The Challenges to Modern Religion: Part 1
The Challenges to Modern Religion: Part 1
I cannot think of a way to write this post without causing some people great offense. For that I am sincerely sorry. I have given serious thought on the dying of the traditional Protestant Church, and our small town one in particular. I have given a lot of thought to the concept of religion and its place in America and the world.Dylan Thomas wrote about death, “Rage against the dying of the light.”. I say, “Protest the dying of the church!” Here goes.
Our choir is working on another wonderful Christmas cantata, as we have done for at least 25 consecutive years. It is an uplifting experience. On the way to practice, we listened to the CD, and I was startled by the following narrative.
The angel Gabriel came spiraling down from the sky and lands gently behind the teenaged Mary. Softly, “So as not to startle her”, Gabriel spoke, “Mary!”. Did he really expect not to startle her?
I picture her turning and discovering a 7 foot tall man figure with huge wings! He stated simply, “You are going to get pregnant”. Mary inquired “How is that, as I have never slept with a man?” Gabriel replied, none to delicately, “The Lord is coming over you.” Mary seemed to accept this, and I have never understood how Joseph “bought it”.
But, let’s analyze this a bit. Human beings evolved from creatures that walked on all fours and, before that, crawled out of the oceans. Darwin theorized, based upon thousands and thousands of observations, that all plants and animals, single cell and massive creatures and plant, have evolved since the mysterious appearance of life on earth through tiny, incremental, changes, and the creatures who were the best adapted survived, and when two species had adapted to the same niche, the one better able to adapt to that niche simply squeeze the other one out of existence.
Fossils, and preserved DNA, have permitted us to confirm Darwin’s theory is a scientific fact and to identify genetics as the mechanism of natural selection.
Mary carried a zygote called an egg, and that required a sperm to provide the other string of the double helix. Who provided the sperm? Doesn’t that demand us to believe that God was a human man with a penis and sperm. If not, what?
We know that angels cannot exist and that if Mary became pregnant, she did it with plain old human sperm. There is no evidence; I repeat, no evidence, to support “faith” in this mythical, made up, story.
As for Angels, their bodies cannot handle wings. Assuming they can, where do they reside? What do they eat? How do they reproduce? How do they survive in outer space? Do they have brains? Why are they limited to flying around, startling people, and blowing loud horns? Do they have sex? Is that how they reproduce? Do they fart? Answer, angels were invented by primitive people. THEY DID NOT AND DO NOT EXIST!
I have been reading “The Religion Virus: Why We Believe in God” by Craig A. James. It analogizes an idea, a “meme”, to a virus or other replicating DNA. Religious beliefs reproduce, and theyspread, and grow.
One of the earliest books I read on this subject was “A History of God: The 4000 – Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”. Both of these authors make it clear that Abraham and his predecessors, and Moses and the seven tribes, 700 years later when they had backslid, were not monotheists.
And, even earlier than that, primitive tribes saw spirits and gods in everything, the sky, in powerful and dangerous bears, rocks, and water. They prayed and honored the spirit of each one. Later they sought blessings and prayed for results, pregnancy, health, rain, or the alleviation of famine.
Not only am I a “Cradle Methodist”, but I met my wife at the freshman mixer at a liberal arts Methodist College dedicated to teaching and discovering the truth, to the scientific method, to critical thinking, and to the principles of our nation which included, and this is critical, the concept of freedom of speech, freedom to believe or not to believe, and separation of church and state.
My reading teaches me that even the modern “ecumenical movement” promotes tolerance of “different faiths”, but equates secularism, agnosticism, and atheism with Communism, treason, and blasphemy. George W. Bush did not invite any well-known secularists to the prayer breakfast after 9-11. He invited only “leaders of faith”. Secularists, agnostics, free thinkers, and atheists have been systematically marginalized, discriminated against, and accused and berated for 150 years in America. I urge that the be respected and listened to or the “modern church” is doomed.
What an opportunity we now have for the modern church, gently, firmly, honestly, persistently, consistently, and with great specificity, to turn its members away from the superstition and myth of our ancient past. The ideas of Jesus and other brilliant religious central figures, Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius, and others, of empathy and compassion, sharing, and non-violence, stand by themselves, without the trappings of the supernatural. Modern dogma focuses of rituals, myths, sectarianism, judgementalism, tribalism, and discrimination.
Just as I think no child should ever be told that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy are real, our church members should be encouraged to think for themselves, to study history, science, and religion, and to learn there is no such thing as “the supernatural”. Angels do not fly. No one can turn water into wine unless they have grapes and water. There are no miracle cures. Elizabeth Edwards could not cure her breast cancer by prayer, so she died with the realization there is no such thing as “an intervening God”. I admire her for saying so.
Although I have read authors to the contrary, I believe it is fair to point out that we have not yet figured out how life begins. A tiny few may understand the physics of “the Big Bang”, but I, for one, want to know what was going on the day before the “Big Bang” banged. I want to know what happened during the instant between no-life and life, and please do not tell me it was “a miracle”.
The best explanation I can find simply defines God as the natural order of things. The deepest “spiritual force” that I can find is the remarkable quality that humankind has acquired in three billion years of evolution. That quality is curiosity. That ability is the ability to realize that we exist, to ponder our past, to be curious of our future, to have certain members of our species who are smart enough and determined enough to learn new things and to bring about change. It ponders the deepest secrets and doesn’t cop-out with the shallow concept of an all-knowing, all-seeing, superhero.
Just as remarkable as our insatiable curiosity is the fact that change is constant, and it is not steady. For the human species, it has been increasing in speed for thousands of years and is now moving at a pace that has outstripped our brains’ abilities to comprehend it. The fact that curiosity and self-awareness now exists in our evolving species is a true “miracle”.
This post was written by Burton Hunter