I do not like organized religion. Religion and faith have unqestionably been positive forces in the development of mankind. I'm not sure that the same can be said of religious hierarchies. I don't want to name specifics because I don't want to be uneccesarily offensive, and I don't want to seem like I'm signalling anyone out, but it shouldn't be hard for anyone to come up with at least one example on a moments notice.
The reason that I'm moved to write about this today is the increasing incidence of stories like this one (via):
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.Put aside that this dichotomy between knowledge and faith is profoundly unneccesary and deeply disturbing to me as an attack on rationality, it causes nothing short of revulsion that the recipients of this sort of lecture are those most powerless to evaluate its providence or usefullness. As I mentioned, you don't have to look far and wide to find stories like this, and I won't inundate with links to belabor the point.
"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.
"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
I don't understand the appeal of a world where the answer to everything is g-o-d did it. As a commenter on another site put it (rather more floridly than I might have):
The thing that just amazes me about [this] view of the universe is how small and boring it is.The most elegant argument I've read in the debate over "Intelligent Design as science" is this: it diminishes, rather than exalts, the role of the creator. As science discovers more and more, the set of things 'unexplainable' shrinks further and further, and with it, the things done by a higher being.
God made everything, God knows everything, God predicted everything, everything is going according to God’s plan – the end of which is foreordained, so there’s no point to trying to end war or world hunger or poverty, because it’s all going to end in an Apocalypse anyway.
No mysteries to solve, no discoveries to exclaim over, no fascinating parallels to find or paradoxes to figure out. No startling sense of kinship when you first look into a great ape’s eyes and the ape looks back at you, no sense of delight when you learn that even octopi are capable of intelligent reasoning and have distinct personalities – no sense of connection with anything else on the planet, much less in the greater cosmos.
I don't understand how, in the abstract, knowledge and reason can be bad things, and I can't comprehend trumpeting one's lack of same. And I don't see why knowledge and faith have to be in opposition. If the physical sciences describe the workings and machinery of our universe, they do nothing to explain how they came to be or what set them in motion.
Finally, as always, I'm surprised that people of faith allow people such as Ham (or Pat Robertson, or whomever) to be their public 'representatives'. I know you don't really agree with them, stand up and say so.
Update 2/13: Mark Daniels does indeed stand-up and says so:
As Mr. Ham says, no human being could have been there at the beginning of God's creation. But using terms and notions human beings might understand, the Biblical writers were inspired by God to affirm that God created the universe. With this understanding, it's okay for Christians to think that paleontology, biology, and other scientific disciplines, though finite and as prone to error as any other human pursuit, might have something to say about the when and how of Creation.Read the whole thing.
Update #2: And there's a lot more where that came from:
In the basement of an apartment building in Evanston, Ill., the Rev. Mitchell Brown said to the 21 people who came to services at the Evanston Mennonite Church that Darwin's theories in fact had compelled people to have faith rather than look for "special effects" to confirm the existence of God.I wish we heard more about this largely silent (hopefully) majority, instead of running off to find the nearest televangelist when we need a God quote for a story.
"He forced religion to grow up, to become, really, faith for the first time," Mr. Brown said. "The life of community, that is where we know God today."
The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, Pa., to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.
"There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.