Monday, July 11, 2005

Slacktivist on Creationism

On a college tour of Israel, a fundamentalist encounters a 10,000 year old wall in Jericho, a wall roughly 4,000 years older than he believes the earth to be. Slacktist's Creationism: Snapshot No. 3 concludes:
This was, roughly, what was going on in my poor classmate's head as he stared at those rocks, which had been carefully put in place by some ancient citizen of Jericho thousands of years before the tiny literal god of the fundies had gotten around to creating the universe. If he were to cling to the framework he had been raised to believe, then either he must reject the existence of that wall, or he must reject everything he thought he believed about God.

Fortunately he was among friends, and we were able to convince him of a third option, which was, of course, not to cling to the framework he had been raised to believe. We were able to convince him that the existence of a 10,000-year-old city no more disproves the existence of God than the existence of God disproves the reality of that city. Once he was able to accept that belief in God and belief in the ancient world were not mutually exclusive, then he was able to set about the hard but necessary task of deciding for himself just what it was he really believed.
The problem, as he explains it, is that fundamentalists see any chink in their literal interpretation of the Bible as an attack on the whole structure. In a sense, each piece is a keystone, without which their faith cannot remain strong.

As Fred says, this literal God is quite tiny, and the faith it requires is immense, but tissue thin. I think a strong faith exists despite evidence, and a petty faith needs evidence to prop it up. Science is all about weak faith. If the evidence isn't there, we let that edifice tumble. Otherwise, we keep piling up the evidence to support our idea. We never think the wall is stable, but we get confident enough after a while that we're willing to stand on it and use it as one wall of a bigger structure.

My faith in human goodness rests on no such evidence. Counterexamples abound, and good examples of human goodness are disturbingly rare. But it's a strong faith, and I stick with it.

The faith of others in anything from Allah to the Tao must be equally strong to survive. The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao, and any Taoist who thinks they even understand what they have faith in is in questionable territory. Religious faith is and should be faith despite evidence.