Belief is a tricky thing

I’ve never been consulted by anyone at Nabisco as support for their claim that the Oreo is America’s Favorite Cookie, but I assume they checked with someone. oreo

I’ve also never been consulted by a polling service to ask me whether or not I thought a god had created humans in their present form in the relatively distant past, circa 10,000 years ago. But someone was asked, and astoundingly, 4 out of 10 people thought that sounded about right. I imagine the fine folks at Gallup know how to properly conduct a statistically valid poll¹, since that’s what they do and all, but I can’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t confirm that all the respondents could read before they were allowed to participate. I say that because refusing to accept the fact that life on Earth evolves through natural processes requires the inability to read, or at a minimum, the inability to comprehend what one reads. In fact, it’s even more appalling than that. You can get the information about how we know that life evolves by just spending a little over 11 minutes on YouTube:

Today, even the Pope, Christ’s vicar on Earth, is telling people that life evolves and that they should go ahead and accept that now. He made some rather troubling statements along with that which I’ll elaborate on in a moment, but the underlying message is clear: Wake up and feel the common ancestry coursing through every cell in your body people! See, belief is a very troubling thing human beings are particularly susceptible to. We can observe it start at a very young age, where children believe things they are told, no matter how preposterous, without much question. Research shows that religious children particularly have a difficult time separating fact from fantasy because they are told (indoctrinated) to believe that religion’s extraordinary claims are true, so seemingly more reasonable tales are easily accepted to be true as well.²

It’s clear to me that removing the virtuous connotation that is attached to “people of faith” would go a long way toward breaking down the sense of confidence a person can have when digging in their heels on beliefs that don’t hold up as possible candidates for the truth. A person of faith is really a person who believes things to be true just because they want to believe them to be true. That’s a mouthful, so I’ll need to come up with something shorter and more memorable, but there is no denying that it accurately describes the faithful. When asked to support their position that Jesus is Lord for example, a person will confidently state that it’s faith, as if somehow that were a thing to be proud of. Well, the Muslims disagree with that position, and support their own position on faith as well. The Christian and the Muslim can’t both be correct, but they’re both sure that they are based on faith. It’s very disturbing that someone can be faced with that contradictory outcome and not be moved to a bit of self-reflection. I mean if the Christian’s beliefs are true, and they faithfully believe that they are, then the Muslim will be destined for Hell since they have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and that is the path to Heaven. But if the Muslim’s beliefs are true, and they faithfully believe that they are, the Christian is destined for Hell as they have not accepted Islam as the one true faith and submitted themselves to Allah. In fact, believing that The Almighty Creator of all things seen and unseen would have fathered a child is seen as particularly blasphemous.

So back to the Pope, as he provides some evidence to help support my position here that belief is a tricky thing. It may be fine for 40% of average Gallup poll respondents to say, sure, an invisible being somehow just created human beings recently, but the Pope is in a leadership position and everything he says is broadcast widely, scrutinized and sometimes even given some weight, which when you consider that he still has an Exorcist on staff should give you pause. Under the overwhelming weight of evidence, the Pope is trying to move the flock into the light of knowledge and implore them to accept scientific facts like the Big Bang and evolution through natural selection. But he can’t stop believing that God did it all, so he inserts The Almighty into the process. Here’s his statement:

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so… He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”³

Well confound it Your Holiness, you can’t say that life evolves but then claim that Yahweh “created” humans with some kind of internal laws He plugged into us. That’s inconsistent, inaccurate and confusing to those you are trying to reach out to. It’s a baseless claim, a faith-based claim if you will, which he believes just because he wants it to be the case. So even though the Pope is trying to move beyond the constraints of the ancient belief system that is Christianity, he can’t quite get there, at least not publicly.

In more recent declarations from the Holy See, Francis railed against life sentences for prisoners, inhuman prison conditions, and society’s attempts at fixing our problems with incarceration.♠ I stand in easy agreement with him on these points, but the dilemma I see is that again, he is Christ’s representative here in the Earthly realm. Perhaps Francis has received some recent communication from Jesus/God that has impacted his thinking, because Jesus is in favor of not only life sentences, but eternal ones! Arguably, a fiery lake of burning sulfur, which is how Hell has been described in Revelations, that most descriptive of the New Testament books, is an inhuman prison condition. And talk about fixing all social problems with incarceration, look at all the things that will get you cast into eternal, inhumane incarceration:

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”♣

So once again, we see belief creating inconsistent, illogical and even irrational positions among the faithful, where if they just stepped away from these baseless positions, the cloud of dissonance would clear easily. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that whoever wrote those words in Revelations was receiving them telepathically from the Creator of the Universe. What is more likely, that they reflect the ramblings of a Bronze Age man who was ignorant of the most basic facts we have about the world, who perhaps was convinced he was hearing voices in his head (to give him some benefit of the doubt, rather than to just call him a liar and a fabricator) or, is it more likely that a being more powerful and awesome than anything human beings could imagine was whispering in his ear?

I was never a big Journey fan, so it doesn’t pain me in the least to say that Steve Perry was giving you all some very bad advice when he crooned “Don’t Stop Believing.”

¹ Gallup Poll on Human Origins

² Judgments about fact and fiction from religions and non-religions backgrounds

³ Pope says God isn’t a magician

Pope says life in prison is a death sentence

Revelations

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