Friday, October 27, 2006

Top ten

I shared this Top Ten List via email in July 2005. Can't believe I didn't have a blog entry on this. Randi has it today on his Swift newsletter (his is taken from a different site). It's so hilarious (and spot on) I wish I could photocopy a ream and tack it to every post in town.

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Richard Dawkins also has something similar in The God Delusion (Bantam Press, p. 178-179). Dawkins quotes anthropologist Pascal Boyer's description of the Fang people of Cameroon's strange supernatural beliefs in witches who have "extra animal-like organs" and who fly in the night. He also quotes Boyer's story of how when Boyer shared these strange beliefs in a Cambridge dinner, a theologian remarked, "That is what makes anthropology so fascinating and diffiuclt. You have to explain how people can believe such nonsense." Boyer recounts how he was too dumbfounded to say something about "kettles and pots."

Here's Dawkins' sooty kettle response:

Assuming that the Cambridge theologian was a mainstream Christian, he probably believed some combination of the following:

  • In the time of the ancestors, a man was born to a virgin mother with no biological father being involved.
  • The same fatherless man called out to a friend called Lazarus, who had been dead long enough to stink, and Lazarus promptly came back to life.
  • The fatherless man himself came alive after being dead and buried three days.
  • Forty days later, the fatherless man went up to the top of a hill and then disappeared bodily into the sky.
  • If you murmur thoughts privately in your head, the fatherless man, and his 'father' (who is also himself) will hear your thoughts and may act upon them. He is simultaneously able to hear the thoughts of everybody else in the world.
  • If you do something bad, or something good, the same fatherless man sees all, even if nobody else does. You may be rewarded or punished accordingly, including after your death.
  • The fatherless man's virgin mother never died but 'ascended' bodily into heaven.
  • Bread and wine, if blessed by a priest (who must have testicles), 'become' the body and blood of the fatherless man.
What would an objective anthropologist, coming fresh to this set of beliefs while on fieldwork in Cambridge, make of them?

Dawkins rightly says, "All religious beliefs seem weird to those not brought up in them" (p,177).

I usually give the example of my relatives in China, who have lived there all their life. Not one of them is Christian. Not one of them subscribes to any of the beliefs of the Abrahamic monotheisms. And I would bet they would judge anyone who believed in Dawkins' list above to be weird. On the other hand, practically every single one my relatives here in the Philippines--those born from the mid 20th century on--is affiliated with one or another Christian denomination. The simple reason is that this country is Christian (in the sense that Christianity is the dominant, prevalent, and inescapable worldview with 95% of the populace calling themselves Christians). China isn't; it has its own Buddhist-Taoist tradition. Thus, it all boils down to society and socialization. In this case, familiarity breeds delusions, delusions of possessing the truth.

No comments: