Haters vs other Haters, Atheists vs. Christians, Evolution vs Creation, Science vs. Religion…why the drama? This posting is based on a dialogue with someone sceptical of aspects of Christianity who watched a video of Christians making fools of atheists for their ignorance of science…This post discusses issues of: science vs religion, ridiculing one another, the place of the Bible in all of this, and whether or not pointing out how stupid everyone is, is actually helpful.
An old friend of mine was sent an evangelical video that exposed ignorance among atheists about evolution and other scientific topics. The video was condescending and pointed out how ‘dumb’ atheists can be and ignorant of the details of the sciences that they often use to “disprove” Christianity.
This resulted in criticisms of the Bible, our understanding of science and other popular issues that make many people sceptical of Christians and/or Christianity. The letter below was written as a response to some of his concerns and conceptions of the Church and her beliefs. This response discusses issues of: science vs religion, ridiculing one another, the place of the Bible in all of this, and whether or not pointing out how stupid everyone is, is actually helpful.
I am not including his letter because I didn’t ask his permission to do so, but the content of the response is edited to be more general, as he is not the first person to discuss these issues or present criticisms of us.
To be fair, there is a big problem in what people claim scripture actually teaches, and what it doesn’t, as well as what exactly the Bible is and isn’t.
By that, I mean that the Bible isn’t supposed to be a science textbook. It was never written to be that, and it should not be used as one. For example, certain Evangelicals claim the earth was created in six days. They are a very loud but small minority of Christians. If we are going to treat the Bible as a science text for the sake of this minority’s argument, well, in the Creation account, the sun was created on the fourth day. If a day is based on the sun, then how were the first three days calculated? Elsewhere in Scripture it says that a day to the Lord “is as a thousand years”, does that mean it’s exactly 1000 years and that the Creation took 3000 years for the first three days and then switched to solar days on the fourth?
The Bible expresses a truth that God created the world, but doesn’t tell us how or by what mechanism(s) He did this. So while the Bible doesn’t contradict science (unless something is a miracle, and by definition, a miracle is breaking something that should normally or naturally happen), it’s not meant to be a book used to teach science, because it’s not a science book. It’s that simple. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with humanity, His plan for salvation, and His love to us.
Your concern about the two great lights is a little bit out of place though, because, again, it is treating the Bible as though it’s a textbook. [ed: the person felt that the first chapter of Genesis is false science because it says that God created two great lights: the sun and the moon] It says “two great lights” because on a practical level to to anyone reading the text, what they associate both luminous bodies with, is light. Yes, one is reflecting the light of the sun (which some church fathers commented and meditated on, by the way), but on a practical level, they’re all “sources of light” to people down below. So you’re taking something a little bit out of context and turning it into a scientific proclamation when it was never expressed as one. Your conclusion that the very first chapter is totally disproven, is bizarre to someone who never even reads or treats the Bible the way that you are.
When it comes to scientific theory, I don’t see the role of the Church as having stances on various scientific topics. Everyone should be on a quest for truth and we should be ready to encounter it. Scientists have often discovered something and later discovered they were totally wrong. This is not ignoble. Look at how far atomic theory came in the second half of the twentieth century, for example. What was brilliant in the 50s was plain stupid by the 80s, but it was all part and parcel with seeking more knowledge. We do not fear scientific advancement.
What bothers me a little, is the agenda on every side. Science isn’t “pure” anymore, it’s strongly biased by corporations, lobbyists, personal agendas, and basically whoever is paying for the research. So I can’t deny that I have a bit of scepticism toward a lot of things these days. Pretending that such biases do not exist, to me, as we discover more, I see how that informs me more about God and the world. The two don’t have to be at odds. I don’t know why there’s a “science vs religion” debate. I think it’s lame when there’s someone who has made it his mission to disprove God, and I think it’s lame when someone goes out with a desire to disprove a specific theory because it is at odds with his personal view. Everyone should simply be trying to answer the same question, “What is the truth?” and then “What does that truth mean?” because things can point at something and that something could easily be wrong, no matter how convincing it may seem. We’re going to make mistakes along the way, and we’re going to laugh at our ancestors and think we’re brilliant, and our offspring will laugh at us and think the same thing. I’m not overly worked up by this stuff because I’m not afraid of truth.
To me, a real truth is God’s existence. More specifically, history does testify that someone named Jesus really existed, and for some reason we’re still talking about Him 2000 years later. When I look at what He said, He said very plainly that He is God. He’s either a kook, a liar, or telling the truth. I had to go through my own journey to come to the conclusion that He’s telling the truth, and I won’t force anyone to do the same thing. All I would say, is that in the case of Jesus specifically we’re dealing with a historical reality, and so one can’t dismiss the Christianity thing with the waving of a hand of “oh, that’s folklore”. At least, one cannot do that and say with honesty that he’s seeking the truth. People don’t seem to care that much about truth anymore, they seem to care about their opinion being right.
With respect to your comments about the video and their ridiculing of atheists to prove a point… I’m glad you wrote some of what you wrote and I hope that you hold everyone to the same standards. Your comments about people “blindly believing something without fully understanding it” and that the video proves that “many people don’t know the details of evolution”, that the video is “biased” etc… You said these things in the defense of those whom the video was criticising, but perhaps now you can understand why the video was made. It’s because the majority of people point the finger at Christians with the same sarcasm and the same expectations that every one of them knows everything. You are justifying the ignorance of some atheists, and I hope that you can do the same with Christians who are treated the same way. There are people of every type, everywhere. There are good and evil atheists, and there are good and evil Christians. There are ignorant atheists and there are ignorant Christians. Trying to find each from each side is really not a helpful exercise and it will be never-ending. There are Christians who think the earth is only 6500 years old and there are a body of atheists that try and prove that Jesus actually never existed and that it’s a myth despite the strong evidence to the contrary. There are brilliant Christians (like the former atheist who headed the genome project) and there are idiotic ones. So let’s not waste too much time addressing the argument of the few. The question should always be “where is the truth?”
So the video that you saw is clearly from the evangelical camp that represent a tiny fraction of Christianity. I know very few Christians who believe the earth is 6500 years old, and it’s not the teaching of the Bible that that’s the case either. At any rate, your conclusion that the video is garbage and that “proving that something is true by pointing out how stupid others are, is ridiculous” is a conclusion that I like very much. I hope that you realise the video was probably made because that’s exactly how many Christians feel when videos are made about them (I’ve watched some of them). These Christians feel that they are taken out of context, ridiculed for their alleged ignorance because not everyone is a scientist, and then held up as proof that Christians must be totally wrong and stupid because there exists wrong and stupid Christians. They’re retaliating and showing that well, not all the atheists even know what they’re talking about either, and they’re also regurgitating what they hear as de facto reality without trying to find out the truth either.
Let’s leave the polemics for the emotional and seek the truth. It’s more constructive.