“There is nothing that is too obvious of an absurdity to be
firmly planted in the human head as long as you begin to
instill before the age of five by constantly repeating it
with an air of great seriousness.”
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series of posts will recall that they are a narrative not of a horror movie…but of something equally disturbing: the religious programming of a child.
Zachary, my stepson, now 10, lives most of the time with his father and stepmother, who practices a vanilla denomination of Christianity and has corralled Zachary’s dad, a lapsed Catholic who mocked the Pope and once refused communion (because of the Church’s sex abuse), into the enterprise. The man now wears a crucifix around his neck, and they all go to church regularly.
We have not discussed religion with him seriously for months, assuming he would go with our previous advice to not take it too seriously but enjoy the social activities and camaraderie.
The programming continues
Big mistake. As we let things ride, the programming proceeded apace. Zachary is now armed with some of the more elemental defenses of God and the Bible, e.g., that Genesis is compatible with evolution because a “day” could be a million years.
That again?? Haven’t they got anything better? Why didn’t God tell everybody, “Hey, it’s a million years to you, but only a day to me?” The Bible doesn’t say that, because its primitive HUMAN writers really thought it was a day.
We have Zach for a week, and tonight we went into a full-court press. My wife was loving, patient, and a brilliant Socratic cross-examiner.
At first Zach went into refusal/rejection mode: hiding under pillow, shouting “shut up!” (isn’t that the usual religious response?), trying to change the subject…but my wife persisted: “Zach, if you were willing to question religion two years ago [as is documented in earlier “Brain” posts], what new evidence do you have that it’s true, that God exists?”
He had none. They don’t give him evidence. They give him drivel. God exists because the Bible says he does. This opens the door to a discussion of circular reasoning and other logical fallacies.
Zach was interested in what other evidence there might be, so he went to a religious website to get the BS right from the bull’s rear end.
Religious fallacies and other BS
We read that God exists because Earth is perfectly suited for life. What about all the other planets and all the stars without planets? Kinda wasteful on the deity’s part, no? He decided to work his magic just on this little blue dot instead of populating the universe with many races of aliens? The Bible says nothing about them. This is “just-so” reasoning.
God exists because how could you imagine a universe without a creator? Argument from incredulity.
God exists because babies and flowers are beautiful, and the human eye is incredibly complex. Right – and if the baby gets leukemia when he’s five, does God still exist? Or is it all – leukemia, famine, earthquakes, plague, etc. -- as George Carlin suggested, “the work of an office temp with a bad attitude”?
Another site produced attempts to integrate the jargon of particle physics with the possibility of a deity. Particles that appear to be “eternal” or “outside the flow of space and time” are evidence of an eternal deity. What does “outside the flow of space and time” even mean?
Semantics of religious BS
As a student of semantics, I want to ask that question over and over when I encounter religious bullshit: what does that even mean?
For that is the quintessential definition of BS: it’s grammatical and it sounds as if it might mean something, but the words don’t refer to anything in the real world, or they refer to concepts that are undefined or undefinable. (Political and advertising BS fall under the same definition.)
“Kissing Hank’s Ass”
Now that we had gotten past the resistance, the only logical destination was “Kissing Hank’s Ass.”
It’s a powerful little piece if you’ve never encountered it before. It shows how stupid and irrational the Bible and its commandments really are, and it does so in a metaphorically direct way.
If you kiss Hank’s ass (worship God), you get $1 million (go to heaven), but only if you leave town (die) and never come back. Nobody’s ever come back. If you don’t kiss his ass, Hank will beat the shit out of you (send you to hell).
Actually, we don’t know exactly what Hank said, because all we have is Carl’s (the Church’s) word for it. The rules are even written on Carl’s stationery (the Bible).
Belief and perks
My wife was almost brutally – but lovingly – direct with her son: “Zachary, you know life is easier in that house if you go along, and there are many perks – like puppies, camp, and Christmas presents (we consider it low-level child abuse to require belief in Santa in order to get presents; it’s preparation for belief in God, i.e., Christmas with much higher stakes).
“But you should ask yourself why you don’t resist church authority the way you stand up to unfair teachers and arbitrary school authority (which he does). And just realize that they’re both trying to get you to believe and act in a certain way, whereas your job is to grow into your own person.”
That’s where we left it tonight. Now we’ve got him back on track, sort of. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the week goes.
PS. The last couple of days have been tranquil. We found a wonderful resource that specifically addresses Biblical logical fallacies: http://examiner.com/article/classic-religious-fallacies ;http://examiner.com/article/classic-religious-fallacies . Zach sat relatively still for it, burrowing under couch pillows. But he got it. The good news is that the religious propaganda at his level fails even the simplest test of logic and reason. Months of programming can be undone in a few days. He'll never hear "It's true because the Bible says it is" in the same way again. Mission accomplished (for now). Stay tuned.