Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fundamentalist Christians are Hypocrites

After living for years in a sort of religious limbo (no pun intended) I now call myself an atheist, not because I know there is no god, but because I do not believe in one. God might or might not exist; I have no way of knowing for sure, so I’m an agnostic atheist.

I used to call myself just an agnostic, and before that I called myself spiritual but not religious and before that I called myself a Christian because that’s how I was raised. But after reading Dan Barker’s book, Godless, I know that if I cannot specifically answer in the affirmative if someone asks me if I believe in God, then by definition, I’m an atheist.

Theists believe in a god. In the U.S. most theists are Christians. And most of them have no reluctance to tell me how wrong I am for not believing. I can point out that they only believe in one god, the Christian god, and therefore, are atheistic with respect to all other gods. What if they picked the wrong one? But logic doesn’t faze most fundamentalist Christians. They, after all, have their bibles.

It doesn’t matter that the bible is chock full of contradictions and horror stories of a vengeful god. It doesn’t matter that the bible has absolutely no independent historical corroboration. It doesn’t matter that not one word of the New Testament was written by a person who knew Jesus personally or witnessed any of the events they wrote about. None of that matters to Christians. They have their beloved bible, which is the unerring word of God. And how do they know it is? Well, obviously, because the bible tells them so.

Logic, reason, and rational thought don’t work at all with fundamentalists and their bibles. They can be the most reasonable, intelligent people in the world when it comes to all other aspects of their lives. Maybe they are whizzes at business or art or music. Maybe they have a photographic memory or are champions at playing Trivial Pursuit. But they are able to compartmentalize their daily, rational lives and keep all that separate from their religious beliefs.

It doesn’t matter to them that scientists have proved that all species of life on Earth, including humans, have evolved. They simply say, “Oh, it’s only a theory.” They don’t realize that, in science, a theory is as good as it gets. Theories have been proven, even though they can be modified by new evidence if necessary.

Fundamentalists say they have all the proof they need that God exists, in the trees, the flowers, a baby’s cry. It doesn’t matter one bit to them that everything they point to as proof of God can be explained perfectly well by science using only natural laws. It doesn’t matter to them at all that the personal feeling they have that God lives within them can be duplicated, and is duplicated, in other religions that they might call heathen religions. And those feelings can all be explained by neuroscience anyway.

I am often asked why I care what other people believe. I care, partly, because I am a teacher, and I like for people to understand how things really work. I at least like for them to be open minded enough to try to understand.

Mostly, though, I don’t much care that people believe in God. After all, if there were solid evidence, I could be convinced myself of God’s existence. I used to believe in God. So I get it. But what really bothers me is not their belief in God or even in Jesus, but that so many of them rule out what has been proven by science in favor of biblical mythology. And some of these people who rule out evolution as viable in favor of six-day creation find no problem accepting help when they need it from a doctor. Many medicines, such as immunizations and antibiotics, have been created based on the theory of evolution. Evolution is useful to scientists, and therefore, to everyone else.

If the religious fundamentalists would denounce the use of anything that comes from what they do not believe in – the theory of evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the earth and Cosmos – then I would say they are missing out on life, but at least they would not be hypocrites. But if they make use of any of these things, then they are, indeed, hypocrites. They use the advancements of science for their own benefit, even if those advancements could not have come absent the theory of evolution.

I say to all the fundamentalists who do not accept evolution as factual, despite 150 years of evidence supporting it then stop using the benefits of science. Live like the Amish. You should not accept the fruits of the labor of evolutionary biologists if you do not believe in evolution. You can’t have it both ways, unless you are a hypocrite. If you are a hypocrite, then you are being dishonest. And isn’t that what you would call a sin?


Thesauros said...

those advancements could not have come absent the theory of evolution."

So tell me. What advaces in science have come about because of the theory of evolution?

Jerry Wilson said...

There have been many. But, for example, Darwin himself predicted the existence of genes, although he did not call them that. This was a logical prediction of the theory of evolution. Darwin also predicted the existence of transitional fossils, which did not exist in his time. Now there are thousands. Evolution is good at making predictions about nature, which all good theories have to be.

On a more practical level, evolution predicts that organisms will change over time and the rate of change will be dependent on the speed of reproduction. Using this, scientists have been able to grow "evolved" forms of bacteria and other fast-reproducing organisms for the purpose of making medicines. It is also possible to predict, base on past evolutionary trends, what a new bacteria or virus will mutate into so they can be prepared for it.

There are also agricultural benefits. None of the edible plants we consume are natural. All have been selectively bred, which is simply man's version of evolution. The same is true of our domestic animals.

jon v said...

As an undergrad student, my knowledge may be limited, but I'd like to try to elucidate.

Penicillin, one of the most toxic substances on earth, is responsible for preventing proper formation of cell membranes by inhibiting the assembly of peptidoglycans. Basically, the end result is that the cell membranes (the basic outer envelope in which all the inside of the cell, the organelles and cytoskeleton, are bound) will not be strong enough to 'stretch' as the cell grows. Eventually, this horrible toxin, penicillin, will result in the cell quite literally exploding as the internal pressure exceeds the cell membrane's capabilities.

The process would be analogous to you losing the ability to form skin properly. Imagine being born without skin. This is what penicillin does.

Now, you may ask, "How can we afford to give such an awful substance to so much of the world? Women, children, the old, the infirm." The answer is fairly simple.

Evolution. The bacteria vulnerable to penicillin have peptidoglycans, and due to a few billion years of evolution from bacterium to mammalia, we do not. EVOLUTION is the only reason ANY antibiotic works- a successful treatment targets fundamental life processes alternate undesired organisms have that we do not. Basically, we pick a basic vital life-supporting trait humans have evolved out of, and use that to KILL THE HELL out of whatever organisms are relevant. This is why fungicides take forever to set in- fungi are much more complex and similar to humans to safely and quickly treat without harming the host. An athletes foot infection takes weeks of medication, as opposed to, say, a few hours with penicillin on certain sexually transmitted illnesses (Thank God [Or good old scientist Alex Fleming, although a case could be made for the hand of a god being involved in the serendipitous events that led to its properties being discovered] for that.)

The same basic principle applies to basically anything. Evolution is the keystone argument, the most fundamental belief, of modern biological sciences. Modern biology treats evolution with the same importance that any religious scripture treats God. Note, however, that evolution is a theory that is tried and tested, has a great deal of hard evidence supporting it, and has yet to be disproved. In addition, there are no basic fundamental contradictions as far as evolution is concerned. As a theory, any single contradictory event, any one clear case proving that evolution doesn't in fact work, and EVERY SCIENTIST IN THE WORLD WILL WILLINGLY THROW HIS HANDS UP, SAY, "OH, WHOOPS", AND START FROM SCRATCH.

Can any single religion accept such a firm knock to their founding argument? What if it were proven that Hedonism were the true path to enlightenment? What then of buddhism? What if Allah, God, and Yahweh were one and the same? Nothing would come of that. Already denominations of the above religions disagree with members of the same faith.

Basically, what I am attempting to say is that science is a much more rational, openminded thing to put your faith in. Going back to the original argument, evolution does affect your day to day life in subtle ways.

God is felt, science is known.

Christopher said...

"I care, partly, because I am a teacher, and I like for people to understand how things really work"
Actually, you care because you are an honest, intelligent person (and honesty is one of the first things attacked by religion). But why value honesty in the first place? I don't think you can make a purely utilitarian argument for it, it gets self-contradicting. I think you do have basic moral and 'theological' understanding of the world - that's why you aren't cowed by religion. I would almost call myself the same thing, an agnostic atheist, but don't fall into the trap that fundamentalists do by assigning too much weight to word definitions, as if words directly equated to thoughts, and thoughts directly equated to reality.

(I call religion mind control because it is obviously psychology, just because ancient people didn't know WHY something worked didn't always stop them from identifying what DID work. Therefore, washing hands drives away the evil spirits that cause diseases, and such.)