itting in Sunday School and church, you’re constantly confronted with the idea that man’s knowledge is not only flawed (a point with which I wouldn’t necessarily argue) but foolish. For example, 1 Corinthians 3:19 states:
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”
Whenever this comes up in a lesson or a sermon you always hear a resounding, “AMEN!” from the congregation. While I was a believer I never really thought about the implications and I doubt that many believers really do. In the light of debates over evolution, the Big Bang, and the ever-narrowing god-shaped gap in our knowledge it’s nice to be able to point to a verse and say, “See? The things you think you know are utter nonsense in the face of god’s wisdom!” The Bible is a never-ending source of derisive rebuttal to anything even remotely logical. That’s why I loved it so much as a kid. No matter with whom I was talking, I could always feel confident that my god considered them fools and I was right.
I never really considered that it also meant I was a fool. I mean, if the wisdom of the world is foolishness and I’m a part of the world then it stands to reason that I’m foolish. Oh, but I read the Bible so that must cancel it out somewhat. Whatever the case, I didn’t lose any sleep over it.
This attitude manifests itself in another, more sinister way. It’s the argument from personal absence that goes like this: “How do you know? Where you there?” This dishonest tactic allows the Christian to dismiss anything that contradicts their beliefs. This is particularly useful (in the Christian mind) against science and scientific concepts. That goes for dinosaurs, evolution, the Big Bang, abiogenesis, etc. I grew up with the “you weren’t there” argument in my arsenal of weapons against worldly foolishness (read: the Armor of God) and I was taught to use it liberally whenever someone questioned my beliefs. Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago? How do you know? You weren’t there!
In essence, the Christian is insulated against being wrong because the person presenting the contrary information wasn’t a first-hand observer. And of course since the Bible is the inspired word of an omnipresent god, it is always to be considered first-hand knowledge. With a tactic like that you can’t lose. It never occurred to me that the first-hand knowledge in the Bible might not actually be first-hand knowledge. I mean, regardless of whether or not god himself told the people what to write the books were fragmented and scattered, only to be found later and reassembled and then copied and then translated and then reorganized by committee. In just how much of that process was god involved?
What it comes down to is this: I didn’t believe what god was telling me; I believed what men were telling me. I got all of my information from my parents, teachers, and pastors. They had arguably gotten all of their information the same way, and the people before them, etc. If I’m to believe what the Bible says about the wisdom of men then I ought to consider all of these religious concepts foolishness as well. After all, god never physically manifested himself and told me anything himself…ever.
My journey to atheism was kick-started by the slow realization that flawed human beings pretending to speak for a perfect deity were telling me that flawed human beings couldn’t be trusted. But it wasn’t just that. It was also the fact that their disdain for human knowledge only applied to those things in which they personally didn’t believe. Convenient, isn’t it? When I took a step back and looked at what these people — the people I considered intelligent experts on these matters — were accepting and rejecting for various reasons I was absolutely helpless against nagging doubts and uncomfortable questioning of my faith.
I’m positive that if everyone were to get to this point and then put some honest examination into what/why they believe, the dialog surrounding faith and religion would shift to a more reasonable ground. I’m not saying everyone would become atheists; I’m saying that people would have better reasons for believing or disbelieving and would perhaps have more tolerance for dissenting views. I’ll leave you with that for now.