Just a quick little note about creationism again, because I saw a link you folks would probably dig. We’ve talked here before about “high and low” Christianity–this idea that there is a “high Christianity” full of high-end theology and education, sophisticated arguments and a whole whale of a lot of vital debate and introspection, and then a “low Christianity” that’s kind of more like what you see in evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity (seriously, is there even a dividing line between them anymore beyond dress codes, if even that?)–an emPHAsis on the wrong syLAHbul, if you will, where correct belief matters way more than correct behavior, where gulping down the offered theology means more than understanding it, where questioning that dogma is the worst sin anybody could ever commit, and preaching the gospel to others against their wills, even lying to them, is okay as long as it’s all for a good cause.
I’ve been seeing for a while that there is a huge disconnect between what reputable seminaries teach and what Christian churchgoers hear. They say that these programs graduate as many atheists as they do pastors, that seminaries are where faith goes to die, and they say it for a good reason. The people who go through these programs come out with a hugely nuanced view of the Bible and Christian history–but somehow their churches rarely, if ever, hear about any of it. Even the more fundagelical schools teach this stuff, except for the way-out-there IFB-type right-wing schools maybe, but none of this stuff gets back to fundagelical flocks, who just want to hear that the Bible is 110% literally true, that abortion is always bad and feminism is a curse on women, that gay marriage is ickie, and that everybody who doesn’t toe the line is going to Hell. I can’t imagine being a pastor who knows, categorically and totally knows, that this stuff is totally wrong, but has to teach it anyway because the sky would fall if the flock discovered such heresy in their leader. That has to be just awful to be the person who knows this stuff is like baby food sweetened with all the sugar in the cupboard–and still have to feed it to the babies.
But I did not realize that there is an equally huge disconnect between what evangelical universities teach and what Christian churchgoers think they teach. According to this link, a shocking number of otherwise very fundie-seeming colleges are actually teaching real science and history, which is quite a surprise for the kids who attend there. Fundie parents send their kids to these schools specifically because they think the schools will teach the literalist viewpoint they’ve held all their lives, but the kids get there and are astonished to discover what actually is taught.
That’s actually an encouraging sign. I’m sorry that these kids going to these schools are discovering the truth at last–it’s painful to realize you got lied to your whole life, as I well know, and I’m sorry that they are being surprised like this. I’m sorry that they are having to make that dreadful and cruel choice between the faith they got taught their whole lives and the reality they are learning about at last. I’m sorry it even got put to a choice. I don’t know what the answer is, just that these lies need to end and kids deserve to be taught true things instead of false things.
But if those kids don’t even have an apparatus for judging what is true and what is false, if they don’t even understand the difference between real science and fake science, if they don’t have any way to figure out what an objective claim is much less how to test it, then it’s going to be a lot harder for them. Christianity–especially the way toxic end of it that Ken Ham and his buddies inhabit–is filled top to bottom with junk history and pseudo-science, all trying its very hardest to prop up a religious viewpoint that is otherwise completely indefensible. Now we know that their universities, even the ones that seem the most fundie, are very likely teaching these kids this stuff that their parents and churches and private schools (or home schools) didn’t teach them.
There simply does not exist any reputable historical or scientific evidence for Christianity’s claims. That’s the truth of it. Those who wish to be Christian and still be honest about it have to deal with that total and stunning lack of evidence on their own terms, but for a lot of Christians, the solution is to just make stuff up or distort like crazy if they can’t find real evidence. If they can find no evidence whatsoever for the entire Jewish captivity in Egypt, why, then, they will settle for a few ultra-blurry photos (but only the few, of course) of something that might kinda look like a chariot wheel or something (but isn’t) that they’ll say “proves” that the Exodus occurred. If they can find no evidence that the Shroud of Turin is really Jesus’ burial shroud, or if worse yet evidence exists refuting that idea, why, then, they’ll make up insane theories about how earthquakes threw off the carbon-14 count somehow. (For real: read that link. It’s amazing.) No matter how definitive real evidence gets, Christians who desperately need their myths to be 100% literally true will find some way to squirm and wiggle away from that evidence.
And these Christians are embarrassing the heck out of their saner brethren. Like the modern GOP is self-destructing from the middle outward, Christianity is splintering into distinct factions. It’s not hard to see it happening, either. There’s a distinctly small but vocal group of Christians trying their best to rescue their religion from the zealots and crazies. They don’t own a lot of politicians, and they don’t have a ton of money, so they’re not making as much headway as they’d probably like, but their voices are penetrating the babble and din of the religion. A lot will depend upon the religion’s leaders, many of whom were educated at seminaries and universities that teach actual history and real science, and upon the next generation of children who are right now this second learning the real truth for the first time.
I have to wonder: how many of these evangelical leaders and college graduates will go out into their communities and try to reform the insanity there? How many of their leaders already know the truth but won’t–or can’t–share it with their flocks, who are just one step above mobs in terms of how they’d react if someone told them the truth about their religion, its sources, and its development into the form they cling to today?
In the Man-Kzin Wars, a science-fiction series, there’s this concept they talk about in the books about this ancient galactic civilization flung across many stars and worlds that existed billions of years before humans evolved. These worlds were all controlled by a rather lowlife race of telepaths who could compel obedience with their minds and who could individually control whole planets of slaves. Eventually the slave races rose up in rebellion, and they were winning. The telepaths–realizing they were losing and desperate to do something, anything–decided to strike one last blow: they issued the command “Die,” and they issued it throughout the cosmos. Every single being in the cosmos more complex than a guppy committed suicide instantly, including the telepaths themselves, naturally, but hey, every great plan’s got a catch. The deaths left the cosmos empty and lifeless save for the most primitive lifeforms, now free to evolve and move up the chain.
I always found Suicide Night just fascinating–unnerving, terrible, awe-inspiring, you name it. It’s one of the most powerful concepts in the entire series, in my opinion.
Wouldn’t it be a hell of a thing if all these pastors suddenly chose one day to do a sermon about “Everything You Thought You Knew About the Bible is Not Only Dead Wrong but Totally Immoral and Evil–and Here Is The Real Truth of It”?
Egad, I hope I didn’t wreck a surprise party the Clergy Project is planning.
We’re going to talk about masturbation and porn next, and I hope you will join me.