Up front, though it may appear otherwise, this is not a commentary against the small community churches that serve to strengthen our nation’s moral fiber and to teach the difference between right and wrong. Those who use God’s name to justify murder, hatred, and bigotry are another matter.
This article is designed to make you think, to ponder, and even to laugh out loud occasionally, despite its serious subject… after all nothing loses your readers faster than a dull harangue that goes on and on and on, without a few chuckles thrown in for punctuation… right? For those of you who actually reach the end of this piece with your sanity intact, I’ll remind you I did use the word “theory” in the title and that said title does after all end in a question mark, and I will explain why in the last paragraph.
I consider it an axiom that if you can’t trust the source of your information, then it follows that you can’t trust the opinions, conclusions or facts that the absorption of it produces — or so I’ve been told. After all, aren’t facts really nothing more than widely accepted opinions?
But what happens when your main information source becomes as outdated as an old forgotten computer running DOS that’s never even heard of Windows? Like our old computer, even if the ancient scribes of the Bible knew and understood how the universe actually works, they’d sadly lack the vocabulary to describe it, and their readers would probably dismiss their explanations as evil heresy. It is human nature to fear what you don’t understand, and many kill what they fear, so the authors of the Holy Bible tended to keep their teachings simple, regardless of the complex lessons they were trying to relay.
In recent times I’ve found my personal faith shaken. Like an argument that’s been built on unstable ground, I can’t repair it by nit picking the little things that are wrong, or wedging a brick beneath a sinking foundation to temporarily keep its floor level.
In our day and age, the battle to move forward in knowledge, while staying morally rooted in the past is like the sturdy flying buttresses on opposite sides of an ancient church. The holy sanctuary would most assuredly fall down if either of them stopped leaning against it, but like a stubborn old man, it refuses to acknowledge that it even needs them. Worse yet, as new churches are built around it, shock sets in when it realizes that the new ones don’t even need the buttresses that he relies on.
Rather than the old church exposing its faults in order to have them repaired and strengthened, it instead hides them in favor of distractions, causing continued and unchecked deterioration. “See my beautiful classic stained glass, and my golden objects and my fancy leather-bound books of worship?” Like the Wizard of Oz, the grand cathedral needs its followers to pay attention to the frightening yet beckoning statues, billowing smoke, and terrifying lightning in order to keep its parishioners from noticing “that man behind the curtain” working its special effects.
Today, in one hand we in America hold the latest science book, and in the other the Christian Bible. Both are equally believable and equally important, but in many ways they are in direct opposition to each other simply because of the way they are both interpreted as unimpeachable and factual texts. In an age of constant discovery, the average science volume, regardless of subject, is usually discarded as outdated within five to eight years.
By contrast the Christian Bible, in an assortment of forms and along with other religious texts, has survived the various ages of constant scientific discovery for nearly twenty centuries.
It has always bothered me that biblical faith and proven science can’t seem to co-exist in peace without doing harmful battle with one another. It makes many think that the established church, all the while preaching love and acceptance, would rather sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” than to stretch out a hand to its neighbors. Granted, there are rare pockets of coexistence like the American Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch living side by side with modern culture. Two completely different ways of life that not only tolerate each other, but also respect each other’s values. Remarkably the horse and buggy coexists with the automobile in peace and mutual respect.
But is it really a well-crafted illusion that the Bible has actually survived as well as science?
While science is constantly evolving (sorry for the necessary use of the “E” word), the church has not. As the Christian faith realized that attendance figures were faltering in mid-20th century, the only effective solution was not to assimilate itself into modern society, but to legislate outdated religious dogma in order to force it upon the increasingly reluctant population in the form of laws. People must be compelled to attend church, so no commercial business will be conducted on Sunday, no alcohol will be sold on the Sabbath either, and as its political power grew, as did its wealth, established religion demanded and got laws that gave it immunity from taxation.
Is there anyone left still wondering why there are no federally mandated Jewish or Islamic national holidays in the United States?
The Christian church has even flaunted its power by demanding that we post on our money "In God We Trust.” But how do we decide which opposing denomination’s God does that motto represent? The axiom has currently been there for so long that people are convinced that our founding fathers by design dictated that it should be there hundreds of years ago when our country was founded, rather than it being a recent addition demanded by those same religious zealots' forefathers in the 1950s. It actually showed up sporadically on our coins in the 1860s and was legislated onto our paper money in 1957 and began appearing on it in 1961 — only a little over forty years ago.
For a while their scenario worked, but with the arrival of the volatile 1960s, resistance began cracking their powerful façade. Like the earlier fighters against the “religious right’s” successful constitutional amendment regarding prohibition of all alcoholic beverages, businesses began defying dogma and staying open on Sundays. Our new dollar coin contains the motto, but it has now been pushed aside and into obscurity at the outer edge of the coin instead of prominently on its face.
So let us look at the effects of strict biblical teachings, as opposed to the piddling and easily disputed minor details.
Intolerance and Judgment in the Name of God
Even in these modern times, whenever religious fundamentalism (regardless of the denomination) enters an era of intolerance, innocent people die. People become judged and are killed for senseless crimes in the name of God. You need look no further than the Crusades for instance where people were publicly, viciously, and slowly tortured if they refused to renounce their religion in favor of Christianity. This resulted in tens of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians to be horribly put to death — in the name of God.
Other examples are the Salem witch hunts, Ireland in the days when you could die because you were Protestant or Catholic, depending on what neighborhood you were trying to traverse, and of course today’s Middle East, where identical looking people (to the uneducated) offhandedly and without a second thought regularly kill each other and themselves simply because of their faith. Of course there’s also the Nazi wholesale slaughter of millions of people who were merely declared Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals regardless of whether they actually were or not.
I don't have a problem with my own or other’s chosen faith regarding the existence of God. I do have problems with the hundreds of versions of him/her/it (?) that various opposing groups have created while insisting loudly that theirs — and only theirs — is the correct one. Whole communities are lured into beautiful multi-million dollar stadium-sized sanctuaries with the all-accepting promise of God’s love for everyone, and the rapture felt when you accept Jesus Christ as your only savior.
It’s only after you’ve committed yourself body and wallet, that you realize the extent of the “bait and switch” con that’s been perpetrated on you. Your preacher’s speeches begin to sound more like financial advice than theological sermons. Too late, you’ve realized that peer group pressure will make you pity and belittle people that you once considered friends, for no other reason than at the instruction of the Phelpses, Falwells, and Robertsons of our time.
Every Word in the Bible is True, Accurate, and Infallible
The divine texts are the first best source of “facts.” “The lord giveth and the lord taketh away” is a generally accepted “quoted for truth” statement because it’s written in the Holy Scriptures. In our troubled times of need or of great loss, that comforting phrase is quoted constantly and repeatedly as indisputable fact.
In the actual biblical story of Job, the Lord indeed did “giveth.” However, God got a bad rap in the deal, because it was the devil who “taketh” away relentlessly and repeatedly to test Job's faith. Granted, Job indeed spoke the famous and grossly over-quoted line, but he was absolutely and undeniably wrong, which conflicts with what we were taught all through our life — that the Bible word-for-word is “gospel.”
So whom do you believe? Job and the people who tell you that every word written in the Bible is fundamentally an absolute unerring fact, or your own eyes after reading the quote in context? This is a perfect example of how someone can conveniently pick and choose which words in the Bible mean what he/she wants them to mean, regardless of context. The danger is once that is done, other Christians blindly follow along en mass as witnessed by the phrase being used almost continuously through the years by them thereafter.
It all comes down to which source of information you rely on, or more importantly on the attitudes of those who taught you your “facts”.
What has someone selectively left out of the most Holy of texts?
Imagine the following experiment: Put twenty people in a room. Of the assembled, five speak English, five speak Spanish, five speak German, and five speak French. Only three of these people can cross-translate fluently between the languages. Tell a very brief story to one and have him pass it on at random only once to one other person at a time until the tale comes back to you. You will not get the same thing you started with — that I can guarantee. Now imagine that story – along with hundreds of others – being verbally passed on through at least three centuries before someone actually put them to print on scrolls for posterity.
Then after another thousand years, yet another group sat down representing an English king, and decided arbitrarily which chapters they agreed with, and which didn't fit into their idea of what their final Bible would say — which is exactly what happened to the telling of Jesus' missing teen years and other conflicting dogma not included in the final “edit.” Yet our very civilization is built upon that exact same set of shaky and outdated folk tales, relying on it never to fail or confuse us through numerous different yet similar interpretations, ergo: “Well, Matthew said it went like this, but Mark told it better, but I believe Luke’s version, even though John’s is more believable, despite my suspicions that he co-wrote it with Paul, George, and Ringo.”
How Long After the Events Involved Was the Bible Actually Written?
Are the Bible’s teachings relevant to today’s times and circumstances? The scriptures are actually a collection of compelling, glorious, and educational stories about events that were relayed piecemeal and verbally from one generation to the next for approximately three to six hundred years. They were eventually written down in their various languages on hand-printed and deteriorating scrolls. Modern theological scholars point out that the hundreds of years are moot, because God guided their hands and minds while writing them down for posterity.
Odd that God didn’t think of how quickly those scrolls would deteriorate into nearly useless scraps and have them carved on something similar to Moses' stone tablets. Then again if Moses was any example, they’d get lost or destroyed almost immediately after they were produced… and a single bible would weigh tons, so it’s just as well. Nor had our sacred creator counted on 1,300 years passing by, give or take a few, at which time the aforementioned King James’ Christians got their hands and blue editing pencils on them.
To this very day, it sometimes frightens me that modern day religious scholars present and teach intelligent design “facts” from the Bible on a daily basis to young private school children, using a text originally written nearly two thousand years ago when it was an established and undeniable “fact” that the earth as a whole was absolutely… flat.
Relevant? I could go on and on about modern methods of herding and sacrificing sheep, handy hints on how to keep your third wife of six from turning to salt, and the all important sailing and wine tips, but they’ve been covered by more intelligent people than myself.
Keeping Those All-Important Dates Correct
It has repeatedly been ordained that the date of our Holy Savior’s birth and his later resurrection must be respectfully celebrated with great care. Those aforementioned same parochial teachers two paragraphs back quote chapter and verse from a text that doesn't even name its own holy savior’s birthday, even though we’re all required to celebrate it faithfully every year on a date that someone arbitrarily and for all intents and purposes guessed at, some unknown centuries after it actually happened.
We are also chronicling our calendar since his birth year using a centuries old “calculated estimation…” probably using the same fuzzy math that causes Easter (the hallowed date of Jesus's rising) to fall on a different calendar date every year.
Consider this. At the time that the honored King James Version was translated and compiled to book form, a mere four hundred years or so ago in 1611, the all-knowing and most holy church considered it a “fact” that the sun and all of the stars and planets rotated around the Earth in a sort of Tychonic system. The almighty and even more all-knowing holy father in Rome was so convinced of this, that just four years after King James released his “version,” poor Galileo (1564-1642) with all of his ingenuity and intellect was nearly condemned and entombed in 1616 for heresy by the learned and sacred Pope for merely suggesting that the Earth wasn’t God’s intended center of the universe – a "fact" backed up by a religion that only after more than three hundred and fifty years of careful consideration, has finally and just recently admitted that it was wrong about the long-dead astronomer.
Science vs. God and Those Pesky Unanswerable Questions
Some questions equally defy both intelligent design as well as scientific measurements. Like it or not, some things just have to be taken on faith. I’ve never seen the Indian Ocean; I’ve never seen the Swiss Alps; I’ve never even seen the North Pole, despite news that Santa Clause is panicking because it’s melting. I agree and acknowledge that they all are real. They’re there if only because someone I trusted told me that they exist. On the other hand things are inserted into movies and photos all the time that aren’t really there, behind actors who may or not be there either. The sun is 93 million miles from Earth, an established fact that I believe, though I didn’t take a tape measure and stretch it to the sun. Now if they told me the sun was 5,280,000,000 pop bottles laid end to end from the earth, I might be able to actually grasp the measurement… well, maybe not.
Distance vs. Infinity
What is beyond the farthest distance that we can intellectually imagine? Once we’ve tentatively established this illusive point in the universe, the paradox becomes that we can still travel quadrillions of miles to the tenth power farther beyond that very point. Like it or not, wherever we pause on our journey to look around, there has to be something beyond. What was God’s purpose in creating an infinite and detectable number of distant and completely unpopulated suns, planets, and galaxies – indeed universes – that he then never gave us the ability to eventually visit or understand?
Forgive me a moment; I’m still astonished that my spell-checker actually confirmed my spelling of the term “quadrillions,” and that I actually got it right on the first try!
Now where was I? Oh, yes…
Most people consider distance in only one or three directions, forward, cumulatively or upward. However any distance we can wrap our intellect around can then be halved… and then halved again… and again. How hard is it to understand something that is one billionth the size of an atom? Theoretically speaking, what would a hypothetical intelligent being standing on that particle think of the universe that he could perceive? He would be as completely unaware of our existence/universe as we are of his. Indeed, he’d believe as fact (as we do) that such a thing couldn’t possibly exist.
But just how many cumulative facts can you willingly believe on faith alone? Get a pen and put a dot at the top edge of a standard sheet of 8½ by 11-inch paper, and then another at the bottom edge. As long as the parchment stays intact, the distance between the two dots can never be more than eleven inches. In addition, some will argue that it can never be less than that, calling the declaration a “God’s truth,” or the proverbial and overused “quoted for truth.” In front of their questioning eyes, simply bend or fold the paper in half so that the dots are touching, placing the distance betwixt them now at zero. A cute trick, but while theoretical astrophysicists maintain that it can supposedly be done within vast millions of light years’ worth of distance using the ever handy and popular black hole, can it realistically be done?
Speed is a combination of two infinites. The speed of something is the distance that an object travels compared to a set amount of time. However the speed of sound varies depending on the medium that it’s traveling through. Can time vary depending on what it exists in? It is said that a massive star's gravity can bend light but can it actually (as learned professors and Star Trek fans insist) bend time?
Infinity vs. Time vs. God
Only a fool would claim to have a clue as to what eternity/infinity really is. If you accept the truest definition of the term, you find yourself with two just-barely understandable, distinct and conflicting “facts,” depending on which source of information you rely on:
A. Time extends ten, indeed a hundred, or even a thousand or more times farther back than the currently immeasurable period in which God exist(s)ed; therefore as long as the creator has existed, he comparatively has not existed infinitely longer… right?
B. God is eternal; he will always exist; he has always existed.
Which opinion do we believe? What existed before time? What existed before God? Something would've had to have… wouldn't it?
At the beginning of this exceedingly long piece, I stated that without trust in our source of information, it’s impossible to have facts. Without facts we have chaos. It is considered a fact that man can never travel faster than the speed of light (again, unless you’re a Star Trek fan). It was the same kind of thinking that once led people in the mid-19th century to assert confidently that a man could never travel on a train over the speed of 35 miles per hour because all of the breathable air would be sucked out of the rail car.
It is this kind of closed-minded thinking that has brought the United States to a state of chaos – financially, politically, and spiritually.
Through all of this confusion, the worst and most tragic paradox of all has risen. It has become man’s standard operating procedure in these times by way of religious teachings to point out our differences as a weakness rather than strength. This seems to condemn us for all eternity to be at odds with each other.
How does opinion become fact? Easy – when someone agrees with it. Well, actually when a lot of someones agree with it. As history has shown repeatedly, it doesn't matter if the particular opinion is actually true or not, just that it's accepted as “fact.”
A parting but small religion/astronomy anomaly/tidbit for you to ponder (just to see if you’ve really been paying attention): When it was formed, our little yellow dwarf sun didn’t (and still doesn’t) theoretically have the immense gravitational mass needed to have produced heavy elements like uranium, gold, and lead, etc. The only workable theory is that our present star is made up of the leftover remnants of a much larger star that existed on the spot we now occupy. When this previous star went supernova a few billion years ago, it first imploded in on itself and then violently exploded. In the mega-gravity of that collapse, the immense pressure fused hydrogen atoms together by force to form our inherited heavy elements. They were then flung outward in the violent aftermath to eventually coalesce into our current sun and its planets. (I’d mention how many planets, but that number keeps changing from decade to decade.)
Makes you wonder why God didn’t just do another flood instead of blowing the whole thing up and starting all over again Sodom and Gomorrah-style, doesn’t it?
So… we have Opinions that become Facts. If the facts fall victim to those who refuse to believe them, they are self-righteously declared “theories,” because no one wants to claim them as their opinions any more.
That's what is so much fun about opinions; you don't have to back them up with facts or links to dubious websites that just happen to agree with you. If you don't agree with me, I'll just shrug and say go look up your own "facts" – they'll be just as believable as mine; theoretically speaking, anyway…
But of course (and you HAD to have seen this coming a light-year away) that’s only my opinion…Powered by Sidelines