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Religious Essays on jefflewis.net
Appendix – Other People’s Comments from Various Blogs
From time to time, I'll run across a comment on a blog that expresses a sentiment nearly perfectly. Here are a few of those comments (obviously written by people other than me). Some of them deal with evolution, which as I’ve written elsewhere, doesn't necessarily conflict with Christianity, but was one of my first seeds of doubt concerning my religion, and is certainly part of a cultural conflict in this country right now.
Evolution, Gravity & Hammers
Seeing a hammer fall is evidence of gravity on the small scale, in exactly the same sense that seeing bacteria develop antibiotic resistance is evidence of evolution on the small scale. There are people who say that the sun orbits the earth, because on the large scale, gravity works differently, or doesn't work at all. We can't set up an experiment in a lab to test whether planets orbit stars, so we have to rely on indirect observations of planetary motions to prove that gravity works on the large scale as well. By dropping a hammer, you're doing nothing to prove gravity on the large scale.
Saying that we can't make a repeatable experiment that allows us to observe 'macroevolution', therefore it must be a religious belief, is no different from saying that heliocentrism is a religious belief, because we can't test that either. But using indirect evidence, like the fossil record, genetic evidence, planetary motions, etc. is just as scientific.
Eucharist to an Eskimo
I remember hearing a story from an Inuit friend of mine who when she first attended a Catholic mass heard this guy standing in front of a bloody statue that we should eat of a person's flesh. To an Inuit, like to most humans not god-soaked, cannibalism is at best a last, desperate act of the desperately starving. To ask people to do it when they are obviously well fed and to glorify in it (the statue) was an act of barbarity. Yes, yes, I know that "sophisticated" believers don't take the Eucharist literally. But that's the point - they have to transform its meaning because the plain one is horrifying to (almost) everyone.
Religion is Weird
What I find weird is that religious sects can laugh at the oddities in other sects, while taking their own rites so seriously. The protestant believes that God sacrifices himself, in the guise of his son, to himself, to save us from himself. Now that makes perfect sense. But to say a bit of that ritual sacrifices is magically enacted in each mass [referring to Catholic's belief in the Eucharist] -- well, that's just weird. Both the Catholic and the protestant laugh at the Mormon's magical underwear. None of them can fathom how the Muslim believes the Quran is the literal word of God, though all believe they have his words in the anonymous writings of the gospels.
Religion is weird. And the weirdest thing about it is that those who believe the weirdest things have utterly no sympathy with those who believe a slightly different set of weird things.
The Value of Life
I've attempted to explain (without much success) that our existence is more valuable when viewed as the result of evolution than as a miracle. If we can be created merely with a divine thought, then wiped out (as with Noah's Flood), and then whimsically re-created again, where's the value in that? Life is cheap, a throw-away toy.
We're special because we're at the tail end of an enormously long, perhaps improbable, never-to-be-repeated chain of events, and we've got intelligence and free will. We're unique. Even if we're not the only intelligent life in the universe, we're certainly rare. That means we're precious. We're the icing on the cake. We're irreplaceable in the whole cosmos. How could anyone ponder that and even think about futility?
Why the Theory of Evolution Doesn’t Dictate Morality
Unfortunately, I mislaid my Atheist Moral Directive and accidentally wound up taking my morals from the Theory of Gravity, instead of the Theory of Evolution. Now I have to keep throwing people out of windows, because things are supposed to fall.
They don't much like it, and it's hard work -- but it's the Law.
Yes, Yes, There Might Be a God
Most atheists I know are agnostic atheists. That is, they can admit that we don't know everything, and that there is a possibility, however distant, that the universe is, in fact ruled by a trickster deity or by one who for whatever other reason does not make his/her/its existence manifest to human beings. Or, in even weaker terms, has not made his/her/its existence manifest to me.
You can't really oppose the terms without making a category error. Agnosticism is an epstemological [sic] position; it's about what we can and can't know. Atheism is an ontological position; it's about what does and does not exist.
Atheism in the face of inevitable epistemological uncertainty says, in effect: yes, yes, there might be a god, but why isolate that 'maybe' out of all the other unprovable absurdities that the human imagination has invented throughout history? It might be turtles all the way down, too. And at that point, it's more about other peoples' beliefs than one's own. Because theists must face epistemological uncertainty as well. That much is universal.
Everything from Nothing?
@ Sandra Kay #78:
Point out that by making up a god (or adopting a god someone else made up) they are still requiring everything to come from nothing - because in their story the god(s) had to come from nothing in order to then make the rest of the stuff.
They haven't made the problem go away at all. They're just shoving in an extra stage - and not even a particularly sensible one. They've made matters worse because they want their ex nihilo god to be an intelligent intentional being (typically with a bunch of other complications such as omniscience etc).
How much easier it is for a universe to simply be a messy accidental splurge which then takes humungous amounts [of] time to self-organise, quite naturally and unintentionally. They're the ones postulating a 747 god somehow self-assembling from nothing before even getting on and creating the junkyard.