by Ed Sawicki - a Secularist
December 8, 2017
I was recently asked to review a paper written by a Christian scholar that contrasts the attitudes of Evangelical Christians and Secularists. The author recognizes that we all live in own "bubbles" and tries to get both sides to understand each other's position. It was my job to review the paper and advocate for the Secularists.
Secularists include Evangelical Christians who tend to be politically left of center as well as Atheists and Agnostics.
I'm uncertain about the paper's status so I'm not going to reveal the name of the paper or author at this time. I'm also not going to use quotes from the paper, but I'll adequately describe the issues with sufficient detail in bold text. I've expanded on some of my comments that I sent to the author because of more recent events.
1. The author stated that Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species is as important to Secularists as the Bible is to Christians. Both have their books.
Secularists understand that Darwin's book, although seminal, is not the absolute and final word on the subject of Evolution. Revisions to his work are expected and demanded as we gain knowledge.
Christians tend to think of their Bible as immutable. A good example is some Christians* believe that the Earth is about 6000 years old. Modern science has reliably proven that the age of the Earth is about 4.5 billion years. Yet Christians cling to the belief. They believe that the 6000 years number comes from the Bible, therefore is the word of God and must be true. They're unaware that it is Bishop James Ussher's estimate from the 17th Century.
2. The Secularists have their heros: Darwin, Marx, Freud, Sam Harris,
Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.
Christian heroes are: Abraham, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, and Pope Francis.
- Whoa there! Pope Francis is a Secularist hero, not so much a Christian hero. Many Christians believe he's wrong about social issues and cherry pick the Bible to prove their point. They support Trump and Republican politicians who say that the Pope has no business commenting on Secular issues.
- Karl Marx? Really? The vast majority of American Secularists have never read Marx. If they had, some would find Marx appealing and some not. Associating Marx with people who are critical of the Church is a tactic used by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Donohue is a self-appointed guardian of Catholicism who once accused anyone supportive of gay rights of being a Marxist. However, I can't find where Marx ever took a position on homosexuality. His co-author of several books, Friedrich Engels, once commented negatively about homosexuality.
- Since most Trump supporters are Christian and the Charlottsville demonstrations show that some are Nazi enthusiasts, do we add Adolph Hitler (who was a Christian) as a Christian hero?
- Many Secularists can't understand how Mother Teresa is so highly-regarded by Christians. Her first priority was to ensure the sick died with God in their soul. Healing them appeared to be secondary. There are stories from reputable sources that say she hid medicines thus ensuring some would die.
- There are Secularists who are Christian, so Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are not heros to them.
3. Secularists criticize churches for teaching their beliefs to little children yet insist that science be taught to all children in school, and at taxpayers’ expense!
We teach children about science because our modern society depends on it. We can't come up with cures for disease, the next model smartphone, or analyze the harmful effects of fracking with prayer. Of course taxpayers fund science. It would be insane not to. We can't have only children of priviledged (rich) families taught these skills.
You're saying that taxpayers fund science education but not religion? I've been paying for tax-exempt churches for many years. Currently, U.S. taxpayers fund churches to the tune of about $70 billion a year. Plus, I've never heard of a science class advocating for the Republican Party or taking health care away from children.
4. Fundamentalist Christians see the present as bad and look to a future when, they believe, their beliefs will be victorious.
Many Secularists and Fundamentalists share this belief. The difference is that Secularists want the world to improve for their children and descendants, while some Fundamentalists want the world to end to achieve that. A Secularist doesn't want a Fundamentalist anywhere near a nuclear weapon.
5. Fundamentalist Christians distinguish very carefully between true believers and everyone else. They keep the outsiders outside.
Christian Fundamentalists are terrible at distinguishing true believers from non-believers. The David Kuo book 'Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction' reveals that Dick Cheney and the Bush Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives identified Christians as the single most gullible group to be exploited by Republicans. This was so distressing to Kuo (an Evangelical Christian) that he went on TV to advocate that Christians "take a fast from politics (Republicans)" for a while.
Today, Fundamentalists believe that Trump is one of them. How gullible is that?
6. Fundamentalist Christians rigorously defend their Christian beliefs but do a poor job identifying these beliefs.
This is my favorite paragraph in this paper. I've personally had conversations with Christians who knew less about the teachings of the Bible than I do. Of course, I have my Catholic School education to thank for that.