One phenomenon that has occurred over the last decade or so is the retreat, intellectually speaking, of some groups. Maybe I notice it now with the many online forums that we all use (me included) to express our views and thoughts.
Not to get political (I try to avoid that here), but look at the Republican Party. No matter which side of the fence you are on, or if you have a horse in the race at all, there is no question that the Tea Party and the Religious Right have more influence than ever before. Without going into specifics, let’s just say that many of the aforementioned want to push the country back to the 50’s. Some, not all.
I believe that this has also fueled the anti-science stance of many religious folks. The dinosaur hoax is one example (I posted something about that a while ago). I do find it funny, however, that when people labeled “climate-deniers” are pressured to explain their views, they say “I am not a scientist.” But yet again, I digress.
The debate over creationism and evolution has really heated up recently. Let me share something personal. I was on my way to atheism around 20 years ago when I was in a Sunday school class. I don’t remember the particular topic that day, but one statement stuck with me. The Sunday school teacher (to a group of adults like myself) told us, with great conviction, that “the earth is only 5,000 years old.” History has always been a passion of mine, so instantly I thought, “WTF???” I looked around me and was alarmed because everyone was acknowledging to the affirmative to that statement. I was speechless. At that moment, seeing what was going on around me, I though “holy sh&@, this is a cult!” It was actually just your standard, run-of-the-mill southern baptist church. He spoke as if that view was absolutely infallible. I feel like I “woke up” that day.
Anyway, I find, in the day and age, that the battle between science and religion to be a bit of a surprise. I mean, do those people take what is in that book LITERALLY? Yes, I suppose they do…at least they pick and choose what they want to extract from it for their own use. It amazes me how, again in this day and age, the lengths that creationists go to to justify their beliefs.
“Yeah, that’s the ticket” (SNL reference, Jon Lovitz).
I humbly offer this article on the topic.
Science And Religion: Surveying The Field Of Battle
by John Farrell
“As the scientific evidence has accumulated in favor of Darwinism,” writes Kelly James Clark, “many Christians have defensively retreated into unscientific, untenable biblical literalism. Conflict is an apt metaphor for the ongoing battle between Darwinian evolution and biblical literalism.”
Clark has a PhD in philosophy and conducts research at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. In addition to a regular blog at Huffington Post, he’s written several books on the interface of science and religion. While an evangelical Christian, like some of his fellow authors Peter Enns and Karl Giberson, Clark is not satisfied with the way that evangelical theologians have dealt with the findings of modern science.
His latest book, Religion and the Sciences of Origins: Historical and Contemporary Discussions, is a broad survey of the many challenges that modern science–in particular the biological sciences–poses to traditional religious doctrines. While largely concerned with the history of Christianity, the book also includes two excellent chapters on Judaism and Islam and how they regard the issues.
While Clark’s audience (I believe) is mainly college level students, he writes in an engaging and often amusing style that will appeal to the general reader.
Starting with opening chapters laying out the terms and the sides in the often contentious debate between science and religion, Clark discusses the history of science in Europe, the founding fathers of the scientific revolution, their religious presuppositions and beliefs, and moves from there to the achievements of modern science–evolution and cosmology and quantum mechanics–most of whose leading lights have discarded the faith that inspired their scientific forebears.
But it’s the resistance to science on the part of his co-religionists that concerns Clark more. To use an analogy, if one believes in a god who inspired the Book of Scripture, one can’t avoid the implications of what’s written by the same author in the Book of Nature.
In this detailed discussion, we see that a large amount and variety of evidence from the Book of Nature supports a very old earth, the natural production of species, and the very late entry of humans. Only by bringing the Book of Scripture, which tells us that God is the Creator, together with the Book of Nature, which tells us how God creates, can we gain a better and deeper understanding of God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and Earth.
Now, there is little evidence of this happening at institutions like, say, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose president remains mired in anti-intellectualism. And I wonder how Clark’s book is being received there.
Sometimes when I am confronted with something difficult and I share it with someone, they will say “I’ll pray for you.” I have stated many times that I am not a militant atheist. 9 times out of 10, the person is just being kind and sympathetic. They want show they care. Will the person go home, get on their knees, clasp their hands together and pray for me? Probably not, but taken in the context of a fellow well meaning person, they are just briefly sharing your grief or struggle and telling you that you are not alone. It is what they cling to and provides the coping mechanism that they need. Good for them, and I appreciate the gesture.
Some atheists feel the need to respond differently to this statement. I just simply say “thank you.” I am not thanking them in advance for literally praying for me, I am thanking them for the kind gesture.
The article below discusses the various responses to this statement.
Atheists: Responding To The Christian Phrase “I’ll Pray For You”
by: Peter Mosley
So you’ve just been told. “I’ll pray for you!”
And you’re not really sure how to respond in this situation. Maybe you mutter a “thanks” and feel like a dufus as you walk away, wishing there was something more clever you could’ve said. Or maybe the context was different – the person was being sincere, and you want to say you appreciate the thought even though you don’t agree with it. But you’re not sure how you should word that sentiment or if you should even express it. So maybe you say something that didn’t quite fit to your satisfaction in that instance, either.
Before going any further, I should state that it’s trendy, especially among lifelong atheists or those who have been atheists for a long time, to say that you shouldn’t feel angry about the religion you came from (in this case, Christianity) — so someone saying “I’ll pray for you” in any context should be no big deal. On the other end, I know some of these atheists who aren’t angry are probably reading this carefully to see if I am endorsing a position of anger towards well-meaning Christians — an endorsement that is likely to alienate some atheists who claim they just don’t feel angry at the religion they came from.
I’m going to say – you owe it to yourself to be honest about your feelings here. If you’re angry about Christianity (as I often am) you owe it to yourself to admit that to yourself and figure out how to best express your honest feelings to other people. If you’re less angry and more diplomatic, or even apathetic – then you can admit where you are on that spectrum, as well, and act accordingly.
Because atheists have such a wide range of reactions against religion, there isn’t a single one-size-fits-all-people-and-situations strategy. So I’m going to offer several possibilities to help you out. Knowing where you fall in the continuum will help you know how to respond – not only to phrases like “I’ll pray for you” but other Christianeze staples, too, like “Why are you so angry at God?” “How’s your heart?” “Maybe you just need to humble yourself?” “You must have a secret sin in your life/ You just want to sin” and so on.
OK, let me go over some possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: The sincere “I’ll Pray For You” in reference to a tragedy
You’re at a funeral, bawling your eyes out because your father died. Your teenage niece comes up to you, reaches out and touches your shoulder consolingly, and hesitates as she looks for something to say. She looks at you a long time, and she knows you’re an atheist, but she cares about you deeply and this is, by necessity, a very religious moment for her, and she’s torn. So she says something because it’s better than saying nothing at all, and it’s the only thing she can think of to say in this context. “I’m so sorry. I’ll pray for you.” How should you respond?
Regardless of how angry you are as an atheist, the best response is probably a simple “thank you.” Even if you don’t agree with her beliefs, chances are you appreciate the sentiment, regardless of how angry at religion you are. And you’re not lying or being dishonest – you probably honestly appreciate the thought and the care she’s expressing for you. It’s a lovely moment between you and her – just something she said to make a beautiful relationship moment happen between you – not something she did to insult you or make you upset. And you can, probably, embrace that moment without believing in God.
(Note: If you’re one who tends to be angry at religion and someone says “I’ll pray for you” with an intent that is less than this innocent later and brings this moment up as proof you should be OK with it – yes, these scenarios exist, especially in families – discuss the differences in intent and specific contexts in your rebuttal – the previous paragraph may give you some pointers.)
Scenario 2: The genuinely concerned for how you’ll get along as a nonbeliever “I’ll Pray for You.”
Someone who thought you were a Christian finds you aren’t. They seem disturbed and surprised, and you guys have a civil five-ten minute or so conversation about it. They’re obviously concerned. At the end of the conversation, they say, “I’ll pray for you.”
“I don’t need prayer” may be more abrasive than you want to be, and “I’m OK” basically communicates the same sentiment, anyway. It also reinforces the fact that your relationship can continue – no one needs to pray to make you “OK”; you’re already there. It’s short and to the point, and can easily be said at the end of a conversation, as the person’s walking away, without seeming rude. Also, “I’ll think for you” (another oft-suggested response) may be more abrasive than necessary for the conversation, and it likely won’t register in the person’s head if their primary thought is “I want you to be OK.” Saying “I’ll think for you” also focuses the conversation on the other person, underlining what separates you instead of what unites you. Saying “I’m OK” is unifying and nullifies the “I’ll pray for you” sentiment. Finally, saying “I’m OK” here opens up a door for you to see the other person’s intentions – their response back can show you whether things are cool as far as they’re concerned, or whether they’re intent on letting you know you’re not “OK” enough to be friends with.
It’s two words, but I think they’re fairly effective here.
Scenario 3: The rude “I’ll Pray For You.”
Someone knows you’re an atheist, and you’re in an argument with that person that is filled with insults from them about how arrogant you are, how much you need God, how ignorant you are, that you’re in danger of going to hell, etc. You make a fairly strong point and they leave the conversation – and, in their parting words, they say, “I’ll pray for you” but it feels like “Fuck You.”
If you’re apathetic or insistent on being a passive atheist, you might think the best response here is to simply say, “I’m OK.” And that’s you’re choice; you can do that.
However…that might not, exactly, reflect your honest feelings.
Here are some more confrontational responses with their probable reaction.
1. “Why?” or “Why would you tell me that?” or a similar question can continue the conversation, if the person used “I’ll pray for you” to end the conversation and you want to keep it going. “Why” leads to a conversation on the meaning of prayer if the person wants the insult to stick. “Why would you tell me that?” shows that the announcement is unnecessary, and you can, from here, press home the point that they told you because it’s about humans trying to convince each other; it has nothing to do with God.
2. “OK — if you want to talk to yourself, that’s your deal” or something similar. This shows you don’t value their judgment much more than scenario 2’s suggestion — it’s an insult that effectively separates your viewpoints. Sometimes, such a fence may be useful.
3. A simple chuckle and a “you do that” can be dismissive and do the trick without ruining the vibe of a dinner party. I find this short, sweet, and effective in communicating that prayer does nothing for you and asserting your own stance without strongly attacking the other person.
Disclaimer: I am not making fun of Jesus Christ here. He was a real historical figure. The fact that there is much debate about him being the son of God and so forth is for another conversation. I just find it interesting that many Christians are so passionate about this.
Over the last few years, the actual image of Jesus, what he really looked like, has stirred up controversy. It is pretty apparent that the image that is accepted worldwide is one of a rather European-looking fellow with long hair and a beard. Sort of like how all movies about Ancient Rome or Greece depict the citizens living in that Mediterranean area of antiquity as having British accents. If someone hopped in a time machine and went back to the old Roman Empire, they would probably say “hey, why doesn’t everyone sound like Elizabeth Hurley and Prince Harry?” But I digress.
The picture below shows you the “fake” Jesus, and then what he probably really looked like based on the region in which he lived. This caused absolute pandemonium in the Christian community…I mean, “that’s NOT the Jesus in that big picture at my church…blasphemy!”
Well now, my friends, scholars and theologians have finally settled on what the REAL Jesus looked like. Definitive, end of story.
That’s right, folks. Jesus looked like Kenny Loggins. You are now free to move about the cabin.
A man sees a boy with a box of kittens.
The man goes over and says “Oh what cute kittens!” The boy replies “Yes they are Christian kittens”.
About a week later the man sees the boy again with the same batch of kittens. Once again he walks over and says “my, those are just adorable!” The boy replies “Yes, they are atheist kittens” The man asks “wait, weren’t they christian before?” The boy looks at the man and says “Yeah but they have their eyes open now.”
I get asked if I believe I have a soul…being an atheist and all. What are your thoughts on this? The below article offers an interesting point of view on the subject.
Courtesy of Keith S. Cornish
Libraries have thousands of books on theology and doctrine arising therefrom, there are thousands of books on Christology, there are thousands of books on the Bible and the characters depicted therein; the number of Bibles, Korans and other ‘sacred’ books printed run into countless millions and yet all theistic religions and religions which propose life after death depend on one proposition, viz. that there is a spirit world distinct from the physical universe we know through direct experience.
There are two aspects of this conceived spirit world: a spirit god or gods (and a -myriad of spirit creatures ranging from imps, leprechauns, ghosts and fairies to genii, angels and bunyips) and individual ‘spirits’ or ‘souls’.
As any attempt to define the ‘soul’ effectively shows non-existence this aspect will be ignored here and an examination will be made of some of the practical difficulties associated with their presumed existence. We are dealing here with the religious definition of ‘soul’, not the loose application of the term ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ meaning the personal physical and emotional characteristics which obviously have no existence beyond physical death.
Religious belief assumes that an individual and specifically unique ‘soul’ is conferred on each person at conception. In Christian theology the ‘soul’ is provided by the god Yahweh so with conception taking place at the rate of about 10 per second it looks like a full time job. There may be many millions of ‘earths’ in the universe with a species equivalent to humans so the enterprise is truly daunting. If all souls were identical the job would be much simpler. Yahweh could go in for mass production and apportion the appropriate amount to each fertilised ovum. Delivery of each soul at the precise moment may conceivably be a real problem.
Perchance all space is composed of living ‘soul’ and whenever a spermatozoon penetrates the ovum a bit of soul slips in also. Maybe the characteristics of the soul are determined by its environment. However, this hypothesis is flawed, for space is not confined and would be present even in unfertilised ova.
According to theology, the soul which is not properly nourished withers and degenerates so one must ask what is the appropriate food provided for the ‘soul’ pre and post implantation.
As only about a third of all fertilised ova develop to full term one must ask what happens to all the ‘souls’ of the aborted ova and foetuses both naturally occurring and induced. Have they been stored in limbo for hundreds of thousands of years (or even the 6000 years of the Creationists) in a state of suspended animation? Will they have to undergo further development before they are resurrected?
At this point another problem arises. When conception takes place theologians confidently assert that the fertilised egg has now been given a living individual ‘soul’. From now on everything is plain sailing? Not quite! A certain proportion of fertilised ova divide into twins, triplets and even up to sextets. So what happens about the ‘soul’? Does it also subdivide to meet the changed circumstances or are new ‘souls’ provided at each division? What say you learned theologians? As the writers of the inspired books had no knowledge of the biology of reproduction they are no help at all.
The concept of human evolution was bitterly opposed by the advocates of religion because it introduced another problem. With the Genesis account of the origin of man the moment of soul implantation was precise. With evolution how could one determine when the soul-less animal had developed into a human with a ‘soul’, particularly when the process involved many thousands of years? Most Christian denominations now accept evolution as factual so they have to face defining the stage when ‘souls’ were first made available.
We come now to the effect of the physical on the immaterial ‘soul’. How do they interact? Does the ‘soul’ determine the destiny of the person or does the physical body, with its multitude of differing functions, determine the fate of the ‘soul’? We do not know if ‘souls’ are considered everlasting because the Bible, the infallible text-book of many ages says both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Here again theologians disagree. Some think the physical world cannot influence the spirit world, some think the spirit world determines the physical world and some think the influence is in both directions.
Atheists and Freethinkers can find no evidence of a spirit world but seek to learn as much as possible about the physical universe. Strangely when religious people testify to seeing returning souls the apparitions are always clothed so it follows that things which Atheists see as materialistic and very physical have their counterparts in immaterial material.
We come now to the growth of ‘souls’. Do they grow and age or remain static? Is the ‘soul’ of an aborted fertilised egg the same as that of the person who dies after reaching old age? What about disfigurements caused by accidents? The disciples are reported as saying that Jesus still had the scars of the crucifixion.
Where is the domicile of the ‘soul’? Is it spread throughout the body or housed in some specific spot? If throughout the body what happens when limbs are lost?
Christians are convinced after much weighing that ‘souls’ have no weight so there is no body weight loss at death but Christians are not sure where the ‘soul’ goes. Here again the Bible gives several conflicting answers “absent from the body, present with the Lord”; “the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall arise”; ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die”; “the smoke of their torments ascendeth for ever”.
The idea of souls in spiritual bodies being tormented for ever in spiritual flames with spiritual smoke does stretch the imagination somewhat! The idea of reincarnation of the soul in some other physical body brings in another element It almost makes it mandatory to kill as many of the most horrid creatures as possible so that ‘souls’ are liberated and hopefully enter higher life forms.
Finally, where is the blessed abode of ‘souls’ – the mansion where they live for evermore? Is it up there in the stratosphere, on this earth, or in the infinite expanse of space at near absolute zero temperature? Could it just be that a large proportion of the human race is still being conned by charlatans?
If humans have no ‘soul’ then all the rigmarole associated with religion is silly humbug and unworthy of humankind.