Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pastor Blog 1

              A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted that her pastor was hosting a Q&A at his church. I have been asked to leave churches because of the questions that I have, so I submitted the largest of my questions about faith on the church’s invitation. It is truly interesting and telling to me that the pastor will not be dealing with my questions in his church, but here in a blog to blog format. It seems that again, my questions have the potential to deconvert people so, heaven forbid I be invited to actually set foot in his church and discuss these in front of his congregation. So, I respectfully am responding in kind. He demurred my willingness to attend his church for as long as answering my questions took and wanted to respond in this manner. The first question of mine that he attempted to tackle was this:
            “If God is really true, why do we have all the child indoctrinating and the weekly meetings to rub in the truth? Do we have to have a weekly “gravity is real” club or “let us be thankful for photosynthesis” club? If he were as real as all that, why the endless Bible studies and services ad infinitum? Why are you necessary, Pastor?”
            I was most certainly driving at the fact that truth is really apparent and because religious god faith is not true, indoctrination is needed to keep up blind faith, and as you see, I argue that a reinforced blind faith is bad for humanity. His responses are in italics and the full article that he wrote, can be found here

        If God is really true, why do we have all the child indoctrinating and the weekly meetings to rub in the truth? Do we have to have a weekly “gravity is real” club or “let us be thankful for photosynthesis” club? If he were as real as all that, why the endless Bible studies and services ad infinitum? Why are you necessary, Pastor?
The original commenter on our facebook post asked me to address this question first. On the surface, this seems like a fairly simple question to answer, and I’ll start there first, but there is hidden inside this question a couple more difficult issues. 
The Easy Answer
First, my easy answer is in this syllogism:
  • If something is true, it is something that can be taught.
  • If something is not innate, it is something that must be learned.
.If something is important, it should be taught.
  • Knowledge of God is not innate.
  • If God is true, knowledge about him would be important.
  • THEREFORE: If God is true, knowledge about him should and must be taught.

That amazing, tiny, wonderful word “IF.” See that is at the heart of my question. Gravity is something that we all innately know about, we know that we don’t fly off the planet, but we don’t grow up knowing why until someone says, “The force called gravity holds us in place.” Thanks to the hard work of scientists, gravity waves have been found real and their effects measured. God is not innate knowledge and nothing about it can be proven. You can say, “God made gravity,” but there is not one shred of evidence that will allow me to believe this. However, proof of “e=mc2” has been confirmed in the discovery of these gravitational waves and what they do. It was a huge landmark find. What they did not find were gods. There for AGAIN, the “IF” was not verified and still dangles on as more and more scientific processes are found. We keep looking for why things happen and true scientists are open to the answer that “gods did it,” but it seems that faith-filled thought has only been a placeholder for the knowledge they keep finding. The hypothesis “gods did it” keeps failing under all sorts of scrutiny. So, not only are gods not innate, but they aren’t being verified as true, yet. Not even a little. In fact, when Galileo started the ball rolling, so to speak, the church was appalled and the pope put his fingers over his ears, choose the faulty hypothesis because it was in the Bible, started singing, “LALALALALALALALA;” and then arrested Galileo. Later they killed Giordano Bruno for refining that theory but in typical churchy fashion apologized to a dead Galileo. Giordano can rot. The church had put forward a hypothesis “Our God did it and the world is flat.” Science said, “This is so cool! Turns out it is round and the sun is at the center!” The church chose blind faith and hundreds of years later had to apologize. Is that example too old? Let us go over to the east side of Lafayette, Indiana where NANC has been spreading its version of “mental health and counselling services.” Back 20 years ago when Steve first started his pastoral position after the venerated “Gould” had retired, I attended a church service at Faith “Baptist” (you can take the word out of the name but you can’t take it out of the people), I was told from the pulpit that ADHD and Manic Depression (properly called Bipolar Disorder or BPD) were excuses to behave badly in sin and that people who were addicts were easily treated by telling them to stop in Jesus’ name. Steve Viars personally has blood on his hands as he has encouraged people with these disorders to stop taking their meds. “Oh wait,” you cry out, “You can’t name names like that?! Steve is a respected part of this community and a good pastor.” Quite frankly I say, “Why?” “Why not?” and “No he isn’t” I know many people that think for the betterment of Lafayette, Indiana he needs to stop and other churches need to tell him to, but I digress. Will Faith ever apologize to those people? My bet is they will deny these families even exist. “Maybe in a few hundreds of years when the true state of Mental Health is really really proved and Steve can’t be embarrassed on account of the fact he is dead.”

            Of course, people might debate me on the specific points of this logical argument, but I think it is sound and valid. However, the original question did not refer to the simple passing on of knowledge alone. The original question referred to the continual passing on of that knowledge, the continued reinforcement of that knowledge. The original question refers to gravity and photosynthesis as items that can be taught but are not worthy of weekly meetings praising their truth. The original question could be reworded to ask this: “If God is true, can’t we just be taught about him once and then get on with our lives?” Or “Why do I have to go to church?”
            I never said scientific facts weren’t worthy, I said that once you know them, it is apparent and the learner needs not to be constantly reminded to remember gravity is real, “Here, let us sing our ‘gravity is real’ song, AGAIN.” Once the concept is learned and demonstrated, it does not need revisited in the exact same point. How many times in the course of my 38 years of church attendance did I hear the same things about your god over and over and over ad nauseum? It was not at all that we found some heretofore unknown or undiscovered information like my above example of “e=mc2.” It was, in fact, “All we can know about God is in this book. New information is to be shunned and compared to this book. If it does not comply to this book, it isn’t real. If it does comply to this book, it is real and can be accepted, but in that compliance is actually not new.” It wasn’t that we were seeking new information it was that we were rehashing and repeating for the purpose of indoctrination. “What is indoctrination?” you ask. Merriam Webster defines it thusly, “Indoctrinate : to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.” The way this is done in churches is through the afore mentioned, “blind faith.” Here is what the YouTuber known as “TheraminTrees” says about Faith: “Faith: the perfect system for protecting lies. Faith demands that we disregard: a. absence of expected evidence b. presence of conflicting evidence How do we detect lies? a. absence of expected evidence b. presence of conflicting evidence”
               When you are conducting honest inquiry, you do not start from a position of already having accepted the conclusion. You certainly don't start from a position of faith, the intellectual equivalent of digging one's heels in. You start from the null hypothesis When you are conducting honest inquiry, you do not start from a position of already having accepted the conclusion. You certainly don't start from a position of faith, the intellectual equivalent of digging one's heels in. You start from the null hypothesis, which is the lack of belief in any positive claim that has not been properly demonstrated to be true. In effect, you pretend you had never heard of this "God" before, then somebody made the claim "God exists", and proceed from there to look for evidence to support this statement in the world. If you cannot find adequate evidence, the honest position is to withhold belief. In the case of God, nothing that has been posited as evidence of God withstands scrutiny. Religion knows this, hence it promotes faith as a substitute for evidence and frequently does whatever it can to insulate and inoculate adherents from contradictory knowledge. It is not enough to say that God is comforting, good for society or otherwise desirable (all of which I would dispute anyway), none of these things speak to the truth of the matter and they are all rendered hollow if it is not true. 
              Skipping on a bit, after my pastor friend tells a story about learning scientific fact, method, and implication, he says this:
            “Now, here’s where the analogy connects back to the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God isn’t a fact without implications. It is a worldview and a method for how to live life. Those who would accept the affirmation (Re: Hypothesis unproven) “God is true” must also accept the implications of that worldview, and the continued study, meetings and gatherings are simply to help those people refine their understanding of those implications and to support them as they attempt to live them out.
            The theist who never hangs out with other theists talking about their faith is like a scientist who never interacts with another scientist about their science.

            Interesting words Faith and Science. A scientist never relies on faith when testing a hypothesis or whether or not his equipment is functioning. He or she runs copious tests on his or her equipment and works hard to know for fact it functions so that he or she can absolutely know that his or her outcomes are correct. There is no faith involved. In fact, by definition, faith that his or her pet hypothesis or idea is absolutely correct would absolutely be the biggest weakness he or she has in her laboratory. It would reject all other outcomes and possibilities because they did not align with the faith that was had by the scientist in question. When a group of scientists come together, they share findings based on evidence. They make sure that none of them are biased in the way that I describe. They accept properly tested findings after they are submitted to what is called a peer review. Even if those findings fly in the face of everything they knew before. Because, when an hypothesis is properly tested, it is validated as either true or not true and it changes the entire community moving the entire community forward with it. The face of the entire discipline changes and because there is concrete evidence that is undeniable.  Ultimately, scientists like Galileo and Bruno do the excellent work they did, all humanity changes its perceptions. We are better for having scientists continue to get together and belligerently test all assumptions and ideas in the search of what is provable and real.
            When theists get together, they are only looking for God. They are not looking for any other answers and do not accept any other answers. When they are in groups together they make sure that their god is the one that is properly being understood and worshipped. These meetings you describe all involve a clear description of what appropriate believers look like or do not look like. At Clear River Church in Lafayette, IN, a truly holy family was considered to be one that did not have a fancy house or like “granite countertops,” and eschewed all trappings of wealth in that way. When these groups get it into their heads that gods are calling for burkas, lack of wealth, denial of science, subjugation of women in the form of submission to husbands, they not only hold followers back from comfort or progress, in cases where religion runs government, they hold entire nations back. Right now, in our country, politicians like Mike Pence and Donald Trump are pushing agendas that run against women’s health, drug rehabilitation in the form of needle exchange programs, civil rights and freedom for all people, and in the form of the proven case for global warming, against the ultimate survival of humanity. They are science deniers, prejudiced discriminators (Please recall the horror of RFRA in Indiana), women’s rights deniers (Trump, “If my daughter were sexually harassed on the job I would tell her just to quit”), and Christians. Trump’s newfound love of Jesus is pushing an agenda that is truly horrific and scary for Mexicans and Muslims in this nation and Pence’s true faith in Jesus legitimizes it all for people who were on the fence about Trump. I say that when theists start getting together to forge their faith in their minds in the form of indoctrination, we all take major steps backwards as a people.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    Thank you for giving me permission to interact with your blog post here.

    First, let me apologize for missing the point of your first question. I read your post and saw you say this:

    "I was most certainly driving at the fact that truth is really apparent and because religious god faith is not true, indoctrination is needed to keep up blind faith, and as you see, I argue that a reinforced blind faith is bad for humanity."

    However, I don't share your premise, "because religious god faith is not true," so I have to rephrase the question. Is this an adequate paraphrase?

    If this teaching about God is true, why do people have to keep re-convincing themselves of it?

    If my question is largely the same as yours, then I have two answers to it.

    First, there are many areas of life where something is learned once, but then needs to be "reconfirmed" repeatedly. The most obvious example of this is in a marriage. At one point in time, someone said to someone else, "I love you," but if those words only got said once, most people would think something is wrong with that marriage. The truth is that people are emotionally "leaky" and we are all prone to lose "faith" in the commitments that others make to us. The same can be said about God. God has made verbal promises to us about himself and about his relationship to us. Even if he were as tangible as your next door neighbor, we would still need periodic "re-convincing" of his character.

    Secondly, there are many truths in life that are so difficult to internalize that though they may be "learned" once they must be repeatedly reinforced not to convince ourselves that it's really true, but to help us understand how it really works. Some examples of these incredibly difficult truths are quantum mechanics, general relativity, global warming, evolutionary biology. One can "learn" these disciplines in a classroom, but one does not truly internalize their complexity until after decades of continued work.

    Finally, I want to speak directly against the assumption behind your question. Behind the lines of the question is an assumption that people of faith are so hopelessly in doubt when it comes to their faith that all of religion is hanging on by only a thin thread of "indoctrination." If we could all just open our eyes, we would see what a farce this all is and get off the hamster wheel!

    I can hear you asking me, "Why don't you just give up the charade, give in to your doubts, and let everyone else give in to theirs too?"

    To respond to that I simply say this: I regularly confront my doubts and encourage others to confront them too. My faith is not built upon a tower of indoctrination and re-convincing that could fall over if one piece is removed. No, my faith is built upon something far more solid and secure. I feel deeply sorry for those moments in your life when you were encouraged to simply ignore your doubts and push them aside. For me, I've never had to ignore them. For me, I have worked through them and have come out stronger as a result. I would, if I could, take you on the same journey through doubt and rediscovery.