Creationist Wisdom #536: Starting To Think

Today’s letter-to-the-editor is one of the best we’ve seen lately. It appears in the Guelph Mercury of Guelph, Ontario. Wikipedia says the town was named after an ancestor of the then-reigning British monarch, George IV. The letter is titled Belief in evolution a religion of its own. It doesn’t look like the newspaper has a comments feature.

Usually, when the letter-writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today we’ve got a preacher. He’s John Fairchild . We found someone with that name who is pastor of the Grace Community Church in Guelph. That’s probably our man. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

The rev begins by complaining about an earlier column in the newspaper, and he says:

[T]he tired old claim is trotted out yet again — evolutionary dogma is “science” and all contrary questioning is “religion.” But it’s not quite that simplistic. Evolution is as much of a religion as the best of them.

Oooooooh! Evolution is just a religion. We’ve heard that claim from creationists before, but the rev has reasons for his accusation:

Consider the following: it has a sacred text (“On the Origin of Species”); a founding prophet (Charles Darwin); an unquestionable and rigid central dogma (all life and order has arisen by blind unguided processes over a vast amount of time); many wonderful, miraculous faith-based stories (for example, once upon a time, long, long ago, out of nothing, arose everything); missionaries with relentless evangelistic zeal (Thomas Huxley, Richard Dawkins and David Brandow, to name just three); and its own special purgatory for all heretics who dare to disbelieve its orthodox doctrines and stray from the straight and narrow.

Wow — evolution has the same characteristics that other religions have. Hey — that’s pretty much true of all modern sciences. The rev has discovered a profound truth! This is amazing! Let’s read on:

One doesn’t have to read evolutionary writers for very long before you begin to notice the large number of things they don’t know and can’t explain.

What? There are things scientists don’t know? Ah, that’s what makes the religion of science so inferior to the rev’s religion. He has the answers to everything! And to show you that the rev isn’t just blowing hot air, he gives solid examples:

For example: how did we get something out of nothing? (nobody knows); how did disorder and violent chaos gave rise to the incredible order and beauty all around us in violation of the second law of thermodynamics? (it shouldn’t have happened); the incredible fact of the fine tuning of the cosmological constants of the universe? (isn’t it wonderful how it just happened!); the origin of the genetic code? (beats me); where is the other 80 per cent of the matter in the universe that we can’t see? (some unknown, unseen mysterious phenomenon called “dark matter”), and on and on we go.

It’s so obvious — scientists are a bunch of ignorant fools! The rev continues:

Here’s the bottom line for atheistic evolutionists: you’d better start coming up with better answers than “beats me” and “nobody really knows” if you’re going to go running around claiming to have the final answers for life’s greatest metaphysical questions.

Yeah — you guys better start coming up with some answers! Here’s the stunning close of the rev’s letter:

Just labelling people “stupid” who believe that design actually comes from designers isn’t going to cut it for very much longer. People are starting to think.

So there you are, dear reader. You can’t go on fooling folks like the rev with your shoddy religion. They’re starting to think.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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57 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #536: Starting To Think

  1. Evolution is as much of a religion as the best of them.

    Here we see yet another contradiction in denialist arguments: (1) “Evolution is just a religion.” (2) “Evolution is materialist atheism, the very antithesis of respect for something greater than oneself!”

    What is a “religion”? In religious studies scholarship, probably the most concise definition is “a reverence for the transcendent.” Does The Theory of Evolution make any reference to anything transcendent, that is, anything above or outside of the material world? No. Hence, evolution is not a religion. And creationist evolution-deniers can’t have it both ways. If evolution is focused solely on the material world–and it most certainly is, because all science is methodologically naturalistic by definition–then it cannot be “devoted” to anything transcendent!

  2. Isn’t it interesting that those who deny science on the basis of their religious beliefs would turn around and assume that the best way to insult a scientific theory is to call it “a religion”?

  3. Definitive proof that evolution is not a religion: never once in the evolution classes I took or taught was there ever a collection plate passed around!

    If that doesn’t settle the argument, nothing will!

  4. Professor Tertius says:

    What is a “religion”? In religious studies scholarship, probably the most concise definition is “a reverence for the transcendent.”

    It never bothers me if someone uses religion as a supplement to reality. The problem is when they use it as a replacement for reality.

  5. “Here’s the bottom line for atheistic evolutionists…”

    What’s the bottom line for religious evolutionists?

    Wait, never mind. I bet I know his answer.

  6. I think it’s high time to organize the Church of Evolution with all of the perks from tax-exemption to housing deductions for clergy – among the denizens here, we already have some clerical hierarchy!

  7. John Fairchild expands parenthetically—

    “(all life and order has arisen by blind unguided processes over a vast amount of time)”

    Hardly “unguided,” ay. The laws of nature may be blind but they severely nip “anything goes” in the proverbial bud, ay.

    And this [edited out] about how we “get something out of nothing” is question-begging of the nuttiest presumptive strain. Clearly, there is something. By what token rationality, then, is “nothing” a more natural or preferred state than “something”?

  8. They may accept non-scientology as a religion but there are too many rePUKEians in congress so the Church of Evilution would never make it thru approval.

    “….how did we get something out of nothing? (nobody knows);….” and if he would have stopped at that he would have been right!

  9. michaelfugate

    Is their God something or nothing? If it is something, then there has always been something and something from nothing is false. If it is nothing, then something can come from nothing. The presence of a God doesn’t explain anything.

  10. Applause. I cannot remember seeing such a complete overview of all the creacrappy objections to Evolution Theory. SC was right to highlight almost everything – almost everything is a gem of stupidity. If there is a bottom for creationists Johnny the Ugly Kid has come very, very close.

  11. Evolution won’t be a religion until you heathens start sending me money. I am a self appointed reverend of the Church of Evolution! I expect the money to start rolling in. Hallelujah! Praise Darwin! Send $$

  12. And the required tithe is 10% of line 22, not 37, of your IRS Form 1040.

  13. The rev’s letter reminds me of a quote by Curly of The Three Stooges: “I’m tryin’ to think, but nuttin’ happens!”

  14. Douglas E, how would you like a cushy position with the newly founded, tax exempt Church of Evolution? I need all the help I can get…counting the money.

  15. “Count” me in!!

  16. Definitive proof that evolution is not a religion: never once in the evolution classes I took or taught was there ever a collection plate passed around! If that doesn’t settle the argument, nothing will! If that doesn’t settle the argument, nothing will!

    Yes, collection plates have always been good for a chuckle and it is genuinely interesting how they’ve come to be associated with religion. Indeed, for many the collection plate has even become a very negative association, as if that one method of covering inherent expenses is somehow inappropriate or unethical in some way. Of course, every evolution class I ever took required that taxpayers, students, or both pay for the expenses involved in offering such classes. In contrast, the vast majority of classes I ever observed at a church or synagogue involved a purely optional financial contribution. Considering that offering such classes, whether they be about evolution or something else, always involve very really expenses which someone has to pay, it is interesting that some critics of evolution-deniers have resorted to easy potshots at the collection plates passed around in churches to cover the visiting “creation science” speaker. Denialists are guilty of many things but collection plates rarely lie or deceive people.

    Of course, the commenter quoted above was simply making a joke–but my didactic side insisted upon using it to make a point. Evolution-deniers are wrong because the mountainous piles of evidence show that they are wrong to deny the reality of evolutionary processes. Obviously, whether a teacher gets paid from mandatory tuition fees collected prior to the class or optional fees collected during the class, the value or validity of what is taught is independent of the means of underwriting the expenses. Likewise, as our favorite Curmudgeon implied, whether or not the content of such a class is popularly considered “religious” or “scientific”, it’s ultimate value depends on whether or not it reflects reality. (So even if evolution somehow met the definition of “religion”, that would still be irrelevant to the validity of The Theory of Evolution.) Falling back on Argument from Negative Associations fallacies only tends to make anti-denialists look like we have to resort to the same kinds of illogical arguments as denialists. The tongue-in-cheek commenter wasn’t doing that but plenty of us who engage denialists in defense of the science of evolution sometimes do fall into such errors.

    Bear in mind that lots of informed individuals consider an optional collection plate a wonderful development because they know that there was a time when it represented a very significant social reform. It ended centuries of mandatory church-supporting taxes as well as the practice of “selling church pews” so that only that one privileged family had the key to the pew-gate for that particular pew. Poor people used to stand out in the rain listening at the window even when absent families left entire pews locked and empty.

    (I’ve always found it interesting when people think there’s something amiss about collection plates to cover expenses. Which of the many alternative methods which people through the centuries have used to pay for both religious and non-religious education do they consider more desirable? Taxes? Tuition fees? Highest bidders? Meanwhile, even today a great many churches in the USA have “Free” somewhere in their names. In most cases this goes back to the days when those other means of covering expenses made it impossible for the propertyless poor to afford a seat at their local church. Considering the fact that churches were the only real “community centers” and “social hubs” for countless communities in those days, a church building open to all regardless of their finances was extremely important.)

  17. John Fairchild says “People are starting to think”. That may be true, but one of those people clearly is not the writer of that letter.

  18. To summarize from the comments above plus some of my own, the differences between evolution and religion are many:

    1) evolution is not transcendent;
    2) evolution is based totally on observable evidence;
    3) evolution makes no claims concerning ultimate origins;
    4) evolution is testable and lends itself to prediction (finding tiktaalik, for example);
    5) evolution does NOT have “holy scripture” — Darwin’s Origin of Species is based entirely on his research, not divine inspiration;
    6) Darwin was a scientist, not a prophet;
    7) evolution does not have collection plates! (That’s a great one, Coyote!)

    I didn’t say “and finally” at number 7) because there are certainly many more differences that others here will point out. Please.

  19. Guelph is what I thought I stepped in and now have to clean my shoe. Obviously, when one lives in Guelph one produces nothing but Guelph.

  20. My seven points above were being written as Prof. Tertius was posting his most recent comment above, so my including Coyote’s “collection plate” comment was not intended as any slap at Prof. T.

  21. One more to add to your list, RSG

    8) Evolution changes with new information – organisms are reclassified, dates are adjusted, and so on. Religion, on the other hand, rejects new information rather than change existing beliefs, as the Rev so amply demonstrates.

  22. Religion, on the other hand, rejects new information rather than change existing beliefs, as the Rev so amply demonstrates.

    Here again, in the west there is the tendency to assume that all religion can be characterized and generalized based on what people hear about one particular type of religion or set of related religious traditions. As a result, “religion” drifts towards becoming a synonym for “fundamentalist Christianity” or Judeo-Christian religions or, increasingly Abrahamic religious traditions (because of the much greater news coverage of Islam in recent decades.)

    Of course, probably the most common error among average Americans is the assumption that religions all involve the worship of some god(s). I’ve even had people argue with me that there is no such thing as “non-theistic religions” because “Without any deities involved, they are merely systems of philosophy.” (Just as many non-scientist denialists casually say that the science Academy “doesn’t understand what science really is”, even many well-educated people feel qualified to declare that humanities professors don’t understand the nature and terminology of religion and philosophy. Richard Dawkins and Neil Degrasse Tyson has become famous for such bloopers and I saw several of them on faculty office during a recent visit to an Ivy League campus. Speaking dogmatically on topics outside one’s areas of training and expertise is a human foible we can all fall into when we aren’t careful.)

    In this case, to say that “religion rejects new information rather than change existing beliefs” is wrong as a generalization in multiple ways, including the false dichotomy that is implied. (That is, “changing existing beliefs” is not necessarily the only way in which various religions react to and embrace new information. And comparatively speaking, many millions of Roman Catholic and Protestant (and, no doubt, Eastern Orthodox) Christians readily affirm new information and would be very surprised at the assertion that they don’t. Ken Ham & Co. are just as surprising to many Christians as non-Christians.)

    Remember: The larger the category referenced by some noun, the more likely that any given generalization about that noun will fail, especially with a category as diverse as “religion”.

  23. RetiredSciGuy, I would have predicted this one to be among the first “Evolution versus Religion” differences on the list:

    Evolution does not [despite the claims of many YECs & IDers] provide moral, ethical, or philosophical foundations for how the individual should live their life, treat others, or make proper choices in life. The majority of religions provide some if not all of those foundations.

    Thus, while a religion can strongly impact many or even all spheres of an adherent’s daily life, evolution refers only to a set of natural processes which change allele frequencies in populations of “life” (i.e., living organisms) over time. [The Theory of Evolution explains those changes and, as with any other scientific theory, was never meant to explain anything else–and certainly not tell anyone how to live their life.]

    Accordingly, a scientific theory provides an answer to one scientific question (though it may be a single question with huge scientific scope and significance.) A single religion will usually address a broad scope of philosophical and/or theological questions while science ignores philosophical and theological questions entirely because it has no tools or procedures designed to address them.

    Science, including evolutionary biology, is methodologically naturalistic by definition. Religion has no such boundaries or limitations because Philosophy has no such confines.

  24. Just labelling people “stupid” …

    … would be a lot harder if those people didn’t keep saying stupid things.

  25. Professor Tertius says:

    … to say that “religion rejects new information rather than change existing beliefs” is wrong as a generalization in multiple ways, including the false dichotomy that is implied.

    As you may have noticed, this blog doesn’t promote atheism. I confine my criticism to creationism. That’s where the usual generalizations are applicable, and it’s also where the fun is.

  26. michaelfugate

    Can anyone imagine Darwin claiming he or evolution, for that matter, was the way, the truth, and the life? In light of all the evidence accumulated since the 6e of the Origin, can anyone imagine Darwin not completely revising it to include all the new discoveries?

  27. Prof Tertius, I appreciate your comment about the collection plate. It IS a positive when a religion is forced to ask for money rather than collect it from tax payers. The fact that churches are tax exempt results in a sort of church tax. In places where there was a church tax you’d end up paying for one church. The typical small town has at least 10 churches none pay taxes. Property taxes are basically a use tax for such things as police, fire, roads, local goverment, and sometimes direct utilities like water bills and garbage collection. If the churches shirk their fair share someone does have to pay it, that person is everyone else even non-members.
    Mentioning the collection plate is amusing for the very reason that it illucidates the clergy’s sense of entitlement. Case in point Hovind thinks he doesn’t have to pay taxes, that’s “God’s money.” Then there’s Hambo who wants his kickback from the state of Kentucky, a program that is supposed to give jobs to all Kentuckians, not just that small fraction that could sign Hambo’s statement of faith with a straight face.

  28. I confine my criticism to creationism.

    Yes, but RetireSciGuy’s numbered list which I quoted from used the word “religion”, not “creationism”. Thus, you and I are making the same point. “Religion is Not equal to Creationism”.

  29. Oops, I used the “NOT EQUAL TO” symbol which was parsed as an empty tag. I should have written something like NOT(Religion=Creationism).

    [*Voice from above*] Try not to worry, my son.

  30. The whole truth

    When a religion includes/promotes a creator(s) it is creationism, and I’ve never heard of a religion that does not include/promote a creator(s).

  31. @The whole truth
    What little I know of the religion of the Sikhs, they seem to have no account of creation (not to say that they deny creation). Some varieties of Buddhism would say, I think, that it is of no importance. I don’t know what to make of religions which have a creation, but which is not “from nothing”.

  32. As to religions without a creation (and no creator,) check out Jainism. In fact, Jainism is atypical of better-known religions in many ways. It is considered one of the oldest of religions. One of the reasons Jains reject creation is that they consider it impossible for a spirit to produce anything but spirit, and the material to produce anything but something material. So for a deity to create the matter of the universe ex-nihilo, that would mean life producing non-life (matter), a total contradiction in their way of thinking. They also believe the universe always existed. And because they believe every soul has always existed (at least in some way), their idea of eternal life is truly eternal! (They think of eternity past much like eternity future–just one big continuum that has no beginning nor end. Eternity x 2!)

    By the way, all of the above comes together in one “conservation of matter” idea which has been a part of Jainism long before scientists formally published the concept as a scientific law.

    A lot of people still think of Jainism as a sect of Hinduism or a “corruption” of Buddhism (or sometimes even related to Sikhism) but scholars today generally believe that it had its own, very ancient origins.

    TomS, as to religions with a creation but not an ex nihilo creation, to my knowledge most scholars of Judaism now believe that the out-of-nothing concept came relatively late–perhaps even through Greek influence. (That is not to say that most orthodox Jews will not insist that the Torah spoke of ex nihilo all along.) Of course, it is hard to get any ex nihilo sense out of the verb BARA in Genesis 1–a simple word concordance makes that point by using humans as the subject where BARA is the verb–despite the insistence of many Young Earth Creationists. But seeing how the neighboring peoples of the Ancient Near East spoke of the world being created from pre-existing matter of one sort or another (even out of the dead body of a deity), it’s not a shocker that the ancient Hebrews might not have assumed ex nihilo. Indeed, the language of Genesis 1:2 and early Jewish philosophy speaks of the created order coming from a chaos (TOHU VAVOHU, “without form and void”), so I’ve always found it interesting that Christians have long emphasized an ex nihilo sense for Genesis 1:1 that certainly is not obvious in the text. There again, Greek influences are worthy of study.)

  33. My vision-assistance software gets in the way at times and typos result. So I should stress that Jainism is the name of the religion and Jains are those who practice Jainism.

    And to clarify one point: Jains believe in a causation theory which says that both cause and effect must be of the same nature–and that is why an immaterial God cannot create a material universe in Jainist thought.

  34. “For example: how did we get something out of nothing? (nobody knows); how did disorder and violent chaos gave rise to the incredible order and beauty all around us in violation of the second law of thermodynamics? (it shouldn’t have happened); the incredible fact of the fine tuning of the cosmological constants of the universe? (isn’t it wonderful how it just happened!); the origin of the genetic code? (beats me); where is the other 80 per cent of the matter in the universe that we can’t see? (some unknown, unseen mysterious phenomenon called ‘dark matter’), and on and on we go.

    Almost none of which (the exception being the origin of the genetic code) has directly to do with evolution; rather, these points relate to the origin of the universe itself, which evolution supporters believe on the basis of evidence occurred something like nine and a half billion years before life appeared on Earth.

    And that’s before we even get to the multiple misunderstandings embedded in this passage, starting with the nonexistent “violation” of the second law of thermodynamics.

    And just what does dark matter have to do with Darwin? We know it exists because of its gravitational influence; we don’t know what it is yet, but how does that prove the existence of a Creator?

    Then there’s the “incredible fine tuning” of nature’s constants. The letter writer appears to believe those constants were given the values they have in order to allow us to exist–when it’s far more reasonable to see it the other way around, that we exist because the constants are as they are–and that, contrary to the hidden assumption embedded in the letter writer’s reasoning, the universe would have gone on just fine if life had never existed.

  35. I’m at a loss. How is anyone “claiming to have the final answers for life’s greatest metaphysical questions” by admitting that they don’t have all the answers?

  36. You raise many great points, Eric Lipps. I especially enjoy the denialist self-contradictions, and you raised another one of my favorites:

    1) “Those evolution-loving scientists always think they know everything!”
    Yet, denialists also say….
    2) “Those evolution-loving scientists admit that they don’t even know how the first life began!”

    (Of course, Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom will always chime in with “They don’t even know the difference between operational science and historical science!” Ham & Co. have an obvious advantage on that one because “creation science” textbooks include their definitions but not real science textbooks.)

  37. Ben asks:

    How is anyone “claiming to have the final answers for life’s greatest metaphysical questions” by admitting that they don’t have all the answers?

    Don’t worry about the rev. He’s got the answers. He’s saying that you don’t.

  38. And not quite self-contradiction, but trying to have it both ways:
    (And I’m assuming that their interpretation of the science is right – which it isn’t.)
    On the one hand, because the “2nd law of thermodynamics” makes such-and-such naturally impossible, there has to be a supernatural agency.
    On the other hand, because the “fine-tuning of the parameters of nature” makes so-and-so naturally possible, there has to be a supernatural agency.

    How is it that things are so fine tuned for life, if one of the consequences is the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

  39. Professor Tertius: “Yes, but RetireSciGuy’s numbered list which I quoted from used the word “religion”, not “creationism”.

    The reason that I used the word “religion” was because John Fairchild, pastor of the Grace Community Church in Guelph, Ontario, got this whole thing started by claiming that belief in evolution is a religion. He did not say it was just a form of “creationism”.

    As to Prof. T’s other point, to wit: “RetiredSciGuy, I would have predicted this one to be among the first “Evolution versus Religion” differences on the list:

    “Evolution does not [despite the claims of many YECs & IDers] provide moral, ethical, or philosophical foundations for how the individual should live their life, treat others, or make proper choices in life. The majority of religions provide some if not all of those foundations.”, all I can say is that scientists don’t pretend to tell others how to lead their lives.

  40. The whole truth

    From: http://www.sikhs.org/topics.htm

    “Deep within the self is the light of God. It radiates throughout the expanse of His creation. Through the Guru’s teachings, the darkness of spiritual ignorance is dispelled. The heart lotus flower blossoms forth and eternal peace is obtained, as one’s light merges into the supreme light. “Guru Amar Das, Majih, pg. 126

    And: “There is only one God, he is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer.”

    And: “You are the Creator, O Lord, the Unknowable. You created the Universe of diverse kinds, colours and qualities. You know your own Creation. All this is your Play.” Guru Nanak, Var Majh

    And: “The Formless Supreme Being abides in the Realm of Eternity. Over His creation He casts His glance of grace. In that Realm are contained all the continents and the universes, Exceeding in number all count. Of creation worlds upon worlds abide therein; All obedient to His will; He watches over them in bliss, And has each constantly in mind.” Guru Nanak, Japji

    And there’s more there. I’ll look up Buddhism later.

  41. @The whole truth
    I am embarrassed to admit that I meant Jain, not Sikh.

  42. @retiredsciguy
    scientists don’t pretend to tell others how to lead their lives.
    Some scientists do. There are ethical standards to science. Scientists tell others, “Do not falsify data.” There are rules on the ethical treatment of human and other animal subjects. One must disclose the source of funding. There are rules on how one publishes the results. There are rules on the treatment of students.

  43. Stephen Kennedy

    Eric made a very good point about the fine tuning of the physical constants not supporting creationism and that we exist because the constants are what they are and not because they were created for us.

    In fact, the fine tuning of the Universe argues against the existence of a supreme being. The constants have to be very precise and have exactly the values they do for the Universe as we know it to exist. A couple of days ago Hambo pointed out how God and Jesus uphold and sustain the Universe on an ongoing basis. If that were really the case, it would not matter what values the constants had, they could be anything if the Universe is really being held together by an omnipotent being.

    The fact is they have to be precisely the numbers they are to allow the Universe to sustain itself without any involvement by supernatural forces. It is obvious the physical constants took their values through natural processes as part of an autonomous Universe.

  44. Oooh let me be the archbishop of Australia in this wonderful new religion! Please! I just love the hats I could wear.

  45. Dave Luckett

    And the gowns! The gowns! One is reminded of the old and discreditable joke, with the punchline: “Dahhling! Just love the dress – but did you know your handbag was on fire?”

    Ahem.

    Says the rev:

    “Consider the following: it has a sacred text (“On the Origin of Species”); a founding prophet (Charles Darwin); an unquestionable and rigid central dogma (all life and order has arisen by blind unguided processes over a vast amount of time); many wonderful, miraculous faith-based stories (for example, once upon a time, long, long ago, out of nothing, arose everything); missionaries with relentless evangelistic zeal (Thomas Huxley, Richard Dawkins and David Brandow, to name just three); and its own special purgatory for all heretics who dare to disbelieve its orthodox doctrines and stray from the straight and narrow.”

    The text is not sacred, Charles Darwin was not a prophet, the dogma doesn’t exist, there are no faith-based stories, nor missionaries, nor purgatory, and no heresy, or heretics, or doctrines.

    Apart from those minor quibbles, the rev is right on the money. I think, however, that’s true in the same distressingly literal sense that he thinks scripture is to be read.

  46. …and there’s more there. I’ll look up Buddhism later.

    What gets really wild in Buddhism is that the Buddha taught that various of the gods thought they had created the world(s) but that they were mistaken! (Indeed, one can cite classic Buddhist literature where this deity or that one speaks of creating all things but the Buddha said that they really blew it when they did that. After all, True Enlightenment can only be achieved by giving up all pride and self-interest.)

    Both Buddhism and Hinduism have so many branches and sects that things get quite complicated when generalizing. Accordingly, one can usually find both “theists” and “atheists” in both traditions–but one also has to start by so carefully defining one’s terms first. (Many of the key words in translation don’t quite capture the full meaning.) As a result, one can get confused very quickly, especially when comparing different scholarly sources.

    By the way, what struck me most when I studied Buddhism long ago was how one could find parallels to Roman Catholicism versus Protestantism historical conflicts and even some “Reformers” of a sort. There are also important “law versus grace” conflicts. Check out “Pure Land Buddhism” if you really want a kick-in-the-pants in those regards. It kind of shreds some of Josh McDowell’s “all/every/only” claims. [Of course, McDowell is not a religious studies scholar, even though his books are promoted as if they were. I stopped myself here before comparing him to Ken Ham, because that wouldn’t be fair. Suffice it to say that he is a pop-level writer whose books get confused with actual peer-reviewed scholarship. Lots of people discover that when they start quoting him and find that even other evangelicals find the flaws rather quickly. (And yes, genuine peer-review exists in the humanities just as surely as it exists in the sciences.)]

  47. I can’t reflect upon Buddhism without recalling one of Robin William’s classics: “A Buddhist walks up to a hot dog vendor and says, ‘Make me one with everything!'” (There’s a popular Youtube video where some reporter tells the joke not all that well to the Dalai Lama–and the Dalai Lama doesn’t appear to get it. But it is hard to tell from the video if the Lama has a sufficient grasp of hot dog vendor protocols necessary for seeing the humor of it.)

  48. Yeah, Prof. T, that’s not a joke I’d expect someone to get without having a thorough grasp of English idiom.

    And thanks for your comments about religion and change – heck, even the Christian religion changes and has changed. The Bible was one of the primary tools used to defend slavery and now, outside of a few extreme examples, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pastor or preacher who’d defend returning to chattel slavery.

    Ditto . . . well, a lot of things in Christian tradition and dogma. Modern fundamentalists might like to pretend you can draw a straight line between the church at Berea and the modern church but you just can’t.

  49. @dweller42
    The abolitionists violated the Commandment against coveting a man’s property: his cattle, his slaves, his wives.

  50. TomS, yeah, that was one of the arguments, which most abolitionists were able to take down fairly quickly with, “How is it coveting if we want no one to own them?”

    Mostly, it was cherrypicking verses in favour of slavery and ignoring anything having to do with individual liberty in Christ. Actually that approach to the Bible, as a series of proofs for an argument, is part of what enables creationism to thrive.

    “The science in the Bible is perfect!” they cry, quoting a few passages where the science isn’t completely shabby, and ignoring all the times it gets the science completely and utterly wrong.

  51. Professor Tertius: My meaning which was apparently not clear is that religions in general do not change as a result of new information.

    They do, however, re-interpret the canon as they see fit. Protestant faiths all use the same bible, but interpret some aspects differently, thus setting them apart.

    The bible itself is not revised as a result of new information – no one re-wrote the canon when it was accepted that the sun was at the center of the solar system, for example.

  52. @Ed
    The canon of the Bible was changed at the time of the Reformation. Some say that that is because of some proof-texts in certain books which the Catholics used.

  53. The whole truth

    TomS said:

    “I am embarrassed to admit that I meant Jain, not Sikh.”

    Ah well, nobody’s perfect. 🙂

    I read the Wikipedia page about Jainism and see that a creator isn’t a part of it. Some of the Jain practices don’t sound bad while others are somewhat typical of religions. Thanks for pointing me toward looking it up.

  54. The whole truth

    Professor Tertius said:

    “Both Buddhism and Hinduism have so many branches and sects that things get quite complicated when generalizing. Accordingly, one can usually find both “theists” and “atheists” in both traditions–but one also has to start by so carefully defining one’s terms first.”

    Hinduism appears to have gods/creators galore. Buddhists, while not necessarily including/promoting a ‘creator’, seem to promote Buddha in some ways as though he was a god. As you said, one has to start by so carefully defining one’s terms first. All of the various beliefs and practices of the numerous sects of many religions makes it hard to figure out what the hell is going on. Humans sure have come up with a lot of religious gobbledegook.

    Check this out:

    http://gawker.com/three-jailed-in-myanmar-for-posting-image-of-a-buddha-w-1692317287

  55. “True Enlightenment can only be achieved by giving up all pride and self-interest.”

    It would seem, then, that True Enlightenment is an utterly impossible quest.

  56. The Wikipedia article, Nontheistic religions also discusses religions without creation.

  57. Yes, you can sometimes find a religion without creationism, but you cannot have creationism without religion.