Sunday, June 28, 2009
Religion and the Unknown
I attended a BBQ the other day, a medley of distant and close friends and family members gathered to celebrate the achievements of my older brother and his girlfriend. Among the attendees were two of my Aunts, deeply religious fundamentalists who seize every awkward moment to chatter about Jesus Christ (JC). One element of their belief system that baffles is the notion that sickness is caused by demons attacking the body and that illness is a product of sin. In light of the fact that I had not attended church in almost a year and had publicly denounced my Faith in their presence awhile back, they took the liberty to ‘reason’ with me and persuade a return to the Lord. In their diatribe was the suggestion that I should humble myself and ask for forgiveness because I had sinned, that I was in rebellion, that I was proud, that God is jealous, and that Jesus Loves me. One Aunt commented to Mom how I had become blinded by the “University.” Somehow in their eyes, attending college and embracing science had changed me into a know-it-all, proud, hard-headed chump. In appealing to reason, I gently explained my grounds for denouncing religion. Their response to my insight was displeasing and banal-
Here was a Christian woman trying to convince me that suffering and evil are both products of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The talking snake, the Tree of Science with an enticing fruit, and a bite from such fruit were the cause of all evil! How can I argue with fairy tales…Too bad stupidity isn't painful. They later discussed how God works in mysterious ways; God calls us into the unknown and we must trust Him. No matter how much education one obtains, we will fall short of the eternal truths of the Lord. The premise was that I lack faith in God and thus am uncomfortable with the unknown; as a result, I have embraced science like gospel, placing my Faith in science rather than the Lord.
Out of respect to my Mom I did not respond immediately, but I do wish to share my thoughts on their accusation-
In contrary to their statements, science tolerates the unknown in ways religion does not. Religious doctrine tells us with confidence many supposed truths – god created the earth in six days (Genesis 1:1-31), denying god condemns us to eternal Hell (Luke 12:8-9), we have no excuse for denying him (Rom 1:19-20), we are born as slaves and sinners (Rom 6:22-23), and Jesus is the only salvation/freedom (John 14:6), etc. They interpret the Will of God through a book written by men, diluted by priests, defiled by Kings to serve their political purposes, and reinterpreted time and time again forming the basis for thousands of denominations currently at work. Religious zealots believe the Bible is full of absolute truths…there are no grey lines; it’s either hot/cold, black/white. Once they know the Will of God, they execute it with destructive consequences- Holy Wars, Theocracies, Inquisitions, and the flying spaghetti monster.
In contrast to religion, the very methodology of science prohibits us from inventing absolute truths, it forces us to admit that we don’t know the answers to all questions, and whatever we think we know can also be proven wrong at anytime. Researchers are constantly humbled by how much we don’t know, continually forced to accept null hypotheses. Despite large funds of knowledge we still lack and will continue to lack proofs, but this simply fuels new discoveries. We all should acknowledge that science is still unable to answer many fundamental questions (believing otherwise shows arrogance) but asserting that the Bible is the literal Word of God and all knowledge comes through Him alone is condescending.
As the discussion ensued, she laughed while stroking my back like a dog; I began to feel like our bulldog, Charlie. At that point she was no longer beneath my contempt. I thought she had a speech impediment- her foot.
Cheers to the unknown!