A couple of months ago, I went to a religious conference for youth at the Hyatt Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. The theme of the conference was ‘Go and Make Disciples’ and it was all about going out into the world and savin’ souls. Needless to say, I felt hopelessly out of place, and I spent most of my time alternating between despair and outrage.
One of the most popular seminars was on evolution, and how science supposedly did not support it. This seminar attracted roughly half of the attendants at the conference and was held in a large ball-room.
A man named Craig was leading the class. Craig was a doctor. He was, as I recall, an orthodontist. Earlier I’d eaten lunch at a table with Craig, and a girl that happened to be gay. Craig attacked the girl mercilessly in front of her classmates and then compared homosexuality to child molestation. The girl left, sobbing.
Craig didn’t have the most popular recent arguments and intelligent design stuff. Instead he did the old spiel about ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ evolution, and how those two supposedly differ. Someone pointed out that he was supporting the central contention of evolution (that species can change over time to cope with their surroundings) without carrying it to it’s logical conclusion. Everyone looked at him and he didn’t pipe up again.
He showed us examples that evolution scientists supposedly used to support their findings and then explained why these were invalid. He talked to us about the evolution of horses, and had some arcane point to make about that. Then he got to the evolution of the eye.
“The eye,” he said, “how could evolution possibly have led to the eye? Is half an eye useful?”
Everyone nodded in agreement, and a few people started clapping. They all looked like fish, eyes slightly glazed. I probably imagined the flecks of drool at the corners of their mouths. They probably weren’t really just taking this in, just letting it wash over them.
After he had used his witty and humorous speech and his entertaining PowerPoint presentation to convince everyone in the room that evolution was total bunk, he opened it up for Q & A. I confess that I didn’t understand the futility of trying to reason with any of the people there. Earlier he had discussed people that incorporated evolution into their religious views: namely the new age hippies with their ‘Age of Aquarius’ where evolution has reached it perfect conclusion.
“Surely,” I said, “you aren’t trying to ascribe this dawning of the age of Aquarius view to evolutionary scientists? I mean the musical Hair wasn’t written by Richard Dawkins.”
“Well, no,” he said, “but my point is that whether they themselves believe that or not, that’s the religious view that their conclusions support.”
And of course that is just as important as what they actually mean. I got the same glares that the previous questioner had received. I took the hint and shut up, contenting myself to observe the proceedings.
There were no more real questions. The rest were just like “Wow, it all makes sense now. I don’t believe I even thought about considering evolution for a moment. Just wow. This really enhances my faith in God.”
Craig was certainly gratified to hear that.
Then he moved on to hydro-plate theory. Hydro-plate theory is too ridiculous to spend much time on. Basically the idea is that ..err…there was a whole bunch of water under the tectonic plates, and then the world sprung a leak and the whole place flooded..and then–err–it all just went away again?
This would have been too ridiculous for even the religious zealots to accept at the beginning of the seminar, but by this time we’d already had an hour and a half of brain-numbing, and were less than prepared to challenge it. A dozen people looked a bit incredulous, and the rest were nodding their heads.
After the seminar was over I decided to ditch the next one. I stumbled out into the wide hallway outside the ballroom and looked up at the light fixture.
One of God’s many miracles, I thought. I looked out at the sun. God spoke and there it was, I thought. I was tired. My eyes were glazed. I may have imagined it, but it seemed to me that I had actually begun to enjoy the repetetive worship music emanating from the speakers placed all over the hotel.
I stumbled over to a plush leather chair in the lobby and sat down. I stared at nothing for about an hour, and then got up and went to my hotel room, which I was sharing with three others. They weren’t there at the moment, they were in seminars, but I could see the signs that they had been there recently.
The three Bibles, all in their cloth carrying cases, all creatively decorated. And then of course the Christian self-help books. Daily devotional books, The 5 People You Meet in Heaven, all the books that make me vomit.
I grabbed one of the Bibles and opened to the first lines.
“In the beginning,” it said, “God created the heavens and the earth..”
My thoughts turned to a passage I’d read in another book.
“These rocks, he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them.”
I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
Cross-posted to Leoniceno’s Corner