Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Having it Both Ways

The Christian religion has had two millennia to hone its arguments. Since many Christian stances are self contradictory it's good that they've had time to work with them. The confused and contradictory nature of the two stories of the creation in Genesis is an example. One argument goes that the first account is of a "spiritual" creation, sort of a practice run I'd say, and the second account is the actual, physical account where it's okay to divide the light from the darkness before the sun is created. With perseverance and lots of words, Christian apologists have managed to reconcile sometimes quite disparate elements in (general) theology.
Consider the the Christian attitude toward proof. In the normal world of science, evidence precedes belief. It's the way we conduct all our business. If my faucet leaks, it's not a matter of belief, it's a matter of plumbing. In the New Testament, this rational take on life is personified by the Apostle Thomas, who (the story goes), wouldn't believe in the resurrected Jesus until he actually saw him. In the story of the meeting, Jesus sets the tone by gently suggesting that belief without evidence is better than belief because of evidence. As an outcome of this exchange, Thomas, the only scientifically and rationally minded of the set became forever stigmatized as "Doubting Thomas."
So, blind faith becomes better than rational thinking. But rational thinking is still an acceptable mode of operation. Isn't it?
No, because later on, Jesus responds to people who want some evidence that he is who he says he is. His reply is enlightening, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." Somehow, rational skepticism is morphed from an acceptable method of  inquiry into a sinful one. Not only is it not a good thing to question the pronouncements of  religion, it's downright bad.
Why this mania to turn a reasonable request for evidence into a scrofulous, sneering, unwillingness to have faith?
Seems to me that the reason is fairly simple. Religion has to sneer at proof, downplay evidence, and make logical connection sinful because they can't do it. They can't prove anything: not the existence of God; not the divinity of Jesus; not the resurrection; not any miracle; not the claim of the Catholic church that it's the continuation of the one Jesus founded; not the fact that Jesus started a church; not the claim of the Mormons to be the really real church restored; not the validity of the biblical account of things (The Bible is looking more and more like a collection of folk tales written for political purposes); not any claims to a conduit to the divine.
The irksome thing is that, after a thousand years or so of drumming the same thought into people's head --HAVE FAITH -- the world has by and large accepted that the stance of the Christian church is, if not thoroughly valid, still a reasonable one.
It's a neat technique. Religionists in general have succeeded in convincing us that there are two worlds out there; One, the everyday, mundane, dull, world, works normally. The faucet leaks; we change out the washer. The other one, the spiritual, exciting, exalting world works though belief, wishing, the will of God, the prayers of the priesthoods, the flame of candles, the scent of incense or the feel of olive oil.
Of course, there is no evidence at all for this world. Look, our bodies have built-in sensory mechanisms that we don't even know about. If we are out in the sun, our bodies darken; this without our knowledge or understanding. There should be a holy-ghost sensing mechanism in us, so we can hear and heed the "still small voice" that the HG uses to talk to us.
But, there isn't.
Religion just smiles smugly and says, "Just because you can't sense it doesn't mean that it ain't there." Their great victory is that, not only do we not stone them where they stand, we accept their answer as valid.