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Entry 27 – Purging Prophecy for Pornography?

March 15, 2010

A story recently from made me think a little more than usual about being considered an atheist. 

A student group on the campus of the University of Texas, San Antonio asked students to turn in their Bibles and get pornography as a replacement.  The campaign was dubbed, “Smut for Smut”. 

I was saddened and frustrated by this story.  Let me explain. 

I’m certainly no fan of the ‘uber-Christian-right’, and their tactics for acheiving Christian theocratic dominance around the world. 

And I think I understand the WHY of tactics such as the ones used by the campus group in San Antonio.  It isn’t lost on me that for too long the Christians of the United States,and the world for that matter, have enjoyed a certain sense of political power (i.e. in the more recent past, think Focus on the Family, Moral Majority, Billy Graham Crusades, the National Prayer Breakfast, The Family aka ‘C Street’, etc.)  The ‘New Atheists’, as they are often referred to in the media, I would imagine feel empowered with their new found status as an ‘up and coming’ group in society.  They have strong logical arguments for their positions on the metaphysical world, or the lack thereof, and want to get these arguments out to those who will listen. 

I would even consider myself one of these ‘New Atheists’.  I feel emboldened by the Dawkinses, the Dennetts, the Harrises, and the Stengers of the world today.  I don’t live my life any longer under the auspices of a higher power watching over my every move and thought, waiting to see if that last move or last thought was ‘Godly’ enough, or worthy of His majesty’s glory and praise.  I scoff at supernatural explanations where naturalistic ones will suffice. 

However, when we, as ‘New Atheists’, or agnostics, or whatever the latest label of the day is for those who don’t believe in the supernatural, purposely go out of our way to offend people of faith, I think we do ourselves and the rest of the community a great disservice.  I think we stoop to their level of discourse; brash, insensitive, and no thought to how someone might interpret such harsh methods.  I think in the long view of history on this planet, offensive tactics toward a particular group of people do more harm than good,  agitating and heating things up, rather than shedding light on the situation. 

I see nothing wrong with stating that you don’t agree with a certain position.  But do you have to go for ‘shock value’ when you state this position? 

Isn’t it more tactful and strategic to simply resist fanning a dogmatic ‘flame’ that in many respects is  just a smoldering ’ember’ from a bygone age?  I’m reminded of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man skits from Saturday Night Live in the 1990’s.  Carvey’d bemoan the ‘kids today’ and repeatedly conjur up the cliche of the ‘world going to hell in a handbasket’.  And he LIKED IT!  😉  That grumpy old man is the grumpy old religious idea that dies hard, but in the end, it dies. 

In a way it’s kind of sad to see these beleagured religious explanations for our origins going the way of the idea waste pile.  These ideas once held such promise, and were widely accepted and respected world viewpoints. 

Now, with the rapid advance of science and technology, these explanations for our origins seem less and less powerful as they once did when we didn’t have molecular genetics departments in most large universities, or the Large Hadron Collider trying to split atoms into tinier and tinier quanta. 

I liken people who always invoke ‘god(s) of the gaps’ defenses when there is no other current naturalistic explanation for something to those who still rely on dial-up internet for accessing the world wide web, or people still using floppy disks when the flash drive or ‘nerd stick’ can transfer and store so much more information quickly and efficiently. 

But, in the end, if these people want to invoke God and other supernatural explanations for phenomena they see around them, then let’s let them be.  Seriously, let’s let them have their faith and eat it too.  But, in this letting, let’s let them have this faith with the understanding that if this faith gets to getting into public policy where legislation is passed to make a particular KIND of faith THE faith of the governed, then the faith letting has gone too far.  

My mother always likes to point out, from Hebrews 11:1 of the King James Bible that ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  I don’t even know what that second part really even means (Bible Scholars out there, please instruct accordingly), but I think if you want to have faith, please, go right ahead.  Just please understand that the rest of the rational world is not going to operate on the same principles as you do with this faith, and this rest of the rational world shouldn’t be made to feel like we should operate on irrational principles of faith. 

I like Mark Twain, and I think a more apt summation of ‘Faith’ comes from his 1894 Following the Equator.  In this work, Twain writes that ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t so!” 

Until next time, thanks for stopping by,


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    March 18, 2010 9:36 pm

    I agree… I’m a person that totally believes in individual rights via the constitution… Sometimes I think our school systems should integrate more of the constitution throughout the subject matters so citizens grow up respecting the inalienable rights of others as much as their own. Unless people have a true appreciation of our rights as citizens of this country, how can they really respect those rights of our fellowman… This is not a country of majority rule… but of individual rights and freedoms…. so the answer is not to offend our fellowman but to be able to live in an environment unfettered by majority rule enjoying person freedoms unencumbered… in this respect we should all be fighting for the rights of our neighbors and in the process embed each others freedoms and insure our own today and in our future.

    • Mitch permalink
      September 8, 2010 11:30 am

      You know, I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny long ago. However, I don’t go out of my way to take these comforting fairy tales away from children.

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