Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Arrested Development

I first must apologize for my lack of presence in the blogosphere... Between preparing my humble abode for the winter (closing the pool, insulating and plastic-wrapping the windows, cleaning out the coal stove, etc....), dealing with a shit-load of work frying my neurons, and two discussions on other blogs here and here, I've been a tad bit busy...

But a theme has emerged in both of those discussions on those blogs that occupies my mind in the small window of down time I am afforded each evening: That of the view that the bible is historically accurate, scientifically backed, wholly perfect, and infallible...

Yes, yes, I know: the glittery horns of pink unicorns were used as pens, the blood of fairies as ink, on parchment made from elven skin, and so on and so forth, but a vast majority of Christians hold this to be true, most especially among fundie evangelicals, baptists, and other conservative branches of the YHWH-centric United States--and you (well, at least, I) have to wonder where this notion came from, and why it stays so persistent in an age where knowledge of the reality in which we reside is so readily at your fingertips, so affordable at your local college, so obvious to persons who haven't arrested their logical faculties at the level of a Sunday school class for six-year-olds?

Of course, most of us realize the circular logic of the typical fundie in these types of discussion:

Fundie: The bible is the perfect, inerrant word of god.
Joe Schmoe: It is? How do you know?
Fundie: The bible says so.
Joe Schmoe: Who wrote the bible?
Fundie: God wrote it through man kind.
Joe Schmoe: How do you know they were inspired by god?
Fundie: The bible says so.
Ad inifinitum...

And while most of us realize that simply because someone wrote down somewhere that a god told them to, or inspired them, this does not a perfect deity make. Even if we consider the possibility that this book was god inspired (or god-written, word for word), why would god who wants to reveal himself to all mankind through some type of "perfect revelation" choose an easily corruptible literary model as opposed to some form of communication equally accessible to all man kind? Why not do it when the Internet was around, or spam, for that matter? One massive "virus" with a return address of yhwh@heaven.hev, and BAM! Everyone has the gospel message and no one can deny it was sent by the big cheese himself! (Okay, with a small suspension of disbelief...)

Regardless, anyone who has talked to their grandfather and heard the stories of yesteryear knows how quickly "facts" become distorted, ill-remembered, embellished, changed, and dramatized--this is how your "perfect" word of god started out! Add a few hundred years, a group of people desperate for a messiah (read, saviour, or hero...), a bunch of warring empires who connect through the land you think YHWH gave you, and badda-bing, badda-boom, you have a ripe environment and a colossal collaboration of cultures with which to begin recording your ethnic history--and not in a controlled environment, it might be pointed out.

And while one could argue til one is blue in the face with these "infallible word"-minded folk, have you ever noticed how they seem to have frozen their minds in some type of holy ice?

Christians of this persuasion--the "perfect, unchanging, and infallible work of God" persuasion--say things like, "If you don't take it literally, you don't take it seriously!" Or, "If you don't accept it's perfection, you must reject everything within it's patent-leather covers!"

Of course, this is a false argument, but I really want to talk about how, in their efforts to protect, defend, and otherwise weasel obvious facts into Jeremiah-sized puzzle pieces, what they actually end up doing is locking themselves into an arrested state of development...

Not only can they, by their own admission, take the theology set forth only as far as the authors did (as opposed to using their writings as a spring-board to further a personal journey in any direction they feel the "spirit" may be leading them...), this position in turns demands that they cease any type of critical analysis of any thought expressed beyond the somber black cover! Any type of curiosity about the historical context, cultural or sociological overtones, political upheaval at the time--none of it actually means a damn as the bible must still "be taken literally."

But as knowledge--knowledge independent of anything "revealed" in the bible (whether in a scientific, historical, or even psychological realm)--the literalist is forced to withdrawal even further from society and its progression, which, for all practical purposes has already moved way beyond any of the "science" and "history" located within it's pages. Many fundamentalists who defend the "literal interpretation" of their book become less worshippers of god, and more like a Cirque de Sole of the spiritual realm: contorting and rearranging facts and truths in order for their book to remain a vital, integral part of their lives, despite that in doing so, they remove anything "literal" from their reading of it! And, although most of them start out claiming to be followers of YHWH, and of the messiah, most of them end up being more "bible worshippers" than anything else...

And as the followers of the holy book fall further and further behind, it's adherents are forced into one of three options:
  1. Become more rigid, more inflexible, and thus remove oneself further and further from "the world" (much like the Amish)
  2. Adapt and flex their theology, until it morphs into something semi-compatible with the continuing growth of external knowledge (much like "new age" Christianity)
  3. Or leave the faith altogether, but allow for the bible (and other religious texts like it) as a book which documents our past, where we used to be, and how we got to where we are...
There may be a fourth option, but I don't see it at this point. This is still kind of a "mulling over" process as I try to continue to challenge myself, and analyze my journey and where it may eventually lead...

To follow up on Ergo's question, no, I haven't yet read Dawkin's book, although I certainly keep hearing a ton about it. Perhaps one of the dear readers here who shop for Xmas and my birthday will take note of the title? (The God Delusion...)

Or even maybe a Borders gift certificate? :D

I'm actually just starting a book entitled "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life..." I expect it to keep me busy for quite some time!! And of course, there are several more on the list in addition to Dawkin's book... Hopefully, winter will afford me plenty of time for reading and for playing a little GameCube... We'll see how it goes.... :D


James F. McGrath said...

I wonder if the blogosphere is evolving consciousness - you and I are only a couple of the bloggers who addressed the concept of inerrancy today...

If the singularity really is near, I hope it looks fondly on us bloggers who fed its machine intelligence in its infancy! :)

Sylvia said...

Hey Ja
Just stopping by to say "Hey!" I enjoyed your blog today. Question...could you maybe blog about that Jena 6 that's been all over the news.
That whole thing just really irks me...those boys should be held accountable for what they did....But let's free the Jena 6 anyway...for shits and giggles...(morons)...It's not a racial thing...it's a justice thing. But, lately, that's gone down the shitter too.
Anyway, I was just curious as to what your thoughts were on the matter.
It would be an interesting read.
ps coming to my graduation ceremony. I'd love it for you guys to come...I love you two!!!!!