Thursday, December 16, 2004

Honest Creationists

Over at the Unscrewing the Inscrutable, whose author I mostly agree with except for on abortion rights, there is an article on a Glenn Morton, an honest, science-accepting creationist who is willing to battle the forces of Christian anti-science and superstition.

The operative phrase there is willing to battle the forces of Christian anti-science and superstition.

Often, when I am telling someone, like my friend Mike or my mother, about the latest outrage being committed by Jerry Falwell or some crazy evangelical group, that "not all Christians are like that." The implication being that I shouldn't criticize Christians, as a group, for what some Christians are doing.


If you identify yourself as a Christian, support Christian causes and values, vote in accord with your Christian values and ideals, but do nothing when Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones University, the Christian right, and hardcore evangelicals hijack your religion in an attempt to turn this nation into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, you are, by your silence, tacitly supporting the efforts of the theocrats, and thus are just as guilty as they. The argument that "not all Christians are like that" is like saying "not all Nazis were like that." Which is true. Many in the Nazi party were not anti-Semites, did not support sending Jews to death camps, and did not want Germany to invade the rest of Europe. But, by identifying themselves as members of the Nazi party and saying and doing nothing while the Nazis committed horrible atrocities, those members who opposed Hitler's policies but remained silent must share the guilt of all Nazis.

When someone commits a crime in your name and you say nothing, you support the criminal.

My mother, in an attempt to color me and the liberal left as intolerant for our views of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, told me, "I worked with a nurse who was a fundamentalist Christian. She never tried to convert me or anything." Which is good. But failure to do evil is not the same as doing good. If she goes to church and listens to the evangelical pastor preach Christian theocracy every Sunday, listens as her friends and family support theocratic positions and causes, gives money to a church which sponsors theocratic causes, and does not voice her opposition to theocratic forces in her religion, she is supporting theocracy and does not deserve to be singled out as "not being like that." Allowing theocrats to use your money and voice to support theocracy makes you a theocrat whether you actually agree with the theocrats or not.

In order for the "all Christians aren't like that" argument to have any value, all these Christians who supposedly oppose the religious right would have to speak up and combat those forces. But, by and large, they don't.

And I am not a hypocrite. I put my money where my mouth is on this issue. When the Democrats and the Gore campaign tried to disallow overseas military ballots in Florida during the 2000 campaign, I spoke out and said it was wrong. I was a Democrat, but I saw that my party was doing something wrong, and I called them on it. I wasn't silent on the issue. I didn't ignore the issue. I didn't call myself a Democrat but then fail to notice what the Democrats were doing. Negligence and ignorance are not excuses either. You are responsible for the actions of groups you claim allegiance with if you do not oppose the actions you deem wrong.

I am an atheist. I am not a member of the American Atheists. Why? Even though I share a common lack of belief with the members of that group, I do not agree with their stances, policies, and actions in many cases. For instance, the American Atheists picketed a Promise Keeper's rally at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. I think that was wrong. The Promise Keepers have every right to exercise their religious freedom under the First Amendment and hold a rally in a venue they have rented if they so choose. There is no reason to protest it. Replying to Christian intolerance with intolerance is wrong.

And, since a lot of people think that all atheists are of one voice and do not realize that there is a distinction between being an atheist and being a member of the American Atheists, I see it as my duty to criticize the American Atheists when they do something wrong. I will not allow the American Atheists to speak with my voice, nor will I allow others to think the American Atheists speak with my voice. They don't. And I have said so many times, public and private, just as I am doing for the whole world to see right now.

So, I do applaud Mr. Morton, not because he is a Christian who believes in science and not superstition, but because he is a Christian who believes in science and is willing to speak up and oppose those Christians who don't. That's what makes Mr. Morton someone to lauded. He has the courage of his convinctions and isn't willing to sit by and let the forces of fundamentalism hijack his religion in his name and destroy reason, science education, and the separation of church and state in this country.

Also, check out this article Morton wrote. "Morton's Demon," as he calls it, isn't a new idea. It's simply a way of explaining how believing something without evidence ensures that evidence will not sway that belief. But I think the article is important because it is written by a Christian who still believes in his religion but has seen the ways in which his co-religionists have abandoned it. If more Christians would point this out, rather than non-Christians who Christians are unlikely to listen to, maybe this country could move past the idea that religion and science cannot coexist and this idiotic argument over creationism vs. evolution, which is an incoherent argument since evolution doesn't deal with the origins of life, will finally be put in the dustbin of history.


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