Creationist Wisdom #442: Test Your Beliefs

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the News-Review of Roseburg, Oregon. Amazingly, it’s the third letter we’ve discussed recently from that one town (population 21,181 at the 2010 census). The title of their latest is Are we really so wise?

We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), so we’ll just use the letter-writer’s first name, which is Gary. He’s not the Gary whose letter we recently wrote about in #440: Philosophy Teacher, because that one lived in lived in Utah. We’ll give you a few excerpts from today’s letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

It begins with what we assume was Gary’s own title, a bold challenge that should appeal to any science-minded person — Put our beliefs to the test — but the newspaper chose not to use it. Let’s see what kind of test Gary has in mind. He says:

Wow! There have been two outspoken letters dumbing down the idea of having creationism along with evolutionism being alternative classes taught at school. I’m saddened that our kids have been heavily influenced in the arena of evolution as a fact. I sure hope these two individuals won’t see the movie “God’s Not Dead,” because it might mess with their own belief systems.

The two letters that “saddened” Gary went unnoticed by us because we almost never bother with letters that make sense; but we’re pleased to learn that the News-Review published them. Then Gary tells us:

This reminds me of a scripture in the Bible found in Romans 1:22. It states that “… professing to be wise, they became fools …”

Creationists like that passage. It gives them a way to say: “I’m not an idiot; you’re an idiot.” Let’s read on:

I am troubled seeing our society headed toward a people who are so caught up in seeing ourselves as so wise we are becoming disillusioned in our own intellect.

Are you, dear reader, so caught up in being wise that you’re becoming disillusioned? Gary fears that you are. At least that’s what we think he’s saying. He continues:

I also have to applaud the teenage girl who gave a very astute commentary in speaking out on the same sex marriage stance by Oregon. She exhibited a very brave and profound illustration of the open door policy of allowing moral decay in our society.

Unlike creationists, your Curmudgeon has no interest in that subject, but as we see in Wikipedia (Same-sex marriage in Oregon), such unions recently became legal in that state. Creationists seem to be more upset about that than they are about global warming. They certainly have a lot of issues that cause them anguish. Here’s more from Gary’s letter:

I choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as fact. There were more than 500 witnesses to attest to seeing him afterward.

Does Gary have their affidavits? Probably not. Then how does he know what happened, or how many witnesses there were? Was he there? Moving along:

Instead of running scared or being hopeless after his death, his apostles became martyrs, except for John. Why die for a lie?

Your Curmudgeon is not a theologian, but if the apostles died as martyrs, we don’t understand how their deaths were proof of anything other than their sincerity. How does martyrdom prove a martyr’s beliefs?

Anyway, here’s the rest of Gary’s letter, and this is where he proposes his test, so pay careful attention:

I would challenge anyone who believes in evolution or any other belief to put Jesus to the test. He was really who he said he was or he wasn’t. If he was who he said he was, then you need to check out what he said.

Well, dear reader, are you willing to put evolution to the test that Gary proposes? What are you afraid of?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #442: Test Your Beliefs

  1. I choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as fact. There were more than 500 witnesses to attest to seeing him afterward.

    Since there’s a paucity of hard evidence that Christ even existed, it is, as you say, difficult to know how Gary can be so confident of such historical details.

  2. I am trying to be sensitive about this subject, so I will say only this: Anyone who brings up the argument “Why lie for a lie?” is not keeping informed about the news.

  3. SC: “Creationists like that passage. It gives them a way to say: ‘I’m not an idiot; you’re an idiot’.”

    Most people learn to say that by age 4, before they ever heard of the Bible. But as they get older, and learn to be more subtle about it, the Bible gives them a neat excuse to answer “who says?” before it’s even asked.

    It’s hard to tell from my quick read where Gary falls on the continuum between scammed and scammer. But as I often say, these letter-writers are some of the best example of transitional “fossils.” If he hasn’t said it already, expect the usual cop-out when these people begin to realize they are trying to get away with a double standard. Which is the “they both take faith” nonsense.

  4. SC: Well, dear reader, are you willing to put evolution to the test that Gary proposes? What are you afraid of?

    We’re not “afraid” of course, but merely not interested in doing what’s already been done by 1000s of people who are far more influential with the devoutly religious than we are. I’m of course referring to the Clergy Letter Project, Voices for Evolution, etc. where most major religions, including those that also insist on a literal resurrection (& virgin birth), have no problem with evolution, and want no part of the pseudoscience of ID/creationism.

    But I have a better challenge for you fellow “Darwinists”: Ask Gary and others like him to whine to the clergy who accept evolution. And if they claim that “we don’t come from no monkey” ask them to whine to Behe. And if they think that life/earth/universe is younger than science concludes, as them to whine to the majority of evolution-deniers who don’t. Their reaction will speak more volumes than hours of “debate.”

  5. Retired Prof

    That phrase “choose to believe” is the key to the fundamentalist mindset: the way to make up one’s mind is to choose a belief first. After that, though evidence is not really necessary, if desired (or thrust upon one) it can be freely interpreted as favoring the a priori belief.

    This approach would be fine if creationists only kept it for their own use, but they always assume everyone operates the same way. Hence they see the practice that some of us follow of holding back from believing anything till we’ve seen the evidence as an alien and probably depraved mindset. I despair of ever making such people understand that the reason I accept evolution is the evidence for it, not some wicked choice I made to reject their god.

  6. Gary is referring to a claim by Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians that five hundred folks saw Jesus all at once before the ascension. He, personally, did not, so Paul is repeating hearsay, such a testimony would be excluded in a court of law. Paul says he saw Jesus too, but then again, people see all sorts of things from Bigfoot to UFOs to the Loch Ness Monster.

  7. waldteufel

    I’m guessing that Gary moves his lips and points at the words when he reads.

  8. 500 witnesses? WTF? Hey, if Jesus did really rise from the dead, how come his tomb wasn’t turned into a holy shrine. These are people who think the Virgin Mary appears to them on the face of a piece of French toast and they would throw away the gold mine that was Jesus’s tomb? Amazing. I’d bet every one of those 500 witnesses would want to invest in that amusement park.

    Also, how many of the 500 witness saw him die? If they didn’t see him die, what good is their testimony that they saw him alive.

    What a bunch of maroons!

  9. As Linuxgal has already pointed out, Gary is thinking about First Corinthians 15:4-6, where Paul notes that Jesus “was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures”, subsequently appearing to various witnesses including “some five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive”. Finally he appeared to Paul himself.

    The claim is of course pure hearsay on Paul’s part. What is more, this supposed mass sighting by five hundred witnesses cannot easily be fitted into the resurrection stories told in any of the four gospels. We mostly only hear about the twelve (or eleven, sans Judas) apostles seeing the resurrected Jesus. Luke also has Jesus appearing to a couple of non-apostle disciples en route to Emmaus. Nowhere is any mass sighting by 500 witnesses reported.

    Paul seems to be referring to a visionary sighting, since he compares it to his own Jesus vision. So we are perhaps looking at a vague report of some ecstatic event in the early Jesus movement, where some hundred eager disciples by mutual suggestion worked themselves into a religious frenzy and were finally able to “see” their Resurrected Savior.

    With the eyes of faith, naturally.

  10. Retired Prof: “That phrase ‘choose to believe’ is the key to the fundamentalist mindset: the way to make up one’s mind is to choose a belief first.”

    If Gary is an activist-in-training this will probably be the last time he admits that. Soon he’ll pretend that he didn’t “choose to believe” but arrives at his conclusions solely on “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.” Later, he’ll say almost nothing about what that conclusion actually is (age of life, common descent, flat earth, etc.), and only about what what’s wrong with “Darwinism.” But even if he sharpens his rhetorical skills to better fool potential followers and bait critics, all along he will make it clear that his “Darwinism” has nothing to do with “evidences” and everything to do with his fear that the “masses” won’t behave properly if they accept evolution.

  11. Letter-writer Gary throws down the gauntlet: “I would challenge anyone who believes in evolution or any other belief to put Jesus to the test. He was really who he said he was or he wasn’t. If he was who he said he was, then you need to check out what he said.”

    What does “Jesus being who he said he was” have to do with evolution? How do we “put him to the test”? And what does that have to do with evolution?

    These hyper-Christians get so wrapped up in themselves they must think that anyone who accepts evolution automatically rejects the teachings of Jesus.

    This particular Gary sounds like one messed-up puppy.

  12. Another perfect question that no one will ask Gary: “Did you ask David Klinghoffer to put Jesus to the test?”

  13. I choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as fact. There were more than 500 witnesses to attest to seeing him afterward.

    Hey, you skeptics, Jesus signed autographs for the crowd, on crosses no less. They’re for sale on eBay and Amazon. Maybe Gary even bought one.

  14. Linuxgal, I’m not sure who started that rumor, but I can assure you I’ve never claimed to have seen Jesus, not in Chicago or New Orleans, or anywhere.

  15. Once again, that Gary has brought shame upon The House of Gary.

  16. “I would challenge anyone who believes in evolution or any other belief to put Jesus to the test. He was really who he said he was or he wasn’t. If he was who he said he was, then you need to check out what he said.”

    Ohhh-kay. And where exactly does Jesus really say anything about Adam and Eve? Creationists sometimes point to Genesis 2, where it says, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” But it doesn’t say WHEN this was, or HOW they were made, or HOW LONG it took, or, for that matter, even state specifically that only two were created or give their names. None of that was even relevant, for in fact, the entire point was to answer the Pharisees who had asked him whether it was “lawful for a man to divorce his wife”–an entirely different subject.

    The point being that Jesus can be the Son of God (though perhaps not the only begotten; see Genesis 6:1-4) without that in any way requiring that the Genesis story of creation be literally true. None of Jesus’ teachings lose any of their relevance if Genesis is seen merely as an attempt by a prescientific culture to construct an origin story in the absence of evidence.

  17. I’ve been having ghastly internet problems, thanks to faulty AT&T lines. Yesterday I had no connection for over three hours, and today I was off for about 5 hours. I’m changing to AT&T’s U-verse service, but that won’t happen until sometime on Monday, so if I disappear between now and then, you’ll know what’s happened.

  18. SC states: “I’m changing to AT&T’s U-verse service”
    Do you know which flavor of U-verse you’re getting (FTTH, FTTN or ADSL+2)?

  19. Mark Joseph

    Hey, Gary:
    I tested him for 25 years. He was a no-show (sorry, I was in the slow class). I now know the reason is because he doesn’t exist. Your ignorance does not change that one whit.

  20. My recent letter that gained the Curmudgeon seal of approval was probably one of the two that upset Gary. But as to what he claims for Jesus, doesn’t he know that eyewitness testimony is not a very reliable source of information? Besides, was he there?

  21. Gary asks: “Do you know which flavor of U-verse you’re getting”

    No clue.

  22. Mark Joseph

    Gary asks: “Do you know which flavor of U-verse you’re getting”

    No clue.

    Raspberry?

  23. Hnohf, for you know the Greek word for “brother” used when Jesus appeared to 500 brothers?

    I’m wondering if it’s the same word used as when in the Epistles we read things like “James, the brother of the Lord”, which are cited to claim that the Epistles depict a real historucal figure, as opposed to a mythic hero. If it’s the same word, then “brother” must mean “follower” and can’t be cited to prove Jesus was a real person.

  24. “thanks to faulty AT&T lines.”
    What is that kind of s**t in that modern technologically first world country called the USA? My Surinamese internet connections – and they are about 100 km long – come from Telesur – a semi governmental company – and work fine. If I have problems they are solved within a few days at the max and they do not tend to come back within a few weeks.
    Granted, the market is much smaller overhere.