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February 19, 2014

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Get a Jesuit on the case. They'll rip Ham into tiny little twitching shards.

But if you get Fred, or a Jesuit for that matter, they might win! More to the point, they might convince some of the YEC folks. So they are unlikely to be voluntarily included in the discussion if the creationists are organizing it.

Creationists don't seem to mind someone who won't convince their own folks, while allowing them to feel like they listened ot the "other side." But someone who can quote chapter and verse (literally) back at them? No way!

It's also that YEC, or at least the Ham enterprise, is a business. Pitting believer against infidel sells videos; pitting believer against believer doesn't. People are more willing to pay to see their beliefs confirmed than challenged.

up front: i'm no Christian.

but, fundamentalism always seems to be about a charismatic leader maintaining his* flock by claiming to have all the answers and scaring the flock into believing that any other answers are not just wrong but wicked. and once they're sufficiently separated from the main flock, the shepherd is able to fleece his flock at will.

it's a scam dressed up as religion.

* - usually it's a he

I think the Doc is rightly pointing to a bigger thing. "Christian" in the US (and at least throughout the Western world) is taken to mean anti-science, along with a whole range of other things like conservative, moral, responsible, traditional, adult, anti-sex(?) and so on, which are taken to be synonyms. If you ask about it then oh, not at all- everybody knows there's liberal churches and liberal ethics and good, progressive people (someone will probably mention the Reverend Dr King) but this "religion=conservative creationist" view seems to be the default image and is basically unchallenged in mainstream media and in popular understanding.

And I think this locks in a very bad dynamic. It lets extremists coopt religion's respectability, and then coopt all the believers of America to defend their extremist view. I wish I knew a way that I, outside the religious community(ies), could help break that up.

Joining this discussion from Europe, I think that Fred is on the right track. The American creationism is simply a horrible thing. Even here, that weed is bearing ugly offspring, although it has only influence within two circles:
* active church-goers (many people here belong to a church in passive manner)
* atheists

Some active church members are influenced by the influx of American Christian media and start believing that anti-science creationism is part of the Christianity package. On the other hand, the American fundamentalists are a blunt weapon with which our own atheists can hit us in a debate, likening us to those fools.

All of this is true, but I don't understand what is to be done. Granted, the kind of literalist inerrant fundamentalist interpretation Fred calls "clobber-text hermeneutics" is stupid and unrepresentative of the more intellectually respectable traditions in which most Christians (or former Christians) participate or participated. Most people, at some level, know that.
But while it's unfortunate that the fundamentalists (not, to be clear, the evangelicals -- there's a difference) take up an undue share of the oxygen, what is the program? Who needs to be convinced of what? Is there a significant body of people who do not already know this that can reasonably be expected to come to know it? Or is knowledge, as such, not the point? Is it more a matter of making what is already known sufficiently visible? This may sound like criticism. It's not. I'm just wondering what people would be trying to do and how they propose to do it.

(am i in moderation, or did i offend?)

It's not you, cleek, it's Typepad. I'm pulling russell out of the spam filter multiple times a day.

It's a little hard to see why any misinterpretation of the Bible was needed to support slavery, since in the Bible, all the great and the good save a few prophets owned slaves.

Young-earth theology in its modern form started in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which in turn owed its origins to the Millerites of upstate New York in the 1840s. They are certainly biblical literalists, and they are the fastest-growing church in the U.S. The founders were in New Hampshire, so I don't think the literalism or the young-earth theology are necessarily connected to the south.

Certainly biblical literalism has its pitfalls, which Peter Abelard pointed out a thousand years ago in Sic et Non. The selective literalism that allows people to quote parts of Leviticus and ignore other parts (and Christian dogma which says there is a more recent covenant) is pretty transparently just a way to buttress prejudice. But the prejudice is not necessarily Southern or linked to the American original sin of slavery.

My dad was an ordained United Methodist Church minister, but pursued an academic career, first in the seminary context before being recruited by a state university during the push build up the academic study of religion outside theology schools.

35+ years ago he was being solicited for support by science folks trying to keep creationism textbooks out of schools, and creationism out of science textbooks, I guess with the hope that his "Rev. Dr. Priest" status might give him more credibility with/cover to school board members and others fighting the fundementalists, to help them dodge charges of be "Godless".

Changing the minds of fundamentalists wasn't much in the picture, except maybe the college students taking his Old Testament classes. Even then he would come home with the occasional story of a student coming up to him after a class and tell my dad "I'm praying for you, Dr. Priest." So even by college it was already too late.

johnw:

It's a little hard to see why any misinterpretation of the Bible was needed to support slavery, since in the Bible, all the great and the good save a few prophets owned slaves.

And this was precisely the argument that was being made in the US in the early 19th century. But remember, the abolitionists were *also* basing their beliefs on the Bible, and they could be plenty literalist (e.g. Wilberforce).

The abolitionists said, yes, there are lots of slave-owners in the Bible, and there are verses about how you should treat your slaves. But the overall message of the Bible, both OT & NT, is to bend the arc of the universe toward Justice and Love. If you read the Bible such that some cherry-picked pro-slavery texts are *more important* than the message of Justice and Love, you are reading it wrong.

But the overall message of the Bible, both OT & NT, is to bend the arc of the universe toward Justice and Love.

How do you get the "overall message" of a text without having specific parts of the text to point to? How do you conclude that the "overall message" says slavery is bad when verse after verse after verse explicitly says it's okay, and describes in detail the rules outlining how to engage in it?

How can you read the Flood story, Exodus, Numbers, Job, and say "yeah, this is totally a text about Justice and Love"? I'm not talking about isolated verses; the whole premise of the 10 plagues is that God was right to harm and kill innocent people as collective punishment. Jesus tells stories about people being burned like weeds. How is that loving?

It's not a "debate" -- Ham is clear that there is nothing that would cause him to change his opinions, and his followers are the same.

"Debating" Ham simply accords him a stature that he does not really possess, builds him up as a hero in the eyes of the faithful, and gives him free publicity.

It's a little hard to see why any misinterpretation of the Bible was needed to support slavery, since in the Bible, all the great and the good save a few prophets owned slaves.

I'd say the Bible is fairly neutral on the practice of slavery as it was practiced in the various societies which were the context in which the various books were written. Although, in general, when slavery is discussed, what's advocated is fair and humane treatment of slaves.

If, as we do now, you consider slavery as an institution to be inherently and irredemiably bad, admonitions to treat your slaves fairly will seem like weak beer.

We, in turn, have our own institutions that folks in those contexts would find abhorrent.

In any case, I'm not sure the kind of chattel slavery, predicated on a doctrine of god-ordained white supremacy, and justifying the destruction of families, rape, and extreme physical abuse, and enforced by threat of mutilation and murder, can fairly be said to be endorsed by a reasonable reading of the bible.

How can you read the Flood story, Exodus, Numbers, Job, and say "yeah, this is totally a text about Justice and Love"?

If you take them at face value as accurate accounts of actual historical events, to be understood as literally true as written, I'd say that could be a challenge.

It is really, fundamentally one might say, about *how to read the Bible*: the split is not between "science" and "religion", or even "science" and "the Bible", but between different ways *Christians* interpret the Bible.

I think this is exactly right.

And it is other Christians, non-creationist Christians, who have ceded power to Ken Ham and his ilk.

I probably fall into this category. And, long ago in a galaxy far far away, I most definitely fell into the category of folks like Ham.

What I think is that the prominence of this kind of literalist fundamentalism is the product of dynamics in this country (and some others, notably in South America) that are much more complicated than more liberal theological traditions simply ceding the field.

I do however think that in many ways the theologically liberal churches have failed to make an effective response. I actually expect to see that change.

We, in turn, have our own institutions that folks in those contexts would find abhorrent.

Payday loan companies.

30%/annum credit card interest if you miss a payment.

Student loan debt undischargeable in bankruptcy.

much more complicated than more liberal theological traditions simply ceding the field

As it ever is, russell, that's true. I'm interested to hear more of these dynamics if you've more to say or if you can suggest anyone worth reading on it. Does it relate to how the UK experienced essentially the opposite?

I do however think that in many ways the theologically liberal churches have failed to make an effective response. I actually expect to see that change

And what, if anything, might a godless heathen like myself do in aid of that? (This question to anyone who wants to answer).

I think the basic problem is this:

People who believe that the Bible is the literal, true Word of God just point to Genesis and claim that this is a literal, true account of what happened. And because there are a nontrivial number of Christian sects in this country that lay claim to belief in the literal truth of the Bible, there will always be a cheering section for ascientific accounting of things as are done by this guy and e.g. Kent Hovind. It just has too much appeal.

I say there's another way that permits some amount of mystery. But I am in a minority, in my faith. It simply can't be had both ways: that the Bible is the inerrant true word of God, and that the fossil record isn't a pack of lies.

Me, I see Satan as more the Father of Lies than as the Father of Highly Misleading Yet Pervasive Material Evidence.

If you believe in God as a maker of all miracles necessary to have both the Bible be literally true and have the fossil record be present to the extent that it is, I personally think that way lies insanity.

My in-laws believe the Flood accounts for a lot of e.g. longterm river erosion and fossils. But there's no way that the Deluge could account for the kilometers-thick layer of crinoid skeletons that in places lies a mile or more under the surface. There isn't any amount of spinning that can be done to convince me that's a post-Flood artifact.

So, again: this to me means there are things that I don't understand, not that there are things that exist that are put there to fuck with us by a malevolent, apparently nearly all-powerful Satan.

Slarti :

People who believe that the Bible is the literal, true Word of God

Oh, they say they do.
But they don't. Not really.

They eat shrimp. They eat bacon. They wear clothing constructed of mixed fabrics. They don't give all they have to the poor -- they aspire to wealth.

The same people who tell you that yes, the Genesis account means literally six 24-hour days will laugh at you if you respond that the 23d Psalm says they are literally sheep, and that He literally makes them lie down in green pastures (getting grass stains all over their nice Sunday fleece). That part they are sure is figurative language, poetic license, as any fule can see. So they know (really) that parts of the Bible are poetry, but they have been taught that Genesis ain't one of them.

Inerrancy is a recently-constructed shibboleth for a particular tribal identity.

They eat shrimp. They eat bacon.

These prohibitions were specifically aimed at Israelites, note. Most Christians are not Israelites.

For Jews, all of these constraints still apply. Christians, though, believe that the new covenant supercedes the old one. What old-covenant constraints still hold and which ones no longer do, though, is unclear to me.

People who eat shrimp, though, and insist on holding to other prohibitions in Leviticus, mystify me a bit.

Me, I think this particular passage should be adhered to rather more vigorously than it is, generally, at present:

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.[c] 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

I think that's more Scripture-quoting than I normally do here in a span of many years.

I'm interested to hear more of these dynamics if you've more to say or if you can suggest anyone worth reading on it.

It's not really my field, so I'm afraid I don't have a lot of light to shed. I will look around to see if I can find someone good on the topic.

Sorry to not be more helpful.

joel's comment about inerrancy and tribal shibboleths is probably a pretty good summary of a lot of the history and dynamics.

And what, if anything, might a godless heathen like myself do in aid of that?

IMO the best and pretty much only thing for folks to do is to clearly state what they think and believe, and why.

If you can do that without getting caught up in ad hominems, all the better, because it gets in the way and makes the discussion be about persons rather than the questions that are actually on the table.

^^^^^^^^^
WRS

Dr. Science: "If you read the Bible such that some cherry-picked pro-slavery texts are *more important* than the message of Justice and Love, you are reading it wrong."

yur doon it rong, actually. I think it's in the Book of LOLcats, chapter 3, verse 7.

if you can suggest anyone worth reading on it.

I haven't read these, but they seem to be well regarded by folks who seem pretty sane.

The Roots of Fundamentalism, Ernest Sandeen
Fundamentalism and American Culture, George Marsden
Revive Us Again: The Reawakening Of American Fundamentalism, Joel Carpenter

The other comment I guess I'd make on the "no ad hominems please" front is that a large dynamic in conservative religious circles - a large part of their sense of identity - is their perception that they are disrespected, looked down upon, and generally persecuted by the broader society.

Arguments to the effect that their point of view is stupid or ignorant, however justifiable that might seem, will usually just be received as a confirmation of their overall point of view.

It's not you, cleek, it's Typepad.

it hates me. i have at least two others stuck.

i can take the hint!

Ronald Numbers wrote a history of the creationist movement some years ago--at least one of the early prominent creation "scientist" types was a political liberal. In general I think Clark is right, at least within the US, but there's no hard and fast rule that links crazy beliefs about science with being a political reactionary. With a lot of ordinary people they just can't see how to reconcile the narrative of salvation (we all fell in Adam, Christ's death saves us) with evolution. I also sympathize a bit with those who think that evolution was a very cruel way to create humans--all those innocent suffering animals along the way--but that's part of the problem of evil in general. The Biblical literalists can say it's all our fault.

How can you read the Flood story, Exodus, Numbers, Job, and say "yeah, this is totally a text about Justice and Love"?

If you take them at face value as accurate accounts of actual historical events, to be understood as literally true as written, I'd say that could be a challenge.

Okay...so what's the "correct" way to read "I'm God, and I'm going to kill the first-born son of the slave girl, just because he's Egyptian" as being about justice and love?

What's the "correct" way to read the senseless deaths of Job's wives and children so that it promotes love and justice? Is it that since he got new wives and new children, everything is okay?

You aren't just going to say that the "correct" way is to pretend the text doesn't say any of that, are you? Or to appeal to some mythical Platonic text, the text that we would have if the authors had been late 20th century Californians, instead of the text that we actually have?

swbarnes2: what's the "correct" way to read "I'm God, and I'm going to kill the first-born son of the slave girl, just because he's Egyptian"

Like flies to wanton boys, are we to gods: they kill us for their sport.

Your uplifting spiritual thought of the day.

Okay...so what's the "correct" way to read

I guess the first thing I will say is that I'm probably not qualified to provide an answer that you will find satisfactory. Especially in the context of a blog comment.

The next thing I'll say is that these are pretty hard questions, which have perplexed far better minds than mine.

The next thing I'll say is that IMO there isn't a "correct" way to read the bible, or anything else. We read with the eyes we have, and take from things what we will take from them.

What you're asking is a really good question, and it deserves an answer. I'll do my best to explain how I tend to read these things. That may or may not be useful to you, but it's pretty much all I have to offer.

The plagues, and the killing of the first-born of the Egyptians, is part of a larger narrative whose subject is the millenia-long relationship between the people of Israel and god. In this particular chapter, god is their champion, releasing them from centuries of bondage.

So, justice, of a kind, as described from a particular place, time, and point of view.

Similarly, the Civil War in this country, which resulted in the end of black chattel slavery, was (and is) seen by many as, somehow, the act of god, or at least the working out of a divine justice. Even including the blood and gore.

Just by way of offering a historical parallel, in case that's useful.

Job is, I think, not intended to be a historical account of anything. It's a fable - a moral story. To my mind, Job is a meditation on the limits of human understanding of god.

So, the destruction of Job's family, health, and fortune is intended to create a deliberately extreme case - what if the WORST POSSIBLE THINGS happened to you? How would you make sense of it? They're not intended to be an account of things god actually did.

There are probably 1,000 other things to say about all of the above, but unfortunately neither time nor space to say them.

It's not my place or intent to defend the bible, nor is it my place or intent to persuade you to see things one way or another. I don't mind talking about what I understand of things, but I don't think I can go beyond that.

The next thing I'll say is that IMO there isn't a "correct" way to read the bible, or anything else. We read with the eyes we have, and take from things what we will take from them.

I agree with this.

To me, the Bible is a literary work that contains some history (and can be read in its historical context), but is mostly a way that people, for centuries, have tried to make common cause in trying to understand the unknown. Like all good literature, it inspires argument and multiple interpretations.

There are those who believe that the Bible is "the word of God." But to say that God has no literary talent would be to underestimate God in a huge way.

I have tried "church." It meant a lot to me at certain times. I am not an atheist particularly, but also not a fervent believer. I love the world and am grateful that I'm in it. "God" is mysterious to me. The Bible is a companion to me, as is other great literature.

Here in America, the automatic assumption is that "god" means Abraham's god. Nobody gives a thought to Apollo, Poseidon, or any of that crowd. I bet that not even the most delicate and sensitive "person of faith" would be offended by an atheist's suggestion that belief in Zeus is pointless at best, childish at worst.

Gods have been known to die out, is all I'm saying. We humans will always need hope and charity; "faith" I'm not sure about.

--TP

We humans will always need hope and charity; "faith" I'm not sure about.

I'm absolutely sure we need it. Just not necessarily in "God". We need faith in each other, which (to me) means faith in our common institutions. It's depressing as hell, to me, that we can't find common ground in that.

"The Bible is a companion to me, as is other great literature."

I only copied this to start by saying that the divine word of God, as identified by several committees over a few centuries AD, is, IMO, a one hundred percent accurate reflection of the ability of each of the civilizations to understand it at the time it was written. Or even for them to write it down. I suspect God dumbed it down for us.

That said, science today has become a religion in and of itself, complete with blind believers and accusations of heresy.

From YEC to GCC there is a complete lack of intelligent discussion as each side has taken the stance that the other side are heretics.

Scientists may not have become religious in their defense of current scientific progress as being fact, but those laymen that treat science as if it were their religion certainly have.

If you close your eyes and listen the two sides they sound identical in their blind faith in their arguments.

mostly a way that people, for centuries, have tried to make common cause in trying to understand the unknown.

That, and an attempt to codify a (not the) way that people could live together in something resembling peace and tranquility. Doesn't always work out that way, not least because some people apparently see it just as another arena for disputation. But the goal is moderately clear in the reading.

If you close your eyes and listen the two sides they sound identical

If you then open your eyes and conduct experiments, a crucial difference soon appears.

But to say that God has no literary talent

One of my less pleasant chores when I was young was to read the Bible from one end to the other. Reading the Bible straight through is at least 70 percent discipline, like learning Latin. But the good parts are, of course, simply amazing. God is an extremely uneven writer, but when He's good, nobody can touch Him. -- John W. Gardner

Joel, don't you (didn't Gardner) think that we should blame the editors/transcribers?

Good point, wj.

Joel wins the internet today.

To Marty's reference to "laymen that treat science as if it were their religion" I can only respond by pointing to laymen that treat RELIGION as their religion. Some of us take the word of physicists that the world is made of atoms. Others take the word of priests that the world was made by god. This is only natural: most of us have never seen either an atom or a god. We have to take somebody's word for it. So, same thing, right?

The difference is that if the physicists are wrong, I won't feel crushed, forlorn, or hopeless. The difference is that I don't fear physics will dry up and disappear if it doesn't get a mention in the Pledge of Allegiance. The difference is: science is NOT religion.

--TP

don't you (didn't Gardner) think that we should blame the editors/transcribers?

Blame? Oh, for the unevenness.

From my viewpoint, that quote is about praise, not blame.

I find it amazing that an anthology that seems to have been written by many hands, in several languages, over many centuries, ever achieved the grace and power of the KJV.

I think the draggy parts have more to do with the subject matter than with the authors (or Author) or the translators. The begats, the long lists of livestock sacrificed in the Temple, the lists of laws -- perhaps even the Author of All Things must approach such material as technical writing, rather than as literature.

Certainly the KJV translators set a standard difficult for mortals to surpass.

And the good parts: the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job, The Song of Songs, John 1:1, the Sermon on the Mount -- the list is long -- are simply nonpareil.

I've been an atheist for a long time now (a reverent and mostly respectful one, I hope) -- but every time Linus climbs up on that stage to quietly recite Luke 2, I weep for the glory of the language and beauty of the promise.

....the divine word of God, as identified by several committees over a few centuries AD, is, IMO, a one hundred percent accurate reflection of the ability of each of the civilizations to understand it at the time it was written.

So, where are those committees meeting these days?

So, where are those committees meeting these days?

They're sort of still around.

I knew a guy who was involved in basically proof-reading a new English version of the Bible in the 70's. There were, apparently, many serious debates about some fairly obscure parts of speech in long-dead languages.

No nerds like Bible nerds, and I say that with no small degree of respect.

Fred argues -- and I agree with him -- that creationism is only secondarily about science. It is really, fundamentally one might say, about *how to read the Bible*

Absolutely. Fundamentalists more or less only quibble with science to extent that it gets in the way of their literalism: They have no interest in disputing Newton's laws or how computers work.

Honestly, my view is that fundamentalism is more or less the natural outcome of the Protestant insistence on the Bible as the only source of religious truth (sola scriptura) along with the general Christian view of God as infallible and timeless. I don't see any getting away from the fact that the further you move from fundamentalist to liberal, the more you must rely on outside sources (science, history, independent moral sense) to justify your position.

I'm not saying that fundamentalism succeeds in entirely excluding all other sources of understanding: You need to understand at least one language to be able to read (or listen to) the Bible at all, and you'll need a basic level understanding of how people communicate to understand what Jesus is saying (such as when he is using metaphors). But in order to say that certain stories in the Bible are myths rather than literally true, you cannot get that from the text itself or these day to day conventions; you have to go to science and history to determine what is plausible and what is evidenced.

The same is true with "moral arc of the universe" stuff. I think it's a heroic attempt to understand the Bible in accordance with non-abhorrent values, but you have to draw from moral attitudes outside of the Biblical text in order for it to make sense. We're talking about an all-knowing God who sees all of time. There's absolutely no reason He couldn't have put better messages in the Bible, such as: "Slavery is always wrong" or "You need to make babies now, but there will come a time of plenty when it's not such a big deal, and then you need to chill out over birth control and homosexuality, guys."

If someone genuinely comes to the Bible and reads it, setting aside their own moral preconceptions and treating it as the one and only guide to living a good life, I think in most ways the moral system they ended up with would be closer to fundamentalists than liberals (although not when it comes to money and the poor, where fundamentalists in general have a huge blind spot). The reason is that the Bible is so awash with mixed messages, taking its absolutes at face value is the only rational thing to do.

This is not a dig at non-fundamentalist Christianity. It's (often) pretty upfront about the fact that it uses science and history in order to evaluate the Bible (although it's generally less honest with regards to moral sense). But once you allow that parts of the Bible are mythical, then how can you insist that Jesus was definitely not just a man? Once you accept that fallible people (rather than God) wrote the Bible and others decided what would be canonical and what wouldn't, how do you stop it from slipping into a purely scientific / historical investigation of the Bible's claims?

I know plenty of non-fundamentalists who get very defensive when you try to apply this kind of investigation to the critical parts of their faith (such as the nature of Jesus, the soul or for some the virgin birth). Then they're in a weaker position than the fundamentalists because they've opened the door to it, and now they're nakedly picking and choosing what is and isn't sacrosanct.

The point I'm (gradually) getting to is that I'm not convinced that Fred or a non-literalist believer is likely to be much more successful than Bill Nye. The scientific angle helps to push creationists to acknowledge the contradiction between generally accepting that science works (cf computers) and rejecting certain parts of it. I suppose a Christian who actively works in evolutionary science or similar might help to convince them that it's not just an atheist conspiracy, but even if they accept Fred Clark's bona fides they are just going to think he's been duped along with so many other people.

What Fred has to offer instead is (more) liberal theology. I suppose this may be attractive to fundamentalists who are already uncomfortable with some of the heartless consequences of their beliefs for women, gays, divorcees, etc or who have seen that the secular world is actually not nearly as bad as they have been raised to believe. But unless you are already pushed towards it by one of these concerns, liberal theology is going to be pretty unappealing for fundamentalists: It involves giving up a huge degree of certainty in exchange for using your own conscience (which even the liberals accept is compromised to a certain extent!).

One final thought: At the time of the Renaissance, there was no real reason to imagine that science and Christianity would clash. The assumption must have been that science and history would back up biblical claims and fill in the gaps, and there's no reason this couldn't have been the case. Charles Darwin could have discovered that species stay rigidly as they are, no matter the new circumstances in which they find themselves. Geology could have proved that yes, there was nothing there before around 4,000 BC, and astronomy could have found the stars to be close enough to Earth that we would indeed be able to see their light rather than it having to have been created mid-way (or whatever the latest cock-and-bull explanation is).

Instead, it repeatedly found Bible-based explanations to be incorrect - understandable if written by people in accordance with their knowledge at the time, but not if written by God. You can dress it up how you like, but that's a real threat to Christianity, and it's no surprise that a large chunk of it deals with this by imagining atheist conspiracies around every corner. What's more of a surprise (and what creationists haven't failed to notice) is that non-creationists don't have any good answers to this.

If you then open your eyes and conduct experiments, a crucial difference soon appears.

Experiments are good. It's how you learn things.

Experiments done on a computer are less edifying, because you're just looking at what your model would do if you changed X, not what reality would do. If your model predicts a behavior that reality doesn't exhibit, then either reality is wrong, or your model is wrong. Being reality-based to some extent, I know which way I lean.

Accordingly, I am all for experiments that physical in nature (as opposed to computational), and for vigorous validation of simulations that are used for prediction.

This is how things are done in my part of the world, and I'm not even a scientist.

"The abolitionists said, yes, there are lots of slave-owners in the Bible, and there are verses about how you should treat your slaves. But the overall message of the Bible, both OT & NT, is to bend the arc of the universe toward Justice and Love. If you read the Bible such that some cherry-picked pro-slavery texts are *more important* than the message of Justice and Love, you are reading it wrong."
--Dr. Science

I don't buy that, but there were certainly Evangelists who were abolitionists. There were also people who became atheists because they felt the Bible supported slavery -- a friend found one in his ancestry while researching his genealogy.

The notion that a literal reading of the Bible had the purpose of supporting slavery is what I take issue with. During the Protestant Reformation, people wanted a more personal relationship to scripture, unmediated by what they perceived as a corrupt priesthood. In England, people gathered in secret to read scripture translated into English. They were called lollards, from a Dutch word meaning mutterer, and they faced the death penalty if caught. Typically, they were burned at the stake, sometimes being strangled first. The burning was supposed to prevent them from being resurrected on Judgement Day.

The trouble is, once you address the question of whether you're reading it right, you have the text mediated by interpretation. There are many evangelists who therefore prefer to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, despite the practical difficulties.

It's easy, and rather lazy, to connect biblical literalism with the Southern evangelical churches that became involved in the White Academies and similar efforts to re-institute segregation. My Evangelical relatives had no problem sending their kids to public schools and no problem with integration, but they do insist on a literal reading of the Bible. And my Adventist relatives don't eat bacon or shellfish, by the way. Biblical litralism is certainly connected with conservative views, but not necessarily connected with slavery or segregation.

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Whatnot


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