The Need for Absurd Belief Among Fundamentalists

Why is there a “culture war” between science and religion?

Religionists, particularly the more fundamentalist of them, frequently object to scientific facts of evolution, geology, DNA, and so on. They very often assert that very paranormal and supernatural events described in Christian mythology are genuine and that these events occurred regardless of their unscientific and preposterous nature.

Examples include an Earth that’s thousands of years old instead of billions; the denial of evolution; the belief that the entire planet was completely flooded in a matter of days; that a man put two of every creature on Earth in a boat; that a man was born of a virgin and had magical powers (could heal the sick, rise from the dead, etc.); and they believe that wine and crackers can, if the right magic words are uttered by the right magic person, become the blood and body of the afore mentioned man who has been dead for over two thousand years if he was ever alive.

And these are but a few of the preposterous and absurd notions and ideas held, each contrary to scientific understanding and thought. To all or most of these people, these notions and ideas aren’t preposterous or absurd, but this is due to the fact that they were probably raised from childhood to accept them without question. It could even be that those that profess to believe in these notions realize the absurdity of them but refuse to entertain this beyond their own private thoughts and, even then, only in fleeting glimpses and brief moments of question or wonder. These glimpses and moments quickly turned away from since the spell of their religious belief and indoctrination effectively insulates them from actively questioning their beliefs.

Such people believe not so much in the “miracles” and absurdities of their religion but more so in belief itself. This “belief in belief” is discussed at length by Daniel Dennett in his book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and I recommend the book for anyone that is interested in the scientific study of religion and belief, which is one of the topics I try to concern this blog with. Indeed, you may have even noticed the similarity of the blog’s title to Dennett’s book.

Not a single one of the absurdities that these people hold to be factual is supported by science or reason, however. There simply are no good data or experiences of observation that support these ideas as true. And many religious believers no doubt recognize this, accepting these beliefs on “faith” rather than evidence. They hold these notions and ideas regardless of the lack of evidence or even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Why?

I think one of the main reasons is that accepting the scientific and reasoned perspective over that of their religious doctrines and dogma -in other words, discounting the Biblical accounts as allegory, poetry, literature, or just plain myth- will, for many of these people, invalidate their entire system of beliefs. Just as a house of cards is precariously balanced and fragile, so, too, is the system of Biblical belief, which ultimately informs the political agenda of so many people. The political investment that fundamentalist Christians have in the Biblical compendium is such that should a single story be shown or accepted to be just a myth, the entire Bible would then be in question. And, indeed, it is.

Science, history and archaeology have, time and again, brought Biblical “facts” into question, invalidating them. I think conservative, fundamental Christians realize this so they deny, obfuscate, confuse, ignore, and otherwise bring into question facts of science, geology, archaeology, anthropology, psychology, neurology, biology, chemistry, astronomy and many other sciences that have shown information contrary to Biblical belief to be true. For The conservative Christian to accept, for instance, that evolution invalidates the literal truth of the Bible as told by Genesis, then what reason would those same conservative Christians have to continue excluding homosexuals or other groups with whom they disagree? And that is but a single example. One could also draw into question conservative positions on end of life, stem cell research, the Middle East, etc.

But there is and abundance of evidence that shows vertebrate life on the planet millions of years ago; that the planet itself is billions of years old. The evidence one might expect to see, which would support a global flood just a few thousand years ago simply isn’t there. There is no evidence to support the notion that virgins can be impregnated without help from a male sperm donor. There is no evidence to support that one human can heal another simply by placing a hand on them -and they certainly cannot correct blindness this way. There is no evidence that someone can truly be dead then arise from their grave 3 days later. Either you’re dead or you’re not. There’s no evidence that the planet was brought to a stand-still with regard to its rotation, as the bible says occurred for 24 hours.

Religious adherents would be quick to say that neither can these things be disproved or that there’s evidence to the show that any of these things couldn’t occur. But I’d say this is only partially right. Sure, there’s no way to prove gods don’t exist or that these improbable things couldn’t occur. But there is evidence that is to the contrary. And that evidence is the distinct lack of evidence that supports any of them.

The spell of belief among adherents of Christianity will not easily or willingly be broken. The best we can do, for now, is to keep up the “fight,” as it were. Continue to be voices of reason and rational discourse and to value each and every believer that has a rational epiphany that causes them to begin to question their system of beliefs.

Eventually, perhaps, the spell of religion will be broken.

About Ylooshi

An anthropologist who is an atheist. My blog at breakingspells.net concerns itself with breaking the spells of superstition and religious belief through examining human superstitions and religions scientifically and rationally. Breaking Spells, the blog, also focuses on atheist and secular concerns such as the separation of church and state as well as the negative influences of Islamo-Judeo-Christian religious cults on society.
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