“The debate between science and religion was over when churches started putting lightning rods on their steeples”
So goes a popular internet meme. (I was unable to find the source of this quote, if any of my readers has an idea, I would be happy to provide a reference.)
Yes, lightning rods did end thousands of years of debate over what causes lightning. Before good science, there were all sorts of tales, myths, legends, paranoia, and silliness regarding the mysterious bolts of light that struck the earth with such devastating fury. Every single religion in the world, including the horrific tribal warlord religions of Abraham, ultimately were wrong. For thousands of years, adherents to the various religions burnt crops and animals, killed children or other people, held elaborate ceremonies, and in general feared the wrath of a god they hadn’t actually met. These people feared and cowered and often were sacrificed based on the understanding of the universe provided by their holy books. But then Benjamin Franklin shocked himself with a kite and a key, and the truth was known. Put up a lightning rod.
After thousands of years of misery, the church now performs a miraculous dance of pretending they knew it all along. They obviously didn’t, but if a pudgy politician can figure out the truth where the bible was clearly in err, it doesn’t brood well for their belief of god’s knowledge, does it! So away they go, playing the harp like they knew it all along, and it must have been MAN and his SIN that prevented us from knowing what the bible CLEARLY (i.e. read between the lines with extreme poetic license) said all along. But that’s all bullshit. At the end of the day, the preachers stopped going to god to help with the lightning issue, and turned instead to the wisdom of a man that conducted an experiment.
And that’s it. That’s the entire story. Religion is wrong, science gets the right answer, religion pretends they knew it but “sin” or something, and then the scientific answer is used. This pattern has been repeated so often that I blogged a list of dozens of times religion was wrong.
But I really can’t belabor this one point long enough. Because religion was wrong, MILLIONS of people died horrible, gruesome deaths. The modern “progressive” religious adherent feels smug in their assertions that the bible is, oh, not a literal thing but a figurative thing, or something like that. But not only is it the height of dishonest cherry-picking, it ignores the fact that millions of people over thousands of years read the bible (or other religious text) and listened to the “word of god” and did their very best to be exactly the person they thought they must be to stop angry gods from smashing their stuff with this horrible bright bolt. Yet none of it worked. It is to dismiss the entire foundation of the universe as described quite clearly in these texts. It is to dismiss the horror and fear and pain of these people who just wanted to get it right. It is to dismiss those people as somehow “ignorant.”
But on that point, they are right. You see, if you know the world through the bible, you are ignorant. You can not know what lightning is by the bible. You will be wrong about what stars are. You will be wrong about basically everything about the earth. You will be wrong about history. You will be wrong about the cause of natural phenomenon. The bible, as a single reference, is so wrong so often, it is painful watching people defend it while using power point and computers under artificial lighting, speaking through a microphone, and benefiting from agricultural sciences to feed them, and medical sciences to keep them healthy and alive over twice as long as the people they quote as being correct. Benefiting from science counter to the teachings of your book to promote your book, is like running an autocratic organization dedicated to anarchy.
However, if you know the world through the amazing discoveries about the world around us, as provided by the exacting and self-correcting process of science, you have real knowledge. You can actually fix problems. You can actually make your life or the lives of others better. And if you aren’t a scientist, hey no problem. There are lots of scientists. Listen to the scientific consensus. Or if you still are unsure, take some evening classes in the sciences. Please do.
When confronted with obvious contradictions, most religious people will attempt to square the differences with this little trick: Ignore whatever doesn’t fit. Ignore the bible (or koran, or torah, or whatever) passage, or ignore the scientific conclusion. The difference between fundamentalist and progressive religious people isn’t a difference of intelligence or skepticism or being more educated, it is a matter of what they choose to ignore, either passively or actively. And when you ignore something, you are…. ignor..ant! Yes ignorant. Thank you for playing along!
Lightning rods work, the holy texts do not. Ignoring either side of that comma keeps you ignorant. Accepting it makes you open your mind.
The Spartan Atheist