“Consensus science is the first refuge of scoundrels … invoked only in situations where there is a political, social, financial agenda but no scientific support.”
Here’s the key, friends, this is the real deal. Legitimate science recognizes a close correlation between sunspots and climate change … The sun is the source of temperature changes because of its infrared variations. … There is absolutely no evidence that CO₂ contributes to warming. On the contrary the opposite is true. Warming produces CO₂ … It’s the other way round.
By the way, plants produce CO₂. What man produces is marginal … Industry doesn’t affect CO₂ in the environment or atmosphere.
This is all political [and] financial agendas, class warfare, class envy … By the way, US$100 billion has been spent to make a case for global warming … driven by the socialist mentality … even some of the feminist mentality that resents male success.
God intended us to use this planet, to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was it intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that.
In 2014, Brandon Fibbs wrote an article titled “Carl Sagan Took My Faith — and Gave Me Awe,” for the now-defunct Washington Post “On Faith” blog. Fibbs wrote:
I was not always an atheist.
I was once a devout and sincere believer in the Christian faith. I am the son and grandson of pastors and missionaries. My family founded one of the country’s largest Bible colleges, Christ for the Nations, from which I earned a theology degree. For years, I contemplated, and began strategizing, a run for national political office under the banner of Christian reform.
The longer a belief system—any belief system—remains in place, the more likely it is to become an unmovable fixture of that person’s identity. In my experience, most persons of faith who undergo a deconversion experience do so during their middle or high school years. But that is not my story. I did not begin to question, nor finally abandon, my faith until my mid-30s.
That was when I discovered science. And Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author who became a household name in the early 1980s when his television series “Cosmos: A Personal Journey” became the most watched program in PBS history. Before his untimely death in 1996, Sagan was the nation’s leading science communicator, a regular guest on both the nightly news and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
But in my childhood home, Carl Sagan was a fundamentalist caricature of science. He was a figure of scorn and mockery, conjured in conversation only when one needed a large and easy target for pillorying evolution.
“Billions and billions of years” was a “Cosmos”-inspired quote my family and friends would mimic in Sagan’s telltale nasal inflection, always earning animated laugher. Not because it was fun to imitate so singular a personality, but because anyone who believed, much less preached, such nonsense deserved nothing more than sarcastic contempt. And so it was for most of my life.
As the product of a mostly terrific private school education, I never had to worry about encountering something like Sagan’s “Cosmos” in my school science classes. A literal reading of the book of Genesis, including a six-day creation, 6,000-year-old Earth, and a historic Noah and Tower of Babel, constituted our learning of cosmic and human origins. Evolution was a dreadful ploy spat up from the pit of hell, with which the world’s scientists were in complete collusion.
The closest I came to Sagan was in my mid-20s, when the film Contact, based on Sagan’s only novel, appeared in theaters. The story centered on a mysterious alien signal and the manner in which the globe’s many cultures processed the realization that they were not alone in the vast universe. I, like many people who saw the film, found it awe-inspiring. I can still remember returning home from the theater on a euphoric cloud, opening my Bible, and reading with wonder the majesty of God’s creative prowess.
A year or so later, I decided to read the novel, and while it entertained a certain ambiguity where matters of faith were concerned, the book initiated my first-ever crisis of faith. “Contact” raised and inspired questions that neither I nor anyone I knew could satisfactorily answer. I resolved that crisis of faith not by reconciling those quandaries, but rather by listening to those who told me that the questions themselves were either wrong to ponder or not even worthy of my time. I decided to ignore the questions, telling myself my faith was as strong as ever.
But the questions festered, continuing to grow and feeding off my neglect, until they were too large to ignore. I could not be intellectually honest and continue to ignore them. They demanded a verdict. And when I finally turned to face them down a decade or so later, I found that all my years in church and all my academic training was not enough to halt their advance.
I did not abandon my faith because I was hurt or angry or disillusioned. I did not abandon my faith because I wanted to rebel, or live a life of sin, or refuse god’s authority. I left because I could no longer believe. I left because I felt there simply was no convincing evidence for my belief. I left because my faith insulted reason one too many times. I left because once I applied the same level of skepticism and incredulity to Christianity that I always had to all other faiths, it likewise imploded. Once I accepted that the Bible’s account of cosmic and human origins could not possibly be true, I began to realize that it was just the first in an interminably long line of things the Bible was wrong about.
Science killed my faith. Not “science,” the perverse parody invented by some Christians—a nefarious, liberal, secular agenda whose sole purpose is to turn people from god—but rather science, an objective, methodological tool that uses reason and evidence to systematical study the world around us, and which is willing, unlike faith, to change direction with the accumulation of that evidence. Science is a humble and humbling exercise. Science is the impossibly dense core of curiosity—always asking, always seeking, always yearning to know more, never satisfied.
My newfound appreciation of science came, in no small part, from the writings of my old nemesis, Carl Sagan. What I discovered in Sagan’s elevated verse—particularly in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark and within the baker’s dozen of the series “Cosmos”—was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life. Here was a man who could stir both body and, if you will allow me a bit of poetic license, soul.
While Sagan’s personal views set him safely in the camp of atheism, he was more comfortable claiming the title of agnostic. He certainly never made it his mission to destroy anyone’s faith. His sights were always set on something far higher. His mission was to build up, not tear down.
As I read, I began to wonder—why had Sagan been so reviled? His manner was so meek, his words so respectful, his position so evenhanded. He was compassionate and affable, even when he quarreled. Certainly, he was nothing like the thought leaders of modern unbelief, such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, who take pride in their public disdain for religion. Sure, Sagan was staking a position against mythology, irrationality and pseudoscience, but he was so, well, kind about it.
Perhaps it was this very gentleness, warmth and humanity that made him so much more menacing than his ideological peers, then and now. He did not attack so much as elevate. He spent only as much time as was necessary dismantling those things that posed a significant threat to rational living, instead focusing most of our attention on the wonders science had revealed.
So it was with my own deconversion process. I had a mentor in the final years of my faith—a name with which everyone reading this is familiar—who never took my spiritual tumult as an opportunity to hack at the foundations of my religion, but who also didn’t turn his back when I came to him with my quandaries. He never attacked or belittled my faith. He merely redirected my gaze to the wonders that can be found within a scientific framework and let everything else take care of it itself. He simply showed me something unspeakably beautiful and inarguably true and then stepped back, trusting in a process he knew would ignite my brain and consume my body. Whether he knew it or not, he was walking in Carl Sagan’s footsteps.
This, for me, is Sagan’s most enduring legacy—this realization that science is the most emotional journey imaginable. Science does not castrate awe or inhibit transcendence—science unleashes it.
Though I am no longer a person of faith, I retain an understanding that there is something vastly and, at times, unfathomably larger than myself. And while this thing does not have intent or agency, so far as the evidence shows, that in no way modifies the wonder and majesty that washes over me when I contemplate it. Having removed a god from the equation, I counter-intuitively possess a greater sense of awe now than I ever felt in faith.
This immersion in something both utilitarian and grandiose was the definitive purpose of Sagan’s work. He does not inform; he immerses. He does not teach; he transports.
Science—that minuscule word saddled with the burden of representing the entirety of the colossal human enterprise of decoding the world around us and how we fit into it—is the greatest endeavor humans have ever undertaken. Routinely taught as a dull set of facts and figures, science is the most sweeping adventure we can know. With it, hairless apes build great cities, do miraculous medicine, see the unseeable, stir the dust of other planets, and peer back into space and time. While faith purports to have all the answers, science thrives on the questions.
Carl Sagan did not invent this wondrous tool, but he was one of its most eloquent advocates. His voice, like a clarion call in a dense miasma of irrationality, can still be heard, clear and true.
Afterward, Fibbs engaged one of his former Bible college professors in a discussion about his post and science in general. Readers will likely find their conversation quite entertaining, especially when the Bible college professor uses classic Evangelical apologetics methods: quoting Bible verses and threatening hellfire and brimstone. When boxed into a corner and Jesus is not listening to your prayers for deliverance, quote the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and threaten people with Hell.
[Grammar in the original]
Bible college professor: Shout! Can’t believe 12 inches of snow in the “Big D”….Wow! Gotta love Gores imaginary global warming.
Brandon Fibbs: Ignoring your lack of understanding between weather and climate, that *is* amazing!
Bible college professor: Yep Brandon, I am one of those who actually refuse to drink liberalisms elitist “cool aid”…Don’t ya just hate it when freemen employ their discretionary judgment?
Brandon Fibbs: We call it scientific literacy but you can call it whatever you’d like! 🙂
Bible college professor: Funny….and they call Evolution science… Hmm… better stop drinking the coool aid bobo!
Brandon Fibbs: I prefer to drinks facts. Far more nutritional value!
Bible college professor: Brandon, you keep gettin funnier. Global warming- facts is an oxymoron.Didn’t you read the fabricated emails from the G.W. elitist? Shout! I prefer “Truth truth” as to home made-imagined-birthed in deception ‘facts”. You seem selective Brandon, how is truth [facts]knowable? definable? Aren’t facts just man-made interpretations? How can we know anyones “interpretation” isn’t just made up or influenced by their bias? Seems you put your trust in” depraved humanity”being able to define truth without bias or prejudice affecting their interpretation while rejecting inspired biblical writers? Ouch! Don’t yajust hate it when “someone thinks it through and outs the inconsistency demonstrated in yer hypocrisy?”… Love ya-mean it!
Brandon Fibbs: I want to note that I did not inject God into this conversation. I called you out on your lack of comprehension between weather and climate. I brought up the issue on the most basic of etymological, scientific terms. You immediately introduced both God and the origins of the universe. Not that I am surprised. Richard, you are a stereotype of modern evangelical charismatic Christianity, someone who, from all I have seen here, finds his religion and his political ideology so intertwined that he doesn’t know where one ends and the other begins, someone who sees liberalism as some sort of blanket affront to his faith (as are those who practice it). Take comfort in the fact that you are far from unique in this ideological misappropriation.
Some clarification is called for. Science, distilled to its simplest terms, is any systematic practice capable of predicting an outcome. It does this by acquiring knowledge based on research, by study, by observation. Science is an ongoing effort of discovering the previously unknown, to increase human knowledge—not through supposition or assumption or faith, but through disciplined research that uses controlled methods to collect observable evidence of the world around us—to chart and measure that phenomena under controlled conditions and from that, construct theoretical explanations for how things work overtime in the real world.
Science (not necessarily scientists) is not ideologically driven. It is data-driven. Its interest is the truth, no matter what that means to the one monitoring the data. You achieve this by a strict, peer review process that basically encourages other scientists to blow holes in their colleagues’ work. When enough try but cannot, you can be pretty sure you have a strong consensus. Like we have on global warming. And yes, evolution. Seeing as how science as we know and apply it wasn’t even “invented” until midway through the last millennium, I find if laughable that you insist on a book written predominantly by Bronze Age (and a few Iron Age) peasants who lived during a time when the world’s population believed things even you now find utterly preposterous.
Most Christians reject evolution, microbiology, planetary cosmology, neurology and dozens of other scientifically valid disciplines as a matter of daily practice. They are the literal liturgical descendants of those who persecuted Galileo and denounced the work of Copernicus. My model invites skepticism and dissent, yours cannot tolerate it. And while yours no longer has the unchecked power to do so, it once punished or killed those who disagreed with it. There is a reason Christians prefer to educate their children in their basements, or in ideologically indistinguishable communes or entrust them to pederasts (the latter part assumes you even consider Catholics true believers, which I doubt): this is far safer than exposing them to a view of the world that insists you must be able to prove what you believe.
It would be pedantic to list the social evils caused by the rejection of science and its intellectual and philosophical fruit. But those who refuse to embrace science and instead insist on ancient mythology have been on the wrong side, the evil side, and the obviously stupid side again and again. But of course they deny that. After all, denial is easy when forgiveness is cheap and you regard history as some sort of secular lie.
Compromise? Convince them of the error of their ways? Easier to plow the sea, and just as useful. When you point out evidence, it’s ignored. When you point out where they are wrong, it’s ignored. And why? Because they have the ultimate trump card. They don’t answer to man, but to God. And how does a mere mortal contest against God? You believe your truth is incapable of criticism because it originates from a deity. Your Bible allows you to sidestep logic and basic, elementary rationality and call it a higher truth, truth with a capital T. It’s all very convenient. It allows you to adhere to something at best unprovable and at worst demonstrably false and yet charge the person calling you out as the ignorant one. Quite the free pass. You base the totality of your interpretations of the natural world on a book written millennia ago, yet I’m the ignorant one. You offer no refutation based in empirical evidence. You refuse to bend to proof and are not even expected to. In the face of overwhelming consensus you can always play the higher power card. When backed into an irrational corner, you can always claim that I am debased and that God mocks those who are wise in their own eyes (which, as this string shows, you have already done). Why let a perfectly good fantasy get in the way of facts. You can’t lose because you never once actually participate in the game. Yes, very convenient indeed.
Yet somehow I’m the selective one, I’m the inconsistent one, I’m the hypocrite. Hypocrisy is, by its definition, a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles that one does not really possess. Please explain to me how that is the case here. According to you, I’m a hypocrite for no other reason than I don’t believe what you believe, because (gasp) I think human beings can arrive at truth without a god. What an interesting world you must live in where the scientific method is somehow deemed depraved.
Christians believe without evidence. They order their lives without evidence. They kill without evidence. They die without evidence. And they call this cognitive disconnect faith. Show me evidence against something and I’ll disbelieve it. I don’t believe in anything that can’t be proved. I may suspend disbelief in the absence of proof, but my mind will always follow the proof. If there was evidence for something other than evolution—an angel with a flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden, for example—I would consider it. An angel with a sword would go a long way toward transforming Genesis into an accurate narrative. Yet the world we both live in cannot support your mythology and is suffused on all sides by evidence of evolution. And yet you continue to cling to your stories, secure in faith and faith alone. Judgment Day never comes, prayers get answered with the exact same percentages as randomness, and miracles never get repeated on film. (And when was the last time God healed an amputee?)
I will never convince you and you will never convince me because our worldviews are antithetical to one another. Some scientists claim religion and science can coexist. Many more Christians say the exact same thing. Yet how is such a thing possible precisely because of what you wrote above? It is not. And why? Because you BELIEVE. You JUST KNOW. As with all adherents of all religions down through all of time.
You claim facts are just man-made interpretations and simultaneously that every word in the Bible is true? Very well. Guzzle this antifreeze. The Bible says you will be fine. Evolutionary biology offers a very different result. And for this reason, you cannot beat faith with logic or reason. And so, after posting this comment, I will not even try. Your religion has damaged your critical thinking skills.
I would rather place my faith in a system of check and balances, of research and observation, of discipline and evidence, yes even in flawed, biased people than in a prehistoric book you continue to awkwardly stretch to fit a contemporary era thousands of years on, an era that daily exposes just how tattered and incapable your beliefs are of operating in a world that no longer needs its mythologies to explain how the world works.
Bible college professor: Brandon, Brandon, Here is how your apostasy is viewed by The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…. in his own words:
You have become a fool and as a Reprobate, God’s wrath has given you over to your vile passions.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
You can expect severe divine judgment!
26…. no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
May it be so!
Brandon Fibbs: Indeed. As I’ve said before, you are nothing if not predictable, going so far as to perform precisely as I predicted, in print, that you would. And once again, you prove you are philosophically and ideologically incapable engaging the argument but rather turn to your narrative crutch. Rather rude of God to hamstring His followers and make it impossible for them to engage in, much less win, a debate without blatantly ignoring the issues and falling back on the tried and true declarations of hellfire and brimstone. When you’re ready to talk without taking the cheap way out, I’m here. Till then, this is a waste of my breath. I’m done.
Evangelicalism is dying. Oh, Evangelicals still make lots of noise and have a stranglehold on the Republican Party, but their grip on America is weakening and, in time, their hold will falter, leading to epic collapse. The Week reports:
While 63 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are white Christians, only 24 percent of those under the age of 30 are, a group far outnumbered by the 38 percent of young adults who are unaffiliated. Unless there’s some kind of dramatic Christian awakening that produces millions of converts, that means that in the future the ranks of Christians in general and white Christians in particular are likely to shrink.
This won’t happen any time soon, but that train is a coming, and nothing can stop it. Younger Evangelicals, in particular, are exiting their churches stage left, never to return. Those who remain tend to be more liberal politically, socially, and theologically, than their parents and grandparents. These cradle Evangelicals will, in time, seek out the friendlier confines of Liberal/Progressive Christianity. The late Rachel Evans is a good example of an Evangelical who tried to change things from within, but failing to do so, left the church of her youth and became an Episcopalian.
What drives the slow death of Evangelical Christianity?
Evangelical Hatred of LGBTQ People
Evangelical hatred for LGBTQ people is well-known. See an anti-LGBTQ bill and you will find Evangelicals lurking in the shadows. Older Evangelicals lived in a world where homosexuals stayed in the closet where they belonged. Younger Evangelicals have LGBTQ friends. Exposure to people who are different from them makes it hard for them to condemn people to Hell for being “different.” The more that Evangelical young adults read, travel, and attend secular universities, the more likely it is that they will abandon the Evangelicalism of their childhoods.
Evangelical Support of Racist Immigration Policies
American Evangelicals generally support the anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Older Evangelicals tend to live in white monocultures where exposure to non-white people is limited or non-existent. Younger Evangelicals are more likely to know and be friends with people of color. Again, exposure to people different from them forces younger Evangelicals to question the racist beliefs of their parents and grandparents.
Evangelical Support of Creationism
Most Evangelicals believe God created the universe in six twenty-four-hour days. Older Evangelicals are more likely to believe Genesis 1-3 is the de facto scientific explanation for how the universe came into existence. Younger Evangelicals, exposed to non-religious science curriculua, are less likely believe the old Evangelical canard: God Did It! They know the universe is billions of years old, and that evolution best explains the natural world. The more science training young Evangelicals receive, the more likely it is that they will cast aside creationism and its gussied-up cousin, intelligent design.
Evangelical Rhetoric on Abortion
Evangelicals are the power behind the culture war. Most younger Evangelicals grew up in churches where sermons frequently focused on this or that cultural hot-button issue. Abortion is one such issue. Younger Evangelicals are more likely to be pro-choice or support exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and the life of the mother. The continued war against the number one way to end abortion — birth control — is confusing and contradictory to younger Evangelicals. Not wanting to wait until marriage to have sex, many younger Evangelicals know how important the use of birth control is.
Evangelical Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage
Evangelicals stand at the forefront of opposition to same-sex marriage. Younger Evangelicals, believing you can’t help but love who you love, are less likely to have a problem with gay marriage. Again, this goes back to being exposed to people different from themselves. Many younger Evangelicals personally know same-sex couples, and these personal connections make it hard/unlikely for them to oppose same-sex marriage.
Evangelical Denial of Global Climate Change and Global Warming
Evangelicalism is front and center in the global climate change debate. Older Evangelicals, in particular, often believe climate change/global warming is a myth or something not to worry about because God is on the job. Younger Evangelicals see firsthand what violent storms, floods, melting ice caps, and rising temperatures are doing to their planet. They are angered by the “que sera, sera” approach to life of older Evangelicals; tired of “I’m going to die soon” or “the rapture is imminent” indifference from their parents, grandparents, and older church members.
Evangelical Insistence that the Bible is Inerrant
Evangelicals traditionally believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Most older Evangelicals believe their Bibles are they very words of God. Many younger Evangelicals, however, have serious questions and doubts about the nature of the Biblical text. The non-answers they receive from their churches/pastors don’t measure up to their expectations. And when questions go unanswered, young Evangelicals turn to the Internet for answers, finding evidence that their pastors, parents, and Sunday school teachers are lying about the Bible These seekers wonder, “what else are our pastors lying about?”
Evangelical Support of President Donald Trump
In 2016, eighty-one percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Without their votes, Hillary Clinton would have won the election. Younger Evangelicals tended to vote for liberal/progressive candidates, candidates that better reflected their worldview. Record numbers of young Evangelicals voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Younger Evangelicals see that their pastors, parents, and grandparents were willing to sacrifice moral principles to gain political power, and it disgusts them. In 2020, the party that captures this voting bloc will win the election.
Put all of these things together, and what you have is a religious sect that no longer represents younger Evangelicals; a sect that sold its soul for political expediency and power. While scores of younger Evangelicals leave Evangelicalism, never to return, others yearn for a religion that matters.
They are increasingly concluding that Evangelicalism is irredeemable, so they leave. I fully expect this exodus to increase, leading to the eventual death of Evangelical Christianity.
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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The state motto for Ohio is “With God, All Things Are Possible.” Is this theological statement really true? First, “God” in this statement is not just any old deity, it’s the Christian God. And as far as Evangelicals are concerned, this God is theirs alone. Evangelical orthodoxy states that Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberal Christians, and other sects deemed heretical worship false Gods. For Evangelicals, the God of all things possible is the God of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible. It is through the Bible (and conscience and nature) that God reveals himself to us, thus God is who and what the Bible says it is.
Second, are ALL things really possible with God? 1 John 5:14, 15 says:
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
This passage says that only those prayers that line up with God’s will shall be answered by God. This is what I call God’s “divine escape clause.” Countless other verses, however, explicitly say and or imply that whatever Christians ask of God, he will grant it to them. John 14:13, 14 says:
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
John 15:16 adds:
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
And finally, John 16 22-24 says:
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
These statements are in RED in the Bible, so that means Christians believe Jesus said these things. Another RED passage on the subject is found in Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist John R. Rice, wrote a book titled Prayer: Asking and Receiving. Rice believed in a formulaic approach to prayer: ASK and RECEIVE. Based on the aforementioned quotes from the gospels, Jesus believed the same. Evidently, by the time we get to the writer of 1 John, things had changed a bit. Instead of prayer being simply asking and receiving, answered prayer was contingent on praying according to the “will of God”; a will, by the way, that no mere mortal knows. The LORD says in Isaiah 55:8,9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thus, when we see how this whole praying thing works out in real life, suggesting that “all things are NOT possible with God,” Evangelicals will appeal to God’s escape clause to defend his callous indifference to the plight of his Creation. God, then, is never accountable or responsible when Christian prayers go unanswered. “You didn’t ask according to my will,” God says. When the sincere believer asks, “Jesus, what is your will?” the King of Kings replies, “Oh I can’t tell you. That’s just between me and Dad. Besides, even if I told you, you wouldn’t understand. Me and Dad, our thoughts and ways are higher than yours and beyond human understanding.” Christians, then, are either left with choosing to believe what they can see and know or turning off their intellect and critical thinking skills and believing as Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Most Christians, sadly, choose the latter. When occasional lapses of faith or doubt force them to face the irrational nature of prayer, they are reminded of Paul’s words about doubting God:
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:19-21)
In other words, shut the fuck up. God is the sovereign ruler over ALL, and he does whatever he wants to do. End of discussion.
Christians who trust what they can see and know instead of Bible proof texts and unsupportable faith claims, are left with a conundrum of epic proportions: God rarely, if ever, answers their prayers, and there is no evidence for the theological claim, With God, All Things Are Possible. Countless Christians in the Middle East pray daily for God’s protection — surely a prayer the Big Man Upstairs would want to answer, right? Yet, these followers of Jesus continue to be slaughtered by Muslim jihadists or killed by the actions of the American war machine. In Africa, countless Christians earnestly pray:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
And yet, they continue to have their daily food and water needs unmet. While they are starving to death, God, evidently, is too busy directing an American Christian to the location of her keys or working any of the innumerable “miracles” Western Christians say he does every time they dial his number, to stop and feed the hungry. Does God’s behavior not contradict what the Psalmist said in Psalm 37:5, 6?
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.
Everywhere we look we see the followers of Jesus and unbelievers alike forsaken and begging for food. Where is this God of mercy, this God of love and compassion? From my seat in the atheist pew, he is nowhere to be found. Which stands to reason, since the Christian God exists only within the pages of the Bible. God is the main character in a work of fiction.
The reason Christianity still exists in the twenty-first century is that Christians either choose faith over fact or they choose to live with cognitive dissonance. The latter know the evidence points to the nonexistence of the Christian God — any God, for that matter — yet they believe anyway. Why? Most often, such people want to believe that there is more to life than the present; that there is life after death. They are willing to live with cognitive dissonance because doing so meets some sort of psychological need or gives them answers to the “big” questions concerning human existence. They see little to no evidence for the claim, With God, All Things Are Possible, yet they believe anyway. Certainly, they are free to do so, but I hope thinking Christians realize that praying and waiting for God to come through on matters such as climate change, war, nuclear proliferation, and the like is a recipe for disaster and will likely lead to the end of life as we know it. Waiting on the God with the unknowable will to work his magic condemns our planet and its inhabitants to death. We mustn’t wait around to see what is possible with God. Instead, we should work furiously to see what is possible though human will, effort, and ingenuity. It is through the humanistic ideal, not faith and theological prescriptions, that the problems now vexing us will be solved. Perhaps it is time for Ohio to change its motto to With Science and Human Ingenuity, All Things Are Possible.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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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My partner, Amy Gustin, had a great idea the other day. This is not at all unusual for her. A lot of my columns begin with one of her great ideas, and this is one of them. The other day, Amy was perusing some books about the cave paintings at Lascaux and Chauvet while contemplating the flora and fauna of Ice Age Europe, and speculating about the Paleolithic origins of certain pagan European Christmas symbols, when she said this: “Environmentalists should take over Christmas.”
“What?” I replied. She explained that a lot of European pagan Christmas symbols celebrate the Boreal Forest and an arctic climate. We have Christmas trees. Christmas is the only time of year when snow is popular, and Santa lives at the North Pole and gets around on a sled pulled by caribou. All of these things remind us of the arctic, and they should remind us that the arctic is undergoing dramatic changes due to global climate change.
Can you think of a better symbol for global climate change than Santa Claus? First, he drives a zero-emission, carbon-neutral vehicle, and he’s been doing it for centuries. Second, everything Santa owns faces imminent destruction, unless we can stop the sea ice from shrinking. Santa, Mrs. Claus, all of the elves and the whole toy factory are headed straight for a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean unless we stop global warming now.
Coca-Cola has done a great job of making the polar bear into a symbol of Christmas, and we should adopt that symbol wholeheartedly. Instead of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, put a mother polar bear and her two cubs in your nativity scene. I’m all for wise men, if you can find any, but how wise can your men be if they’re standing next to a hungry polar bear?
The global climate crisis effects everyone, and it’s time to make Christmas into a holiday for everyone. From now on, Christmas is about the North Pole and the gift of a stable climate. Being born doesn’t get you a holiday, in my book. Jesus has a holiday — it’s the one he lived and died for, and Christians should go ahead and do Easter big. But Christmas is too important to let Christians hog it to themselves. Besides, Christmas is better without Jesus.
We’ve still got Santa Claus, but now Christmas is about saving Santa. We’ve got reindeer and sleigh bells, snow and Christmas trees and we’ve got all of the animals coming together to help their friend the polar bear. We’ve got the Nutcracker to help us crack the nut of global climate change, and we can re-edit the Charlie Brown Christmas Special so that Linus’ big speech reflects the holiday’s bold new direction. Everything you love about Christmas will still be there for you, but now Christmas has a mission.
Barry Stechschulte, pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in St. Marys, Ohio, let congregants know that combating global climate change is an attempt by communists to overthrow capitalism and evolution is all about sex, sex, sex without God getting in the way.
A Message from the Pastor
Another quote from the little booklet I have called “The Wonders of the Universe,” is from Galileo, the famed scientist who theorized about a sun-centered solar system. It reads, “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”
Science is not popular opinion. Just because a lot of people believe something to be true in any scientific field, even if it’s a majority of scientists themselves, does not make something true. In Galileo’s time, he was about the only man to think that the earth revolved around the Sun, and yet he was correct. Today, a seeming majority of scientists and the media believe in man-made climate change – that human beings are responsible for global warming. But that doesn’t make it true.
So called global warming (more correctly called ‘climate change’) is a natural phenomenon. The Earth warms and cools over long periods of time. Scientists who say the Earth is warming and that sea-levels are rising and that our lives are in danger, were saying in the 1970’s that it was cooling and that an ice age was coming. Today, they say it is the change in Earth’s climate that is the problem, causing anything from increased storm activity to terrorism, and that man, through carbon emissions (driving a pickup truck, for example), is the cause.
First of all, not all the scientists believe this is the case. Probably only those who have grant money on the line are publishing papers which prop up this phony scenario for climate change. Buoyed by money from activists who want to take down capitalism in the West, modern science and the media are claiming some outrageous things about what the Earth will suffer if we continue on this path of fossil fuel use. Of course, nothing has happened and global temperatures have flat-lined in recent years.
This is agenda-driven science, much like the intolerant belief in evolution. In the case of evolution, it’s all about sex, free from any constraint of divine authority. For climate change, it’s redistribution of wealth on a global scale, with communist undertones. Hopefully, those few individuals, based on humble reasoning, will help authentic science to shine above the insanity that is climate change.
— Barry Stechschulte, Newsletter for Holy Rosary Catholic Church, St. Marys, Ohio, July 2,2017
This is the one hundred and fifty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Michigan congressman Tim Walberg telling a group of people that there is no need for us to be concerned about climate change. Walberg ignorantly stated:
I believe there’s climate change. I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I think there are cycles. Do I think that man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No. Why do I believe that? As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator, God, who’s much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.
I previously wrote about that fact that Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, doesn’t really believe that the Bible is all-sufficient. (Please see Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture.) Evangelicals like Ham supposedly believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. I say supposedly, because upon closer examination of their orthopraxy (correct practice), Evangelicals are quite willing to ignore the Bible when it suits them.
Take Ham’s latest monument to Fundamentalist ignorance, the Ark Encounter: a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. The Bible records in Genesis 6-9 the mythical story of Noah and the flood. According to the Bible, God, sickened and angered by the sin of human race, decided to use a global flood to kill everyone, save Noah and his family. Out of the millions of people on the face of the earth, only Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, were deemed worthy of God’s grace (evidently Noah’s grandchildren didn’t make the cut).
God told Noah to prepare a big boat, by which he, Jehovah, would save Noah and his family. In Genesis 6:13-16, God gave Noah strict engineering plans to follow when building the ark:
And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
God told Noah to use gopher wood for the Ark’s construction. The word gopher is used only once in the Bible. Some English translations leave the word untranslated, while others, especially modern Bible versions, translate the Hebrew word as cypress or cedar. Knowing these things, imagine my surprise when I read that Ken Ham is using spruce trees (Englemann spruce) to build his replica of Noah’s Ark. Ham writes:
When you visit the Ark Encounter next year, one of the things that will just blow you away is the massive scope of the Ark and the colossal size of the trees that were used to construct it. We’ve heard people ask what type of trees they are and where they came from. The trees were standing dead Englemann spruce that were over 200 years old.
They were responsibly harvested from a forest in Utah. There are select forests managed by the forestry service where dead trees, before they begin to rot, are harvested and repurposed; then the forest is replanted for future harvests. What’s really nice about these gigantic 66 foot tall logs that are 50 inches in diameter is the fact that they are already dry, so they won’t move or twist once in place.
Why isn’t Ham using gopher wood? Surely, God meant what he said when he told Noah exactly what wood and dimensions to use in constructing the Ark. Evidently, Ham doesn’t really believe that the Bible is all-sufficient. If he did, he would either scour the earth looking for gopher wood or he would use cyprus/cedar to build the Ark. Instead, Ham chose a wood that met project engineering and cost requirements. In other words, he allowed modern science and mathematics to dictate the construction of his modern-day Ark. It is too bad that Ham can’t do the same when it comes to the creationist story of Genesis 1-3. Why does Ham demand a literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1-3, yet ignore this hermeneutic when choosing which wood to use for building the Ark? Ham demands that modern scientists bow to the authority of the Bible, yet he is quite willing to ignore it when it suits him.
Ham presents the Ark project as one that is environmentally responsible. Ham says the project’s spruce trees were “responsibly harvested from a forest in Utah.” What he fails to tell readers is why these trees were available for what Ham calls the “largest timber-frame structure in the world.” According to the The Salt Lake Tribune, spruce beetles have destroyed the state’s once burgeoning Englemann spruce population. In 2011, Brandon Loomis, a writer for The Tribune, wrote:
Some three-toed woodpecker in these woods is pleasantly plump on beetles, but the buffet can’t go on forever. It lasts only as long as the trees.
The gluttony is written on and around a stocky spruce that looks green and mostly healthy to the untrained eye, except for the fact that it’s pecked nude from the waist down.
No bird harmed the tree, though. The damage was already done.
“These trees are loaded with bugs,” said Liz Hebertson, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist, down from Ogden to survey this year’s spruce-beetle infestation in south-central Utah. Peeling back a neighboring spruce’s bark confirms that larvae are maturing, readying for the short flight of their lives in search of new pine prey.
It’s nothing new to her. Mountains of Utah’s verdant spruce slopes are gone. If climate scientists are right, they might never be back.
After a rain, Utah’s high spruce forests evoke the misty Pacific Northwest — unlikely lush islands rising from redrock desert and olive chaparral. Now a complex set of threats conspires to take them down.
One is natural — the beetle with a taste for older trees, aided by a decade of tree-stressing drought. Another is a century of fire suppression that built up fuels to the bursting point. Aiding both those killers is a rising thermometer.
Even if a warmer climate can again support Engelmann spruce — the state’s dominant commercial-grade tree — it will be 200 years or more until they grow back to the towering sentinels that 20th-century Utahns knew. In the meantime, subalpine firs may spring up in their place, replacing green for green but not with dollars. Subalpine firs are more brittle — not lumber material.
It’s been a losing battle so far, and science suggests it’s a long-run lost cause.
First, there’s the insect’s physiology and its response to increasing warmth. The cold-blooded spruce beetles in these hills once took two years to mature from the egg and fly on to breed in new trees. In the early 2000s, Hebertson said, forest scientists documented a switch to one-year cycles here, which boosted the population and primed a disaster.
Beetles have taken 2 million acres of Utah forest in roughly that time, the largest share of it spruce. The outbreak started in the 1990s around Cedar Breaks National Monument in southwestern Utah, where Hebertson has seen no evidence of spruce regeneration since.
The Forest Service has found that higher temperatures aid and speed beetle production. The Utah Climate Center at Utah State University finds that since 1970 the mercury has risen swiftly when it counts most — more than 3 degrees on average during bug-killing winter lows at a monitoring station at Capitol Reef National Park in southern-central Utah.
A decade of beetles-gone-wild might not spell doom in normal conditions. Big outbreaks have shown up before, and the spruce have rebounded. This time, though, computer models based on society’s carbon emissions aren’t looking good. They show Engelmann spruce practically blinking out in Utah by 2090, limited to a strand in the High Uintas.
Global warming is the reason Ham found reasonably priced spruce trees for the Ark project, the very climate change Ham denies is materially affecting the earth. Rod J. Martin, a self-described independent researcher with no stated scientific credentials, explains Answers in Genesis’ official global warming position this way: (link no longer active)
The Bible does not speak directly about what we call global warming. It does, however, provide a framework for evaluating the merits of global warming claims. To reiterate, the global warming discussion centers on CO2 (the atmosphere) and trees (plants). The Bible, of course, addresses the atmosphere and plants. The biblical framework for evaluating global warming is primarily found in Genesis. The RATE study mentioned above established that Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 (the Creation account) was narrative. The study also determined that the Flood account (Genesis chapters 7 to 9) is also narrative (Vardiman et al. 2005, pp. 661 and 667). This paper will also briefly reference the dispersion of the nations at the tower of Babel in the summary. Although the RATE study did not evaluate the Tower of Babel, I believe that if the creation and the Flood passages are narrative then the tower of Babel passage is narrative also. These passages describe real events and real people. The following sections briefly discuss passages related to the atmosphere and plants.
The biblical history of the earth, contained in the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, provides a useful and sufficient framework for evaluating the current global warming issue. As we have seen, CO2 is a natural atmospheric gas that is essential for man’s existence. It is not a pollutant. The atmosphere is likely deficient in CO2 compared with the original created atmosphere. Reducing CO2 would definitely create problems, but increasing it will not. Burning fossil fuels merely returns CO2 to its place of origin. Forests are to be used for man’s benefit. They are not needed to produce O2 and they have no intrinsic rights, but should be managed responsibly and effectively.
Basic science is consistent with the biblical history and argues strongly against the global warming hypothesis. Melting glaciers and changing climates are not an indication of man-made global warming. These natural phenomena have been operating for thousands of years. Temperature histories are imprecise and unreliable. Global warming is built on an evolutionary earth history and an evolutionary time scale. Anything built on a faulty foundation cannot stand. Global warming is an offshoot of evolutionary thinking and is needlessly creating mass hysteria. God is in control of the earth, not man.
It can be expected that several trends evident since the Flood, however, will continue: sea level will rise as polar glaciers continue to melt, and deserts will expand. These trends, as we have shown, have little to do with CO2, they are a consequence of a God ordained event, the Flood. Governments with either ocean boundaries or deserts should consider how to efficiently and economically address these trends. There is no viable justification either biblically or scientifically for limiting the generation of CO2 or restricting logging of forests.
When it comes to the type of wood to use for his colossal tinker toy project, Ham ignores the Bible and, instead, buys a wood that is affordable thanks to global warming. Yet, when it comes to the warming of the planet and what problems rising global temperatures will cause, Ham, Martin, and the “astute” scientists at Answers in Genesis, demand a return to a strict, literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3. Simply put, global warming is much ado about nothing, because…drum roll please, the BIBLE says. While Ham uses modern engineering practices and cost studies for building the Ark, he reverts to knuckle-dragging, young-earth-creationist talking points when it comes to global warming.
I wish Ken Ham would make up his mind about the sufficiency of the Bible. Either it’s God’ divine science textbook or it’s not. Either God did or he didn’t tell Noah everything he needed to know about building a large boat in the desert. Which is it? Or perhaps Ham, like all Evangelicals, gives lip service to the sufficiency of the Bible. When it suits him he demands literalism, but when necessary Ham is quite willing to abandon the all-sufficient Bible in favor of modern science and technology.