Why do I bother, you may ask. Well, these are often kind people whose concern is genuine. Also, their contributions are most instructive, furnishing as they do copious examples of every logical fallacy known to philosophy, along with demonstrations of selective inattention and often hilarious ignorance. Attempting to find a way into their minds, formulating an approach they cannot misinterpret, is a good exercise for a teacher, or anyone else who doesn't have a life.
What most drives me nuts is the stultifying literalism of the people I'm talking to. Ironic, isn't it, what this literal-mindedness forces you to do? You have to insist that myth (the creation, the fall, the redemption) is physical, historical fact, and that physical, historical fact (evolution through natural selection) is not even myth, but lies. You have to believe that a bunch of fervent, half-educated bible-bewitched amateurs from God-Box Ministries Inc. of Ballsack Falls, Shitsplat County, Texas have the truth ('We decided God done it all, and when we looked at the evidence, we found we were right!') while all those very smart people working so hard in the evolutionary biology departments of the world's top universities are labouring under a massive delusion. Then you call them arrogant. And you want your version of how we got here taught in schools, God help us, that you might raise a generation of scientific illiterates for Jesus.
An earnest but somewhat uncomplicated young man called Brandon asks me questions he thinks are going to stump me, such as: 'So tell me, if we came from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?' and 'what good has evolution ever done for the world?' In his overture to me, he told me that he too had once been a skeptic, but was now showered in the blood of the lamb and saved. Praise Jesus! This is a common ploy: 'I used to think like you, but then the evidence convinced me Jesus is real.' I told him he did not sound like a former skeptic, since he did not appear to understand, let alone to have entertained, any arguments against his position. I told him he sounded more like someone who'd been home-schooled, which he then admitted was the case. Congratulations, Mom and Dad. You've produced a goodthinkful little godbot who is completely unable to think outside of his immediate context.
'Everyone sinned and died. I deserve to go to hell for the wrong things I've done....I've done a lot.' He's twenty-one. His parents must have persuaded him he deserves hell simply for childhood misdemeanours. That, or it's just late adolescent self-dramatising.
'But, since I realized that Jesus died for me, to save me....I don't go to Hell. He came to save you, He came to save me. He died, so we could have the CHOICE of what we believe. He wants you to believe in Him and have a relationship with Him so you don't end up in Hell. But, He gave you the choice to believe what you want, just like a parent loves their kid and gives them a choice. It's your move. He hopes you'll make the right choice.'
I asked him how an omniscient Super-being has any need for hope, since he knows my choices before I make them, but he hadn't a clue what I meant. I might as well have asked if he thought that the inconsistencies encountered in religious imageries might be brought into harmony via a sapiential esotericism that would bring those dissonances back to the harmony of the substance.
Does not the story of Adam and Eve resonate with us because we all know that living inevitably involves a loss of innocence, that merely existing causes us to hurt others, and for many of us there's a sense of exile, and a sense of having fallen away from a better self in a better place? It has the emotional impact of a dream. Dreams often have a powerful effect on us, even if the details are absurd from the point of view of the waking self. Insist Adam and Eve were historical figures and that it all happened in physical reality, and you strip the tale of all its reverberations, making it merely silly. Did Adam have balls when God first made him? If so, what were they for, since Eve appears to have been an afterthought? Why did God plonk that sodding tree in the middle of the garden with two such innocents about? It was like leaving exposed wiring in a nursery. How, if they were innocent of good and evil on eating the fruit, can they reasonably be blamed for having done so? And so on.
After a few exchanges with people of Brandon's stripe, I need to hear music that will restore a sense of the mysterious, of the barely perceived, of a far-away mind that knows me but whose voice is obscured by the noise of this world, especially that kicked up by imaginationless Evangelical God-botherers. This is one such piece, 'Grace to You' by Jan Gilbert, from the album Sound in Spirit by Chanticleer. The words are verses four to six of the first chapter of Revelations.
4 ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ,
5 καὶ ἀπὸ ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς. τῶ ἀγαπῶντι ἡμᾶς καὶ λύσαντι ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐν τῶ αἵματι αὐτοῦ _
6 καὶ ἐποίησεν ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, ἱερεῖς τῶ θεῶ καὶ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ _ αὐτῶ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας [τῶν αἰώνων]· ἀμήν.
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
This morning I received from Amazon my copy of Writing the Icon of the Heart by Maggie Ross. I am going to start reading it on the train tomorrow. She quotes this poem by R.S. Thomas.
Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church explains why there's oil under the ground.