Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sabbath School 26/02/11 - It's the Devil's Work Part II

I know, I'm posting this a little late, but I had to make some finishing touches on my entry to the fiction competition I'm participating in before the deadline, then when I got round to writing this I had to keep pausing to play some death metal in order to bleed off some of the rage caused by watching the videos I talk about here. This last blessed Sabbath's lesson was one I simply could not pass up the opportunity to comment on. The title was "Self Esteem", and the lesson touched briefly on the issue of origins. Frankly, I wasn't much surprised by the treatment the issue was given, but thought it worthy of mention.

The lesson itself presents the usual strawman of evolution we see from religious sources, using such charming terms as "pure chance", "cosmic accident" and "we just happened to come into existence". Note that it does not even attempt to adress any questions of evidence: all the counterarguments are emoti0nal, mostly focussed on how we eviutionists live purposeless lives and that believing the magic man blew on a pile of mud to make us gives us soooo much more self esteem. The series of lessons is centered on emotions anyway, so I won't hold that against them. It's the validity of the arguments that I have a problem with. (I'll address that later)

The exegeses of the lesson given on the Church's two main media conduits was, however, nothing short of delirious. There are two main programs that go over the lesson every week, one on each of the two major Adventist satellite channels, 3ABN and the Hope Channel, called Amazing Facts Central Study Hour and Hope Sabbath School respectively. I'll start with Central Study Hour.

Origins is addressed only on one day - sunday - one seventh of the total lesson. When Doug Bachelor attacked it, it ended up becoming a rant that took up almost half the lesson time (From the 16:38 mark to38.30). And damn me to the void if there's anyone more adept at building a strawman than Pastor Doug. He began by giving a beautiful, flowery picture of what life as a creation of God is like, so much so that I almost found myself wishing I was one of them (no, I lie. But it sure must have worked on the faithful). Then he proceeded to build up his combustible, very well ventilated man of straw, douse it in petrol and set it alight.

I'm really not swayed by the extreme contrast presented by Pastor Doug. In fact, I can give an even better one supporting and evolutionary perspectie. Here goes:

"One paradigm says that you are the product of an epic and grand story stretching back billions of years and are intricately connected to your surroundings and the universe as a whole. You know, someone asked me, "are we really products of the Universe?" And I said hell yes! He said, "How do you know," and I said we are made of exactly the same elements as the rest of the universe and in the exact same proportions. I think that's rock solid proof. Our body chemistry isn't based on, say bismuth. We're exactly the same, and we share this similarity with all the life forms we know here on Earth. Look at that paradigm, that would give us a sense of wonder and humility and an almost spiritual connection with all that exists. (see )

"Compare that with the other paradigm that says that some invisible magic man made us from dirt and that our first ancestors damned both themselves and all their descendants to a life of misery and death by eating a fruit given to them by a talking snake. It says that we are all sinners from birth and our lives have no purpose but to atone and suffer for that sin, and when you die, depending on if you accepted this far fetched (and I'm being nice here), unverifiable story you will either spend eternity glorifying and praising the magic man who put you in that situation, or if you didn't you will be cast into a lake of burning sulphur to die a horribly painful and final death (the Adventist doctrine on hell)."

There's more to be said about emotional arguments against naturalism and evolution, and I shall adress it later. Pastor Doug then went on to state that belief in evolution correlates with suicide, stating that the high suicide rates observed in adolescents is due to questions regarding origins. I don't think that's entirely correct. It's true, higher suicide rates are observed among those without religious affiliation, but I doubt very much that it's because of evolution. I'm more for the theory that higher suicide and depression rates are the result of a lack of a social support group as is present in religious congregations (pretty much the only thing we secularists need to learn from them). A whole hunch of arguments not really worth rehashing followed, including his own personal story, the argument from design, conflating Nazism and eugenics with evolution, invoking a scientific conspiracy (*facepalm*) and a modified argument from morality (if we are animals, we should act like animals).

There are a couple of other points I do find worth mentioning, though. One is Pastor Doug's assertion that a lot of smart people can be wrong about something. They once were, a few centuries ago, when they worked exclusively from a divine assumption. When they realised that the facts did not support their assumptions they changed their tactics, finding facts to draw assumptions from, instead of trying to find facts to fit with their conclusions. For example, the Old Earth theory was formulated by religious geologists who originally had the intention of finding evidence for a recent, global flood. When they did not fnd that evidence they changed their conclusions to ones that were supported by the facts. (reference)

The second point I found highly ironic. I don't remember the point he was making (and I'm too lazy to hunt for it in the video), but he said something about how prisoners who are so used to a life of crime often relapse after they have been released. I found this to be quite synonymous wiith what happens all too often with religion. A person has taken their first tentative steps towards freedom from religion, but because they are so used to religious life, be it because of vigorous indoctrination and brainwashing, sudden loss of the social framework or simple fondness of tradition they end up falling back into the pit they were trying to crawl out of.

( - the Hope Sabbath School video)

Next, I'll talk about Hope Sabbath School. Not much was covered here that wasn't already spoken about in CSH - social Darwinism, lack of accountability etc, plus a few Creo favorites: a perversion of my previous point about presuppositions i.e. that evolution works upon the presupposition that there is no God, that evolution requires faith to believe and that we cannot create life from non-life/we do not observe this happening today therefore it cannot have happened in the past.

But Derek Morris (who is such a great singer) and his audience didn't dilly around, virtually stating right out that they would ignore evidence for evolution in favor of what the bible says. Morris gave an anectote about a buddy of his who said something to the tune of, "I have some unanswered questions but I choose to believe what the bible says." That wasn't all, though. He went on to say that if God gave us all the answers we wouldn't understand them, and that Jesus will tell us all about it when he comes. This perpetuation of ignorance is why religion still survives. First of all, I will say that evolution does not rely on faith but on evidence, like any other science. There will always be uncertainties, but they are not simply left as is but actively researched into and ironed out. That's how science in general works, and if you are going to reject evolution, you might as well reject the rest of it as well. Second, I want to ask, if we must simply accept things on faith without giving mind to evidence, what's to stop me from going to any of the other religions that exist? What's to stop me from simply adopting a pantheistic religiosity that gives equal credence to all religions? According to all indicators, Christianity is simply another religion thought up and written by men and with the same shortcomings as all other religions. Therefore, I say there must be some more objective way of determining these things, and empiricism is that way.

Then came the actual Sabbath School on Saturday morning. In contrast to the "pros" the section was given just the time it deserves, but the reactions were no less extreme, if a little less informed. I heard such genius gems as: "God spoke. Monkeys don't speak. Therefore we did not come from monkeys", "have you ever seen a monkey loving another like itself?" (this question could be answered "yes", though I can't find any links supporting it), "my bible is my professor", "who has been redeemed by a monkey/ a scholar?", "If evolution is continuous, why have we stopped evolving?" and so on ad infinitum. Then came the very crux of the whole anti-evolution movement. The teacher simply didn't hold back, stating out-and-out that "Darwin was a servant of the Devil!".

Overall, this lesson was handled in a manner typical of that always used by Adventists: make emotional arguments backed by the bible or prophesy and ignore all evidence. Of course, they do have their creation "science" disinfo programs, like the Celebration of Creation series on the Hope channel, and I've caught a number of documentaries on 3ABN spouting the "Australopithecus was fully ape" claim and they also sometimes play Robert Gentry's long debunked videos. In reality, they are really vanity affairs simply affirming what the Big Guns say - it is the main church body itself that has the last word. When you see pastors telling biology professors how to do their job, you know they've strayed from fact and truth.

As I have stated before, emotional arguments hold no water in the light of evidence. The gist of this whole lesson was "creationism makes me feel good, therefore I will believe in it". Well, geocentricism may have felt good in the 16th century, but that still did not make it correct. Evolution is a matter of science and says nothing about self worth, self esteem and stuff like that. You may take what you like from it, but don't say it forced it on you. I don't think these fellows realise that as much as they deny the fact that we each make our own purpose in life, they are themselves making their own purpose by accepting their religion. One would think that if Christianity was the one true religion and Christian creationism the one true doctrine, then members of other religions would be suffering the same "insecurities" and "low self esteem" we atheistic evilutionists do. But they don't (and we don't), therefore it is easy to deduce that all religons have the same merits. Once again, it boils down to a social support structure.

As my earlier monologue demonstrated, it's all a matter of perspective. But I will still say that if there is any self esteem destroying belief system, it is Christianity. One of its core tenets is that we are all dirty, worthless sinners because of the actions of a distant ancestor we've never met and all deserve to suffer and die. And boy am I glad I stopped believing in that a long time ago.


This post from Pharyngula very aptly describes my experience regarding Adventists and Evolution. All baseless assertions and no science.

1 comment:

  1. It has always baffled me that certain religionists/creationists are more "proud" of being made out of dirt, than being related to a monkey!