Archive for July, 2012

Intelligence and Religion

Posted in Faith and Science, The Facts and Ideas, The Narrow Path on July 24, 2012 by RWZero

After reading yet another study that had Christians performing significantly worse than atheists in cognitive abilities–and which clearly showed an inverse correlation between taking religion “seriously” and having developed reading and writing skills (Protestant Christians who took their religion most seriously scored the worst of all, and atheists did better when they took atheism seriously)–my Christian Friend sent Christian Me a lament.

I tried to tell him that the study didn’t mean anything about him, so why did it matter?

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” he said. “I have two eyes, so what am I even doing here.”

In the end–after all the counterexamples and nitpicking–there was simply no way to deny it: intelligence does not correlate positively with believing in religion. You can explain away the national averages chart that graphs “% not believing in God” vs. IQ (the lust for material wealth correlates with well-funded education!), and you can talk about Francis Collins (have you read his book? I have) or some guy who won the Nobel Prize in physics, or the cluster of upper-middle-aged people who attended the American Scientific Affiliation conference that I visited back in ’08, among which fewer than a handful of young faces were to be found (the cutoff was basically at the age where you would’ve had the Internet as a child–there were a few high school kids there, but I discovered that they were the children of the older attendees).

All these observations just drive the point home even further. The eminent intellectuals of recent history–the ones known for their discoveries in the sciences, who were articulate and somewhat cultured/aware of the world they were living in–have not been Christians. They sometimes leave wiggle room for God, agnosticism, unanswered questions, or mysteries, but they were and are not Christians. They are never Christians any more.  Carl Sagan, Einstein, Hawking, Feynman, Dirac, Bohr, Darwin, Crick, Asimov and so on… they had no chance of being Christian. They had no chance of ever standing at a pulpit as full-grown, middle-aged men, and giving their testimony. They were fundamentally different from the types of people who do that.

I spent a lifetime trying to pretend that this didn’t bother me, but it did. I saw plenty of things worth aspiring to in the great non-Christian minds, and nothing worth aspiring to in the clump of eccentric, equivocating theologically-committed scientists.  The best you can dig up is Maxwell (who died 140 years ago) or Gödel (who can hardly be called an ardent defender of Christianity). There is not one such eminent scientist or thinker who is a Christian, and who speaks about his/her faith in the way that the most passionate and devout Christians speak about their faith.

“People ask why so many great minds have rejected Christianity–but then, why have so many great minds accepted it?” write apologists like Peter Kreeft, in the “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (paraphrased). They go on to list great minds of centuries past, like Pascal, and Newton. There’s no mention that things were different back then, or that there were critical things that we hadn’t yet discovered. To cite these long-dead men as examples of Christianity’s intellectual-friendliness is to prove precisely the opposite point: the tap is shut off. That period of history is over.

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Snake Handling

Posted in The Narrow Path on July 17, 2012 by RWZero

West Virginia pentecostal pastor dies during a snake-handling ritual. When he was younger, his dad also died… during a snake-handling ritual. Furthermore, Mark 16:9-20 is a dubious, late addition to the original text.

It’s like an American reality TV show where the objective is to die in the least excusable way.

Alien Jesus

Posted in Faith and Science, The Narrow Path with tags , on July 17, 2012 by RWZero

Continuing the thought from below: what about Jesus? Jesus was a man. Sure, you can say whatever you like about him, but he had human DNA; he was biologically descended from earlier forms of life on planet earth (right; I suppose there is that whole thing about the virgin birth–but folks, think about it for a minute. Jesus had to have DNA because he was a human. That means he had to have all his chromosomes, and he had to have a Y chromosome. If Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that means God stitched together a lot of DNA from scratch … did he re-add all those odd things that we find in human DNA? Was all the junk DNA in there? Could Jesus synthesize vitamin C, or did he have the broken GULO gene that’s shared with primates? Anyway…).

What I’m trying to say here is that Jesus was a human being on planet earth, and if God isn’t insane (thus, he created life somewhere else in this absurdly large vacuum), now it’s the case that GOD took on HUMAN form. So what are the aliens supposed to think about this? Either:

[A] They got their own alien incarnation of God

[B] Human Jesus is the only incarnation of God to exist in the universe

But then:

[A] Which incarnation of God are we supposed to worship when we meet the aliens? How would we tell if they’re even the same God? Why would we believe aliens telling us that they also have an incarnation of the one true God? There is no chance of any of their history or traditions being the same.

[B] That’s kind of lucky, don’t you think? That God just happened to pick your planet? How would Christians feel if aliens arrived tomorrow and said: “humans, you’ve been in the dark for thousands of years and all your religions are wrong. God came to our planet in the form of one of our people many years ago, and he has the truth. He has only ever come to our planet. Now you must worship him.”

You’d be like, yeah RIGHT aliens. What a coincidence that God only came to your planet, in the form of one of your own race… and left the rest of the universe in the dark.

Humans in the Cosmos

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on July 16, 2012 by RWZero

One of the harder theological questions, in my opinion, is what Christians are supposed to think about aliens. I say it’s one of the harder questions for Christians not because it’s more difficult to answer, but because it’s so in-your-face. The universe is gigantic; no English word for “big” will appropriately describe how much stuff is out there. The way I see it, you can believe one of two things:

[A] The universe was intentionally created by a personal, transcendent being, and there are lots of other life forms out there

[B] The universe was not created for a distinct purpose by a personal, transcendent being, but we happen to be the only ones here

However, you can’t believe:

[C] The universe was created by a personal, transcendent being, and we are the only ones here.

Because what is this transcendent being smoking? (In case you forgot -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U)

Has he lost his mind?

Contradictions

Posted in The Facts and Ideas, The Narrow Path on July 11, 2012 by RWZero

Clipped from my e-mail to someone I know

It was the dead of night, as I drove through southern Ontario hunting for asbestos [during my time at an environmental company]. The voice of a seemingly frail and introverted young man droned in my right ear–a maladroit reading of G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” by a Librivox volunteer. Chesterton weaved an aesthetically satisfying narrative with his prose, temporarily strengthening my faith in his conclusions. I felt a small chill as he suggested that Christianity’s critics were contradictory–accusing it of too much optimism, too much pessimism, and so on–not because this fellow was a very “odd” shape, but perhaps because he was the “right” shape, and had offended the worst parts of all of them.

There is, however, another possibility. The criticisms of Christianity may seem inconsistent because Christianity simply produces inconsistent behaviour in people, and in both cases it is worth criticizing. A schizophrenic patient might think his doctors inconsistent for relating to him so differently at different times, but there is a reason for this.
There are optimistic thoughts, feelings and statements that come out of Christianity, and examining them alone, we can see that they are overly optimistic. There are proclamations of fire and brimstone, and we can see that they are more pessimistic than anything.

Sunday

Posted in Faith Experience, The Narrow Path on July 8, 2012 by RWZero

I had a good night just now. A good friend of mine moved into a new house recently; he invited a bunch of us over to eat pizza, drink beer and watch UFC. I don’t watch TV, and I never watch UFC, but tonight I made exceptions, and I enjoyed it. It ended late, I stayed up later, and when I got in I remembered that the clock had rolled over to Sunday.

I realized that I miss church.

I miss knowing that I slept through something I was supposed to be up for. I miss the times when I did wake up, and I sat in those beautifully stained wooden pews shifting quietly as I glanced around at the ceiling, the other people, and the stained glass. I miss the feeling of cleanliness that accompanied the pilgrimage to that sanctuary full of staid and pedestrian congregants. I miss resting my head in the crook of my arm during a long, boring, platitudinous prayer; saying a few words of my own for the first few seconds and basically falling asleep for the rest of it.

It’s 3:47 AM. In the next 10 or 15 minutes, I’ll fall asleep in the middle of an uncharacteristically messy room. In 5 or 6 hours, some people I know will make their way towards some churches I know. I will stay fast asleep, waking in the early afternoon. Anyone who went to church will be heading back home. I will feel some pain and grogginess from oversleep, and I will stare out the window for a minute or two. As I contemplate whether I should clean up my room, work on my project for work, or edit my vacation photos, I will realize that I am less than 12 hours away from having to sleep again, so I can be up for work. I’ll feel pangs of lethargy and loneliness.

For most of the day I won’t feel very good at all.

Prometheus

Posted in Faith Experience on July 6, 2012 by RWZero

This was also a religious experience for me.