hen I was a Christian it seemed like everything I saw pointed to the truth of god’s existence. I had the Bible, my parents’ word, my Sunday School teachers and preachers, any number of books and pamphlets, and nature itself bolstering my faith. I felt like I had good reason to believe what I did and I didn’t even have to look for evidence: everything was evidence!
That is, until I actually started examining my beliefs and my reasons for holding them. What I found was not that the evidence for god was strong, but that I was willing to accept pretty much anything as evidence so long as it adhered to my preconceptions. Those things that didn’t conform to my beliefs were simply ignored without any thought at all.
I’ve been in a number of debates in person and online where emotions flared and the conversation eventually boiled down to a variant of the following:
Why can’t you just respect a person’s beliefs?
Here’s the problem with that: not all beliefs are created equal and not all are worthy of respect. The person saying the above is usually emotionally invested in the beliefs I’ve questioned and is usually unable to present any rational reason for a person holding those beliefs in the first place. What they’re really saying is, “Since I can’t defend my untenable beliefs I really wish you would leave them alone so I don’t feel like I have to!”
I was emptying out a three-ring binder yesterday and found a paper I had written on August 3, 1999 for a Philosophy 1100 class at Webster University. I still considered myself a Christian in 1999 and it wasn’t until the following year that I even entertained the idea that I might be agnostic or an (gasp!) atheist. I’ll continue to document that journey through my regular posts, but I wanted to take a moment to transcribe this paper and show that even I, on the verge of a huge shift in worldview, could cling to the most outrageous and fallacious arguments in the hopes of retaining that failing grasp on a faith that had, for most of my life, defined me. In a strange and somewhat satisfying twist I’ll address my own faulty reasoning and debunk myself. Enjoy!
I’m trying to put together a one-on-one interview series with people of all different faiths and so far I’ve contacted two Christian pastors, a Mormon, a Buddhist, and the administrator at the Jewish temple in Springfield. I let them know that I’m not interested in debate but want the opportunity to ask some probing questions about their religion(s) and give them the chance to give as detailed answers as they want. In every case, I was told that they’d be happy to talk to me but would not be willing to be recorded either on video or audio. What gives?
I’m wanting to discuss their religion in a candid, open format with no argument or ridicule and none of them are willing to go on record? What good is a religion if you’re secretive about it? How do you expect other people to understand you and your beliefs if you’re not willing to open up to an audience? This would be a great opportunity to dispel some misinformation, explain some myths, and relate to people why you believe your religion is based on truth. I just don’t get it.
I’m wondering how I can get believers to open up and help me with my educational project. I’m really hoping to someday be able to gather a representative sample of the world’s religions and put together a nice series of videos that can bridge some gaps. I just don’t understand why there’s so much resistance.
Kentucky State Senator Joe Bowen has resurrected a bill that was killed last November that “sets the foundation” for offering Bible classes in Kentucky schools. Admittedly, nothing prevents public schools from offering comparative religion courses now. This begs the question as to why the state government would feel the need to even introduce such legislation in the first place.
I can think of one answer: Bowen is a Christian who feels that the current school curriculum is too secular and that Kentucky children are being led astray from core Christian principles. This is another push by religious zealots to have their view spread to everyone by any means necessary.
Now, to be perfectly clear, this bill would not require that all Kentucky schools offer a Bible class as a requisite to obtaining a high school diploma. The classes would be electives and that, I think, is their only redeeming quality.
First question: why isn’t Bowen pushing for Qur’an classes? Why not Bhagavad Gita classes? Or Buddhavacana classes? The answer is obvious. Bowen doesn’t want to educate children about world religions. He wants them to learn about his religion.
Second question: since when does the State Senate dictate school curriculum? Isn’t that the job of the school board? Kentucky’s department of education organizational chart is here (PDF). It steams me that the state government (even though it’s not my state) is wasting time and resources fighting battles in which it shouldn’t be involved.
Third question: aren’t there Sunday School classes every Sunday in Kentucky churches? If a child wants to hear about the Bible in a classroom setting they already have ample opportunity! Keep your religion in your church and we’ll keep logic and rational thought in the schools.
Can we please stop our lawmakers from spreading this kind of arrogance and ignorance across the entire country? Please, people, let’s do something about this!
Using the first link (“resurrected a bill”) you can vote in the news channel’s poll. Not that it’ll mean anything, but go vote this down. As of the time of this posting there’s an overwhelming majority voting YES for these antics.