Food Dreams »« Atheists Are Going To Hell

On Origins

The atheists, in arrogance, say man evolved from slime
From nothingness to everything, and all you need is time
With no one there to witness it, they simply cannot know
The truth is, they are idiots… the bible tells me so.

I may not know my science, but I know my holy book
It’s got all the truthful answers there; you simply have to look
Its authors took dictation from Almighty God Himself
That’s a sample of omniscience you’ve got sitting on your shelf.

The bible is, we all agree, God’s perfect, holy word
The scholars say it’s error-free; it’s what the ancients heard
With no one there to witness it, they simply cannot know
But you can trust the bible’s word… the bible tells me so.


So I was looking around on some CNN story–it isn’t even really relevant which story it is–and in the comments (very typical for CNN) someone said that they had a hard time seeing how anyone could still believe in God in these modern times… and in response came the very predictable “and you expect me to believe that everything came from nothing, and man evolved from slime?”… These squabbles (you can’t call them debates, and even “argument” implies more effort) show up on at least a weekly basis on CNN–usually more frequently, but predictably pop up on any story involving religion, faith, or the lack of either.

Two thoughts. First, the asymmetry of the demands for evidence is striking. We have amazing evidence for both evolution and the big bang, but if we don’t have a notarized eyewitness account, nothing–from DNA to fossils, from red-shifts to a cosmic “echo”–nothing will be accepted. No one was there watching. Just like no one was there watching the writers of the early works that were collected into the bible, except that bit is completely trustworthy, and can be believed even in the face of evidence that this bit or that bit was changed later on. (I love it when I find a religious believer who is actually knowledgeable about the history of the bible, although it puzzles me that, so far, they have invariably continued to view it as unchanging and inerrant, immediately after acknowledging the evidence that it is not.)

Second…once again, a false dichotomy. Always, the assumption that if they can poke holes in the scientific understanding, the only possible alternative is their own particular theology. Logically, of course, this is the equivalent of claiming that if we are not 100% certain today is the Fourth of July, it must then necessarily be Christmas. Sorry, but even if every bit of our evidence for a naturalistic world view turns out to be false, that doesn’t make Genesis true. You need your own evidence.

The good news is, there actually is evidence regarding the writing of the bible. The various ages of books, the authors, the revisions, the decisions, there is evidence for it all–it’s not like somebody pulled it all out of a hat in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, none of that evidence supports its being divinely inspired; rather, it reflects the knowledge and superstition of its time–pretty much exactly like somebody pulled it all out of a hat, but a bit earlier than the 1800s.

See, it’s good to be skeptical about important things. Follow the evidence. If it’s not that important, you can take the word of scientists about evolution, but if it’s important–if you are going to make serious decisions based on it–take the time to understand the evidence, so you are not taking the scientists’ word on faith alone. The evidence is there; you can understand it. And if religion is important to you–if you are going to make serious decisions based on it–take the time to look at the evidence there as well. There are libraries full of it. Archaeologists, historians, biblical scholars actually have things they can agree on, and physical evidence you actually can look at. Anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists can add important bits about the functions religion serves–you may decide you want to “be religious” even if you don’t believe their narrative (not me, though, thanks!).

But my goodness… if you’re going to go to the trouble of commenting for the whole world to see you on some online site, please take the time to see if maybe there might be some evidence you can look at. Ignorance may be a reason, but it’s no excuse, for misrepresenting either your opponent’s or your own position.

Comments

  1. Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant) says

    Of course it’s Christmas today. Just like it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. I keep seeing people say it’s different dates every single day, but I keep saying it’s Christmas every single day of the year. Who are you going to believe? Me… Or the guy who can’t keep his story straight for 25 hours?

  2. Steve R says

    If you’re going to take your theories and bang them against physical reality, causing them to fall apart, you have to keep coming up with new theories. This is hard work. Even wrapping ones head around a new theory that someone else has done the hard work on is beyond the capacity of many people. For such people, the cheap certainties of Biblical literalism are irresistible.

  3. dustinarand says

    Couple of thoughts, since I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue too. I think you can’t discount the importance of the intuitive plausibility of religious concepts. The ideas of moral truth, that things have essences, that there are objects that mix traits from multiple ontological categories, that there is such a thing as Truth, etc. All these things come to us naturally by virtue of how our brains work, so there is almost a presumption operating in their favor. Combine that with the prevalence of a belief in your community, and that is all the evidence you need. Or at least it’s all the evidence most people need, because let’s face it, it’s not like you’re going to encounter a lot of everyday situations that will force you to revise your belief in God, especially since people are ingenious at devising ways to render the concept of God congruent with pretty much anything that can happen in your life.
    The inverse is that a lot of science is not intuitive. If animals and plants have essences, then species are immutable, and evolution must be false. People still insist on seeing all the intermediate stages in the evolution of humans, and say that evolution can’t be true unless it can produce them. It’s like they just don’t get that species names are conventions, and all there are are generation after generation of organisms that gradually change in form. Each generation is an intermediate stage. And of course don’t even get started on physics. Inertia, quantum mechanics, time dilation, no freaking way people get that unless they’ve had some serious education to disabuse them of their intuitions.
    So yeah, religious people want evidence of science because it doesn’t make intuitive sense to them and no one they know or care about understands it either. But God and Good and Evil and Truth (and hell even ghosts and angels, etc.) all that they get, and everyone they know believes it too, so why need evidence.
    This is why it’s so important that kids get a good science education and that this education includes learning about how the mind works and how it builds an intuitive ontology that can so readily assimilate supernatural concepts, but has difficulty with many scientific ideas.

  4. left0ver1under says

    First, the asymmetry of the demands for evidence is striking. We have amazing evidence for both evolution and the big bang, but if we don’t have a notarized eyewitness account, nothing–from DNA to fossils, from red-shifts to a cosmic “echo”–nothing will be accepted. No one was there watching.
    […]
    Second…once again, a false dichotomy. Always, the assumption that if they can poke holes in the scientific understanding, the only possible alternative is their own particular theology.

    In his 2011 book, “God, No!” Penn Jillette summed up the science versus religion debate perfectly:

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense.

    If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

    Religion is the shortest path to money, sex, power and authority in any society. Properly done science isn’t tainted so it threatens that hold. Is it any wonder the religious oppose and warp anything they can’t control, or try to control it?

  5. Johnny Vector says

    it’s not like somebody pulled it all out of a hat in the early 1800s

    I see what you did there.

    And yet, you can literally pull a religion out of a hat and end up a century and a half later with riches enough to erect a giant temple near the capital of the most powerful nation on Earth. A temple so audaciously gaudy that it inspired a generation of grafittists to subtly subtitle it with a reference to Oz. Ultimately resulting in this song, ably performed in this case by Ian.

    So um, anyway. Yeah, if people can believe in a religion whose inventor was clearly and contemporaneously documented as an unrepentant confidence artist, it’s easy to lose hope for older religions.

  6. The Ridger says

    Krugman observed yesterday:

    But here’s what you should realize: when [Marco] Rubio says that the question of the Earth’s age “has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow”, he’s dead wrong. For one thing, science and technology education has a lot to do with our future productivity — and how are you going to have effective science education if schools have to give equal time to the views of fundamentalist Christians?

    More broadly, the attitude that discounts any amount of evidence — and boy, do we have lots of evidence on the age of the planet! — if it conflicts with prejudices is not an attitude consistent with effective policy. If you’re going to ignore what geologists say if you don’t like its implications, what are the chances that you’ll take sensible advice on monetary and fiscal policy? After all, we’ve just seen how Republicans deal with research reports that undermine their faith in the magic of tax cuts: they try to suppress the reports.

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