The Discourse Part 2

Okay boys and girls, this will be a long one. After wrestling with format issues for a couple of days, I’ve decided to publish most of what Boanerges316 has been saying to me. So I will publish sections from his e-mails and comment on them. I’m not convinced that this is the best format for a discussion like this, so I’ll only continue with it if you wish me to. Both of us agreed that some information on his background would be useful, so here we go:
I am a 50+ year old male, doctor (of medicine), and have been a born again believer since the late 1970’s. I have attended numerous churches (Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, Pentecostal) and DO understand why many people have not only left the church but been DRIVEN from it. We have much to learn and change as the majority of churches and their members HAVE “left their first Love”, as charged by Jesus in the first chapters of Revelation.
Now to the fun stuff.
I was saddened to see that you have a history in the ministry but left it. Again, I can understand such things but my heart hurts when I hear these things.And, I just HAVE to say right here that you must know what the Scripture says about the fate of individuals who know/knew God but turned from Him, right? I’m sure that you do and we don’t have to discuss it further if you don’t want to. But I just had to mention it. Of course, you also know that it’s not that it is too late to reconcile that. Perhaps that is why you are staying open-minded, being a “strong agnostic”.
The major problem for me in all arguments about religion is the constant referencing to the Bible to make points or back up claims. My longtime stance has been that the Bible is a work of man. All of it’s claims to truth must be treated with the same skepticism and rigorous investigation as any published work. For me the argument “Because the Bible says so!” holds as much weight as “Because the Quran/Bhagavad Gita/The Egyptian Book of the Dead/Rig Veda/Encyclopedia Galactica says so” So, yes, I know exactly what the Bible says, but what I don’t see is why that should be given any more weight than what a particular Zen Koan says.
So, you’re looking for proof. To me, it is everywhere I turn, especially in medicine. The complexity of the body is staggering. On any level, the complexity is so unbelievable that I can no longer fathom believing in a chance occurrence of these things coming together except that people are typical very shallow in their thinking, are relatively uneducated in science/biology/medicine, and are being constantly bombarded by deception, especially through today’s media (or mediums). Many simply can no longer think on their own and will have a hard time getting higher up than that fryer at the fast food place. Very sad but true. From a health and mental state point of view, the fast food industry is creating the very clones it needs to work their stores.

So, I come at this topic not as one having blind faith but from someone who has looked at this logically and scientifically and find that, as I first posted, it is more LOGICAL to believe in a Creator. All of this order arising from chaos on its own is so phenonemally improbable that the word “impossible” does apply no matter how many zeros you put at the end of the allotted number of years.

Again, I cannot accept the “Because we don’t understand it, it must be God” argument. It is the argument from ignorance. There are many questions about the universe that we don’t yet know the answer to. I’m not content with looking around, saying “That’s too hard to understand” and taking the magical explanation that I was given as a child. Improbable is very different than impossible.

-The end of that message had a reference to CS Lewis and some questions about statistics that neither of us had the answer to.  After a short introduction, he continued in a second message. Some of the questions he asked were of a personal nature, and may be cut out of this public response.

Do you want to tell me why you left the ministry? What church?

There were a lot of reasons why I left. To clarify, I wasn’t a pastor. I was technically “Lay Ministry”. I was the Program Director at Camp Oceanwood. A wonderful Christian Camp owned and operated by The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. I had some of the best times of my life there, and still strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a safe, loving enviorment to work at or visit.

That being said, I left for the following reasons: 1) Due to the camp’s financial difficulties, it was obvious that positions were going to be cut. “Get out before you’re forced out” is pretty good advice. 2) It was really bothering me that I had never finished college, and MA had more opportunities than ME in that respect. 3) My wife is very close to her family and missed them. 4) At the time I was getting more and more liberal, while the ministry at the camp was becoming more and more conservative. I could no longer support the direction camp was taking, and as a result, I could no longer give the effort and attention to the ministry my co-workers and guests deserved.

Why is it that people think that an understanding of science somehow disproves the existence of God?

An understanding of science doesn’t necessarily disprove God, but the central tools of science: (free inquiry, dependence on evidence, logical examination of phenomena, etc. ) to tend to lead one to question most, if not all of the presuppositions of traditional religion.

As a doctor, through scientific study, I understand how the body works (at least until we start talking about how it REALLY works, like RNA, DNA and how chains of amino acids can boss cells around) but it makes me believe MORE in God, not less.

I don’t pretend to be a biochemist either, but I do think that a very solid understanding of the topic is central to having a rational, meaningful discussion of the topic.

The complexity is astounding and the chances of these things happening on their own are so astronomical that it is not really worth discussing anymore. (Then why bring it up?)

Just the 191 amino acids in growth hormone coming together in the sequence required to make it work is enough to stagger the imagination. And if one is out of place, it doesn’t work. What are the odds of 191 amino acids doing this? Better yet, what tells it to work when it does work? How do 191 amino acids linked together tell cells to grow and repair? Yes, they have a certain energy in that sequence but why only when put together in that sequence. And how does that energy work? What really is energy? What keeps the protons and neutrons in motion? Is it just a quark? LOL

The scientific explanations of things are very superficial when it comes right down to it. There is a whole ‘nother level of thinking and questions to be answered. The anatomical explanation for sight, for instance, is so superficial but amazes the unlearned- how light enters the eye, goes through the lens, hits the retina, travels along the optic nerve, and goes to that area of the brain that registers sight. “Wow!” BUT, there is a depth of questions to which most never go.

How does sight REALLY work? Have you ever held a brain in your hand? I have many times. We think we know how neurological transmission works but for an eye to register the detail, the depth of field, the colors, etc and be able to transmit that image accurately along a nerve and into that gray-tan blob of goo and have us see the beautiful detail of the landscape, painting, etc, is AMAZING! And yet, we take it all for granted.

And we casually believe that this all came from nothing millions and millions of years ago as if a huge numbers of zeros behind that number of years will change the fact that NOTHING COMES FROM NOTHING. That is absolute deceptions and comes very close to insane.

Again, I cannot disagree more strongly. You keep repeating the same argument, merely changing the details: “It’s hard to understand, it’s incredibly improbable, so it must be God.” As I said before, I don’t know much biochemistry, but I’m a physics geek from wayyyyy back. We used to live in a geocentric universe. Everything in the universe supposedly revolved around the Earth. The Bible said it, we believed it that settled it! Over time, movements of the planets were observed that couldn’t be explained by the Biblical account of the universe. Astronomers and astrologers bent over backwards to come up with explanations that would fit the Bible as well as the evidence that was plainly visible. They could have said, “Well, it’s too difficult to understand, and the Bible already has the answers, so that’s good enough for me.”

Thankfully, that’s not what happened. Galileo came around and said: “Nope, the only way to explain this craziness is if the Sun’s the center of the solar system” Later Newton came around and said, “Nope, it’s not angels pushing the planets that move them around, it’s a universal attractive force” Even later Einstein came around and said, “Sort of, it’s not necessarily a force, but an aftereffect of the geometry of spacetime being effected by mass” and so on. These people were considered “insane” and heretics and dangers to the religious beliefs of their day. Are you honestly suggesting that the church was right to excommunicate and eventually execute Galileo? Even they (eventually) apologized for that.

Why is it that modern Christians get to pick and choose what parts of the Scientific Revolution they want to accept? The bible makes some pretty clear statements about the earth’s place in the universe (dead center) It’s shape (flat, with a dome-like firmament above it) and the cause of disease (sin and demonic possesion). Why is it that mainstream Christians laugh off those solid biblical doctrines as superstition, but go out of their minds when it’s suggested that evolution is the best explanation we have to fit the evidence that we’ve collected?

And don’t even say it’s not the same. It’s exactly the same. Rational inquiry has produced an explanation that is at odds with established religious dogma. Astronomy or Biology, it’s the same thing, different century.

Not to be cute or condemning, but I find it interesting that you left the ministry to make a life of “deception” by doing magic. It ‘s just an observation, not an accusation. Slight of hand can be entertaining. It can be cute and fun. But do you then take that skill and tell people that things are not what they seem and thus religion is a fairytale, like others on the challenge purport? Why not turn that around and say that people are easily deceived and as a result, the truth of GOD evades them? That is exactly what happens. It is our mortal enemies that are the true magicians. Why do many magicians have that almost satanic air about them? Many look dark and mysterious and some have even adopted true “left-hand path” lifestyles. Deception, not truth. Where is the true merit in that?

Well, it wasn’t cute, but it certainly was condemning. So far you’ve called me insane, implied that I was superficial and now I’m satanic because I’m into magic. Not cool man, not cool. There are literally tens of thousands, if not millions of Christian Magicians worldwide who would be seriously offended by the statement you just made. Furthermore, I take as much offense at that “left-hand path” crack as you would to me saying “All doctors are only in it for the money and treat their patients as whiny talking wallets” An obviously untrue statement based on a caricature of a few atypical examples. Again: Not cool.

Magic is no more deceptive of an art than acting. In fact in one of the most respected quotes on the topic, Robert-Houdin said: “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician” That being said, I think that actors and magicians, have a perspective on belief and reality that bears closer examination. The study of my art has led me to question many claims of paranormal and supernatural powers. I know what’s possible through trickery. So when I see someone talk to the dead or bend spoons, I have a very different reaction to someone without my background. I understand the level of proof that’s necessary to show that these supposed powers are real.

(The next section was unnecessarily flattering to me and insulting to other non-theists, so it’s been cut.)

Keep looking for answers. You’ll see that this journey will take you back to God and He will welcome you with open arms as if it never happened. You’ll ultimately be stronger for it having been through the fire. And there will be a “fire” in your future (and I don’t mean hell)… a time that will rock your foundation and make you question everything you believe. Not trying to be scary here. After 54 years and having looked death SQUARE in the eyes, I just know how like works. Your time will come. Thank God He WILL be there for you.

I have also been close to death, (near-drownings, working with Joe on a regular basis, simply being a Blinn, etc) So if that is supposed to give your feelings on the topic authority, then I should have just as much authority. So at this point I have to say that I think you’re wrong. But if you are right and the God you believe in is going to be there for me, then in his infinite mercy and love I will be tortured for all eternity for the crime of using the curiosity and rationality that he gifted me with.

I do know that there are other options. Perhaps the deists were right, or the more liberal christians are right, or the Buddists or other religious faiths are right. The fact that I do not accept one particular incarnation of god does not necessarily mean that atheism is my only option. That would make me just as guilty of false dicotomy as I accused Boanerges316 of being.

If you really want to know what I believe, well I’m not entirely sure about everything. But one thing I do know: If the God of the Evangelical Christian’s Bible is real then he is a monster and a liar, and I would not worship him out of either fear or love.

(p.s. The rest of the e-mail dealt with the “Holy Spirit Blasphemy = Instant Hell” debate and the future state/non-state of my soul. These are all topics that have either a) been covered to my satisfaction in this blog or b) are based entirely in a modern evangelical interpretation of the Bible and as such are boring me. 😉

If you want to hear more, comment. kthxbye!



Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Magic, Paranormal, Religion

3 responses to “The Discourse Part 2

  1. I’m a scientist. I’m a Christian. I agree here with your friend, that I’m sometimes awestruck at how something so complex and precise works the way it does, and I feel that there is something bigger than all of it…

    Where do I stand in all of this?

  2. Well, I can’t tell you where you stand, but I can tell you where I stand now:

    I absolutely agree that the world is an amazingly complex and beautiful system. The intricacies of everything from crystal formation to the circulatory system are truly bewildering and endlessly fascinating.

    While I fully appreciate the complexity of the world, but I don’t see that it necessitates the existence of the Christian God, or any other god for that matter.

    The problem with “the god of the gaps” is that the gaps keep getting smaller and smaller. When we didn’t understand barometric pressure and relative humidity, we blamed gods for the storms when the crushed our homes and begged them for rain so we could feed our families. Eventually we learned the causes of the weather, and to a limited degree, we can predict it. Suddenly, the gods had one less job. This same cycle of ignorance, superstition, questioning and discovery repeats again and again throughout our history. God gets smaller and smaller until he’s just a warm fuzzy feeling that silently and subtly influences the world through little tweaks of the natural laws. If there was a real god that ran the world like the creationist believe, then his presence would be obvious and everywhere! His importance would grow with every new discovery, not diminish.

    Secondly, the idea that “the world is hard to understand, so we should just give up and say god did it” runs counter to the best and brightest instincts in humanity. When faced with a challenge, we don’t just say “That’s hard…” and give up! We try again and again, we poke, we prod, we question. We try and fail and try again until we exhaust ourselves, and then we try still again. If there is anything admirable in the human spirit, it is our questing, our searching for answers. “God did it” is a complete refutation of that ideal. It tells us that this or that area is not up for questioning or examination. It tells us to give up, shut up and take the answers we’re given. It disgusts me.

    Finally, we come again to the fallacy that makes the basis of his argument. “Since we don’t know how it happened, it must be God” This is the argument from ignorance, and it’s one of the most common logical fallacies. It’s as if I said: “I don’t know what dented my car, so it’s only logical to assume that a raving group of anti-Toyota activists rampaged through my neighborhood, began to destroy my car, but as soon as they started, they had a change of heart and ran back home.” That’s obviously a flawed argument, but how different is it from: ” We don’t know how the first amino acid chains formed, so it must be true that the Hebrew sky-god Yahweh formed the world 4,000 years ago in the exact manner specified in Genesis.”

    If I don’t know what caused it, I DON”T KNOW WHAT CAUSED IT. Why do we have such a hard time saying “I’ve looked at all the evidence, and I can’t explain it, yet.” It’s not satisfying, I’ll admit, but it’s a lot better than making up a lie and telling people they’ll go to hell if they question it.

    So anyways Steph, that’s some of the thinking that got me to where I am. There was a long time where I agreed with you, but eventually, I had to cede the point that it’s better to say “I don’t know” and keep looking for answers that to settle for a position was only holding onto out of habit and fear. I’m not saying that it made a better person, but at least I feel a little more honest.

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