Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughtless, Stupid or Calculated? It’s hard to tell with religionists.

I was scrolling through my facebook homepage when I saw a posting from a long time facebook friend, atheist of course. It seems today was the anniversary of the death of two beloved people in her life and it is resting heavily on her.  People who share these kinds of events and their feelings are looking for support from their community of friends, even if that consoling is coming from what in reality are total strangers. 
I have choices when these kind of emotional outpourings are made public. I can ignore them pretending not to have read them. Sometimes that’s easier than trying to offer comfort to someone I don’t actually know personally.  Or I can let her know that I sympathize by a simple posting of support.  If I feel a connection to this person, even if only as a result of seeing their comments and interacting with them remotely for years, or because I share with them the same non-belief in God/gods I feel compelled to say something.

Today I left this simple message on the thread:  “Thinking of you today, Charlene” (Charlene is not her real name). 

Soon thereafter I was flooded by emails advising me of others who have posted to “Charlene’s” thread.  Most were simple secular messages of understanding, support and condolence. But then there were a few like these: ”Praying for peace that passes all human understanding through Christ
     Jesus our Lord."
”May God bless............”
”God has blessed you as he should.”

WTF??? After all, it’s not like her lack of faith is a secret - her “secular humanist” status is there on the profile page, along with her statement of respect for science and outright rejection of religion as a cause of world misery. Yet there they were- unabashed professions of prayers to Jesus on her behalf and expressions of hopeful supernatural blessings. 

Charlene dutifully acknowledged each comment with a “like”, even the religious ones.  One can only guess what she really thought.  Likely, she accepted them with little concern, a grain of salt, and understanding.  In that regard she is a better person than I and that was that.  But I know what I thought.

I can't help but wonder what the hell was going through the minds of those who left religious comments. Are they so entrenched in their delusion that  they are oblivious to the possibility that their religious offerings, even if meant to comfort in the very best way, is something that an atheist might find inappropriate, insipid, insulting, or just plain offensive?  OR they are proffering their religious gibberish knowingly, with calculation,  because they sense there may be an opening for proselytizing in this person’s weakened most vulnerable moment…much as a vulture circles weakened prey?

We’ll never know since a friend’s thread is not the appropriate place to launch such an inquiry which invariably would come down to my verbally accosting the offenders at the expense of, and much to the chagrin of Charlene. No matter what the explanation, whether stupidity, insensitivity, or intentional hawking – I find it grotesque.

The only way a religionist could even understand this would be if they posted a similar appeal for support and I offered them something like:  “Sorry for your loss, but they are in a state of utter oblivion no more or less so than the oblivion they were in before their birth.” 

Or maybe that’s too esoteric for them; perhaps something a little more along the lines of :  “May Satan lift your troubles, and carry them away to His place of eternal pain; and may the thought that your loved one may someday join Him in victory against the forces of God  bring you comfort.”  Then wait and see if they just genteelly “like” my offering, or if they go Jesus crazy on me because I wasn’t respectful toward their religious preferences.

Maybe, just maybe, they’d get it then. Probably not.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My last word on the Ham vs. Nye debacle... I mean... debate.

Let me lay it right out there - this event should never have taken place.  That’s my position, one that has drawn some rather strong opposition.

I side with Dawkins who takes the position that a respected man of science debating a religionist on creationism vs. evolution is an exercise in the absurd, unworthy of such a man’s position and credibility.  In suckering Bill Nye into this sham of a debate Ken Ham wasn’t after promoting reason or winning a debate, he was after publicity - the marketing of his nutty Creation Museum in KY which is in desperate financial straights; drawing in more mindless fundamentalists to support him and contribute money; and using the fame and name recognition of a renowned proponent of science for that very purpose.

- Were any minds of the faithful changed? Who knows? At best it’s doubtful.
- Did any of the Texas School Board Creationists toss in the towel, or did any  parentteacher groups whose kids already have Creationism taught in their public schools say   ”Jeepers, maybe we’re wrong?” Unlikely.
Have you ever met a single fundamentalist whose journey to reason was founded on, or even pushed over the edge, by listening to a debate between one of his respected Christian defenders of the faith / standard bearer and a Godless purveyor of science "seeking to undermine the faith and destroy God"?  I’ve never met one. 

In that respect I say Ken Ham won … he got exactly what he wanted.

Does that mean the debate shouldn’t have happened?  Not necessarily. But like Dawkins says, any 2nd yr. biology grad student with the ability to speak effectively could have handled the challenge with aplomb.   In fact, I’d proffer he’d have made even a greater impact, if any impact on the debate viewers could be said to have been made.

Let’s ask our selves this question:  “Who would you rather see debate a popular Creationist bible thumper on the topic of creationism vs evolution?”:

1) An expert on evolution and science in general, whose back ground, research, writings, celebrity, and credentials span forty years, numerous phds, and accolades from the scientific community?  or

2) a hypothetical 18 yr old (or better a 16 year old college freshman, who skipped a few grades) honor student who was on his high school debate team since the age of 15; who knows the fallacy of the Creationist positions inside and out; and whose major/ focus of interest and study is biology, Darwin, the origin of species - the hard sciences? 

Now, before you answer:

-  Consider which of those two alternatives would make the greatest impression / impact on the audience by comfortably presenting the scientific facts (assuming the audience has the mental capacity to be impressed/ impacted by facts), and disposing of the well worn platitudes and fictions of Creationists.  

- Consider which one of those candidates would remove from the event any chance of the popular Creationist using the opponent's fame & name recognition to justify his claim of the validity of Creationism as a "serious scientific alternative" … the Big Gun or the no name prodigy?

- Considering the possible outcomes of such a debate, which proponent of evolutionary theory has the most to lose; or recognizing there is a virtual no-lose possibility for science: which proponent of evolution would cause the Creationist the most pain in terms of his dignity and loss of credibility if he is perceived to have been overwhelmed by science and utterly vanquished?

If one is being intellectually honest, there is really only one answer as to which would be the most satisfying pairing with the best possible results. 

But, if one is committed to entrusting only highly visible scientists to invest their name and credibility in a squabble of reason over long dismissed bronze age ignorance holdouts, then anything Dawkins or I have to say about the matter is of no import. To such people, only Einstein would do in debating Billy Sunday on how many demons occupy hell. As though Einstein would soil his hands