Sanctimonious Sanctity

A brief and amusing primer, in case you were wondering…

Because, let’s be honest, the whole “Sanctity of Marriage” excuse is a baldfaced joke – a lie even. There is far more adultery, fornication and divorce than there could ever be homosexuality, because, you know, math?

Yet the big threat to Life, Liberty, and Happiness, to hear the bigots tell it, is the Homogays!

You would think if the Sanctity of Marriage was really so important, they’d try to outlaw divorce and bring back the death penalty for fornication and adultery.

You’d think. But they don’t think. They just hate.

Your Best Shot

Well, after a rather lively, lengthy, but ultimately empty exchange, our recent Anglican Priest visitor has apparently surrendered. Well, he ran away, waving a white flag, proclaiming victory for himself and reveling in my impending damnation. So it looked a lot like a surrender.

Why is it Christians are just so delighted by the thought of others suffering eternal torture at the hands of a loving god?

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

As in this last exchange, I have been deeply disappointed by the level of rational engagement I get from theists here and in other social media forums, such as Facebook.

Granted, you do find a few who will wrangle with you and leave you thinking, but they are a true few and they are far between. Worse, you have to wade through a massive cadre of one-liners and uninformed hyperbole from the other 200 folks in the thread to carry on one decent conversation. It drives you to the point of giving up trying to be reasonable and simply trading one-liners for one-liners. Let me tell you, the temptation is strong, and the will of this author, at least, is ofte not up to the task.

I have to acknowledge the perception gap that exists in trying to carry on a rational dialogue. It arises from the schism of authority. The rational skeptic only accepts reasonable evidence. The supernaturalist/theist accepts the bible as evidence and believes in god so deeply that they’re unable to look from another perspective. God is a given to them. (See my recent article on Plato’s Cave.)

But a lot of points can be given for trying, right? Trying would be bringing your best arguments for the existence of god, veracity of the bible, resurrection of Jesus, and so on, and then being able to defend your arguments in rational discussion. This means neither side can claim special acquisition of knowledge outside of our general human ability to perceive the universe around us.

Trust me, we lose a lot of theists right there.

Anyway, I would love my occasional believing readers to put forward their best arguments, or the arguments of others that to them bolster the reasonable conclusion that their faith is true and worthy of adherence.

You trust the work of Lee Strobel? Pick an issue, bring his best argument, and be ready to defend it. William Lane Craig? Norman Geisler? Sye Ten Bruggencate? Yourself? Bring it.

Send your assertion and supporting argument to me at winlb@yahoo.com. As I don’t expect to be inundated with droves of challenging believers, I think I can pretty well promise that any reasonably coherent arguments I receive will become future posts where I’ll address the argument to the best of my ability and invite my readers to weight in, whichever side of the argument they’re on.

I’m no dummy, but neither am I the smartest guy in the room. But let’s dialogue. If god’s word be his own truth, then pursuit of truth can only lead to god, right?

Well, we shall see.

So Sorry, So Sad

How would one describe the true Christian believer?

Faithful? Dedicated? Devoted? Confident? Hopeful?

How about arrogant?

It’s not always obvious, because the outward expression of faith, person to person, usually follows a typical pattern of expected behavior. Like the winsome priest going from room to room at the hospital, they often take on an air of humility and winsomeness. I know online behavior can be a lot more… extreme, but that’s probably true in nearly every category, not just when dealing with religion.

Yet if you peel back what is said, there is an arrogance that follows the True Believer.

I don’t always see it or notice it myself, but it was sort of laid bare in a couple of comments to my About WINLB page.

First a commenter said, “I’m so sorry.”

That’s it. That’s the entire comment. So I answered, “For…?” But I don’t need her to come back and tell me. I already know. She’s sorry that I no longer believe. If she was to say it herself, she’d probably be sorry I “lost my faith,” as though that loss is a subtraction from my otherwise whole self and something to be somehow regained.

The next commenter, apparently an Anglican Priest, said, “Sad!” then went on about gentiles and the covenant. It was rather unclear to me, so I asked him to clarify. His answer?

Of course I am responding to your so-called “deconversion”! Again, very sad! Note the great Parable of the Sower, (St. Mark 4: 1-20 … of course noting too, Matt. 13: 1-15 / Luke 8: 4-10). See also, Matt. 7: 13-23, etc. “I never knew you!” As it quite appears, you sir have NEVER known Jesus the Christ!

Insert heavy sigh here.

Both of these comments, the concise and the wordy, are loaded with the arrogance of those who think they know what cannot actually be known or demonstrated to be true.

The problem with the True Believer is that they don’t recognize that their worldview, their religion, is a belief they chose (or with which they were indoctrinated in youth) among a world full of different religions and ideas about the world. They don’t actually know, but the nature of their religious belief, and its underlying theology, pretends that their belief is tantamount to knowledge, and that their emotional experience is tantamount to true communion with the god of the universe.

Exacerbating this with all faiths is the insularity of churches, of most religious organizations. You feed at the same trough every week, and you only get that viewpoint, until it seems like the only truth out there because you haven’t bothered to actually check out any other ideas.

This fosters a rank arrogance among Christians that somehow they are the chosen, the elite who have been given Truth, and from that are therefore qualified to view others who do not share in or believe that same Truth as deficient, as lacking in some way.

I’m sorry? No, dear, I’m sorry that you somehow think that I’ve actually lost something. I’m sorry that your view is so narrow that you can’t see that I’m actually a whole person who has simply chosen a different path, one that rejects the self-hatred of Christianity.

How sad? Yes, how sad that in your arrogance you seem to think it’s your place to judge me somehow deficient and lacking. How sad that your belief, which is just one belief among many, and even that just a version among thousands, blinds you to the fact that you are no more a whole person than I am, with simply a different belief.

I was NEVER a Christian? Surely you’re read enough to know a No True Scotsman fallacy when you see it. Or when you type it out yourself. How arrogant of you to presume that somehow my 26 years of Fundamentalist Evangelical devotion to Christ was fraudulent just because the conclusion I have come to differs from yours.

How arrogant the believer has to be to presume his or her belief, his or her ideas, to be the only Truth in the entire universe. How arrogant these commenters to presume to judge me on the basis of their belief that, held under the light of reason, cannot stand up to the scrutiny of logic.

If they were truly humble, they would come as the equals they are, recognizing that their beliefs are but their ideas, and that whatever they believe, they might have something to learn for themselves while they presume to teach me.

But of course Christian belief doesn’t work that way. Assurance is necessary, even if it has to be manufactured emotionally, because hell awaits those who are not confident in their faith to profess Christ as Lord even in the potential face of persecution and death.

They’re taught that they better know for sure what they believe, and affirm that belief by receiving the free gift of god and undergoing the transformation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you are taught that you have the actual Spirit of God living inside you, that has regenerated that part of you that connects to god, and if you get a warm fuzzy from it at some point, how can this Truth you’ve chosen to believe not be the actual only Truth?

And therefore the Arrogance of Knowledge is the only stance they can take without actually walking the road of reason that, for some, leads to liberation from religious delusion and enslavement.

I do admit to getting angry, but I was there once, so perhaps a little temperament on my part is in order.

But not so much that I won’t call it out when I see it.

And I Feel Fine

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it,

And I feel fine.     – R.E.M.

The end of the world as we know it. I can tell you from experience that most Evangelical Christians live like it’s going to happen tomorrow. They don’t follow Christianity as a live for today, just be a good person sort of thing. They are intensely interested in the future and modern politics. They are convinced the rapture is right around the corner, followed quickly by the Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ. What is written in the Left Behind books they believe is really going to happen.

According to modern apocalyptic thought, one of the main hallmarks of the final conflict and the tribulation will be a one-world government headed by the Antichrist. They believe that one of the Antichrist’s main tools will be control of the world financial system via a single currency, and that this currency will be purely electronic. Nobody will have cash or credit cards. Instead they will have a mark on their arm or forehead, a number on their skin that will be their personal number, their access to the economy, tied to their accounts. No mark, no money, food, no living. They see that as a step toward the number of the beast..

Some ways back there was an article in the online news about Sweden becoming a cash-free society. I thought it was interesting when I read it. Later in the day a Christian friend of mine posted the same article, quipping, “Hmmm… interesting!” Another friend commented something to the effect of: “The time is near!”

To them, it’s not about a better money system, a fairer money system. It’s about the coming one-world government, led by the Antichrist.

They believe in the days before the rapture that Christians will be increasingly persecuted. They believe they will be rounded up, given one chance to renounce their faith, and executed if they refuse. They believe the world is getting worse and more violent, and they will be the scapegoats in the end. They believe that they will be raptured away, and that there will be a group of Christians who come around after the rapture and endure the Tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation comes the Ultimate Religious Revenge Fantasy – when all the goats, all of us unbelievers, will see Jesus returning in the clouds, and it will be too late. They will watch as all of us heathen are in an instant plunged into everlasting torment to suffer for eternity for a brief lifetime of supposed sin.

They believe this stuff like they believe the mailman will come by and deliver the mail this afternoon. This is real world training. This is the problem with so much religious indoctrination. They’re not just working on being better people and finding peace and happiness. They apply this worldview to every real world action they take. They interpret every news item through that filter. It’s a mindset that is completely opposed to real world progress, because their primary hope requires the world to, literally, go to hell in a handbasket.

There was another Facebook post by a Christian friend that repeated an old saw I’ve heard several times.  They said:

Yeah, I am not much into politics and I try to discourage (my spouse) on too much focus on it. I think it’s akin to rearranging the deck chairs 0n a sinking ship.
The darker things get, the Brighter our Light!

Isn’t that rosy?

Making a better world for ourselves and our children and our childrens’ children is difficult. But one would think it would be a bit easier if there weren’t a large segment of our population who not only don’t think it’s worthwhile, but whose primary hope requires everything to get worse.

Let’s leave off for a minute that the deck chair comment is bullshit, because we all know they’re more than willing to mess with certain deck chairs, like the ones on the Homosexual deck, right?

How do you convince the Evangelical to be a part of the solution? How do you convince them that it’s worth their while to promote peace and understanding? How do you get them to care about the environment for the sake of future generations? How do you get them to care about any of it when they don’t even think there are enough future generations to come? How do you get them to stand up for peace and understanding in a multi-cultural world when, 1.) they think their belief system is the only right one, to the exclusion of all others, that all others are errors that must be exposed and those adherents evangelized in order to hasten the end, and 2.) they look forward to the war and conflict that must come to bring about the Millennial Kingdom and their final hope?

It’s asking them to go against the very heart of their beliefs. It’s asking them to literally waste their time and effort for goals they not only don’t believe in, but that are, in some respects, opposed to their final hopes and religious dreams.

This is one of the great modern harms of religion. It’s not just bombings and beheadings, as horrible and frightful as those are. It’s the fact that religion takes whole populations of talented, capable people, and completely incapacitates their ability to contribute to the progress of society and our world. It sets them up in opposition to humanity’s best interests.

It’s not that they don’t contribute to society at all, of course. But in view of the big picture, they’re not looking for a better tomorrow for everyone. They’re only looking to their ultimate revenge fantasy of seeing all the other non-believers or believers in the wrong religions go to eternal punishment so they can spend eternity being right.

And suddenly I don’t feel so fine anymore.

Less Than Meets the Eye

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

–  II Corinthians 5:17

One of the earliest seeds of doubt I still recall is when I realized that sometimes Christians were jerks too.

I was 18, still in my happy, DayGlo, recently saved and washed-in-the-blood honeymoon period. But it was late on in that phase, starting to get down to day-to-day living. After service I was heading for the parking lot, when my ear caught two women arguing. And not nice arguing. They were shrieking at each other, really fighting, arguing about some relationship changing issue they had between them. A man was with one of the women, the other alone. And I say that not to make implications, because I have no memory what it was actually about, but to give you an idea of how vivid the impression still is, 31 years later. Both women sounded nasty and unreasonable, like they were trying to do damage rather than work out a problem.

I was shocked. I remember thinking, “Whoa! We’re Christians! How can people who are fervent believing Christians act like that toward each other? We’re supposed to be different!”

Christians are supposed to be different.

In a previous article, I touched on the fact that fundamentalist theology (Evangelical/Baptist/Inerrantist/etc.) held that that human nature was made up of three parts, body (physical self), soul (mind, will, emotions), and spirit (the part of a human that is able to interact with god.)

The theological concept of Regeneration states that all humans are born in a fallen state, meaning that while we have a living body and soul, our spirit is dead, and in need of resurrection, this as a result of Adam’s original sin. When a person then makes a proactive choice to “receive or accept” Christ (phraseology found nowhere in the bible, by they way) that dead spirit within is regenerated. It is resurrected. It is once again alive and the believer is now connected directly to God. At that moment of regeneration, in fact, Christians are taught that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, takes up residence within their hearts. No longer will they be severed from the God of all the universe who made them and everything (and some denominations who adhere to the doctrine of Eternal Security say they never can be severed.)

The verse quoted at the head of this article is at the center of this doctrine. If anyone is in Christ (has accepted Christ, in the modern interpretation) he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come. This is viewed as a permanent, one time transaction.

Before diving in further, I’ll fill you in on a related doctrine called Sanctification. According to this doctrine, while the spirit has been resurrected, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and is a new, pure creation, the body and soul are still in a fallen state, and it takes time and spiritual practice to have the body and soul conform to the nature of the spirit.

This doctrine varies a LOT in how it’s conceived, perceived, and practiced, but the dichotomy of Paul’s old man and new man of Romans 6-9 at least keeps all different views in agreement that there is an internal battle taking place in every believer. So there’s a little wiggle room for imperfect Christians.

But if Christians truly are different, if a part of them that is dead in the non-believer has been made alive, if that part of the was made newly alive so that the believer is now fully connected to the vast resources of heaven in order to do good work in the name of Christ, then their mode of operation should reflect that. The Christian’s indwelt Holy Spirit should bring some of the winsome nature and that perfect love to the conversation.

But if you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’re already laughing at that.

Mind, Christians aren’t any worse than anyone else, really. The internet is the Asshole Whisperer. It brings out the inner asshole in many, many people.

I didn’t need much help to begin with, surely, but it still brings out the worst in me.

Look, I don’t care if Christians are assholes. Because they’re people. And people are assholes. I would just ask them to stop pretending they’re not assholes, or worse, that Jesus gave them permission to be assholes, but only to atheists and Muslims.

But I’ll tell you, if you really want to see Christians being assholes, all you have to do is threaten their elistist Christian privilege. That will send a good number of them stark raving mad. When they can’t impose their religion on you, can’t force you to recognize that Jesus is Lord, and all else is a lie, they lose their ever loving shit.

Case in point: Christian Love in Action, my personal title for a very sad article by Valerie Tarico.

You see, Christians, in this diverse nation, you aren’t allowed to force other people to believe your religion. You’re not allowed to force them to follow it, and you’re not allowed to coerce them in any way using government resources or by requiring it of them in their employment.

You’re not allowed to do that. It’s called Freedom of Religion, and it’s in the Constitution. You know, that big ol’ paper you think Jesus wrote on the Mount of Olives with Thomas Jefferson, Moses, and Elijah? The one you cry about when somebody won’t let you oppress another person on religious grounds, but then conveniently forget exists the moment you want to discriminate against others for your religious purposes.

Oh yeah, that Constitution.

Well, the military has for decades been a cesspool of Christian coercion and discrimination and oppression of non-Christian soldiers. Mikey and Bonnie Weinstein decided to do something about it. They formed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to stand up for non-Christian soldiers who were systematically subjected to religious proselytization by superior officers and subject to punitive measures when they resisted such coercion.

What was the Christian response? Other than being shocked that they don’t get to turn the military into their own private theocracy, the believers themselves decided to write the Weinsteins some friendly letters.

Well, the Weinsteins weren’t surprised, but neither did they take the systematic verbal abuse lying down. Bonnie gathered best of the best (worst of the worst?) into a tidy little book:

You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both

So how do you think the Christian internet activists responded to this very candid look at their very, very, very poor behavior? Did they look at their horrible, hate-filled rants and say, “You know, that wasn’t right. The Holy Spirit did not inspire that, and we’re going to repent of our vile words?”

Hardly. Instead they responded… (The following quotes were reproduced from the inimitable Valerie Tarico‘s blog, where the article resides.)

Like this:

Mr. M Weinstein I am a spirit-filled ordained pastor of The Gospel from the great state of Nebraska. Stop your attack on God Almighty and His only Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Stop your attack on His holy Christian wariors in our armed military forces! My congregation includes many military from the nearby air force base. We pray as one for you to die tonight in your sleep leaving a bloody mess for your family to find at daybreak.

That’s a pastor, apparently. Pastor – leader of winsome Christians who are called to be love, light, and salt to their communities:

And there’s this:

Eat shit and don’t die. Just keep eating shit Michael Loser Weinstein. Fun to watch you eat shit. For all time. Since you and your little family of mfrr shit eaters are nothing but shit anyway. Your only hope is to surrender to Jesus Christ. Your a stiff necked jew so you will not (Exodus 32 and verse 9). Thus you have no hope. Keep your shitty self out of Christ’s military and Christ’s nation you dirty shit bag.

And what about this gem:

Fuck your crybaby slut ass wife and fuck your crybaby spoiled children. Who got their fancy air force academy educations all paid for by the GRACE of Amercan CHRISTIAN taxpayers. And just look what we got for our tax money. The family Whiningsteen jew traitors from HELL. Cry cry cry cause you have it so bad in a CHRISTIAN made country. You know what you all happier in North koria or back in Jewsrael. get OUT of our country! Here Jesus is KING and if you dont like it than fuck you.

And you have to adore this example, where the Asshole pretends any of this has anything to do with love:

Christ will slay Mikey Weinstein with The Sword of Righteousness. Your serpant husband will be cut down by Jesus and mutilated for his evil doings. Then him and they all will be cast wiggling and screaming into the Lake of Fire to burn for all time. See John 3:36 and Revelations 20:14. You still have time Bonnie and so do your kids. This is ‘Truth’ mail from those Christians who love you so much and your kids and grandkids too.

I’m sorry, either be an asshole, or be loving. Don’t pretend that making vapid threats like an asshole somehow shows your love.

Now, are all Christians like this?

NO!

If you like, I’ll trot out examples from my own life of Christians who wouldn’t be caught dead acting out like this. You don’t need me to, because believer or non-believer, you have your own examples in your life too.

Yet these quotes are from Christians who, I guarantee you, are in church every Sunday, Bible Study every Wednesday, read their bibles, go to Sunday school, and believe they are living spirit-filled lives of righteousness in the name of Jesus Christ.

How can they be connected to the same Holy Spirit of these other good Christians we know and still be such vile assholes at times like this?

Because they’re only people, that’s why.

They’re just people like you and me. They don’t actually have a mythical third part of their person that has been made alive and is intimately connected to the Supreme and Holy God of the Universe. They don’t have access to the power of Christ to move mountains and part seas. They have not been transformed. They are not new creations. The old has not gone, and there is no new to come.

That is a thing they believe because they’re taught it from an interpretation of scripture. That is a thing they convince themselves is true by emotional wish-fulfillment. They’re just imperfect people.

Those who become better people become better people because they have within them the ability to become better people. They respond to the religious motivation they receive and make changes in their lives. Those who get off drugs because of Jesus do so because they had it within them to get off drugs with their spiritual mindset – one that takes their minds of themselves and focuses elsewhere, one that gives them perspective and the support network to make it through.

People do transform, not because they’re reborn, but because they, as people, are able, and, in the end, finally do something to change their own lives.

Some people are winsome, even on the internet. Some people are total assholes, especially on the internet.

The inclusion or exclusion of Christ is irrelevant.

Well, except that it does help to put one more lie to the assertion that Christianity is true and relevant for today.

Caves of Chaos

I’m a guy who loves philosophy. I would like to spend many, many, many days reading the great philosophers, something I denied myself by not dedicating myself to college. Trolling around through summaries of some of Plato’s dialogues earlier this week, I ran across one that I had seen before, but that for some reason struck me as very much like my experience trying to explain my shedding of faith to my still-believing friends.

Plato’s Cave is a well known and well-worn dialogue about the nature of the philosopher and enlightenment. It goes something like this (and may the better educated among us forgive me for my stilted attempt:)

Image converted using ifftoany

In a cave there are a number of prisoners who have been there since the day they were born. They are shackled and their necks chained in such a way that they can only face the large wall at the back of the cave. They cannot even see each other, though they can communicate.

Behind the prisoners is a wall that runs the breadth of the cave. Behind that wall is a large fire. From the front of the cave comes faint, diffused sunlight through the cave mouth.

Between the wall and the fire, actors walk back and forth, themselves hidden by the wall, holding up puppets and figurines and such in the shape of real world objects and beings. The shadows from these objects create shadows on the back wall of the cave. To the prisoners whose gaze is fixed on the back wall of the cave, these shadows are all they know of life, as they’ve never seen anything else in their lives. The perceive these shadows as real objects because they have no relative experience to inform them otherwise.

Suppose then one of these prisoners is freed, having looked at nothing but shadows all his life. He is forced to turn and sees the fire. The fire hurts his eyes, and so before he can make out any of the objects being held up, he scurries back to the comfort of his familiar experience at the back of the cave. To him, the shadows are the reality he knows and is comfortable with. Rather than face the blinding light, he returns to what he’s used to.

Suppose then the prisoner is forced not just to turn around, but is dragged out of the cave into the sunlight. His first glimpse of the sun is blinding and he turns away from it. But his comfortable reality is too far away to just return to. As his eyes adjust to the sunlight, at first he sees only shadows. Then perhaps he sees reflections of real things in a nearby lake, trees, animals, people. Then he sees those things himself. Eventually he looks up and sees the sky, the moon and the stars. Finally, when his eyes have acclimated enough, he can look up and see the sun that illuminates everything else. He can start to reason about the sun and all the things he sees.

Seeing this real world as far better than the one he left, he would feel sorry for his fellow prisoners and seek to convince them to join him outside the cave. When he returned to the cave, he would be blind in the darkness, much as he was blinded by the sun when he first was dragged out. His fellow prisoners would think that being outside the cave had harmed him, and that they should not allow themselves to be dragged out too. They might even kill or harm anyone who tried to do so.

Though I don’t believe it is stated (I can’t read Greek, you know) any exhortations he made to his friends would sound like the ravings of a madman. They would have no frame of reference to even understand what he was trying to describe. The text does say he would be ‘ridiculous’ (one translation, anyway – I haven’t read others) though this could be down to his impaired vision alone.

So, how does this relate to my deconversion?

Early in my post-Christian life, I tried to explain myself to a Christian friend of mine, who I call Titus for the purposes of this site. I said to him something to this affect:

You and I have lived on the same side of this tall wall and all we ever see is this side of the wall. Now I have climbed over the wall and I see what it looks like in all its glory. But when I try to describe it to you, you can’t relate because you’d have to see it too. But you can’t see it unless you actually climb over the wall, and once you’ve climbed, there’s no going back.

The reality that I try to describe and share with Christians is impossible for them to relate. Why? Because even if they try, they can only understand in relation to the shadows they see on the cave wall. Until they actually climb out and experience this other reality for themselves, we’ll spend most of our time talking past each other.

It’s a frustrating thing, truly. Despite my desire not to do so, I find in my Facebook and other online interactions that I will eventually (and ever more quickly these days) default to simply calling a theist stupid and walking away, or worse, calling a theist stupid, then sticking around for his or her response so I can then pile on the vitriol even more. It really isn’t fair, and really isn’t what I’d wished to foster in myself at the beginning of this journey.

I think we as atheists and self-proclaimed free-thinkers owe it to ourselves and those who are still staring at shadows to recognize that we perceive the world differently and have more patience in our interactions. At least more than they have with us (which on anecdotal evidence seems to grant us a lot of leeway.) We need to recognize that most of these believers are people of intellectual capacity, decent hearts, and good intentions, whose reality is defined by those shadows, the indoctrination of their youth and adulthood, and do a better job of keeping the vitriol out of dialogue.

Of course, when I say we, I mean me.

Not that our conversations should be staid and placid. Not that we shouldn’t hold our ground and insist on intellectual consistency and honesty in our debates.

Hell, I would even argue that ridicule and mockery sometimes have a time and place, but one must know their audience.

Christians think they’re trying to save our eternal lives. We’re just trying to encourage them to dig deeper, to realize that they’re wasting a good chunk of the only life they’ll have on an empty promise.

I will do better.

Well, most of the time anyway.

Oh, Just Perfect

I had a very interesting (read: frustrating) exchange with a theist this evening.  To say he was intellectually dishonest would be a gross understatement.

The theist in question made this basic claim:

God created humans perfect and gave them ability to follow laws.  Humans were without flaw till they sinned.

My answer to him was that his statement was self-contradictory and therefore nonsense.  My guess is I don’t actually need to explain this to most of my non-believing visitors.  But for any Christians who might read it, let’s talk it through anyhow.  I’ll include some further exchanges with said theist, because it got rather nonsensical from there.

As this theist is specifically a fundamentalist, literalist, creationist (Young Earther, I’d bet, but I don’t know that for a fact) Christian, it’s clear that he is referring to the creation of Adam & Eve in a literal Eden.

So, per the biblical account, Adam & Eve are created – perfect and flawless, Elohim’s ideal, in-his-image beings.

Perfect.  Flawless.

Then Satan comes in, the Tempter, the Adversary, and tempts Eve into disobeying god.  *Crunch*  The apple (pomegranate?) is eaten and man falls, becoming mortals bound for death.  God’s angry, then there are fig leaves, angel, flaming sword, and so on.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

According to Christian theology, Adam and Eve were perfect until they sinned.

Perfect.

So I asked the question:  How does a perfect being sin?

If Adam and Eve were perfect beings, with the ability to obey laws (a clarification specific to this conversation with this theist) then how can they, being perfect, make a decision that is imperfect?  If they are perfect, then their ability to reason, consider, and decide will be perfect, and being perfect, they will not make an imperfect choice.  Their reasoning, and therefore their choice, will be flawless.

Well, they had the freedom to choose, and they made the wrong choice.

How can they make a wrong choice?  They’re perfect, therefore every choice they make must be perfect.

No, then they would be robots without a brain.

Which was, of course, his way of asserting the “free will” portion of the theology.

Keep in mind that this singular event is central to all of Christian theology.  Without this “fall,” the entirety of Christian theology will be void.  This fall is what makes human beings “dead in their sin.”  It’s why, according to fundamentalist evangelical theology, humans are born disconnected from god, and can only restore this union with god by being “born again.”

But rather than get into an entire separate conversation on free will, I’d rather stick with the current topic.  So I asked:  Does that mean God is a robot without a brain?

The primary disconnect is that somehow the application of freedom to choose will somehow override a being’s innate perfection.  Either way one looks at it, that’s ridiculous.  On the one hand, perfection will result in perfect outcomes, even in the face of temptation.  If a perfect being is faced with the devil/snake insisting that god told them something that wasn’t true (you will surely die) that perfect being will make a perfect evaluation of the claim against what he knows about god, and come to a perfect conclusion (not to sin, and therefore, not to eat the apple.)  All freely chosen, of course.

In the same vein, let’s look at the other perfect being in the equation, God.  If it is possible for a perfect being to make an imperfect decision, for the purpose of preserving free will, what assurance does anyone have that god, despite all his supposed perfection, won’t eventually make an imperfect decision?  After all, if the hallmark of free will is the ability to make wrong choices despite personal perfection, then god himself would not be immune to this potential outcome, being himself free willed and perfect.

The bottom line is: you can’t have it both ways.  Either Adam & Eve were perfect, in which case the entire story of the fall of man falls apart, since perfect beings beget perfect choices, or Adam & Eve were not perfect, in which case they were created flawed, and therefore not at fault for making the imperfect choice they were designed to make.

Regardless of which way you view it, the story cannot pass logical muster on any level, and therefore deserves to be rejected out of hand.