Sunday, February 25, 2007

God versus...Who?

My friend Jerry sent a copy of today's Robyn Blumner column, "Flat-Earth Society's Warriors," about Texas state representative Warren Chisum circulating a bizarre memo, ostensibly originated by a Georgia state representative, Ben Bridges, but evidently really written by one Marshall Hall, the president of something called the Fair Education Foundation and the mind behind a web site called You really must read the column for yourself--for there is no way I can do justice to the convoluted Froot-Loopiness of it all (there's a copy of the original memo here; reports are all over, including this one at Accidental Blogger and this one at the New York Times Select), but a few lines from the Blumner column is as good as anything for summing up the gist of the Chisum/Bridges/Hall memo: "Darwin's theory of evolution was described as nothing more than a Jewish plot."

"'Indisputable evidence - long hidden but now available to everyone - demonstrates conclusively that so-called secular evolution science is the Big Bang 15-billion-year alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion,' the memo said."

Well then. Good to have that settled.

But I once again find myself puzzling over the slavering fury of the "religious" right. (The quotation marks are there because their actions and attitudes invariably strike me as being at odds with what one traditionally associates with religious people; we won't even discuss their insistence on labeling themselves "Christian" when they seem so contrary to that which Christ taught.) Why does it seem so important to them to prop up their "faith" and "beliefs" by defaming others'? Why all the frantic--and, usually, embarrassingly misguided--attempts to discredit science and scientific curiosity? Why isn't their "faith" enough for them?

And why would they think God cares?

It strikes me for not the first time that I seem to have a much higher opinion of God than those who consider themselves his biggest fans. For instance, I think God has an ego sound enough to survive the thought of people not believing in him. Or professing their devotion to him in different, even contradictory ways. And I think that when his son suggested we should love our neighbors, he probably meant what he said, and what he said was not "love thy neighbor who is in lock-step agreement with thee" or "love thy neighbor who is morally upright as defined by thee" or "love thy neighbor who has the same skin tone or belongs to the same political party as thee."

I don't go around bragging about what a swell Christian I am, partly because I think I'm pretty bad at it most of the time, but I have read the Bible a few times (well, only one trip through the entire Old Testament: too many "begats") and what I mostly come away with--especially from the words of Jesus, whom "Christians" purport to revere and emulate--is love, peace, tolerance, and ethical behavior...all that namby-pamby crap that the "religious" right despises.

So then (and setting aside for the moment that I think God is probably big enough to fight for himself whatever battles he thinks need fighting), precisely what is it that these "Christian" soldiers see themselves as marching off to war against? Or for? Apparently not the ideals of Jesus of Nazareth, who is tellingly silent on such subjects as evolution, gay marriage, or the Democratic party. They seem uninterested in promulgating any definition of "love," or "peace," which seem to me the central messages of Jesus' ministry; indeed, they seem to thrive on exactly the opposite--on perpetual rancor, on intolerance, on hatred.

Because, after all--if the true Christian ideal were ever realized, they'd all be out of work...some of them literally. Their very existence depends on perpetual antagonism.

Any resemblance to the Bush Administration is probably not coincidental.

Well, if you depend on perpetual antagonism, you need a perpetual enemy. Science is a good one. For one thing, it isn't going to go away. For another, it's big and multifaceted--you can attack evolution, you can attack medicine, you can attack anthropology and astronomy and physics. And for another, it doesn't march in step with the accounts laid out in the Bible.

Ah! Now we're getting somewhere.

Whenever Time or Newsweek or anybody else does their periodic "God vs. Science" article, they invariably fall into a clever trap set by the "religious" right, viz., making it seem like someone is attacking God (who, in their view, needs them to defend him...again, I seem to have a higher opinion of God than they do, which is pretty sad for God)--when in fact the real discussion should be "Science vs. the Bible," or, even more accurately, "Science vs. Literal-Factual Interpretation of the Bible." (And it is to numerous publications' shame that their editors seem not to understand this, or do understand it but prefer the catchier-though-inaccurate "God vs. Science.")

God doesn't enter into it. Undoubtedly there are scientists who are atheists: so what? Let God worry about that (which I doubt he does). The question is whether the world needs to bow to a bunch of noisy religious fanatics who insist that every syllable in a series of books written over several millennia by various human beings who had various tales to tell and points to prove must be regarded by everybody else on the planet as literal-factual "truth." That's the whole versus.

But I misspoke--God does enter into it, for, to those of us who believe in a Creator, science is the tool by which we decipher and understand his creation. It is not something to be feared, let alone something to be reviled. Would that we could get back to a time when Science and Religion were seen as companions on the same journey, not antagonists heading in opposite directions.

But Religion is a jealous institution, and will brook no other gods but itself.

Actually, far from "God vs. Science," the more pertinent subject might be "God vs. Religion."

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