Memebuster: Science mocks religion. God responds.

I haven’t done memebusters in a while, for no other reason than Facebook memes haven’t been terribly interesting lately.

But “God” (the Facebook one, that is) got my goat, so I felt the need to respond.

“God”‘s a hoot, ain’t he.

I’ll let the LORD answer for himself.

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
    when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
    and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it,
    and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
    and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place,
so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
    and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
    and it is dyed like a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked,
    and their uplifted arm is broken.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
    or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
    Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
    and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory
    and that you may discern the paths to its home?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
    and the number of your days is great!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

“Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no one lives,
    on the desert, which is empty of human life,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
    and to make the ground put forth grass?

“Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen.

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
    or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,
    or can you guide the Bear with its children?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,[c]
    or given understanding to the mind?[d]
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
    Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
    and the clods cling together?

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
    or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God,
    and wander about for lack of food? 

Job 38:2-41

The premise that science and religion can’t co-exist with one another is idiotic. God, who created everything, is not a being that can be categorized, and therefore examined. He just Is. It is because of Him that nature is intelligible, and can be observed and understood through science.

Yet New Atheists constantly mock religion in general, and Christianity in particular, because God refuses to submit to being examined under the very particular methods of inquiry demanded by a subset of creatures that is so small, in relation to all of creation, that it is impossible to calculate.

Is it any wonder why God hasn’t responded to their demands?

That’s because we have everything we need to determine that God exists.

Hey New Atheists, you think you’re smart, right?

Figure it out.

An open letter to “God”

Dear “God”,

As you know, the massacre in Orlando over the weekend sickened me. I prayed that the killed may rest in your peace. I have also prayed for the wounded, and for the families and friends who been affected this horrible attack. In fact, it is right to pray for all of us. What happened in Orlando reminds us that we never know when we may be called to leave for the next world.

With all of this said, please forgive me for being taken aback by the question you asked rhetorically on Facebook:

Dear G--

Perhaps “taken aback” is not the best way to describe it. Shocked and appalled are more like it. After all, why would you, “God” of all people, come across as so ignorant of recent history? After all, not only are you omnipotent and omniprescient, you are omniscient. Right?

Seeing that you are, you clearly recall the tremendous suffering atheistic governments imposed on their subjected peoples. True, these governments did not kill people in the name of “atheism”. However, as you know, the 20th century experienced a number of governments that were extremely hostile to religion, for no other reason than it competed with state idolatry. The  form of government that most actively sought to eliminate religion within their borders, and force upon its people an atheistic worldview, was Communism.

As you know, Communism’s contempt with religion is linked directly to Marx. He viewed religion as a social construction (as the cool kids now say – as you know) the poor created to delude themselves that the future will be brighter than today. Religion was determined by a society’s economic superstructure. If capitalists grew rich through that superstructure by exploiting the working class, then the institutions supported by that infrastructure, such as religion, are fraudulent. As you know, Lenin agreed, writing:

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

Thus, when Marx and Lenin sought to establish communism, they also sought to eliminate religion and establish atheism as the state’s “religion”. In fact, Lenin said as much:

Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and practice of scientific socialism.

As you know, Lenin put that theory into action when the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917. The Bolsheviks first sought to ridicule religion through propoganda. They encouraged the popular wave of anti-clericalism that had swept away Church lands that year. They sought to replace the worship of God with veneration of the state, making Communism Russia’s new religion.

In A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924, Orlando Figes documents with dreadful clarity Lenin’s reign of terror against religion beginning in 1921. Under the pretext of gathering resources for famine relief, Lenin encouraged the press to hysterically demand the Russian Orthodox Church to hand over its consecrated valuables for sale. As you know better than anyone else, to use consecreated items for secular purposes is sacrilegious. Thus, Lenin laid the perfect trap for conflict with the Church. Figes writes that:

On 26 February 1922 a decree was sent out to the local Soviets instructing them to remove from the churches all precious items, including those used for religious worship. The decree claimed that their sale was necessary to help the famine victims; but little of the money raised was used for this purpose. Armed bands gutted the local churches, carrying away the icons and crosses, the chalices and mitres, even the iconostases in bits. In many places angry crowds took up arms to defend their local church. In some places they were led by their priests, at others they fought spontaneously. The records tell of 1,414 bloody clashes during 1922-23. Most of these were utterly one-sided. Troops with machine-guns fought against old men and women armed with pitch forks and rusty rifles: 7,100 clergy were killed, including nearly 3,500 nuns, but only a handful of Soviet troops. One such clash in the textile town of Shuya, 200 miles north-east of Moscow, in March 1922, prompted Lenin to issue a secret order for the extermination of the clergy. (pp. 748-9)

Lenin made his intent perfectly clear when he wrote:

The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie and clergy we manage to shoot the better. (pg. 749)

Clearly, as you know, Communist governments did not only kill the religious. They sought to reshape humanity, indeed human nature itself. Therefore, they needed to get rid of those who, in their eyes, stood in the way of a more perfect tomorrow.

The death tolls under Communism are staggering. There is no way of knowing, aside from you of course, the precise number of victims. However, The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 85 and 100 million people were killed by such regimes. Seeing that you are a loving “God”, you certainly don’t, nay can’t, agree with Stalin that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.

And yet, given the immense suffering atheist, Communist regimes have inflicted on humanity, I’m beginning to wonder whether I have been far too charitable in calling you omniscient. Didn’t you think about this when you made your Facebook post? Didn’t you remember the tragedies people suffered under Communism? Didn’t you remember that Lenin sought to force Russia to conform to his Communist, atheist ideology? Don’t you remember his massacre of religious priests, nuns, and people? Don’t you remember the other examples of when that occurred?  Did all of that slip your mind when you made that post?

Dear “God”, I can only come to one conclusion. You are an ignorant “God”. A stupid “God”. A foolish “God”. “God”, I mock thee.

Given that you have clearly shown that you have no idea what you’re talking about, I have one simple suggestion for you.

Read a book.

Memebuster no. 11: Thank goodness Noah saved the penguins!

It has been a while since I’ve addressed a New Atheist meme. However, whenever I find a new one, it rarely disappoints:

Noah is dope!

I don’t know know if there really are grown adults who really believe this. Maybe there are. However, far too many New Atheists get into their “Nailed it!” pose after making this “argument” alone. And their Inner Robert Frosts are most content. Don’t remember him? Allow me to remind you:

tolkien-pipe

He looks pretty happy, doesn’t he?

The problem with this meme, like most New Atheist memes, is extremely simple: it gets the basic facts wrong. Specifically, it assumes the wrong genre when interpreting Genesis. As Robert Barron writes:

One of the most important principles of Catholic Biblical interpretation is that the reader of the Scriptural texts must be sensitive to the genre or literary type of the text with which he is dealing. Just as it would be counter-indicated to read Moby Dick as history or “The Waste Land” as social science, so it is silly to interpret, say, “The Song of Songs” as journalism or the Gospel of Matthew as a spy novel. By the same token, it is deeply problematic to read the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific treatise. If I can borrow an insight from Fr. George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, no Biblical text can possibly be “scientific” in nature, since “science,” as we understand it, first emerged some fourteen centuries after the composition of the last Biblical book. The author of Genesis simply wasn’t doing what Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Hawking were doing; he wasn’t attempting to explain the origins of things in the characteristically modern manner, which is to say, on the basis of empirical observation, testing of hypotheses, marshalling of evidence, and experimentation. Therefore, to maintain that the opening chapters of Genesis are “bad science” is a bit like saying “The Iliad” is bad history or “The Chicago Tribune” is not very compelling poetry.

So what is the author of Genesis trying to communicate? In Barron’s words, an “exquisite theology”:

[T]he opening of the Bible gives itself to us in all of its theological and spiritual power. Let me explore just a few dimensions of this lyrical and evocative text. We hear that Yahweh brought forth the whole of created reality through great acts of speech: “Let there be light,’ and there was light; ‘Let the dry land appear’ and so it was.” In almost every mythological cosmology in the ancient world, God or the gods establish order through some act of violence. They conquer rival powers or they impose their will on some recalcitrant matter. (How fascinating, by the way, that we still largely subscribe to this manner of explanation, convinced that order can be maintained only through violence or the threat of violence). But there is none of this in the Biblical account. God doesn’t subdue some rival or express his will through violence. Rather, through a sheerly generous and peaceful act of speech, he gives rise to the whole of the universe. This means that the most fundamental truth of things—the metaphysics that governs reality at the deepest level—is peace and non-violence. Can you see how congruent this is with Jesus’ great teachings on non-violence and enemy love in the Sermon on the Mount? The Lord is instructing his followers how to live in accord with the elemental grain of the universe.

Secondly, we are meant to notice the elements of creation that are explicitly mentioned in this account: the heavens, the stars, the sun, the moon, the earth itself, the sea, the wide variety of animals that roam the earth. Each one of these was proposed by various cultures in the ancient world as objects of worship. Many of the peoples that surrounded Israel held sky, stars, sun, moon, the earth, and various animals to be gods. By insisting that these were, in fact, created by the true God, the author of Genesis was, not so subtly, de-throning false claimants to divinity and disallowing all forms of idolatry. Mind you, the author of Genesis never tires of reminding us that everything that God made is good (thus holding off all forms of dualism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism), but none of these good things is the ultimate good.

A third feature that we should notice is the position and role of Adam, the primal human, in the context of God’s creation. He is given the responsibility of naming the animals , “all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts” (Gen. 2:20). The Church fathers read this as follows: naming God’s creatures in accord with the intelligibility placed in them by the Creator, Adam is the first scientist and philosopher, for he is, quite literally, “cataloguing” the world he sees around him. (Kata Logon means “according to the word”). From the beginning, the author is telling us, God accords to his rational creatures the privilege of participating, through their own acts of intelligence, in God’s intelligent ordering of the world. This is why, too, Adam is told, not to dominate the world, but precisely to “cultivate and care for it” (Gen. 2: 16), perpetuating thereby the non-violence of the creative act.

That’s all well and good, one might say, but what about Noah and his blasted penguins? Barron addresses this, indirectly, in his review of the movie Noah. Rather than focusing on whether penguins waddled all the way from Antartica before the Great Flood, Barrons sees the ark as a theological metaphor of the church:

During a time of moral and spiritual chaos, when the primal watery chaos out of which God created the world returned with a vengeance, the Creator sent a rescue operation, a great boat on which a microcosm of God’s good order would be preserved. For the Church Fathers, this is precisely the purpose and meaning of the Church: to be a safe haven where, in the midst of a sinful world, God’s word is proclaimed, where God is properly worshipped, and where a rightly ordered humanity lives in justice and non-violence. Just as Noah’s Ark carried the seeds of a new creation, so the Church is meant to let out the life that it preserves for the renewal of the world.

It makes no sense at all to read the Book of Genesis as a scientific text. Rather, the reader needs to understand the theological lessons the writer is intending to teach. It may be convenient to laugh at those who might read the book more literally than it should, but that doesn’t mean those teachings aren’t there. Whether they are true is certainly a matter to debate. To ignore them, however, is to not argue.

 

Memebuster no. 7: A New Atheist’s charitable criticism of Christianity

Well, not really.

jewish zombie

I don’t mind snarkiness when it is well informed. As you can see, I can get pretty snarky myself. However, I really don’t like snark when it isn’t well informed. What can I say? I’m funny that way.

I could talk about how the Bible ought to be read, how theology helps interpret it, how the Bible includes different types of literature to communicate various religious truths, what those truths actually are, and so on. Yet in the back of my mind I have to ask myself if I would be wasting my time if I was talking to the writer of this meme? Looks like that person’s mind is already made up.

In the interest of time, all I’ll say is that there is a way that the Bible ought to be read, that theology helps interpret it, that the Bible includes different types of literature to communicate various religious truths, and there are particular religious truths. To those who are interested in learning more about what Catholicism actually believes in, read this. To those who aren’t interested, don’t.

Just don’t expect me to take uninformed snark seriously.

Memebuster no. 2: Silly mommy. God is for kids!

It has been a while since I’ve posted a memebuster since the opening post of this blog. Fortunately, I’ve found a doozy to tackle:

Where did faith go

Isn’t that cute?

Yup, we know  that there is no god because there are molecules. And solar systems. And monkeys that evolved into humans.

With memes like this, perhaps we should have stayed as monkeys.

Just because God can’t be observed through scientific method doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. In fact, as smart as New Atheists claim to be, one would think that they would recognize that no one can prove the negative of anything!

New Atheists like to claim that they won’t believe in anything unless there is EVIDENCE that what they believe is true. While on the surface this may be seem reasonable, in the end it’s a ridiculous notion to live by. We all must live our lives with some preconceived notions of how the world works, why certain relationships (like family relationships) are important, and so on. To think otherwise is to have a permenantly sceptical relationship with reality, which is impossible, if not unhealthy.

Furthermore, NAs discount evidence that are inconvenient to their world views. NAs aren’t unique in this deficiency, but that doens’t discount the importance of their mistake. For example, NAs love to claim that the Bible doesn’t provide sufficient proof that God exists. However, that means that they are unwilling to accept the testimonies of the disciples of Jesus and their followers as provided in the four Gospels. The claim is that the Gospels aren’t “scientific,” and yet as Brad Pitre points out in his important book The Case for Jesus, the Gospels were written in the same manner as biographies of important people during that time. One may dispute the veracity of those testimonies, but to be intellectually honest, one must take into account as many sources as possible, and logical reasoning, when doing so. To flippantly call the Gospels lies without any basis serves no one, particularly the one making this claim.

It is true that the Bible includes many books from a wide variety of sources over long period of time. It would be impossible to think that there wouldn’t be inconsistencies among these books. That’s where theology comes in. That’s where the Catholic church comes in to sort out and interpret all of these scriptures in a consistent manner. After all, the Catholic church claims that it was founded by Jesus himself, and that he gave Peter authority over it. The doctrines and traditions of the Church seek to communicate that the Son of God came down to earth to save humandkind. Thus the saying the Old Testemant informs the New Testament, and vice verca. To mock Catholic doctrine without understanding it serves no one, particularly those who are doing the mocking.

Finally, far too many NAs hold the view that religion feels threatened by science because it somehow competes with religion over understanding reality. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As John Polkinghorne demonstrated in his little book Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, science and religion can co-exist with one another because they seek to understand from different perspectives. Furthermore, Bishop Robert Barron has mentioned in countless occassions that God seeks to be in the world without competing with humans in the process. Unlike pagan gods that battle humans and each other, the very fact that Jesus is both God and man shows that God can be in the world in a noncompetitive, nonviolent manner.

There is no either-or. When it comes to religion and science, there is no reason to think that it is anything but both-and.

Memebuster No. 1: the false choice

While Facebook memes can be informative, far too many people use them to reinforce their own beliefs. They do this primarily by posting memes that remind themselves about how stupid their opponents supposedly are. There are so many bad memes flying around, I thought it would be worthwhile to dedicate posts on particular memes and what’s wrong with them. I couldn’t have found a better meme to begin with than the following that I saw today:

12888776_1556146284715192_4683955683050200518_o

My immediate reaction to this meme was simple: this is mindnumbingly stupid. If someone see that I’m choking, of course I want that person to perform the Heimlich manuever on me!  Stop pretending to offer me options and just do it!

What makes anyone think that if person A observes person B choking, person A will actually contemplate between the two options while person B is turning blue? And yet, far too many New Atheists believe that there are real people out there whose religious beliefs would actually lead them to do just that. Furthermore, whoever wrote this apparently thought that it furthers their argument that atheists are the only rational and reasonable people out there, and religious people won’t act to save someone’s life because their imaginary friends will do it for them.

What happens if a Christian observes someone choking and performs the Heimlich maneuver? Has she inadvertantly shown her underlying lack in faith by doing something concretly to save that person’s life rather than just standing there and praying? Absolutely not. In fact, by taking such actions, Christians are helping to build Christ’s kingdom on earth. Jesus made this abundantly clear to his disciples as he explained to them who shall be with him in heaven:

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

To be Christ-like –Christian – one must follow in his footsteps and his commandments: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40). In other words, a Christian must always look out for the welfare of others, regardless of their beliefs or circumstances. This is reflected beautifully in Teresa of Avila’s poem Christ Has No Body:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

When a Christian performs the Heinlich maneuver on a choking Atheist, she is praying for his welfare, both in this life and in the next, through her action. The two are not separable.