Posted by: Dan | June 4, 2007

Scary Evangelical Madness

Wow. If you thought that Christianity (and especially Evangelical Christianity) was even remotely sane, check these video clips out…

The Evangelical War on Science first:



Next, brainwashing for a Christian jihad:

And, this little girl is just scary!:

And, this is one boy trying to deal with his skepticism in a community where such thoughts are considered evil:

Take a good look – that’s supposedly the most influential segment of our American society right now. How can we criticize Islamic fundamentalist camps when we have our own equivalent, right here at home?


Responses

  1. The last 3 clips are all from the independent documentary Jesus Camp, which was nominated for an Oscar, but did not win.

  2. The behemoth song? Oh my…

    I’m glad they think about believing in evolution, just like they think about believing in the Bible. It’s all been said before, though, so I’ll leave it at this. I haven’t seen Jesus Camp yet, but I’m sure I will at some point.

    I enjoy your blog entries, by the way. I am not a biologist myself but as part of the astrobiology center at Penn State I am interested in a lot of the biological topics you write about–and, as a fellow pastafarian, I also appreciate the commentaries on Intelligent Design issues.

    I’ve added a link to your blog on mine. Keep it up!

    Jacob

  3. Thanks Jacob – I appreciate the interest. I’ve added you to my blogroll too (which I moved to a subpage very recently, see top of page).

    Astrobiology is intriguing indeed – I’m quite keen on following that further at your blog. :-)

  4. No, it’s not a “war” on science. There’s no killing suggested or implied, and it’s not even a strong argument, it’s a kindergarten-level series of presentations.

    No, it’s not a “jihad.” No one is suggesting training Christian children to use guns like Mideasterners. That woman in the video was using that as an example of how serious Christians should be about “laying down their lives for the gospel,” meaning spending their lives preaching forgiveness from Jesus, risking their lives if necessary as missionaries teaching Christianity, and passing that duty on to their children. If you weren’t raised Christian, I can see how that might not be clear from the video, but if you were, not getting it is inexcusable. How many guns does the Salvation Army have? How many divisions does the Pope have?

    I agree the position of those biblical literalist Christians is not remotely sane, and it’s a bit scary to see how popular it is. I share some of your dismay at seeing where skepticism is a subject of guilt and shame. But I know it’s not an increasing extremism. I went through the same at times growing up in a Christian family.

    How many schools does America have where the only book children read is the Bible? In fundamentalist Islamic schools in the Mideast they supposedly just read the Koran. At least Christian biblical literalists now feel like they need to put out books making some sort of popular-science-level argument for their position, instead of just reading the Bible and passing on traditional oral commentary on it.

    The paradox of the whole situation that keeps me curious about it is: Why is it that Americans who don’t believe in evolution have so many children, as if they believe in it and are practicing it, and Americans who do believe in evolution have so few, as if they have faith we’re all made equal by God and God likes those who give to others’ children charitably rather than have children selfishly?

  5. “Wars” can be greatly varying things. I wouldn’t call the Iraq mess a war either – it’s an occupation, technically. Similarly, the wars on drugs, poverty, etc. That they’re not literal wars doesn’t stop us from using the word to describe broad sociopolitical agendas.

    And I think that it’s safe to say that the only reason evangelism does not resort to a “jihad” is because evangelicals are more affluent and have greater resources at their disposal than their islamic counterparts.

    Interesting paradox there, however – and one that I don’t have a precise answer. But I have heard it said that throughout history, the wealthy have tended to have fewer children. Yet they’ve been remarkably successful in passing their genes along. That, if true, would seem to be the flip-side of your paradox – how can having much fewer than 6-12 children in a family end up being an evolutionarily successful scheme? Is it just coincidence, or is/are there an underlying connection(s)?

  6. If biblical literalist Christians resorted to a “jihad” they wouldn’t be evangelicals any more, whatever they might then call themselves. They wouldn’t have the same message at all, the evangelical message, and they wouldn’t be trying to spread it by evangelism. There would be a crisis of faith among Christians like the woman in the video, who would no longer feel morally sure that what they have is the truth that others need to hear, and there can’t be anything wrong with that, and the truth that brings peace, when what their group would be doing is killing everyone who might disagree and letting God sort them out.

    Literalist Christians are less affluent on average than irreligious people of the same ethnic groups in the same countries, and the same for literalist Muslims, probably. If that weren’t true, then how would your response to the paradox I described have any relevance to the subject? It seems unlikely you arrived at that response just to bring up a different differential reproduction rate question, to say that the subject is full of paradoxes.

    Wealthier families had fewer children historically, because there was the problem of dividing inheritances. The ancient Roman upper class practiced infanticide and available means of birth control. They declined and lost control of their empire. The medieval Christian upper class solved the problem by sending their excess sons into the priesthood. Now just because a line of nobles or an upper class family name persists over a century or two, doesn’t mean they’re doing well reproductively. If the American upper class of the 18th century had reproduced at replacement rate, and without inbreeding, then by the resulting exponential growth of relatives, everyone in America now would have old money. However, ordinary Americans of the 17th through early 20th centuries reproduced at higher than replacement rate, with relatively low child mortality, and so they account for the greatest part of America’s current population ancestry, despite all the waves of immigration that have brought many times more immigrants than the 17th century settlers.

    Having fewer than 6 children per family can be an evolutionarily successful strategy, if there’s very low infant mortality, because of higher investment per child, and little competition from others with higher birthrates for the same resources and territory. Now what it seems like those who know about evolution and think they’re something special are doing right now is not that territorial strategy. They seem to be betting on progress in evolutionary genetics, to figure out what the good genes they have are, to preserve and to spread them eventually something like the way brand name drugs are promoted and prescribed.

    There’s no paradox there. It’s a gamble, but it sort of makes sense based on the way science and economics are going. What doesn’t make sense is everywhere I hear a complaint about ignorant religionists and their supposedly backward memes, there’s a failure to recognize that all major religions, except maybe Buddhism, have been and are reproductively successful for their adherents. (Buddhism when practiced is like the celibate priesthood in Catholicism.) Then there’s usually the suggestion that religionists are stupid to have children and people who are smart enough to know about evolution should be smart enough to avoid having children, to solve the “population problem,” as if there’s an overpopulation of evolutionists in the world and as if stopping it would slow the exponential growth of religionists.

    Okay, I know I wrote too much, but this subject is just so amusing. It makes me smile. So I’ll send it in case you or your readers find some entertainment in it.

  7. Sonny,
    Thanks for the comments. On the jihad thing again, however – I’ll grant that perhaps there are better words out there to describe the Christian/Evangelical war on secularism, the culture war, whatever you wish to call it. But that’s still what this is – the Hams, the Robertsons, the Falwells, the Phelps’s of our society are still agressively pursuing a radical and theocratic agenda.

    And, is there a paradox, or isn’t there, on reproduction relating to acceptance of evolution versus creationism? You said both this:

    The paradox of the whole situation that keeps me curious about it is: Why is it that Americans who don’t believe in evolution have so many children, as if they believe in it and are practicing it, and Americans who do believe in evolution have so few, as if they have faith we’re all made equal by God and God likes those who give to others’ children charitably rather than have children selfishly?

    and this:

    There’s no paradox there. It’s a gamble, but it sort of makes sense based on the way science and economics are going.

    Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways, AND take on my use of the word “paradox,” which you prompted.

    If you could clear that up, perhaps I could respond.

  8. 1) The poor have higher infant mortality rates because of lack of access to health care, proper nutrition, education, prenatal care etc. Their children are also at a greater risk to die at a young age.

    2) Children were/are a source of labor.

    3) The poor, in general, have shorter life spans, and having more children, although maybe not conscious, is a way to compensate. The lives of the poor are filled with numerous stressors as they are at higher risk to drop out of school, to be chronically un or under-employed, they have higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, they are more likely to be victims of domestic and criminal violence, they are not as healthy, and have less access to proper health care etc etc

    4) The poor are under-educated, and have less access to sex education and birth control. Also the poor tend to be more religious thereby, ironically, limiting their already limited access and/or knowledge of birth control and sex.

    5) And this may seem phony, but I promise it’s true. Desperate people will do anything to feel human. Sex is a way to have “intimacy”, and to feel connected.

    It makes sense, in a way, why the poor have more children. The more they have the better chance at least one or two might make it for example. Of course, it perpetuates the cycle of poverty, and is no longer necessary.

    A wealthy person’s child has a much better chance of not only living longer, but of being “successful”.

  9. Well said, Fairlane.

    Sonny – take note: none of the reasons listed so far involves acceptance or dismissal of evolution, as you suggested with your “paradox.” Family size and success has nothing to do with which political camp you’re in, or your intellectual capacity; it has everything to do with socioeconomic status.

  10. You all must stereotype Christians very much because logically anyone who automatically says that we are trying to kill of every other religion to anyone who even says anything about the bible is thinking of some parts of the 14th and 17th centuries when some Christians were, the Muslims of that time were acting exactly the same as the Christians, but the Christians get the bad name. What I’m trying to say is that any criticism from either side should be seen as an invitation for the other side to criticize. Many Christians believe it is their duty if not reason for living to show others that god exists, because it is written in our bible that anyone who doesn’t believe in him won’t go to heaven. That is why some of us are so aggressive in our preaching, but i cannot explain why people would kill others over it unless the others were killing them, which still wouldn’t justify it as in our bible it says “turn the other cheek” meaning let them kill you and don’t soil your hands because you will live on and they might still be shown the light. in any case the true problem is oppression and bigotry. No body should ever be hunted or persecuted for their beliefs or religion or refusal thereof, unless those beliefs are harmful to others, (ie most satanic rituals(i’m trying to not let any personal feeling into this, i won’t say that satanism must be banned, i can’t have that double standard, no matter how much against my beliefs, indeed my life, it is) ritual suicide and stuff like that)
    also the whole (world is a few thousand years old, is possable if the Christian God actually made everything, he could manipulate it to look millions of years old, or something. Why? i don’t know i don’t claim to understand God, i don’t even believe that he did that personally. I believe if the big bang happened he triggered it and set every thing up just right, i honestly believe that he set everything up, made life in it’s various families and species “ie humans are not simians but both are primates and got made each differently) and then set it up so said species can adapt and change to their environment, ie black humans white humans and ice age American immigrants from Asia

  11. BTW i don’t believe any spiecies is better than the other, they are basically the same but some things have changed during adaptation, the open African savanna and the way humans in the area needed to use their legs precipitated the changes in their skin and their legs, thats all

  12. I put a link to your blog over at Jones Town. I hope that’s copacetic. I do have a left brain somewhere. (My father’s a biologist/chemist).

  13. Ben: I think most of the criticism above is directed toward the Evangelical Christian movement (with very literalist interpretation), and not Christianity as a whole. The Catholic Church, for example, has officially accepted the theory of evolution as legitimate, and many other churches maintain no conflict with science. As in many other cases, it is a loud and vocal minority that take up much of the spotlight.

    Sonny: Is it really an improvement that Christian biblical literalists are making pseudo-science arguments to support their claims? It is one thing to accept the Bible on faith, but it is another to try and support that faith with observation (Hebrews 11:1 — “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”). From a religious standpoint, it is a disservice to the faith itself to try and make this type of argument.

    From a scientific standpoint, the arguments of creationists and IDers is a disservice to science. They will portray their work as scientific, which only confuses the public’s perception of what science actually is. The notion of a designer is unfalsifiable, because there is an implicit assumption of faith. It is not wrong to believe in a designer, but it certainly is wrong to promote an unfalsifiable idea as a viable scientific theory–since by definition, a scientific theory must be falsifiable.

  14. by your definition evolution as life stating with the spontaneous formation of amino acids and DNA that somehow gathered together with proteins and specific amounts of various elements to form viruses and/or bacteria or some sort that eventually evolved into multi-celled life forms over millions of years, is a religion, because it cannot be proven with out a time machine or some way to observe individual molecules joining together and working in sequence, over relatively astronomical distances to form a working life form multiple times. It has at least the same likely hood as a God creating life, and at most the same likely hood that an entire cell that is on earth in one second is trans located to mars via quantum physics. (all things have a finite possablity including a cance that a photon at point A which is 500 light years away from point B will spontainiously appear at point B or will be at both point A and B at the same time.)

  15. You’re right, it cannot be proven–just like the theory of gravity can never be proven, or any scientific idea for that matter.

    Scientific theories are not provable, but they are falsifiable. That is, if an idea is a legitimate scientific hypothesis, then I should be able to come up with an experiment that, if successful, would demonstrate the hypothesis to be false. Let’s say I make the hypothesis that water always boils at 100 degrees Celsius . I could make a thousand measurements that show this to be valid, but this would not make my hypothesis any more true or false. The hypothesis is a valid scientific hypothesis, though, because it is falsifiable: if I can think of an experiment that would make water boil at some temperature other than 100 degrees Celsius (such as on top of a tall mountain), then I will have falsified the initial claim. Furthermore, we have now learned something: water does not necessarily always boil at the same temperature. Testing the hypothesis didn’t produce much new information, but attempting to falsify it did.

    The notion of a designer/creator, however, is not falsifiable. There is no conceivable experiment that, if successful, would demonstrate the non-existence of a creator.

    As far as the theory of evolution is concerned, not only is it a falsifiable hypothesis, but it has already passed one substantial attempt at total falsification. When Darwin developed his ideas, it was based on taxonomic and environmental arguments; he knew absolutely nothing about genetics. The theory of evolution developed for quite some time along these lines, inferring relationships among all the organisms on the planet. It was not until very recently that it became possible to sequence genes, however. At this point, the theory of evolution was subject to one of the greatest attempts at falsification in scientific history. The entire theory that was based on taxonomy, ecology, and other similar arguments could now be compared with the predictions of genetics. Since the theory of evolution was developed without the knowledge of sequenced genes, this was a completely novel way to check–and attempt to falsify–the the theory.

    And what happened? Evolution passed with flying colors. We certainly have learned and progressed a great deal by having the tools of genetics available, but if evolution was completely off base, then the comparison against genetic date would have shown the theory to be false.

  16. Thank you for that, i didn’t know that it was analogous to implicit proof in mathematics i thought it was explicit.

    I suppose I’m guilty of stereotyping, i expected someone who pushes evolution to be an anti-religion or anti-theist

  17. I think of evolution and adaptation as different things, to me evolution is the changing of one species ie simians into another ie humans. Adaptation to me is the changing of a specific being (ie Bob or one of the plants in bobs garden) or groups of beings (ie the tribes of nomads who migrated across the north and south American continents) that change over time to suit their environments but not turning into a different species just a different subgroup of the same species (ie gold finch, ground finch, ect)

  18. Ben,
    Just curious, but which atheist viewpoints are you familiar with? Have you read, Sam Harris, Rhichard Dawkins, Douglas Adams, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and/or Bertrand Russell?

  19. to be honest i’m only familiar with the taunting in my school, although i have read the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, i don’t know if that counts, I’m only 16 i haven’t had much time to live out there in the open world

  20. I’m familiar with the view the religion in general is bad and that people trying to preach to others who don’t believe in god are infringing on their rights of religion or choice of non religion. i’ve heard from people, classmates, even friends that i invited to my youth group to hang out, that they believe religion causes war and bigotry. this in my opinion is truely caused by religious fanatics, though in truth the Koran is in many ways the antithesis of the Bible but thats not the point right now. I’ve only heard the ideas that people should not have to hear religious statements or see religious icons that they don’t believe in. personally i think it is a matter of intolerance on one or both sides, i haven’t yet heard a view of atheism that i see as sane, only secularism have i seen as sane. I also believe that religion in general helps people get through life and deal with crises, whether or not the belief is true or not.

  21. Oh ok. No problem – there’s certainly nothing wrong with not being well-read on atheism! You sound as though you might be interested in reading more about why people (on both sides of the discussion) have such strong opinions about religion (or atheism) and what those opinions are.

    I wish you luck on that journey. But remember, whether you disagree with us atheists, we’re not evil, and neither are you. ;-)

  22. Incidentally, it’s people like this, this, this and this who are just absolutely and resolutely STUPID. Hey, you want to believe in a personal god, fine. I have no problem leaving you to your beliefs. But when Christians start saying stuff like this, I lose my patience with religion:

    But if you believe in teaching children that the world is round, you’re a Helioleftist who opposes the Bible. In that case, I don’t want you coming near our children. The “global” theory flatly contradicts the Biblical teaching that the world is flat. Specifically, it is a disk, with the circumference in Antarctica and the center at the North Pole.

  23. “The “global” theory flatly contradicts the Biblical teaching that the world is flat. Specifically, it is a disk, with the circumference in Antarctica and the center at the North Pole.”

    Come on, you’re kidding right? They don’t really believe this do they? Seriously, don’t mess with me. It’s a joke, it has to be a joke. Please tell me it’s a joke.

  24. If it’s a joke, they appear to be VERY determined to keep it up. Just read through the comments in the Blogs4Brownback site, for example (be warned, however – the stupidity might melt your brain!).

  25. Some of the other gems from B4B discussions:

    “With all due respect, this is a silly topic. The Bible is the only text that should be taught in our schools. Period. This is clear because if God intended for children to learn things like “math” he would have included such studies in the text.”

    “…commercial interuptions during “24″ are akin to teaching other than principles enumerated in the Bible in our public schools. There is no end to the evil, gay, communist ideas that can be planted in the minds of viewers enjoying the wholesome, Christian torturing of Muslims, when they are forced to cut away to view the filth contained in beer and lingerie advertisements.”

    “PhDs in physics, geology and meteorology are part of the problem – they have a vested interest in protecting and advancing the fictional idea of a round earth. All the proof you need is in the Bible. I’m guessing that you, like most Leftist kooks, have never opened one.”

    “Leftists hate the Bible so much, it probably burns their hands to touch it. That might be a good test for liberals in the future, when they try to hide among decent Americans.”

    And the discussion goes on and on and on with more of that.

  26. I’m almost certain the blogs4brownback is a farce. The comments sound like something Fairlane would write. I’m not going to say no one is that stupid, but no one could be that stupid and set up a blog or even turn on a computer. In fact, anyone that stupid more than likely lives in a home without electricity.

    Not to mention Brownback’s campaign would go nuts over such a blog whether he believed that nonsense or not.

    He’s very unpopular among mainstream republicans for some reason, and it’s not unheard of for Reps/Dems to attempt and derail other Reps/Dems.

  27. That’s a fair point. A coworker of mine also privately suggested that the Flat Earth Society, I linked to in an above comment, was also a farce.

    If that’s what it is, then it’s a damn good bit of satire.


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