Science

Quote of the Day: Evangelical Denial of Science Helps Fuel the Coronavirus Pandemic

katherine stewart

Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis.

….

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

….

It is fair to point out that the failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations. When the so-called private sector is supposed to have the answer to every problem, it’s hard to deal effectively with the very public problem of a pandemic and its economic consequences. But if you examine the political roots of the life-threatening belief in the privatization of everything, you’ll see that Christian nationalism played a major role in creating and promoting the economic foundations of America’s incompetent response to the pandemic.

For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have lined up with the anti-government, anti-tax agenda not just as a matter of politics but also as a matter of theology. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, one of the Christian right’s major activist groups, has gone so far as to cast food stamps and other forms of government assistance for essential services as contrary to the “biblical model.” Limited government, according to this line of thinking, is “godly government.”

When a strong centralized response is needed from the federal government, it doesn’t help to have an administration that has never believed in a federal government serving the public good. Ordinarily, the consequences of this kind of behavior don’t show up for some time. In the case of a pandemic, the consequences are too obvious to ignore.

— Katherine Stewart, The New York Times, The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals, March 27, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic: Why Churches Should Close Their Doors

mark palenske and his wife

In recent weeks, I have published a number of posts about Evangelical churches that refuse to close their doors over the Coronavirus Pandemic. Whatever their reasons for remaining open, the fact remains that these pastors and church leaders are risking infections and death by doing so. God is not going to save them from the COVID-19 virus. Far too many Evangelicals think that God will cause the virus to pass by their homes just as he did in Egypt long ago when the death angel claimed the firstborn child of every family. In their minds, they believe that faith, the blood of Jesus, and prayer, will provide them an inoculation against the virus. As countless Evangelicals are now finding out, such thinking is not only stupid and delusional, it is deadly.

Recently, Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Greers Ferry, Arkansas held what was billed as a Kid’s Crusade. Whether this event was the infection point is unknown, but one thing is for certain: thirty-two church members, including the pastor and his wife, are infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Three days ago, Pastor Mark Palenske posted the following message on Facebook:

I know that some of you have wished for another update sooner than this, but sitting down at the computer is not my highest priority at this point. Dena and I are beginning to feel some improvement, but the pace of that improvement is much slower than we would like. Our primary symptom at this juncture is a lingering nausea that keeps us wanting stillness and very small amounts of food. We are 12 days beyond our initial symptoms at this point, so this is obviously not a short term situation. Thus far, we have 26 people connected to the church who have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 16 more who have been tested and are waiting for results. Five of those 26 have been admitted to the hospital (including Dena, earlier in the week) and one more is being transported as I write. There was very little in my training for the ministry that covered the full measure of what our church family has dealt with in the past few weeks. The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously. An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else. I have two goals for this afternoon’s post. The first is that many are collecting reasons to fear, and I think that is counterproductive to our current challenge. There are many reasons for concern and we are being given large amounts of information daily that demands we carefully sift through it. Fear erodes our willingness to work together, and it steals the confidence of our youngest generation. Our lifestyle has not seen such sudden shifts in our routines or the influx of uncertainty that it has seen in the previous days. Any builder will tell you that the strength of the building lies within its foundation. It’s not hard to construct something quickly, but it takes more time to construct something that will last and endure hardship. Our country has ventured into a fickle and shallow society recently. We have applauded self-expression and overvalued individual human talent. Our culture revels in recreation (something that is not bad, but can be over-prioritized) and entertainment. In the process, we forgot what we were made of. Our foundation was built with a cooperative spirit and has motivated generations before this one to make sacrifices for the good of the whole unit. There have always been people who see the life of their fellow man as worth their efforts. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that we live in a sturdy place. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, right now than where I am. I trust my fellow citizens to rise up and meet this challenge. We are not invincible, but we learned centuries ago that faith outweighs fear. We learned that God, when given a place in our homes and in our lives, orders our steps. I read this morning…”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)My second goal is to try and alter the current of our social media tendencies. We can give into some real human frailties when we leap to conclusions and seek to injure an unknown individual or when we allow our rage to express itself without self-discipline at its core. Facebook, does not have to be negative! It does not have to inflict its will on the suffering or its opinion on someone with a very different perspective. It can be an incredibly useful tool to encourage and uplift. Let me explain. I would much rather tell you of the superstars that have fought side-by-side with my congregation during this battle, than highlight the obstacles that stood in our way. Two local doctors have gone well beyond their normal duties. It was because they were relentless and diligent, that we discovered the scope of what we are dealing with. There is wisdom in building a relationship with a physician and this circumstance proves that truth all over again. The medical world has their hands full. I remember the two nurses who met us out in the parking lot the day that we were tested. Their world changed in a single moment and they stood tall to the challenge. Let’s be patient with them at this time. They are doing their best, not only to help us return to our lives and our families, but to help them return to theirs as well. Dena and I receive a daily phone call from the state’s Department of Health. Each morning a ray of sunshine asks us how we are doing. We spent hours on the phone together going over each detail of our story. Retracing every step and sharing more information than we could imagine. They took that information and scoured our community for more that might have been affected. Our daily phone call from them won’t last forever, but I thank God for their help in all of this. They are dealing with an unpleasant reality that is testing their training and protocols, and if you ask me, they are doing so admirably. Mistakes and overlooked facts are bound to happen with something of this magnitude, but no one works in a circle of perfection. Not me! Not you! But it’s compassion and character that guides us through the tough times. I would also like to thank my neighbors and my fellow Cleburne County citizens. Your phone calls and care packages have been a God-send. We have lived here for 13 years (almost to the day) and you have been a family that we have cherished greatly. Long before the reality of this virus, we knew that you would step up for the community and we were not wrong! Lastly to the church and our family (both literal and figurative), you have been fantastic! Love is not just an emotion. It’s a series of thoughtful actions. We have felt and trusted in your love and will continue to let that love lead us forward. To anyone that reads this (I know that it’s long), I have a challenge for you. Fill Facebook with the names and faces of the heroes of this season. Tell others about how they impacted your life. Encourage! Uplift! Refuse to voice the negative and share hope with each other!!!

I wish nothing but the best for Pastor Palenske and his infected church members. I don’t want to see anyone get sick, and I certainly don’t want to see anyone die. That said, it must be pointed out that Palenske paints himself as a helpless victim, one filled with all sorts of wisdom and insight post-infection. Where was that wisdom and insight BEFORE thirty-two people were infected with the COVID-19 virus? Why was Palenske still holding church services and Kids Crusades as if all was right in the world? At the very least, Palenske and other decision-makers have to own their own culpability in this debacle. If services had been canceled and people had practiced social distancing, it is likely that this outbreak could have been avoided.

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors and the Coronavirus Pandemic in General

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Quote of the Day: Only Science Can Save Us from Coronavirus

betty anyanwu akeredolu

Indeed, Coronavirus has humbled the world’s religions and Nigerians whose lives depend on praying and fasting for miracles to happen in this digital world of science and technology.

When I said that I was more than convinced that religion is man-made and a bastion of sexism, which has subjugated women, festered gender inequality, stifled progressive thinking, retarded development and invariably added little or no value to our lives, I was called unprintable names.

 I remain unshakeable with my conviction.

This virus has proved me right, to a large extent. Nigerians, in particular, have invested so much in religion that amounted to nothing. Period!

Now that a deadly virus is ravaging the world, where do we look up to? Science or religion? It is glaring that the foreign religions over which we are killing ourselves in Nigeria have failed the world in this season of anomie and only science can save mankind.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of Nigerian Ondo State Governor, March 21, 2020

The Bible Commands Christians to Stop Gathering During Coronavirus Pandemic

foot washing service at danielsville baptist church march 16 2020
Robert Burt, pastor of Danielsville Baptist Church, washing congregants feet. He likely is already infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Some Christians, mostly from the Evangelical, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) tribes, refuse to obey social gathering orders. Sometimes, as in Ohio, churches continue meeting because state governments have exempted them from gathering orders. (Please see Dear Governor DeWine, Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just last week, a Georgia Baptist preacher refused to shutter his church, held a foot-washing service, contracted the COVID-19 virus, is now in the ICU hooked to a ventilator.

Main Street News reports:

Danielsville Baptist Church posted the following statement on Facebook Monday: “Pastor (Robert) Burt has tested positive for COVID-19. Please pray for us all during this time of uncertainty. He is in Piedmont Athens in ICU and on a ventilator. Thank you for your prayers.”

The church also posted: “All people within the church have been contacted and know to self quarantine. We are sorry for the scare within the community. The preacher and his wife have not been out in the community in the last week. We ask for prayers for all of the community.”

….

In the meantime, 911 Director Brenan Baird said his office is working with Smith to trace those who may have been in contact with Pastor Burt. A March 16 post on the Danielsville Baptist Facebook page included two photos of Burt conducting a foot-washing service.

Danielsville Baptist has had what can be best described as a “come to Jesus” moment. Yesterday, the church posted on its Facebook page:

A reminder that God is in control and at work in a mighty way in the middle of this storm.

All activities at Danielsville Baptist are canceled .

No Sunday Morning services.

No Wednesday Night services

No clothes closet.

Please keep all the country in your prayers!!

I want to say to Danielsville Baptist and its pastor, you have reaped what you sowed. Galatians 6:7 says: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. You ignored what health officials were telling you, and now COVID-19 is at your doorstep and no amount of praying and saying God is in control is going to keep you from getting infected. Pastor Burt ignorantly and arrogantly put his misguided faith and theology before reason, science, and common sense. Now he and his fellow Christians will pay the price.

Having said that, I do hope Pastor Burt recovers and others infected by his negligence recover too. I may despise the level of stupidity demonstrated by this church and its pastor, but I genuinely do not want to see any of them get sick and die.

Danielsville Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today, the mayor of Danielsville, Michael Wideman, signed an executive order shutting down the town. The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

The pastor of a small Baptist church in downtown Danielsville has been hospitalized with the coronavirus and members of the church have been asked to self-quarantine, according to the church.

….

The city of Danielsville on Monday also issued an executive order signed by Mayor Michael Wideman that affects businesses and organizations citywide, including two other churches inside the city.

All restaurants, coffee shops and other places were food is served to the public are now limited to take-out, drive-through or delivery. Dining on the premises is prohibited.

Public gatherings of 10 people or more are also prohibited. All barbershops, hair salons and fitness training centers are limited to six people or less.

Danielsville, Georgia, population 560, is similar in size to the rural Ohio community I live in. Everyone knows each other. Virus exposure can quickly spread in such communities due to close human interaction at church, school, and local businesses. Danielsville or Ney, Ohio will likely never become epicenters of virus exposure like New York, but residents should love their neighbors as themselves — as Jesus commanded — and avoid contact with each other. That includes church. Refusing to do so is direct disobedience to the Word of God.

That’s right, after two weeks of fasting, praying, and deep, deep, I mean deep Bible study, I have found a verse that directly addresses the Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19 infection, and whether churches should listen to government health officials and cancel their services.

Here’s what I found in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God:

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. (Proverbs 22:3)

I love how the Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates this verse:

When you see trouble coming,
 don’t be stupid
 and walk right into it—
 be smart and hide. (Proverbs 22:3)

Surely, we all can agree that the Coronavirus is “trouble coming.” In fact, it has arrived in all fifty states. In New York, hundreds of people are dying. According to health experts, the United States is in the early days of the pandemic. Want to see what our future likely holds? Look to Italy. (Please see Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus.) The Bible says that anyone who sees the Coronavirus coming and walks right into it is “stupid.” Just today, our Stupid-in-Chief, Donald Trump, said that he hopes churches are PACKED on Easter. That’s right. Nineteen days from now, the President wants and expects churches to be filled with worshipers of the “risen” Jesus. Surely, people of reason and common sense see the absurdity and stupidity of such words. The President is tired of limiting gatherings. He’s got campaign rallies to attend (and make no mistake about it, thousands of people will show up if he holds rallies) and an election to win. Lacking any sense of empathy for the American people or the world at large, all Trump cares about is his image, hotels, and stock portfolio. By suggesting Christians pack their local churches on Easter Sunday, Trump is stupidly running into trouble. And when the virus continues unabated? Blame the Chinese or Barack Obama.

God, in the Holy Bible, commands Christians to be smart and hide from the Coronavirus. That’s right. God doesn’t say have faith and stand your ground. God doesn’t say to take authority over the virus and pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t affect you. GOD SAYS, BE SMART AND HIDE!

What’s the best way to hide from the Coronavirus? Stay home. Stay away from other people. Do everything you can to avoid contact with other people. It really is that simple.

And if you refuse to do so? God says you are stupid. ‘Nuff said, Amen? Can I get a witness?

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Doctor We Need

C Everett Koop

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I am an atheist and a Democrat. Even so, the public official I have most respected, for most of my adult life, was a conservative Christian — and a rock-ribbed Republican.

If you are around my age, you have an image of him with a bushy, mustacheless beard. You remember him wearing what looked like a Naval Admiral’s uniform, or a suit with a brightly-colored bow tie that served as a diacritical mark highlighting his facial hair.

Most important, though, you remember the way he acted while he was on the national (and, for a time, worldwide) stage. That behavior was completely consistent with his professional ethos as well as his personal values.

His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981. Charles Everett Koo His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981.

He would soon put their fears to rest. Although he personally opposed abortion because of his religious beliefs, he would not succumb to pressure from the Reagan administration to prepare a report stating that abortion is psychologically damaging to women. Ever the doctor (pediatric surgeon) and scientist, he said there simply wasn’t evidence to corroborate what the President wanted him to say. 

His stance seems even more consistent with his credo when you realize how active he was in championing the rights of the newborn. Although he was not personally involved with the case, he was motivated by the death of a six-day-old boy who was born with Down Syndrome and denied surgical treatment to correct his esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula. Before he became Surgeon General, he was, for more than three decades, the surgeon-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, during which he saw increasing survival rates for babies with congenital maladies. During his last eight years, he never lost a full-term baby on whom he operated to correct esophageal atresia.

He would also call attention to the AIDS epidemic when the President would not utter the word “AIDS” in public. Liberal and LGBT groups criticized him for highlighting the dangers of sexual intercourse in general, and gay sex in particular, for spreading the disease. But he was also excoriated by religious conservatives and others for recommending mandatory sex education, beginning in the third grade.

Finally, he put his scientific knowledge ahead of the wishes of his boss when he called for stronger warnings against tobacco use. He infuriated some of the largest donors to the Republican Party—namely, cigarette makers—by issuing a report saying that nicotine has addictive qualities similar to those of heroin and cocaine, and should be treated as such.

After he left public life, he started a website that published articles that turned out to be little more than advertisements. Still, he deserves credit for his fealty to empirical evidence over the agenda of an administration, or even his own religious beliefs.

It seems that a Dr. Koop for this generation, if you will, has emerged. Like Koop, he is a physician and scientist. He, too, became a national public official during the Reagan Administration. He is also is resisting, quite publicly, a President and administration who deny science at every turn. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci became the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984. He has remained in that position under six Presidents, turning down several offers to lead the NIAID’s parent organization, the National Institutes of Health. During his tenure, Fauci has been at the forefront of efforts to deal with HIV, SARS, Ebola and other contagious diseases. In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information stated that during the previous two decades, Fauci was “the 13th-most cited scientists among the 2.5 to 3 million authors in all disciplines throughout the world who published articles in scientific journals.”

His current boss denied the threat of the coronavirus until a couple of days ago. Even after Donald Trump finally acknowledged the severity of the pandemic and the need to take unprecedented actions against it (and the economic disruptions it’s causing), he continued to blame the Chinese for it. And members of his administration insist that, while public gatherings and physical contact of other kinds have been banned in various cities and countries, church-goers won’t get sick by attending worship services, and that communion wafers and shared wine cups won’t transmit the virus.

Dr. Fauci, in another parallel with Dr. Koop, refutes those, and other, follies—and articulates his dire but accurate warnings—in clear, unambiguous language. The main difference, I believe, between the two men’s situations is that while most of the pressure on Koop came from “behind the scenes,” Fauci must make himself heard when his boss is an overbearing bully who is always trying to talk over him. Fortunately for us, Dr. Fauci, it seems, has been heard, loud and clear. 

So here is another case of history repeating itself: Drs. Koop and Fauci had to fight against religious superstition and plain-and-simple bigotry in the hope that empirical evidence would guide public policy. Unfortunately, if history teaches us anything, it’s that every public health crisis will need a Dr. Koop or a Dr. Fauci, whatever his or her ecumenical or political affiliations, to prevail against religious bigotry and political partisanship. People who were caught in earlier epidemics like the Black Death, unfortunately, did not have anyone like either of them.

Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic

The above screenshot is from the website for First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I attended First Baptist in the mid-1960s when it was located on Alpine Drive, and again in the 1970s when it was located in the old Methodist building on the corner of Beech and Butler. The pastor at the time was Jack Bennett.

Today, the church is pastored by John MacFarlane. John was a young boy in the church when I headed off to college in 1976. I used to bale hay for John’s father Randy. At one time, I had a number of family members and close friends who attended First Baptist. Today? Pretty much a new crowd. The old folks have died off, and those of us who were young years ago are now the new old folks. Such is the circle of life.

I really don’t know John that well. I know he’s a Fundamentalist, but I hoped he had a better understanding of the world than his predecessor, Jack Bennett. John’s no dummy, so I am astounded by the fact that he intends to continue holding services on Sundays. He’s canceling the Wednesday services and Sunday school, but Sunday morning and Sunday night? Game on! Everything we KNOW about the COVID-19 virus tells us that the best way to impede its spread is NOT to gather in groups. Stay at home, and avoid contact with other people. Churches are no different from schools, restaurants, sporting events, or other places where large numbers of people gather. John KNOWS this, yet he plans to have church anyway. Maybe he thinks God will be with them or be some sort of talisman that will protect them from the Coronavirus. Maybe he thinks if the church congregation prays real, real, real hard that God will hear their prayers and pass over them like he did the Israelites in Egypt. If so, he’s delusional. God is AWOL, and the only hope now is us. If we don’t do the right thing, who will?

You may remember that I mentioned earlier this week what John said about the Coronavirus in a blog post titled COVID-19 DOES Work Together for Good:

Listen here, you dirty coronavirus bug! You will NOT win! In Jesus name, the church is going to use what you are doing to the world and turn it around for something good. Your days of creating chaos will come to an end as Jesus heals body and soul. Your fear will be vanquished in the life-giving blood of Jesus as He makes new creatures, converting the lost souls. Persecution has never diminished the affects of the church. Quite the opposite! Persecution has always caused the church to grow and flourish. And, even though we can’t see you, you are an enemy that WILL be defeated. You will NOT conquer. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Jesus name — and all God’s people said — AMEN!

The fact that First Baptist, along with a handful of other local Evangelical churches, is having church on Sunday is yet more proof that Governor Mike DeWine should have ordered churches to close. Churches are nothing more than a weak link in an otherwise exemplary plan for controlling the virus in Ohio. (Dear Governor DeWine: Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just today, the Defiance County Department of Health said we now have our first confirmed case of infection in the county. It’s coming, John. For you, for your family, for the people you pastor. Do the right thing and close up shop and wait for the all-clear from Ohio Department of Health. Until then, you are risking the infection and death of your family, church members, and fellow citizens.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus

italy coronavirus

Guest post by Logan. Logan blogs at Life After 40.

A LOT of people are in denial right now. Here in the USA, we’re largely in “Stage 3” but some are still in “Stage 1” in their mind. The following comes from an Italian citizen. Italy is about two weeks ahead of us in terms of what’s to come. To make the person’s thread easier to read, here’s the content all together.

😎 STAGE 1: You know that coronavirus exists, and the first cases begin to appear in your country. Well, nothing to worry about, it’s just a bad flu! I’m not 75+ years old so what could possibly happen to me?

I’m safe, everybody is overreacting, what’s the need to go out with masks and stock toilet paper? I’m going to live my life as usual, there’s no need to freak out.

😐 STAGE 2: The number of cases begins to be significant. They declare “red zone” and quarantine one or two small cities where they found the first cases and a lot of people were infected (Feb 22nd). Well, that’s sad and somewhat worrisome but they’re taking care of it so nothing to panic about.

There are some deaths but they’re all old people, so the media is just creating panic for views, how shameful. People lead their life as usual . . .’m not going to stop going out and meeting my friends, am I? It’s not going to get me. Everybody’s fine here.

😕 STAGE 3: The number of cases is rapidly going up. They almost doubled in one day. There are more deaths. They declare red zones and quarantine the 4 regions where the majority of cases are registered (March 7). In Italy, 25% of the county is under quarantine.

Schools and universities are closed in these areas but bars, workplaces, restaurants and so on are still open. The decree gets released by some newspaper before it should . . .

. . .so around 10k people from the red zone escape from the area that same night to return to their homes in the rest of Italy (this will be important later). Most of the population of the remaining 75% of Italy still does what it always does.

They still don’t realize the seriousness of the situation. Everywhere you turn people advise to wash your hands and limit going out, large groups are forbidden, every 5 minutes on TV they remind you of these rules. But it still hasn’t settled in people’s minds.

😟 STAGE 4: The number of cases is heavily increasing. Schools and universities are closed everywhere for at least a month. It’s a national health emergency. Hospitals are at capacity, entire units are cleared to make space for coronavirus patients.

There aren’t enough doctors and nurses. They’re calling retired ones and those in their last 2 years of university. There are no shifts anymore, just work as much as you can. Of course, doctors and nurses are getting infected, spreading it to their families.

There are too many cases of pneumonia, too many people who need ICU and not enough places for everyone. At this point is like being at war: doctors have to choose who to treat based on their survival chance.

That means that the elderly and trauma/stroke patients can’t get treated because corona cases have priority. There are not enough resources for everybody so they have to be distributed for best outcome. I wish I was joking but it’s literally what has happened.

People have died because there wasn’t any more space. I have a doctor friend who called me devastated because he had to let 3 people die that day. Nurses crying because they see people dying and can’t do anything aside from offering some oxygen.

A friend’s relative died yesterday of the coronavirus because they couldn’t treat him. It’s chaos, the system is collapsing. Coronavirus and the crisis it’s provoking is all you hear about everywhere.

😢 STAGE 5: Remember the 10k idiot who ran from the red zone to the rest of Italy? Well, the entire country has to be declared under quarantine (March 9). The goal is to delay the spreading of the virus as much as possible.

People can go to work, go grocery shopping, go to the pharmacy, and all businesses are still open because otherwise, the economy would collapse (it already is), but you can’t move from your commune unless you have a valid reason.

Now there’s fear, you see a lot of people with masks and gloves around but there are still are people who think that they’re invincible, who go to restaurants in large groups, hang out with friends to drink and so on. Next step.

😨 STAGE 6: 2 days later, it’s announced that all (most) businesses are closed: Bars, restaurants, shopping centers, all kinds of shops etc. Everything except supermarkets and pharmacies. You can move around only if you have certification with you.

The certification is an official document where you declare your name, where you’re coming from, where you’re going and what for. There are a lot of police checkpoints. If you’re found outside without a valid reason you risk a fine up to €206 (roughly $230 US).

If you’re a known positive patient you risk from 1 to 12 years of jail for homicide. That’s what the situation is like now today as of March 12th. Keep in mind that it all happened in around 2 weeks . . . 5 DAYS FROM STAGE 3 TO TODAY.

The rest of the world apart from Italy, China and Korea is just now beginning to reach other stages, so let me tell you this: You have no idea what’s coming to get you. I know because 2 weeks ago I was the one who had no idea and thought it wasn’t bad.

But it is. And not because the virus alone is particularly dangerous or deadly, but for all the consequences it brings. It’s hard to see all these countries act like it’s not coming and not taking the precautions that are necessary for the well-being of its citizens while they still can. Please if you’re reading this try to act in your best interest.

This problem isn’t going to solve itself by ignoring it. Just wondering how many undiscovered cases there might be in America alone is scary, and they’re in for big, big trouble because of how their country is run.

Our government for once did a good job I must say. The actions taken were drastic but necessary, and this may be the only way to limit the spreading. It’s working in China so we hope it will work here too (it’s already working in some of the first red zones which were quarantined before everybody else).

They’re taking measures to protect us citizens such as probably suspending mortgage payments for next months, help for shop owners who were obligated to close and so on. I realize that these takes are really difficult, if not impossible, to take in some countries, and it’s really worrying to think about what it could mean in global scale. I wonder if this pandemic will be a turning point in our society. 

Lessons from Italy: 6 Stages of Coronavirus

Quote of the Day: Evangelical Francis Collins Speaks Out About the Coronavirus

dr francis collins

It’s [Coronavirus] very serious. This is a virus that spreads extremely quickly; it is so transmissible even by people who have no symptoms but who have gotten exposed and are carrying it around. … It’s a more serious disease than the flu, just in terms of its consequences. It is a respiratory illness; it gets to the lungs, and that is the greatest source of concern, and particularly for older people and people with chronic diseases.

“We estimate now that the mortality rate from this particular virus is probably in the neighborhood of 1 or 2%, and that is 10 times higher than influenza, so you can quickly see why we are taking this so seriously. … We are facing something we have not seen in my lifetime.

….

This is a great moment for Christians to be in this space of recognizing that we have a responsibility for those who particularly need that support, for those who are most vulnerable. In this case, it’s people with other medical issues or the elderly. It’s up to us to help protect them.

We are called to be strong and courageous. We are also called to be people of generosity, and of willingness to try to put ourselves out there to help others.”

— Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, COVID-19 Mortality Rate Is Probably 10 Times Higher Than the Flu, March 19, 2020

Maybe Evangelical conspiracy theorists will listen to one of their own? Dare we hope? I like the fact that Collins focused on meeting the social/temporal needs of others. No appeal to believers to use the Coronavirus Pandemic as an “opportunity” to evangelize unbelievers.

What the Coronavirus Pandemic Tells Us About the Efficacy of Prayer

coronavirus psalm 91:10

Unless you are Jeremiah Johnson living in an abandoned bus in remote Alaska without access to electricity, cellphone service, and internet access, you have likely heard that the world is being ravaged by the COVID-19 virus. Here in the Buckeye State, Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine banned gatherings of people — inexplicably exempting houses of worship — and ordered the shutdown of all food establishments. I suspect Governor DeWine is not yet done with attempts to mitigate the Coronavirus.

While Ohio is in the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak, other states, cities, and countries are facing alarming increases in cases and deaths. Medical workers are overwhelmed, supplies are running low, and hospitals lack available beds and respirators to treat seriously ill patients — with and without infection from the Coronavirus. My wife was scheduled to have major bowel surgery on March 24. After talking it over with me, Polly decided to postpone her surgery until late June. Yes, that means three more months with a colostomy bag, but it beats being exposed to the virus while in a medically compromised state. I have canceled all of my doctor’s appointments, save one. Since I am on the “this shit will kill you if you catch it” list, I am homebound for the duration. Yesterday, I heard from one long-time reader of this blog who is infected with Covid-19. His mother could also be infected. Here in the United States, we are in the early stages of the spread of the virus. Things will get worse before they get better; and they WILL, in time, get better. Whether all of us come out on the other side of this medically and financially whole, or even among the living, for that matter, is unknown. All any of us can do is listen to what experts are telling us and act accordingly.

Last Friday, President Donald Trump called for a National Day of Prayer on Sunday, March 15. That day has now passed, and, as expected, millions of Christians praying to their version of the Christian God did exactly nothing. Granted, I am sure some of the faithful felt better after beseeching the big man upstairs to ameliorate those affected by the Coronavirus. I suspect that scores of Evangelicals prayed to Jesus, asking him to turn back this attempt by China and the Democrats to crash Trump’s awesome economy and run him out of office. Yet, outside of the cathartic psychological effects felt from praying, what, exactly, changed after the Nothing Fails Like Prayer National Day of Christian Piety? Nothing, absolutely nothing. “Bruce, you can’t know that,” I am sure some Evangelicals might say. “God works behind the scenes in mysterious ways!” Sorry, but this line of bullshit no longer works for me, and I suspect it no longer works for millions of other people, including many Christians. It’s time for the Evangelical God to come out of the shadows and reveal himself. It’s time for him/her/it to make an appearance at hospitals and nursing homes and do some real “saving.” And dammit, it is time for Jesus to make sure there’s toilet paper in every American home. Just remember, the family that shits together stays together.

I am not attacking individual Christians for praying. You do whatever it takes to get you through this crisis. However, don’t expect rational people who put their faith in science to give any credence to claims that your God has the power to do anything about the Coronavirus pandemic. If 2,000 years of Christian church history has taught us anything, it has taught us that when epidemics, plagues, wars, and natural disasters show their faces, the God of Christianity remains firmly ensconced in the fictional pages of the Bible. He is but a character in a movie that’s been playing on an endless loop for thousands of years. We alone remain the only hope for a better tomorrow. We alone have the opportunity, knowledge, and power to hopefully limit the consequences of the COVID-19 virus. I remain hopeful that the world is up to the task and that better days lie ahead.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Human Sin Hardwired into Human DNA

Sin gene discovered by world renowned atheist geneticist
Bruce Gerencser 😀

The Bible talks about our “sinful nature,” “the flesh,” and “carnal man” all of which refer to an attribute found in all humans: a propensity to sin. So the question is: Is this propensity to sin in our DNA? The answer is yes, sin nature is hardwired in us and in our DNA. We are not forced to sin, but we have the tendency to sin. This is not a God given tendency, but rather a result of Adam eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden some 6000 years ago.

….

After God finished the creation, He proclaimed that the entire creation was “very good,” and this included man’s hardwired memory, or basic human instincts. Then came the serpent who injected something (the first GMO – genetically modified organism) into man using the forbidden fruit; this fruit changed man’s DNA, man now had the “sinful nature;” he was “carnal” and driven by his “flesh.” We know that it happened quickly because Adam and Eve, immediately after committing the original sin, hid from God; they were afraid of Him and ashamed of their nakedness (Genesis 3: 9-11). This fear and shame could not have been learned in that no events occurred that would have caused them to “learn” to fear God or be ashamed.

….

Once the sin nature is understood, it becomes evident why it is so important for parents to teach their children right from wrong. It is the “learned” portion of the brain that can combat the hardwired sin nature.

However, the only permanent solution for dealing with the sin nature is to get rid of it; and, we have the hope that someday, soon, our sin nature will be removed; and, it will; the trumpets will blow, the dead in Christ will meet us in the air and we will be changed: our sin nature will be gone; we will get our good, pure, original DNA and we will be free. We will be redeemed.

Genesis and Genetics, November 2, 2013

Understanding Religion from An Economic Cost-Benefit Perspective

cost benefit

Many of my fellow atheists and agnostics have a hard time understanding why, exactly, people are religious. In particular, many godless people are befuddled by Evangelicals. How can anyone believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant; believe the earth was created in six twenty-four-hour days; believe the universe is 6,024 years old; believe Adam and Eve were the first human beings; believe the story of Noah and Ark really happened; believe that millions of Israelites wandered in desert for forty years, and believe a Jewish man named Jesus was a God-man who worked miracles, was executed on a Roman cross, and resurrected from the dead three days later. I could add numerous other mythical, fanciful, incredulous Bible stories to this list; all of which sound nonsensical to skeptical, rational people. Here we are living in 2020 — an age driven by technology and science — yet millions of Evangelicals and other conservative Christians flock to Kentucky to tour Ken Ham’s monuments to ignorance: the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. These same people helped to elect Donald Trump, the vilest, most unqualified man to ever sit in the Oval Office. Why is it that Evangelicals continue to believe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

From a rational perspective, none of this makes any sense. Most Evangelicals have at least a high school education, and many of them have college degrees. Many of them are successful business owners, with more than a few of them amassing wealth most unbelievers covet. Many atheists and agnostics wrongly believe that the typical Evangelical is a poorly educated white hillbilly from Kentucky or Mississippi. Pan the crowds gathered at countless American Evangelical megachurches and you will find all the markings of well-off, educated people. Why, then, do Evangelicals believe the nonsense mentioned previously?

The best way to understand Evangelicalism is to view it from an economic cost-benefit perspective. Think of Evangelicalism as a club. To join the club, certain things are required. Every prospective club member must agree with the club’s stated principles and beliefs and pay annual dues to their local club. Once a prospective member publicly affirms the club’s stated principles and beliefs, undergoes a rite of initiation (baptism), and pays his annual dues, the prospect is granted entrance to the club. Membership in the club comes with several benefits:

  • Weekly instruction in the club’s principles and beliefs
  • Answers to life’s pressing questions
  • Classes for every age group, from infants to senior citizens
  • Opportunities for entertainment, often called fun, food, and fellowship
  • Access to counseling services
  • Wedding and funeral services
  • Support for conservative Christian social and political views
  • Bumper stickers, shirts, and other swag that advertises your membership in the club
  • Promises of forgiveness, happiness, and life after death

As long as these benefits outweigh the costs, people will continue to embrace Evangelical beliefs. Rationalists think that truth is all that should matter, and when it comes to truth, atheists/agnostics/humanists/skeptics/freethinkers have it, and Evangelicals don’t. True, but what do we offer besides truth? I’m waiting . . . Therein lies our problem. Yes, truth is on our side, but we lack appealing social structures (clubs), and, to many questioning/doubting Evangelicals, the cost of saying, “I am an atheist/agnostic” far outweighs the benefits. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist.) If we want to attract people to truth, to our cause, we must find ways to change the cost-benefit dynamic. “Dammit, Bruce, truth should be enough!” Yep, and I agree with you. Unfortunately, you and I are not like most people. “What’s in it for me?” many people ask. “What are the benefits of joining your club?” Fuss and fume all you want about this, but the fact remains that most people want to belong to things that benefit them; that give them something tangible.

As a pastor, I learned that people look for perceived value. Our church would sponsor a free concert with a contemporary Christian artist and fifty people would show up. Charge $5 admission for the same concert and hundreds of people will attend. Same artist, just a different perceived value. As long as Evangelicals think that the benefits of club membership outweigh the costs, they will continue to be members. Our goal should be to make rationalism and progressive politics appealing. We must develop social structures that advance the humanist ideal. And then, we must become the public face of our club, a face that says, “you are welcome here!” Constantly fighting with Evangelicals on social media does what exactly? Sure, it feels good to drown Evangelicals in seas of truth, but what have we gained? Engaging in shit-throwing contests on Twitter with Evangelical trolls might make for good entertainment and provide a brief dopamine rush, but what is really accomplished by doing so?  In 2012, tens of thousands of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and freethinkers gathered on the National Mall for the Reason Rally. What an awesome moment, a coming-out party, of sorts. Eight years have passed since this rally. What progress have we made towards coalescing into a credible, appealing club for likeminded people? If we truly want to give Evangelicalism the death it so richly deserves, we must offer to people a better way. We must offer them benefits that outweigh the costs of publicly saying “I’m an unbeliever” in a country that is still dominated and controlled by Christianity. We may laud recent upticks in polls for our kind, but this growth pales when compared to the sheer numbers of religious people. Yes, as a block, we now outnumber Evangelicals, but make no mistake about it, they still hold political and cultural power.

After the 2012 Reason Rally, I told readers that it was time for rationalists, skeptics, and freethinkers to move beyond skirmishes with Evangelicals. I still believe that today. That doesn’t mean we stop exposing Evangelical beliefs and practices for the nonsense they are. But we must find ways to build social connections; ways to build clubs that are appealing to, particularly, younger Americans. Trying to reach Evangelical Baby Boomers and the Great Generation is unlikely to succeed. It is with young people that the future of, not only the United States, but the world, rests. We oldsters have a lot of wisdom to offer, but as long as we sit silently in our homes, that wisdom goes to waste. Imagine how different our country might be if every county had a local humanist/skeptics club; a place where young and old alike meet to plan ways to Make America Rational Again; a place where atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers can gather and feel at home. Until we figure this out, people are going to continue to gather at local Evangelical clubs to worship the dead Jesus.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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Five More Questions from an Evangelical Pastor

good question

An Evangelical pastor whom I have known for over forty years recently sent me some questions, the answers to which appear below. He previously asked me some questions which I answered in a post titled, Four Questions from an Evangelical Pastor. I found his questions sincere and honest, unlike many questions I receive from Evangelicals. Far too often, ulterior motivations lurk behind some questions, but I don’t sense that here. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find my answers helpful.

Are there different levels of atheism? 

The short answer is no. Atheism is defined thusly: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. Unlike Christianity — a hopelessly fragmented group — all atheists agree on one thing: atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. From that point, atheist beliefs go in all sorts of directions.

There’s also what is commonly called the Dawkins Scale: the spectrum of theistic probabilities. Famed biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins spoke of this seven-level spectrum in his popular book, The God Delusion:

  • Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of Carl Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”De facto theist.
  • Very high probability but short of 100%. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”Leaning towards theism.
  • Higher than 50% but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”Completely impartial.
  • Exactly 50%. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”Leaning towards atheism.
  • Lower than 50% but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
  • De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  • Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

Atheists debate amongst themselves Dawkins’ scale, and whether agnostics are, in fact, atheists. Agnostics believe that the existence of God, of the divine, or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. (Wikipedia) Another definition of agnosticism is as follows:

In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational. (Richard Rowe, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

I should mention in passing what I consider a distant third cousin of agnosticism: deism. Wikipedia describes enlightenment deism this way:

Enlightenment deism consisted of two philosophical assertions: (a) reason, along with features of the natural world, is a valid source of religious knowledge, and (b) revelation is not a valid source of religious knowledge. Different deist authors expanded on these two assertions to create what Leslie Stephen later termed the “constructive” and “critical” aspects of deism. “Constructive” assertions— assertions that deist writers felt were justified by appeals to reason and features of the natural world (or perhaps were intuitively obvious) — included:

  • God exists and created the universe.
  • God gave humans the ability to reason.

“Critical” assertions— assertions that followed from the denial of revelation as a valid source of religious knowledge— were much more numerous. They included:

  • Rejection of all books, including the Bible, that are claimed to contain divine revelation.
  • Rejection of the incomprehensible notion of the Trinity and other religious “mysteries”.
  • Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies, etc.

True Christianity

All deists rejected the Bible as a book of divine revelation. If you define “a Christian” as a person who accepts the stories in the Bible as true, divine revelations, the deists were not Christians. They rejected the miracle stories in the Bible and rejected the divinity of Jesus. Many, however, accepted Jesus as an actual historical person and held him in high regard as a moral teacher. (This position is known as Christian deism and was Thomas Jefferson’s motive for assembling his famous Jefferson Bible.) On the other hand, if you define “a true Christian” as a person regards the historical human person Jesus as a great moral teacher and attempts to follow Jesus’ moral teachings, many deists considered themselves to be true Christians. Some deists were of the opinion that Jesus taught timeless moral truths, that those moral truths were the essence of Christianity, and since those truths are timeless they predate Jesus’ teachings.

I have long believed that someone could look at the night sky and conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe; and that after creating the universe, this deity said, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” This God is unknowable and non-involved in our day-to-day lives. Believe in this deity or not, it exists. Some readers of this blog will call this deity divine energy or power. Of course, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that what we call “life” is, in actuality, a Westworld-like alien game simulation. Once I was freed from the authority and bondage of the Bible, I was free to think more freely about human existence. Who knows, maybe “reality” is an illusion.

Here is my take: I am an agnostic and an atheist. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists. It is possible, though unlikely, that a deity of some sort might reveal itself to us someday. Possible, but improbable. For me, it is all about probabilities. (And the probability of the existence of any deity, let alone the Evangelical God, is minuscule.) On the Dawkins scale I am a six. The currently available evidence leads me to conclude that there is no God or gods. I am open to the possibility of the existence of one or more deities should evidence of their existence ever be provided, but, until then, I live my day to day life as an atheist. The only time thoughts about God enters my mind is when I am writing for this blog.

That said, let me be clear: I am not an anti-theist. Some atheists are vociferously and stridently anti-religion. I am not one of them. This has led to all sorts of criticisms and attacks from what I call the fundamentalist wing of atheism. On occasion, I have had anti-theists tell me that I am not a True Atheist®. I laugh when such arguments are made, thinking, “is this not the same argument Evangelicals use against me when they say I was never a “True Christian®?”

Do all atheists rely strictly on science and history for answers?

Strictly or solely? No. Once we move from the base definition of atheism, atheists go in all sorts of directions philosophically, politically, socially, and even religiously. Yep, you will run into atheists who view themselves as “spiritual.”  I have been blogging for almost thirteen years. I have met all sorts of atheists. Recently, several pro-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual atheists/agnostics have commented on this blog. I don’t understand their viewpoints and logic, but I don’t have to. Atheists are free to meander every which way from “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” One can be an atheist and be irrational; and believe me, more than a few atheists are as dumb as rocks. Some atheists will comment on this blog and leave me scratching my head and saying “huh?” I rarely respond to such people. I let them say their piece, hoping my silence will tell them all they need to know.

This would be a good point to mention the fact that many (most?) atheists are humanists. There’s nothing in atheism that gives a person moral or ethical grounding. Atheists look to humanism to find a framework by which to live their lives. The Humanist Manifesto remains the best summary of humanism:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

To answer my friend’s question, the Humanist Manifesto states:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Do all atheists believe in evolution?

Since I am not party to what all atheists believe, I can’t speak authoritatively on the matter. I can say that all of the atheists I know generally accept biological evolution as a scientific fact. While the word “belief” can be used in a variety of ways, in the context of evolution, atheists don’t believe in evolution. Belief, in this context, much like with religion, implies the use of feelings to come to a conclusion. Most atheists I know would say that their acceptance of evolution and other scientific conclusions rests on evidence, facts, and probabilities, not their feelings.

For most of my life, I was illiterate when it came to science. I believed that Genesis 1-3 told me all I need to know about biology, cosmology, and the like. God created everything just as it is recorded in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible — end of discussion. I had a few creationist-oriented Evangelical apologetical books in my library. All these books did for me was affirm that I was “right.”  It wasn’t until I was disabused by Dr. Bart Ehrman and others of the notion that the Bible was some sort of perfect, supernatural book that I was able to question what it was exactly I believed about science.

One of the first books I read on this subject was biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Another helpful book by Coyne is titled, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. For someone still in the Evangelical tent, books by physicist Dr. Karl Giberson might be helpful: Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution and The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Giberson’s support of evolutionary biology ultimately led to his dismissal from Eastern Nazarene College in 2011. Both Giberson and Dr. Francis Collins remain controversial figures within Evangelicalism, with more than a few Evangelicals saying that neither man is a Christian. I have my own doubts about whether Giberson or Collins are actually Evangelicals, but I am content to let people self-identify as they please.

Bruce, what do you believe about our existence?

Let me be clear, I am not a scientist. I know a hell of a lot more about science today than I did a few years ago, or when I was a Bible-believing preacher, but that doesn’t mean I can speak authoritatively on matters of science. I continue to educate myself, but at my age, I will likely run out of time before I master any specific scientific discipline. I hope that that one or more of my grandchildren will do so and become what their grandfather could not. Many of my grandchildren are straight-A students, so I have high hopes that some of them will enter STEM programs post-high school.

I know where I am lacking knowledge-wise, and I do my best to not speak beyond that which I know. Want to talk about the Bible, Evangelicalism, theology, photography, or Windows-based computers? You will find that I generally know what I am talking about. However, when it comes to biology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, archeology, and other scientific disciplines, I am, in every way, a novice. It is for this reason that I rely on experts to tell me what I need to know about science. Smart is the person who values expertise. I have certain scientists I trust to tell me the truth. “So, Bruce, does this mean you put “faith” in what they say?” Yes. Many atheists shy away from the word faith because of its religious connotations. However, I refuse to let religion hijack certain words. Faith means “confidence in a person or plan.”  There are scientists that I put great confidence in; when they speak, I listen. No, these men and women are not infallible, but they have given their lives to understanding this or that science discipline, so I trust what they say.

In Christianity, there is so much disagreement! How about among atheists?

There’s no doubt that Christianity is the most fragmented religion on the planet. I have long argued that if Christians were unified theologically that I might at least pause for a moment when considering the “God question.” However, there are thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each with its own version of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This disunity says to me that Christianity is very much of human origin.

I wish I could say that atheism is monolithic, and everyone thinks and believes the same things. Sadly, atheism is quite divided too. Not so much on the core belief: “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” Every atheist I know believes this statement to be an accurate definition of their view on God or gods. However, recent years have brought attempts by some to expand the definition of atheism to include social justice issues. This spawned a group called Atheism+. While there was a moment when I thought Atheism+ might be worthwhile, I quickly thought better of it after seeing who it was that was driving this attempt to redefine atheism. Socially and politically, I am as liberal as you come, but I saw Atheism+ as a purity test; an attempt to divide atheism between us and them. I concluded that the proponents of Atheism+ were using methodologies eerily similar to those I saw in Evangelicalism. No thanks. And let me be clear to Atheism+ flag-wavers, I have zero interest in re-ligating this issue with you in the comment section. Been there, done that, still bleeding.

Here’s one thing I know about most atheists. We can heartily disagree with one another and later enjoy each other’s company at a pub or restaurant. Back in my Evangelical days, every disagreement had eternal significance. Not so with most atheists. I don’t understand how an atheist can support Donald Trump or the present iteration of the Republican party, but I am not going to let that affect our relationship (if we have one). I have booted several pro-Trump atheists off this site, not because of their politics, but because they were assholes. And as much as I hate to admit it, there are atheist assholes; people who don’t play well with others; people who think throwing feces at people on social media is “good conversation.”

I hope I have adequately answered my Evangelical friend’s questions.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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