Monday, December 31, 2007

The top seven things I would like to ask Fundamentalist Christians.

Everyone seems to make lists at the end of the year. I am not sure why this is. Maybe it just puts some sort of order onto chaos. Maybe it’s just a tradition. Anyway, here is my entry on the plethora of lists at this time of the year. Here is my list of questions about which I would like to have answers from Fundamentalist Christians who believe that every single word of the Bible is true, and only true to their particular interpretation, including that the Earth is only around 6000 years old.

1. Fundamentalist Christians put mankind at the center of the universe, it seems. Everything revolves around us, just as humans would have believed 2000 years ago when we had no idea of what the universe we live in actually looks like. Yet, if you take a look at what we know of the universe now, even the galaxy we live is in just a speck in the vastness, and it takes light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, over 100,000 years to get from one side of that one speck to the other. There are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy. There are billions of observable galaxies in the universe. Why would God bother with making such an immense and scarcely comprehensible universe, and at the same time, be concerned with every single individual and whether or not we believe in Him? This just seems so incredibly petty and small of a God that could create such a universe.

2. If, as you maintain, every single word of the Bible is “God’s Truth”, how do you explain the numerous contradictions and other inexplicable actions taken both by God and by his faithful? There are very obvious examples. Did Noah take two beasts of each kind? Or, was it “clean beasts thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and his female”(Genesis 7.2)? It can’t be both, can it? Or, the famous question of, who was Cain’s wife and where did she come from, if Cain and Able were the only people in the world after Adam and Eve? Cain built an entire city and populated it only with his offspring? An entire city? Sounds pretty doubtful. I find the story of Joshua destroying the city of Jericho very cruel and bloodthirsty. Because Jehovah (God by another name) “gave” the city to Joshua (Joshua 6.1), it was acceptable then to destroy the city and either kill or expel all the city’s inhabitants, who had done nothing wrong in the least? That is a terrible, terrible thing to do to innocent people. Likewise, God commanding Abraham to kill his son, just to see if he would do it, seems like a terrible thing for God to do (Genesis 22.10). I would call that the ultimate “no win” situation. The Bible contains many requirements for burnt offerings, killing of those who are unlike you, etc. I want to hear how the Fundamentalist Christians explain all these very troubling and contradictory passages in God’s Truth.

3. Was the physical nature of the universe actually different than it is today? Having the sun rise in the west and set in the east is a physical impossibility and one, if it were actually to occur, would cause a catastrophe that would essentially destroy the Earth. Did this really occur, the Earth rotate in the opposite direction? Was the refraction of light impossible prior to the Great Flood? The Bible (Genesis 9.14) states that the rainbow is God’s promise that He will not destroy the Earth again by floods. Did the physics of light and refraction change? And, just as an aside, where did all the water go that was used to cover up all the surface of the Earth such that no dry land remained?

4. Much has been made about the animals that Noah took with him on his Ark. Fundamentalists have been forced to accept the existence of dinosaurs, since there is overwhelming evidence that they existed. The Bible never mentions them, but they must have existed. Therefore, fundamentalists, rather than try to work out how the Bible might be incorrect about time scales, just incorporated them into their own version of “The Truth”. That is, Noah took all the dinosaurs on the Ark with him. No further thought is required for this improbable hypothesis, it seems, but leaves unanswered the huge size of the beasts involved and the sheer numbers involved. It would be absolutely impossible to house even two of each kind of the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and other animals that we know existed, given the Ark’s stated size (Genesis 6.15). Besides, maybe dinosaurs were “clean beasts”.

5. I want to know where Neanderthals fit into the picture. Neanderthals are just like dinosaurs. There is undeniable evidence that they existed in Europe and the Middle East, for over 100,000 years. Yet, Fundamentalist Christians ignore all this evidence, as it is just too difficult to work into their accepted biblical narrative. Neanderthals were definitely humans (not monkeys or apes) but not homo sapiens, either. They used tools. They buried their dead. Like the dinosaurs, did Noah carry Neanderthals on his Ark? Fundamentalist Christians like to make much of the hoax of the Piltdown Man (conveniently forgetting that scientists were the ones who uncovered the hoax, not Christians), but are totally silent on the subject of the Neanderthals.

6. How do all the heavily cratered objects in our solar system, such as the Moon, Mercury, and all the various moons of the gas giants, fit in with the theory that the Earth is only 6000 years old? Were all these other bodies already present, such that they reached their heavily cratered state (craters inside of older craters inside of older craters) prior to the Earth being created? It is not possible that these bodies were bombarded with millions of objects during their formation and the Earth was not. 6000 years is not enough time for even such as a geologically and meteorologically active place such as our Earth to fully erase the evidence of such bombardment. Where did all these bodies that impacted the major bodies in our solar system go, and why aren’t we hit every week or month by such an object?

7. There is ample geological evidence, which is visible to the naked eye and takes no formal training to understand, that discounts the notion of a very young Earth. How do Fundamentalist Christians explain things like the Hawaiian Islands, where the land building mechanism is easily observable? 6000 years is obviously not enough time for a volcanic “hot spot” in the crust of the earth create the chain of islands, each of which rises hundreds of thousands of feet from the ocean floor. Did God create all these islands and then just happen to create what just looks like geological evidence that would explain their creation? How are there fossils of forests and animals in Antarctica? Why are there places in Colorado which have dinosaur prints fossilized in solid rock, but are inclined at almost 90 degrees perpendicular to the surface of the Earth? How does the Bible explain plate tectonics and continental drift? Mountain ranges like the Himalayas just happened to be placed at the junction of these plates that are pushing against each other?

All attempts at explanations that the Bible seems to hold so dear seems to me to be an attempt my man who had very little knowledge of the actual world he inhabited. I can’t see any reason why I should take the story of Noah any more literally than I would a story from the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. They have a legend about the time when Whale fought with Bear, and much was destroyed. After putting many varying pieces of information together, it appears that this story was an attempt at explaining a very large earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which also inundated the coastline of Japan in the 1600’s or 1700’s, I am not sure which. The Native Americans of that time were attempting to explain something that they had no explanation for. Why is it not likely that the miracles and odd happenings in the Old Testament are along the same line? I cannot see that the inherent nature of our earth or our universe, or the fundamental laws of physics, changed since biblical times. So, why is what is in the Bible any more compelling than the legends of all the other religions?

I suppose religion is an individual’s way to try to get a handle on the universe, the uncertainty of our society, and, the ultimate question, what happens when we die. Obviously, our species has an inherent need for those kinds of explanations. We do not like uncertainty. But if you consult Occam’s Razor, the explanations that are coming from science, even though they are very, very strange (such as, how can an electron be a particle AND a wave at the same time), seem to make more sense to me that postulating a benevolent being that created the entire universe but seems to care about whether or not we believe in Him, on an individual basis.

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