Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Evangelical Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Salve Amici!

As I mentioned in my first entry, I enjoy engaging in discourse over controversial topics. Of the controversial topics that I enjoy discussing most, religion is by far the greatest. As I have a lot of friends who are, shall we say, "enthusiastic" about their religions, discussion of this topic has often led to a degree of drama beyond which I have a taste for. In as much as I love a good debate, we all know that most people of the fundamentalist persuasion are incapable of friendly debate. For in disagreeing with their world view, you are automatically declared as not only "wrong," but worse . . . you are evil, or an abomination, or have some kind of twisted agenda.

That's what I want to talk about today . . . The Evangelical paranoia that everything is out to get them. To disagree with them, you declare yourself their enemy. And as they view the world in "Black and white," "Good and Evil," and "0's and 1's" . . . everything is polarized. They call themselves good, therefore everything that is different is evil. And evil, as they say, is out to destroy them. Science is evil, many of them say. Evolution and its proponents are evil. And, of course, they are there to destroy Christianity.

The Phantom Menace. Fundamentalist Christianity, as the polarizing force that it is, requires an enemy. There can be no good if there is no evil in that kind of world view. It is as though Christianity can not exist unless they have enemies. They need enemies. And here in America, where there is no large scale persecution of Christians, they need to fabricate enemies. Science is not trying to destroy Christianity. It is an enemy that does not really exist. It is their Phantom Menace.

You've likely heard their rhetoric. You've likely seen them talk about how "there is no difference between religion and science." They say people worship Darwin, and they say a belief in science is as much a matter of faith as is religion. I beg to differ. This is entirely poppycock, and one of their more absurd arguments. And that's saying something . . .

In their romanticized, imagined little war, the two forces clash in an epic struggle of good and evil. In the battle, the Evangelicals cast themselves as the good guys (naturally), and they have their vast array of strategies to fight off the evil scientist villains. This array, as we all know, includes far more than just the usual "witnessing" rhetoric and attempts to recruit an army of converts. We've all seen them try to slip their biblical teachings into the public schools, calling it "Creation Science," and then try further still by sneaking the scriptures into the public science classrooms in the Trojan Horse called "Intelligent Design." They try to attack the validity of evolution, left and right, and in their smear campaign against the scientific community, they attack the morality of the scientists themselves. The whole time, they hold their banners high and praise their own righteousness. Of course their scientific counterparts do exactly the same thing . . .

. . . wait a minute. Do they?

Well, the Evangelicals say they do. But . . . do they? Or are the scientists indeed a Phantom Menace? Are they (and their actions) exaggerated to the point of absurdity in order for the religion to have the polar counterpart in their dualistic faith? They need an enemy after all . . . and as anyone who disagrees with them is declared an enemy, what does that make Science?

Science does not attack religion in the same way that religion attacks science, and contrary to what we hear from Evangelical Rhetoric, there are certainly no Darwin worshipers. Let's take a look at an imagined history where Science took the same rout as religion. Imagine a world where everyone worshiped Darwin. As a dogmatic faith grew up around him, a Protestant Darwinian group broke free from them. From then on, they killed each other and fought continuously about the proper way to interpret his evolutionary theories. The Darwinians also had an inquisition where they tortured people who clung to their old world view based on a more ancient scientist, Aristotle. And of course, those nasty worshipers of Einstein eventually flew their aircraft into a pair of buildings. After all, Einstein promised them 72 theories as a reward in the afterlife.

I could go on with cynical comparisons to historical atrocities, but there really is no need. You can imagine them yourself. But on a more practical level, can you really see the two as polar opposites in this imagined war? They say people worship Darwin and Einstein. Well . . . granted, there are a number of scientists slavishly devoted to them. But be rational. Is that really the same thing? We can't confuse "Hero worship" with real worship. People do become fanatical about their heroes, whether they be some effeminate twit pop singer, to a football player. Scientists do not believe Darwin is watching them from above, answering their prayers, and they do not believe he will punish them for lack of devotion. They do not believe Einstein died for their sins, and they certainly do not believe Richard Dawkins cares about their sex life.

Folks, it's just not the same thing. When was the last time you saw Scientists lobbying to put Evolution in the churches? For that matter, when was the last time you saw scientists picketing a sermon or a mass? I certainly can't remember Scientists knocking on my door in the morning to tell me about the word of Darwin. I don't recall any BASID* groups on campus swaying and chanting in praise of Darwin or any members of Campus Crusade for Dawkins going out onto the quad and trying to hassle people to accept Richard Dawkins as their lord and savior. None of us have ever been threatened with the eternal torment for rejecting Einstein, nor has our moral character been in question for simply not reading our science textbooks.

(Ok, I concede that last one. I had several science teachers get on me for not reading my assignments over the years).

Does it really seem like a war? Do the two seem to be so similar, as the Evangelicals suggest? Not even close . . . At most, scientists will disagree with creationists. And yes, some scientists can be arrogant. But still, from even the most arrogant scientists, the worst a Creationist can expect is to be thought of as irrational. In this "war," scientists are, if anything, on the defensive. It is religion trying to invade the science class, not science trying to invade the Church.

What constitutes an attack, from the viewpoint of an Evangelical? Usually just a disagreement. That makes you the enemy and all, remember? All we want, those of us in the community of non-believers, is to be left alone, and for the Evangelicals not to expect public institutions, with the use of tax money, to push or promote a religious faith. That's pretty much it.

The notion that they can so often evoke this "War on Christianity" and lay claim to such terrible persecution is laughable. Sure, Christians have been persecuted throughout history (albeit never as bad as they have persecuted members of other religions), but for them to dramatically call what they face here in America "persecution" is not only ignorant, but frankly offensive. When a person or group claims that they are persecuted because a nation simply does not bow to them and accept their edicts as law, or does not use public funding to promote religion, then they are deluded. They are either unaware of what persecution really is (all it takes is looking at terrible things happening in the world, past and present to see real persecution), or else they are just being overly dramatic. Again, they need their menace. Even if it is a phantom.

There is no war on Christianity here in America. Especially when you consider that 75% of the nation's population is Christian. Perhaps there should be a little war. Really . . . Now I don't mean a physical war. I don't condone violence in this, and I certainly don't condone reverse-persecution. I just mean a little verbal war. In this country, Christianity is privileged beyond compare and it is awarded a great deal of respect. As a Christian, you can go on TV and say terrible, horrible things. In this country we frown on supremacism in most cases. We do not allow it on the air . . . unless of course it is an Evangelical saying horrible things about what ever group they are hating at the moment. They can call someone evil, or horrible. They can make threats, and incite violence. They can demean others, without any negative repercussions. Tell me, what do you think the reaction would be if you simply payed them back with 1/10th of the insults they gave? After all . . . they are already persecuted, and you are already their enemy without ever even trying. What would you be if you actually tried? More on that in my next blog on supremacism.

*BASID: Brothers And Sisters in Darwin . . . My little parody of BASIC: Brothers And Sisters in Christ

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