Sunday, December 28, 2008

Disproving Science and Losing Religion

1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?

or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

2 Canst thou put an hook into his nose?

or bore his jaw through with a thorn?

3 Will he make many supplications unto thee?

will he speak soft words unto thee?

4 Will he make a covenant with thee?

wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?

5 Wilt thou play with him as with a bird?

or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?

6 Shall the companions make a banquet of him?

shall they part him among the merchants?

7 Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons?

or his head with fish spears?

8 Lay thine hand upon him,

remember the battle, do no more.

9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain:

shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?

10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up:

who then is able to stand before me?

11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him?

whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.

12 I will not conceal his parts,

nor his power, nor his comely proportion.

13 Who can discover the face of his garment?

or who can come to him with his double bridle?

14 Who can open the doors of his face?

his teeth are terrible round about.

15 His scales are his pride,

shut up together as with a close seal.

16 One is so near to another,

that no air can come between them.

17 They are joined one to another,

they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.

18 By his neesings a light doth shine,

and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.

19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps,

and sparks of fire leap out.

20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke,

as out of a seething pot or caldron.

21 His breath kindleth coals,

and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

22 In his neck remaineth strength,

and sorrow is turned into joy before him.

23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together:

they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.

24 His heart is as firm as a stone;

yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.

25 When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid:

by reason of breakings they purify themselves.

26 The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold:

the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.

27 He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.

28 The arrow cannot make him flee:

slingstones are turned with him into stubble.

29 Darts are counted as stubble:

he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.

30 Sharp stones are under him:

he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.

31 He maketh the deep to boil like a pot:

he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.

32 He maketh a path to shine after him;

one would think the deep to be hoary.

33 Upon earth there is not his like,

who is made without fear.

34 He beholdeth all high things:

he is a king over all the children of pride.

I must have been about 15 years old the day I was presented with this text. It was during lunch at school: I was returning from dumping the contents of my tray, and as I weaved my way through the crowded cafeteria back to my seat, I passed a table of casual friends and stopped to say hello. They were huddled intently over a book and talking excitedly amongst themselves. As I approached, they greeted me and, continuing with their conversation, asked if I wanted to see proof that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

I was game, so they handed me the Bible that had been so happily reading and flipped it open to chapter 41 of the Book of Job. “See!” they said. “Right here! Read it!” So I did, and when I was finished, they impatiently asked me if I did not think that the passage was referring to a dinosaur.

“No,” I replied. “I think it’s about a dragon. It talks about breathing fire and such.”

They shared a secret smile with each other, and their leader, with a resigned and patronizing air, said to me, “Well, you can’t take the Bible literally.”

I laughed the rest of the day.

[Here’s a nice little discussion of how the Bible “proves” that dinosaurs and man coexisted. I particularly like their cited references. It’s a very scientific and amusing article.]

I think it was a series of events and occurrences such as this one that slowly killed my faith in Christianity. I was in awe of people who could blatantly ignore what to me were obvious facts. Evolution versus creation? Please. Blind faith over careful reasoning, every time. I couldn’t understand it. If these ignorant, arrogant souls were the typical Christian, well, I had no use for the religion, thank you very much.

My parents aren’t particularly religious, but we used to go to Church together. I attended Catholic school. I wanted to be a good little Christian girl. I was excited when I got my grownup Bible, and as I read it, I asked questions. “What’s a ‘prostitute’?” I asked my teacher. I received a cryptic, unsatisfactory answer. “What is ‘rape’?” I asked my parents. That got my grownup Bible taken away. But still, I was interested in the stories. “Did people really used to live to be 900 years old? If God killed everyone except Noah and his family, doesn’t that mean we’re all descended from Noah? Isn’t that incest?” It didn’t make sense, but I didn’t particularly care.

Even after leaving Catholic school and slowly drawing away from Church, I still clung to some sort of Christian principle. I had learned about world religions and had developed a healthy respect and admiration for them. But the more I learned, the more I realized that every religion claimed to be the One Truth. If you didn’t believe in the One Truth, you would go to hell, so choose wisely. This angered me, so like Marx I said to myself that “religion is the opiate of the masses” and turned my back on the whole stinkin’ thing.

This isn’t to say that I became an atheist. Far from it. To me, God and science were perfectly reconcilable, just not within the realms of traditional dogma. While I didn’t particularly enjoy the play Inherit the Wind, I had to appreciate its message. Why can’t we have it both ways? I just thought that the faithful were as brainwashed and uninventive as the scientist-bashing sect of the cafeteria, so I held myself separate and aloof.

Nowadays, I realize that idiots like my lunch table friends aren’t exactly the best examples of devout worshippers. There are educated, intelligent, rational people who still have strong faith—including some of my greatest role models—so I hope I can say that my war on religion has ended. It’s just the attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong and nothing you can possibly say will ever convince me otherwise” that really grates on my nerves. Why can’t the literalists and creationists keep an open mind and say, “Y’know, maybe this Darwin guy wasn’t the antichrist, and maybe all this high-tech hocus-pocus really does help us to learn about the natural world.” Why can’t hardcore scientists say, “Y’know, analytical techniques only go so far, and no matter what at some point we’ve got to make a leap of faith, so let’s not go bashing on religion.”

Why can’t we all just listen to each other and consider other people’s opinions? Must our pride and self-assurance (as well our absolute fear of being wrong) prevent us from doing so?

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