Relevant to Kim Davis’s situation.
I just got the latest Answers In Genesis newsletter today. I’m on the list because I ordered some of their videos on their site (one of which I reviewed here). This is the first one I’ve received and I can tell it’s going to be a monthly source of amusement and bewilderment.
The lead story in this month’s newsletter is titled “The Emotional Age Issue.” The gist of Ham’s point is that secular folks who obviously don’t have a scientific leg to stand on when it comes to the age of the Earth, get all angry and emotional about the issue when the AiG folks “prove” that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. I kid you not. There are some wonderful quotes in here that I’d like to share with you (with comments, of course!).
Ken says that, in his years of ministry, he’s found that the age of the Earth and the universe is an “extremely emotional topic for secularists.” For biblical creationists, of course, it’s issue that should lead Christians to a “real zeal for the authority and accuracy of the Word of God.” It’s an amazing twist… and one that Ham and other creationists make on a constant basis… trying to make scientific data into an emotional issue while portraying biblical mythology as scientific fact.
A local church recently changed its sign to read:
Begin to weave and God will provide you with the thread.
I’ve heard a similar statement made by Christians trying to "convert" those of different religious persuasions, but it goes something like, "Just have faith in Jesus and He will show Himself to you." This isn’t something that is used only by fundamentalists or TV evangelists. I’ve heard it from far more moderate sects.
The problem, of course, is that it’s a "cart before the horse" sort of thing. The request is for someone to reach a conclusion before seeing any evidence… just have faith in Jesus (the conclusion) and He will show Himself to you (the evidence).
Faith, of course, in a religious context, is belief that is not based on evidence, so the evidence is something that is somewhat irrelevant here, not just because you’re supposed to get to the conclusion without it, but also because, in this case, it’s non-existent (before or after your application of faith). Jesus doesn’t appear and play a game of Frisbee with people and visions, hearing voices, and Jesus pareidolia don’t really qualify as "appearing."
Requesting evidence for religious claims is something that, for some reason, tends to offend a lot of fundamentalists. Not all of them, of course, but enough that it makes them seem a bit disingenuous. If someone makes a claim (Jesus was born of a virgin… Jesus performed miracles… Jesus rose from the dead… Jesus is God… God is real) without providing supporting evidence, he has no justification for being upset that his claims are dismissed. This, in general, is a huge failure of theists (of any denomination) and is, perhaps, the reason that "faith" is placed in a position of such high regard.
With no evidence to back them up, all they have is faith.
There was a story in the news today that Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson was being stalked by a psycho fan, who has since been arrested. The man left his family and drove from Florida to California where Dancing With the Stars was being filmed in hopes of being with Johnson.
Evidently, his car contained two loaded guns, duct tape, zip ties, a “map to the victim,” and love letters. He believed he was meant to have a child with Johnson.
Why did he believe this?
Documents also indicated O’Ryan “believes that she speaks to him personally through the television set and through ESP.”
I’m not sure what the psychological diagnosis is for something like that. It’s probably not schizophrenia, but that’s what pops into my head. It leaves no doubt, however, that the guy definitely has some mental health issues.
After reading the story, my initial reaction was that he was pretty crazy and that it had to be pretty nerve-wracking for Johnson… and I believe that.
My next reaction is the point of this post. If you take away the duct tape, zip ties, and the loaded guns (or maybe not in some cases), you basically have a guy that’s considered crazy because he was hearing a very specific voice speaking only to him.
How is that any different from people who claim that God speaks to them?
I don’t think that’s an unreasonable comparison. Christians routinely talk of having conversations with God and some actually say that they hear God’s voice. In religious circles, this is viewed as a wonderful, spiritual thing… even when God commands someone to kill his son.
Hearing someone else’s voice, however, is seen as a sign of psychosis. Sometimes even hearing God’s voice is seen as a sign of psychosis when “God” is telling the listener to commit a crime (outside the bible).
It seems that hearing voices is considered spiritual in some cases and psychotic in others, regardless of the speaker. How do religious believers know which is which? Supposedly God told Abraham to kill his son. Was Abraham psychotic? Some murderers have claimed that God told them to kill people. Are they psychotic? The book of Genesis says that God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Was Adam psychotic?
In each case of supposed divine communication, someone hears one or multiple voices. Christian interpretations of these incidents are completely inconsistent. Some claims of godly discussions are seen as wonderful… others as dispicable and crazy. Shawn Johnson’s stalker heard a voice, too, so for Christians to see him as crazy seems disingenuous at best. Their religious stories are chock full of people hearing voices.
Personally, I’ll chalk it up to insanity.
As I’m sure you are aware, some Christians interpret the bible mostly as a fictional story filled with allegories and examples showing how we should live our lives. Some other Christians seem to not “interpret” the bible at all, instead taking it at its literal word, insisting that everything is true in exactly the way it is written.
I usually don’t have much of a problem with the first group, much like I don’t usually have a problem with those who interpret Aesop’s Fables as fun made-up stories with accompanying moral lessons. If Aesop-readers started speaking as if real talking foxes were actually disgruntled over not being able to eat grapes, there would be a different issue.
The bible literalists are the ones I target in this post. I find that, right at the beginning of the bible, we see that God is either not all-knowing or he is a liar. There are a number of biblical passages that show this, but I’m going to start right in Genesis chapter two.
God tells Adam that he can eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except… the Tree of Knowledge. So far, so good. Other than setting Adam up for failure (and already knowing that Adam will fail, being all-knowing and whatnot), this is a relatively straightforward rule. Here’s the exact quote from the King James Bible.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
That’s pretty simple. Eat from any tree in the garden whenever you want, just don’t eat from the tree of knowledge because on the day you do that, you’ll die.
Wait… you’ll die? That day?
If you continue reading Genesis, you’ll see that Adam and Eve both lived long after they chomped on the forbidden fruit. Strangely enough, that’s what the serpent told them. So did God lie and the serpent tell the truth? …or did God make a mistake when he just thought that Adam and Eve would die that day. It’s got to be one or the other because according to the bible, they most certainly did not die that day.