower the chance the hypothesis is null and void. If there is no correlation, the scientist starts again. Maybe they will scrap the hypothesis entirely, maybe they’ll edit the hypothesis, or maybe they’ll find problems in the experimental method. Finding no correlation is not failure! (I found that a difficult concept to teach middle schoolers, by the way). On the other hand, religious people start with their text. They make everything FIT that text. For Christians, it’s obviously the bible. If a scientific fact shows the text is wrong, then it is the scientific fact that is wrong! The holy book (substitute hypothesis here) CANNOT be wrong.
  2. Evolution/Creation debates become, after a while, intensely frustrating. This is because the Christian (and I’ve mostly watched Christians debate, although I’ve seen a Muslim and a Jew debating too) always comes back to the bible, yet never gives evidence that the bible itself is what they call it (the infallible word of god). So, the evolutionist will patiently explain something that you’d think a middle schooler could easily grasp, yet at the end the Christian will say that can’t be true because… the bible. All right. If that is the case, tell us WHY the bible is so, so authoritative and error-free. But, they don’t (because they can’t).
  3. I’ve come to the conclusion that these debates (and also the YouTube videos put out by pro-creationists) , as far as the Christians are concerned, are intended for one audience, and one audience only: Christians. They give the same arguments over and over. Ken Ham and Ken Hovind are the worst. Both these men really, really seem incredibly ignorant. Further, neither seems to listen. In one debate, an evolutionist will explain something to one or other of these men, yet in the next debate or interview (or tweet or blog), the exact same issue will be raised, with no modifications whatsoever. No attempt to incorporate new knowledge to boost or strengthen their own argument. It’s as if the debate never took place, as if they never heard or learned a thing. I’m not even suggesting they should change their minds, but once an argument has been addressed, you should take the responses into consideration next time you raise that same argument. Anyway, both those men sound as if they’ve memorized chunks of text or ideas just to spout off whenever. So why do they do these debates? As I said, it’s for the Christians. No thinking person could possibly be swayed by what they’re saying (and I am referring to these types of debates; think Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham) – at least not a thinking person who values truth and has some kind of scientifically trained mind. On the other hand, I’m not sure why scientists take part in these farces. Do they hope to reach wavering believers (my best hypothesis)? Surely they don’t think they’ll change the debator’s mind? (Ken Ham, for example, has built his empire on creationism. Even if he knew he was wrong, he would have far too much to give up to admit it)
  4. The only reason I held on to creationist beliefs for as long as I did was because *I* never listened to the other side. I closed my mind. I knew there were issues, but instead of honestly addressing them, I read creationist literature. I never read anything by an evolutionist, and I am ashamed. I really am. I do believe that many, many Christians are in the same boat; maybe they don’t think there are issues, but they sure aren’t reading books by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens (or Jerry Coyle, Neil Shubin, Sean Carroll etc…). I can’t tell you how many times I was warned about reading books that might destroy my faith, and I can only assume I was not alone in hearing this kind of message. You’re supposed to build yourself up, edify yourself… “Whatsoever is pure… think on these things”. Hmm.
  5. I am angry. I was duped. I let myself be duped.
  6. I am grateful for people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, AronRa, CosmicSkeptic (who, at the time of writing, is only 18 years old, but is a thoughtful, respectful adolescent who gives me hope for the future). Without those who do speak up, perhaps I’d still be hiding. Who knows?
  7. The teaching of Creationism (Creation “Science”, Intelligent Design) does not belong in the science classroom. It is not science. It has no relationship with the scientific method. It is not an “alternative view” in terms of science. It is religion. Pure and simple. Take away the bible (re-read number 1 above) and there is NO CREATIONISM. ‘Nuff said.

So, shall I answer my own question (the title of this post)? We got here through natural selection, an amazing, awe-inspiring, yet cruel  process. We have no reason other than to fill a niche made by those same processes. And that makes it all the more important to live life to its fullest, to leave the planet in better condition than it was when we entered it, to give the next generation opportunities like we have, to make life for all people (and creatures) the best that it can be (fighting inequities, lending a helping hand, having the courage to stand up for minorities and the oppressed). That is our “purpose”. And when we die? I don’t know, but if it’s like the experience I had before I was conceived, whatever it was/is, has left no mark. Probably just nothingness.

There we go.

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Are These People REALLY Christian?

Today I went to Ashland, Kentucky. I wanted to sit in the courtroom and see what was going on in person. Unfortunately, once I went through security, up the elevator and to the courtroom, the door was shut. I ended up being the first one denied entry. After a polite exchange with the man at the door (I volunteered to stand quietly at the back!), I went back outside into the melee.

While I was lined up, waiting to not get in, the person in front of me asked who I was with. Not quite understanding, I told her I was with myself. She persisted, eventually getting out of me that I believed Kim Davis should be doing her job. She summarized “Oh, so you’re against her.” She then proceeded to question me about my morals, where they came from, the bible etc… I told her a couple of times that I really didn’t want to engage in this kind of conversation, and eventually she stopped. It bothered me no end that she was saying the sorts of things I once might have said (we’re talking 25 years ago now), and I found I had absolutely no wish to engage. I did, however, try to point out a few times that gay marriage was not the reason there was a hearing today. But she wasn’t listening. For her, it was about gay marriage, not about a state employee who isn’t doing her job, forcing her beliefs on the community, and collecting a paycheck as a result.

But, things seemed to get worse. There were people with professional signs, some of which were rude and insulting, who seemed to like to walk around and get into people’s faces. They’d tell them they were going to hell etc.. etc.., sometimes using a megaphone just a couple of feet from the chosen targets face. There was so much shouting that at time you could barely hear your neighbor when they yelled in your ear. And almost without exception, the shouters were “Christians” Some wore sandwich boards, one waved a skull draped in the rainbow flag, some preached, some handed out tracts, some waved giant bibles in the air, and, frankly, some looked as if they were almost mad with rabies.

I was shocked, upset, sad, and depressed that this was Christianity in action. I tried to imagine the Jesus I know doing that, and I just can’t. Just. Can’t. I thought about the time Jesus got really, really mad… and you know what? The only time I can think of was when he turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple. These were the RELIGIOUS people of the day – he never got mad at regular sinners, just the religious people. I tend to think he’d have been REALLY mad at many of the people outside the courthouse today.

I had the good fortune to meet Tim Love, the guy who challenged Kentucky’s SSM ban in the Supreme Court, leading to the ruling that gays could not be discriminated against by refusing to let them marry each other. He was such a lovely, gentle, kind man. When I told him that I was so put of Christianity as a result of today, he looked genuinely sad and said that I needed to know that these people aren’t representative of true Christianity. But, are they? The more I learn about the way Christianity is practiced in this country, the more I am put off. Screaming hate to people? Salivating with anger while “preaching”? Is that really it?

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, this was NOT WHAT THE HEARING WAS ABOUT! Why won’t they all listen? It’s not about religious freedom, unless you think about it in terms of the county citizens’ religious freedom (she’s denying them theirs), and it’s not about her “standing up for her beliefs”. It’s about a woman who was elected to an office, and took an oath to uphold the constitution – and then broke it. It’s about a woman who will NOT issue ANY marriage licenses, gay or straight, yet wants to collect her full pay every week. It’s about a woman who has closed the courthouse randomly so citizens cannot get ANY business done. In short, it’s about a woman who’s breaking the law.

Those “Christians” are trying to make her into a living martyr, and a martyr she is not. They have twisted this whole affair to serve their agenda, and now we have presidential candidates siding with her… applauding her for not doing her job. I can’t help but get angry!

Anyway, there is no shadow of a doubt in my mind that I do not want to be like those people. I don’t want to be a narrow-minded, bigoted, rude, in-your-face person screaming my religious biases at other people. If that is Christianity, I’m absolutely, positively, out of there.

Josh Duggar’s Very Bad Year

There seem to be about a billion articles online covering Josh Duggar’s hypocrisy,  and most say the same sorts of things. He had a problem, his parents didn’t give him the help he should have had, and the problem grew and grew until it because a huge part of his life – and that he’s a true hypocrite. Overwhelmingly, responses on the Internet have been negative, even from the people who supported him the first time round (the molestation). The tide has clearly changed. Yet it seems as if his family has not changed. Again, this is only based on Internet reports (which aren’t the most reliable of sources to say the least), but apparently, the family is holding onto its religion more tightly than ever.

I don’t understand this. As far as I can see, there is a clear divide between the fundamental ideas and values in Christianity (love, forgiveness, servanthood etc…) and the practices people follow in the name of that religion. I don’t understand why a family like the Duggars wouldn’t examine these two ideas, especially the idea that the forms they practice might be harmful. Perhaps they should take a long, hard look at HOW they practice their religion. Perhaps they should open their eyes and hearts and brains to other ways of practicing?

I’ve never, ever understood how they rationalize keeping their children so tightly “protected” and then somehow expect them to be able to cope once they leave home (and that means, for the girls at least, when they get married). They are to jump from being controlled in every aspect of their lives to being free (well, the males, anyway), and are expected to set up their families in the same way. This is nonsensical. Children need to be given ever-increasing freedoms (with appropriate support and guidance) until they are on their feet. Banning this, that, and the other thing is NOT a valid way to bring up a child. Sure, children should be protected from great harm, but banning everything until they get married does not teach them how to cope with life.

Josh made a “mistake” when he was 14 years old. That’s how his parents and siblings see it, and that’s how they treated it. They added locks to the girls’ bedroom (and I have wondered ever since I heard that if the locks were on the inside or the outside), stopped allowing little ones to sit on boys’ knees, stopped allowing bigger boys to change diapers (this one makes my head hurt…  is this no longer dangerous once they are married??), and wouldn’t let children go off alone (or with a partner… not entirely sure how that was supposed to work), yet they did NOT help Josh. He received NO counseling from a trained professional, and his conversion experience was assumed to overwrite his sexual proclivities. Nonsense! Utter nonsense!

This kid had NO outlets. Heck, he couldn’t even pass a woman on the street who might have 1/2 inch of cleavage showing without his family saying “Nike” and forcing him to look the other way. Because, you know, cleavage is sinful. Sex, and anything related to it, became the forbidden, hidden, fruit. Yet, his parents freely interacted with each other in a sexual way with no thought of who might be watching (I don’t mean to imply they had intercourse in front of their children, but certainly they kissed and touched, and JimBob was quite happy to mention making babies in front of the children). So, we have a curious child who has no overt way of satisfying his curiosity. A disaster waiting to happen. He goes underground… and his parents are surprised.

No, that family needs NOT to cling to their religion. By all means, they should cling to their faith, but clearly their religious practices are harmful. They need to take a good, hard look at those and make some changes before another one of their kids goes all Joshy.