Over the past few weeks I have been discussing faith, God, creationism, the scientific method, evolution, and the Bible with a few friends on Facebook. Sometimes it feels like it would be more fun to stab myself in the thigh with a fork, but I have learnt some new things in the process.
Many of the same old tired arguments come up which have been addressed by thousands before me, but occasionally I see something new which forces me to research the topic, and I think that’s one of the fundamental differences. I have a genuine thirst for knowledge. On my days off I will read philosophy books, uncover the methods of encryption used during wartime, read about DNA, marvel at advances in astronomy, watch nature shows on Discovery, or just get online and take part in various discussion forums. I feel that many theists are not interested in the world in the same way.
Once a person is convinced that there is an afterlife and an all powerful, all loving God will punish you forever if you do not follow his list of things to do and don’t, then all that really matters is trying to stick to the rules – anything else is a distraction that may knock you off the narrow, winding path to eternal bliss. It’s no wonder that many feel immortally threatened when the foundations of theor faith as questioned.
Well, it’s not so much that the foundations are questioned, but the vague realisation that they really do not have the answers. Admitting something like the big bang is true, or evolution really does occur means the Bible (and many other “holy” books) is literally wrong. If one part is wrong, then it is not the perfect word of God and the house house of cards comes tumbling down. In their mind either the Bible is 100% correct, or it is not.
This kind of atomic thinking make it impossible for them to see that questioning one part of a theory does not falsify it in its entirety. I think that’s one of the key differences. Rational thinkers allows themselves the possibility of being wrong – it makes no difference to them. By being proved wrong we gain a deeper insight into the true nature of reality.
Theists cannot allow themselves to be wrong since there immortal souls are on the line. Who would risk an eternity in paradise? Fundamentalists take it one step further and do not allow the text of their chosen “holy” book to the wrong in any way. There is no room for interpretation of what the book of God says, unless of course it is allegory, symbolic, or a parable.