Growing Up in Bachmann’s World

October 3rd, 2011 at 12:00 am | 93 Comments |

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Michele Bachmann and I grew up in the same evangelical world. We heard similar sermons, read similar books—most importantly the Bible—and we followed the same anointed leaders.

By the time we were in college our generation of evangelicals had been educated into a profoundly different worldview than that of the secular, anti-Christian, Satan-following Ivy League elites we had been taught to fear. We understood the world to be a spiritual battleground with forces of good pitted against forces of evil. Real angels and real demons hovered about us as we prepared to wage these wars. We sang songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” in our churches. At summer camps and vacation Bible schools we stamped our feet, and waved our arms as we sang with good Christian gusto “I’m in the Lord’s Army.” We knew which side we were on.

Our religious literature was filled with the ideas of people like Francis Schaeffer, a fundamentalist Pennsylvania pastor who transformed himself into a guru by moving to the Swiss Alps, making himself look like Heidi’s grandfather, and turning his home into a refuge for troubled pilgrim’s called “L’Abri.” Schaeffer, the intellectual architect of the Religious Right in America, helped a generation of young evangelicals understand that the corrosive forces of secular humanism were eating away at the foundations of the Christian West. We were heartened that such an impressive intellectual—a fundamentalist counter to Jacob Bronowski or Carl Sagan—was on our side.

Schaeffer’s 1976 bestseller, How Should We Then Live, chronicled the decline of the Christian West, which had flourished with God’s blessing for centuries, but was now in decline. With broad brushstrokes, our alpine sage showed us how the West had sold its soul for a mess of secular pottage and sham materialism. Schaeffer’s million-selling manifesto was made into an impressive film series, narrated by Schaeffer. Clad in his iconic Swiss leggings, with a flowing mane of white air and trademark goatee, Schaffer took viewers to all the great cultural spots in the West to help us understand what had gone wrong. The book and film series were widely used at evangelical Colleges and universities across the country.

Michele Bachmann told the New Yorker recently that Schaeffer had a “profound influence” on her developing worldview as a young person. Millions of evangelicals would murmur “Amen” to that. I read Schaeffer and watched his film series at Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts in 1979 as part of a capstone general education course required of all students.

Schaeffer was but the most charismatic of the evangelical experts that shaped the world views of believers in the 1970s. There were many more with different specialties. We learned that evolution had no scientific support from young earth creationists like Henry Morris and Ken Ham. When Bachmann says that “evolution has never been proven” she is simply repeating what our generation has heard from evangelical leaders as we were growing. I enrolled at Eastern Nazarene College seeking credentials that would enable me to join the creationists in their fight against evolution.

We learned that homosexuality is a choice made by people to live in sin, under Satan’s influence. The reparative therapy—“pray away the gay”—used at the clinic run by Bachmann’s husband was something we all endorsed, under the influence of evangelical social scientists like James Dobson, who had a PhD in child development and thus knew what he was talking about. We grew up hearing about the “gay agenda” and how it was being used by Satan to destroy traditional morality and faith in the Bible.

Christian “historians” like Peter Marshall and David Barton helped us understand that America was a “Christian Nation” and that recent travails, like the social upheaval of the 60’s that gave us drug abuse, promiscuity, and the homosexual agenda, were the result of abandoning America’s religious roots.

Many evangelicals, myself included, were fortunate enough to study under Christian scholars, like my professors at Eastern Nazarene College in the 1970’s or my colleagues today at Gordon College, who see through the nonsensical claims of people like James Dobson, David Barton, Francis Schaeffer, and Ken Ham—who runs the preposterous Creation Museum in Kentucky. Even as a college student I recall Schaeffer being examined rather critically and young earth creationism dismissed out of hand.

There are, fortunately, many evangelical scholars—NIH Director Francis Collins and historian Mark Noll come to mind—who are quietly raising alarms about all this dangerous anti-intellectualism, warning us about populist gurus who are marketing a “Christianized” version of knowledge that, on closer examination, turns out to be neither Christian nor knowledge.

Unfortunately, millions of evangelicals—and this would include much of the political base being courted by the GOP presidential candidates as well as the candidates themselves—are trapped in an alternative “parallel culture” with its own standards of truth. The intellectual authorities mentioned above—with the exception of Schaeffer who died in 1984—all have media empires that spread their particular version of the gospel. Millions of dollars every year support the production of books, DVDs, radio shows, school curricula, and other educational materials. Very few evangelicals grow up without hearing some trusted authority—perhaps even with a PhD—tell them that the age of the earth is an “open question.” Or that scientists are questioning evolution. Or that gays are getting spiritual help and becoming straight. Or that secular historians are taking religion out of US History.

Historian Randall Stephens and I have been interested in this alternative knowledge world for years. We grew up in it and emerged from it unscathed—as near as we can tell—but many of our evangelical students over the years have arrived at college with “truths” from this alternative knowledge world written on their hearts. Harvard University Press has just published our sympathetic insiders’ analysis of the parallel culture of American evangelicalism. Titled The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, we look at how evangelical knowledge structures are exploited by media savvy authorities like those mentioned above.

And, as we watch the GOP candidates enthusiastically promote discredited ideas from this alternative knowledge world, we worry.

Recent Posts by Karl W. Giberson



93 Comments so far ↓

  • TAZ

    I can appreciate the religious not wanting to let go of their sacred myths. These beliefs after all make up part of their basic religious foundation.

    It was cool at one time to think god so loved us that he made us (and the Earth) the center of everything.

    But, just like being the center of the universe, I would guess with time all religious myths will be proved wrong.

    • middlcr0

      “How does it feel to have acheived your purpose in life by age 14?”

      Since when are questioning religious beliefs and achieving life purpose the same thing?

      Also, whats the deal with the name calling and implied homophobia?

  • Mark Thomson

    While I find this article interesting, it concerns me that the assessment of Bachmann’s evangelical background is based on so little actual information about her. The writer tells us a lot about himself and people and ideas that he has been exposed to. However, apparently on the basis of a single statement that Bachmann made about Francis Shaeffer, he seems to have decided to project his entire experience onto her.

    I also have an evangelical background, and one thing I know is that the evangelical world is far from monolithic. Giberson’s portrayal of Bachmann may be entirely accurate. The problem is that there is little in the article that enables us to decide whether it is or not. I’m no fan of Bachmann, but I think she deserves a more substantive analysis than this.

    • hisgirlfriday

      I also have an evangelical background, and one thing I know is that the evangelical world is far from monolithic.

      Correct. I think the issue is that evangelical has been mistakenly used as a catch-all for all socially-conservative, Republican-supporting church folks when the word actually has a separate and distinct theological definition.

      For example, I can say that I grew up with an evangelical background because I was raised Methodist (I even sang “I’m in the Lord’s Army” during Sunday/Bible school choir!) but my church’s sermons were thankfully free of all that culture wars crap.

      • ScottPilgrimVersus

        I sang that song and Onward Christian Soldiers many times too : P

        I can say I’ve had all the culture wars stuff come my way but to claim or imply as the author does, putting these song titles out there without context, that the Dobson type evangelicals are militaristic and threatening is shameful. I used to say fundamentalists are the best people I know when I first found myself disagreeing with them and as I drift apart from them more comfortably I will never think of them as base or stupid or threatening or worse than anyone else. I believe it was in Orange County, Ca that a home bible study/ church meeting was banned by local authorities who claimed the authority to regulate and license religious gatherings even in people’s homes. In Alberta, Canada a preacher was banned from ever speaking, preaching, or emailing his opinions about ‘the gay agenda’ in a ruling that even a gay rights group opposed, saying that abrogating the rights of anyone threatens the rights of all. The pamphlet that brought on the ruling even made a point of saying gay individuals should be loved as just another sinner.

        If the threat of intolerance is growing, it isn’t from the religious right. The secret of destroying rights is that if you can define the language as exclusive to one side, as in “the intolerance of evangelicals”, then you become free to become intolerant of them – without even realizing yourself what you are doing. George Orwell had it about the use of language, or as an old Chinese proverb goes: “When words lose their meaning, the people lose their freedom.”

        • rubbernecker

          Giberson’s post is about the propagation of a belief system that is irreconcilable with certain facts and scientific truths. The author is worried about anti-intellectualism, not intolerance per se. His remarks about Bachmann are entirely consistent with The New Yorker profile of her, which was pretty even-handed.

          Christian militarism is entrenched in American culture, so if the author “implies” that evangelicals ride this tradition, I see nothing controversial about it.

        • think4yourself

          I have in the past (and still do sing those songs), however, I don’t think that the author’s portrayal of Michelle Bachmann is inaccurate. It’s not just her statements regarding Schaffer, but the combination of all of her statements that help paint the picture of her worldview. When she talks about a woman (including herself) being submissive to her husband, that the clinic that she owned with her husband that practiced reparative therapy, and her proposal in the Minnosota leglislature for a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages, that the particular Lutheran church she belonged to until recently believed the Pope was the Anti-Christ, also her strongly held pro-life views – all point to worldview similar to what the author described – one I am very familiar with as well.

          I will add regarding Scott Pilgrim’s post about the Orange County bible study/home study ban, the story is a little more complex than that. I live in Orange County. This particular couple have a standing Wednesday night and Sunday morning meeting in which 50 plus people attend twice a week. The city has an ordinance that prohibits gatherings over a certain size and requires churches to have a license. In fact the couple are running a church out of their home without a license. The reason the city banned the proceedings (at that location) is the neighbors complained that twice a week, their streets and driveways were blocked by cars. This is not just a case of a city banning the exercise of religion, rather it’s a response to a neighborhood complaint that a couple are violating an ordinance established for the benefit of the residence (how would you like your driveway blocked twice a week, every week because a church is meeting next door instead of in a commercial facility).

          While many members of my particular denomination have similar practices that the author lists, and there has been a strong push towards fundamental activism that was harnessed by Republicans since Ronald Reagan, Christianity by itself is not all this type of political fundamentalism, even those who have similar beliefs, regarding creationism.

      • ScottPilgrimVersus

        And now, since I still have another beer, I must go watch Alexander’s Ragtime Band again.

  • ScottPilgrimVersus

    I’m so far from my similarly evangelical background that I could call myself an agnostic Christian at most, but I can’t say I find myself troubled like the author about any of this.

    I’ve read one or two of Dobson’s books and listened to many of his radio shows and never or rarely heard anything that justifies writing his opinions off as ‘gullible people listened to him for his PHD’. This is lame. It’s substituting one alternative knowledge world for another. Humanism is quite arguably it’s own religion and its success in marrying itself to science actually troubles me more than young earth creationists because while evangelicals can, arguably, ignore science they can’t subvert it.

    Think about the extremely common claim that it is, prima facia, “unscientific” to ban government funding from research on fetal stem cells. Does science encompass an empirically knowable and testable moral answer as to whether or not those fetuses are human? If not, just what does that claim mean and imply?

    • SFTor1

      Science has no view on whether a fetus at any developmental stage is a person. Our laws do, however.

      A fetus is not defined as a person, according to the law.

      • ScottPilgrimVersus

        Yes, but should it be? It’s not a question science can answer and people who claim that it can be are not doing science any kind of favour. Other people have not been defined as people under the law before, and that didn’t make it right, in itself.

        • dugfromthearth

          It is a question science can answer if you define “person” scientifically. If you define “person” emotionally or based on mythology, then it is outside the realm of science.

        • Banty

          How do you think personhood would be defined scientifically? Any scientific demarcation would have to have some rationale. Not religious, necessarily, but some moral or value judgment would have to come into play.

          I agree with ScottPV that pointing to a current legal definition is inadequate. And doesn’t even address really why not going down a road of scientific exploration, is therefore “unscientific”. Not to Godwinize myself, but I think we can agree that there are roads of scientific exploration down which we should not go, and a current legal definition of legal personage is not the right determination.

  • Clayman

    Wonder if the writer believes everything he learned, e.g. “We learned that homosexuality is a choice made by people to live in sin, under Satan’s influence. The reparative therapy—“pray away the gay”—used at the clinic run by Bachmann’s husband was something we all endorsed, under the influence of evangelical social scientists like James Dobson, who had a PhD in child development and thus knew what he was talking about. We grew up hearing about the “gay agenda” and how it was being used by Satan to destroy traditional morality and faith in the Bible.”

  • Demosthenes

    The reality is that the alternative “Christian” universe the author describes is barely a hundred years old. Calvin himself was an avid amateur astronomer and wrote that if astronomical observation contradicts Scripture that, in the final analysis, Scripture is concerned with spiritual and not astronomical truth. The kind of heretical “Fundamentalism” described above is a recent aberration, the name itself coming from a series of essays published in 1910.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals

  • hisgirlfriday

    I was trying to think where I had heard of Francis Schaeffer. Then I remembered hearing about him through that book his son wrote: “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back”

  • joemarier

    I don’t think that picking apart the beliefs of evangelicals on American history is going to help Mitt Romney.

  • zaybu

    The problem with those who believe in a religion is that they are sceptical about every other religion but never apply their scepticism to their own religious views. What the schools should teach is comparative religions so that everyone gets acquainted with all the religions. If later on they opt for a particular religion, it will be a conscious one. But brainwashing a child into a religion from when he/she is too young to decide is a crime of which no one wants to speak.

    • Steve D

      So, you think people should apply skepticism to their own views. Great.

      So prove that your moral sentiments have any applicability outside your own mind.
      Prove that any other person has any obligation to take your moral views seriously.
      Prove that you have a right to impose your conceptions of morality on others by trying to enact your views into policy as opposed to theirs.
      Prove that it’s immoral for other groups to try to impose their ideas on you.
      Prove that gays have the same rights as non-gays.
      Prove that people have a right to food, shelter or health care.

      Rules are simple. Give me a proof that uses methods and premises that you’d accept from someone trying to overturn your beliefs.

      • zaybu

        You’re using the word “prove” as if morality is some mathematical test. It isn’t. Morality has to do with a code of conduct within a society, and as such, it requires that the members of that society have a say in what those rules are. A lot of that will be decided upon what we perceived ourselves to be w.r.t each other, and to the environment, our knowledge, the problems we are confronting, etc.

        We are way off topic.

        • Demosthenes

          “We are way off topic”

          Hardly — you are way off-base in your exceedingly ill-informed opinions about what constitutes “brainwashing.” Hint: not everyone who is religious is religious because they have been “brainwashed.” There does however exist a quite effective atheist/secular intellectual brainwashing machine.

        • Steve D

          So basically you’ve got zero. Let’s take this apart point by point:

          “You’re using the word “prove” as if morality is some mathematical test. It isn’t.”
          This is a completely unsupported, ad hoc assertion. Just because your grounding is shallow doesn’t mean everyone’s is.

          Morality has to do with a code of conduct within a society,”
          Trivially true, but the implication that morality is only a code of conduct is a non-sequitur. Does morality exist because of the code, or does the code exist because of something deeper? And even if it’s true, does this mean we had no right to overthrow the “code of conduct” in the Jim Crow South or apartheid South Africa?

          “and as such, it requires that the members of that society have a say in what those rules are.”
          Complete non-sequitur. Do rapists get a say in whether we have laws against rape? When is the referendum on abortion or prayer in the schools? Isn’t that what the Dominionists are doing, trying to get a say in what the rules are?

          “A lot of that will be decided upon what we perceived ourselves to be w.r.t each other, and to the environment, our knowledge, the problems we are confronting, etc.”
          This doesn’t even rise to the level of being wrong. It’s just mush.

          “We are way off topic.”
          No, we are right at the core of the topic. The whole opposition to the Religious Right is based on the notion that they are trying to impose unsupported moral standards on society. If you can’t prove yours are more solidly grounded, you have nothing.

          News flash. It isn’t just mathematics that demands intellectual rigor. And your post, alas, is all too typical of the lack of rigor I encounter when I ask questions like these.

        • medinnus

          Before you complain about a lack of intellectual rigor, you might want to answer your own questions yourself, and give him an example of what you consider “intellectual rigor”; citing the Bible as your authority is a prime example of intellectual dishonesty in this instance, as citing it “proves” nothing.

        • zaybu

          Steve D wrote: The whole opposition to the Religious Right is based on the notion that they are trying to impose unsupported moral standards on society.

          That’s the point I was addressing – no groups should impose its morality- when I wrote that members of a society must have a say. And of course, once a concensus has been reached on a given issue, there will be disagreement. No morality will satisfy every member of a given society. It is also a given that morality will change. Life is dynamics, not static. We learn more and attitudes change, and it goes without saying that morality will change.

          You want to bring us back to life in the past. Sorry, but in the past, slavery was moral, women had no righ to vote, and gays not allowed to marry. Those days are gone.

        • Steve D

          Medinnus, when did I ever mention the Bible?

          The whole point of my list of questions is this. If you expect a certain argument to discredit some belief, then an equally well constructed counter argument discredits your own. This has nothing to do with mathematical proof (a beautiful straw man argument, by the way) but it is all about playing by the same rules you expect others to play by.

          I’m not at all surprised by the responses, since I’ve played this game before with nearly identical results. (You should see the spittle-flecked feedback I got from Pharyngula!) Lots of people who style themselves “skeptics” do not want to be held to standards of intellectual accountability themselves.

      • medinnus

        I believe that rationality and reason should come into play with one’s belief system; either a moral system hangs together without divine providence, or it doesn’t. The Christian tradition in which I was raised was founded on love, respect, and forgiveness – not an embattled faith constantly at war with the “Godless”. As I grew older I leaned towards the practical wisdom of Judaism and the optimism and good nature of Buddhist and Taoist traditions. As I grew and studied, I came to appreciate that a literal translation of many works are at best problematic, and that translator mistakes – the difference between ‘shall’ and ‘may’ being one of the big ones – can make all the difference in interpretation.

        Given that:

        * Prove that any other person has any obligation to take your moral views seriously.

        Nobody has any obligation to take my moral views seriously; everyone must decide for themselves what is valid or invalid. It is by the stances they adopt that you may then evaluate whether or not they have a good heart, or a canker of hatred at the core of their being.

        * Prove that you have a right to impose your conceptions of morality on others by trying to enact your views into policy as opposed to theirs.

        I do not believe that anyone has the right to impose MY conceptions of morality on others, whether by direct (legal) or indirect (social) means. Ultimately, a society develops a moral code, which it usually – but not always – translates into the legal body of its government. Important precepts like “Thou shalt not kill” become law and over time become more circumstantially defined, and lesser offenses that rate shunning but not law enforcement remedies become “social pressure”.

        * Prove that it’s immoral for other groups to try to impose their ideas on you.

        See above. If I choose to live in a society that has legally defined a set of morality, then its a matter of whether or not I choose to live within that society; I can choose to leave, or I can obey the laws, or I can become a criminal. In any case, I choose to what degree I am willing to allow their morality to dominate me.

        * Prove that gays have the same rights as non-gays.

        Once more, its a matter of societal norms and the degree to which society as a whole agree. Homosexuality used to be criminalized, and (essentially) a death sentence. It became decriminalized on a widespread basis in the 19th and 20th centuries in Western society. In the 21st century, it now is working to overcome the remaining legal barriers that exclude its constituents from the same rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy.

        My personal belief is that sexual orientation is not a choice, for the most part, but a matter of biology and sociology, just as race isn’t a choice. Therefore, to me, gay people have no real choice but to be homosexual; that lack of choice obviates the “Gay people choose to be Sinners” meme.

        * Prove that people have a right to food, shelter or health care.

        I don’t believe they do have a right to food, shelter or health care. On the other hand, I believe that the duty of government is to take care of all their citizens, and do its best to help them succeed, if it can. I believe it is also the duty of other citizens to help others as their own conscience dictates.

        I went through a period of unemployment/under-employment for three years. I took no aid from the state nor federal government. I worked as a clerk so that I could have health insurance when my wife became pregnant. We were fortunate enough to have a family that allowed us food, a roof over our head, and the base from which to be able to successfully re-enter the technology workforce three years later; but it took three years of every-day effort – responding, following up resumes, etc., to happen.

        Before that, I worked pro-bono for a suicide line, an abuse shelter, and for an org that raised money for drug- and alcohol-rehab. I have been very fortunate in my life, in my family, and in my choice of friends, and I strongly believe that those without my good fortune need a hand up. If my hard work has allowed me to succeed, it was not solely through my own efforts, but by the help of those dear to me; if I have leapt higher, its because I stood on the shoulders of others. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent on me to lend others my shoulder, or at least my hand.

        All of these stem from my belief system, and my choices; if I respect the teachings of Christ, its not because he’s the human face of the Christian Godhead, but rather because its a message of love, tolerance, and mutual support.

        • Steve D

          Well, thank you for spelling out your moral assumptions in depth. Your distinction between duty and rights is a good one. I can argue with some of your points but at least you dealt with the issues.

          But if morality is not grounded in anything deeper than societal preferences, then there’s no objective basis for preferring one societal preference to another. You may not like it, lots of other people may not like it, but ultimately all that matters is that enough people like it. If enough people prefer slavery or human sacrifice, hey.

          You yourself don’t really believe that. You wrote “It is by the stances they adopt that you may then evaluate whether or not they have a good heart, or a canker of hatred at the core of their being.” Do “good heart” and “canker” merely mean how you happen to feel about things, or do you actually think there’s something “out there” that underpins morality?

          There’s a particle accelerator 27 km in diameter on the Franco-Swiss border, looking for the Higgs Boson, a hypothetical particle that is believed to account for objects having mass. The EC plowed $10 billion into the premise that, if things have mass, there must be something that causes them to have mass. They don’t just have mass because we came up with a shared consensus called “weight,” but for a much more profound reason. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to argue that, if actions have morality, there is something beyond mere personal or societal preference that makes things moral or immoral.

        • medinnus

          “…if morality is not grounded in anything deeper than societal preferences, then there’s no objective basis for preferring one societal preference to another…”

          What is objectivity but collective subjectivity? Physics has shown that, on a quantum level, there is no such thing. *shrugs* I would argue that humans, on the level of subjectively-formed moral values, that “objectivity” is merely code for “My preferences are obviously better than yours”.

          “You may not like it, lots of other people may not like it, but ultimately all that matters is that enough people like it. If enough people prefer slavery or human sacrifice, hey.”

          And there have been entire cultures built around those premises; ancient Egypt, the Azteca, and of course, reaching its culmination with legal slave’s rights and owner’s codes of conduct. We don’t approve of such things because we’re formed by the culture in which we live, but the whole of human history is rife with the themes of exploiting people, sometimes to death.

          “Do “good heart” and “canker” merely mean how you happen to feel about things..”

          Precisely. It is the process of judging others’ morals/ethics by one’s own standards, which in turn are to a large measure determined by the culture in which one lives.

          “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to argue that, if actions have morality, there is something beyond mere personal or societal preference that makes things moral or immoral.”

          Show me, without some sort of cultural bias, that it is so. Give me an example that isn’t the result of Western Civ society cultural prejudice on one level or another. Or something that is characteristic of a successful vs failed culture (IE a culture that perpetuates itself, or a culture that dies out within generations). An example of a failed culture is the Christian Celebacy cults that were rife in New York circa 19th century; they could not be true to their precepts AND recruit enough to be self-sustaining (its not like they could pass it down to their children, neh?).

  • rbottoms

    But you’ll keep voting for them, so nothing will change.

    Bzzzt. Thanks for trying.

    • Banty

      And if he votes for the other people, there may be other changes he doesn’t like.

      Bzzzt, thanks for trying.

  • armstp

    I am sorry, but there is no way a religious nut should be in the Whitehouse with their hand anywhere close to the button, nevermind the narrowmindedness of someone who is an evangelical.

  • ottovbvs

    Being brought as good clean Episcopalian I didn’t pay too attention to religion and in adulthood became a rationalist although I do still quite enjoy the old liturgy and singing those hymns at weddings, funerals, christenings and the like. This article is interesting and obviously the author is peddling his book which I might take a look at. I’m not too surprised at the strange belief systems he describes (after all the US has a long history of strange religious cults and subsets of mainstream religions). How important is it? Hard to tell, and there’s certainly nothing new about the anti intellectualism either. Richard Hofstadter produced a book in about 1965 entitled “Anti intellectualism in American Life” and I’m not sure Giberson is really going to add much to that. It’s disturbing that these slightly nutty people are acquiring increasing dominance in the GOP but ultimately it’s a liability not an asset given the dominant secular outlook of much of the country. After all no one thinks Bachmann a viable candidate for the Republican nomination let alone the presidency.

  • anniemargret

    Karl, thank for an honest self-analysis and provocative article.

    A little religion can be a good thing, a lot of religion can be problematic. The emphasis is on ‘can.’ Yes, there are evangelicals that are not mindlessly controlled by the tenets of religion, but the vast majority of them take the creeds that they learned in the churches and never deviate from them.

    As a person raised in the Catholic faith, I learned over the years, to sift the wheat from the chaff. Much of what is left in today’s faiths are well-debated ‘facts’ that are no longer facts, but flies in the face of what we know today in science. To deny science in faith – any faith – is to deny seeking the truth.

    And from what I believe, seeking the Truth in all things, is to seek God.

    Many people stay in constricted religious holes because of fear…understandably so. They want easy answers to life’s complexities. It is far more easy to just ‘believe’ anything and everything to what a priest or minister or rabbi tells you than to question it. It is easier to adhere strictly to church doctrine than trust your own common sense.

    I think the reason people like Bachmann are scary is that they have crossed the line and have taken their own personal worldviews and beliefs into the public sphere, with a back-handed slap against Americans that think otherwise.

    They forget they are running for public office and if you run to be the POTUS, you had better well understand that their own views cannot be foisted on others – not only is that stupid politics, it is patently immoral.

    This country MUST adhere to separation of church and state. A simple ‘God bless America’ is allowable, but to stand on a podium and start rephrasing their religious views and entwine them with public law or quote scripture or use God-talk on the campaign trail signals a person that is unable to be a *public* servant.

    People must be allowed in this country to believe or not believe. To be an agnostic or atheist, to be a church-goer or a lapsed Unitarian “Christian’ as I am….because we are all on a journey called life. And Life is not going to give us the easy answers we seek.

    Bachmann will turn off more people than turn on, because she and hundreds of others like her think they know best for all the people in America. It smacks of arrogance and ignorance and it is singularly unbecoming for a person seeking the brass ring.

    • Banty

      “I think the reason people like Bachmann are scary is that they have crossed the line and have taken their own personal worldviews and beliefs into the public sphere, with a back-handed slap against Americans that think otherwise. ”

      How can they *not* being their own personal worldviews and beliefs into the public sphere??

      I do. You do, I assure you. You just like the ones you do (and I like some of them too).

      Just as in the Middle East, democracy means religious people get to have an influence, too. Martin Luther King and the liberation theologists weighed heavily in to the left in the past, and had influence that we, I think, would count as good. And their worldview was a religious one.

      Bachmann will turn people off because they don’t take the views she does, and her religious milleau is a limiting one that the majority will find wanting. (I’m confident.) But that does not mean she should stuff her religion into a hole.

  • Steve D

    I admire Frank Schaeffer (Jr.) for admitting guilt in the foundation of the Religious Right and repudiating it. And Francis Schaeffer (Sr.) considered American fundamentalists bigoted and ignorant. But on a par with Carl Sagan? Nothing depresses me more than hearing evangelicals describe Francis Schaeffer as an “intellectual.” The man was a classic pseudo-intellectual.

    The Religious War began the day the Supreme Court outlawed public prayers in school. The Religious Right was okay with tolerating other religions. Tolerating = I in my magnanimity allow you to do your thing, provided you understand this is a Christian country. But outlawing public expressions of the supremacy of Christianity was a complete game changer. To many on the Religious Right, the secular government declared war on Christianity. Banning public religious expression, along with abortion, has become one of the Left’s cultural Vietnams. They expected to be hailed as liberators and have found themselves in a quagmire.

    • ottovbvs

      “They expected to be hailed as liberators and have found themselves in a quagmire.”

      Yeah this is really on the frontal lobes of the vast majority of Americans as they go about their daily lives. Overall, despite the intensity of evangelicals, secularism is steadily advancing and the huge damage that has been done to the Roman Catholic Church by the sexual abuse scandals and subsequent cover ups has probably done more harm to religiosity in general than any other events of recent times.

      • Demosthenes

        “secularism is steadily advancing”

        Perhaps by some measures this is true, however whether or not it is a good thing seems rather subjective. Also, I think it is helpful to distinguish between two kinds of “secularism.” First, a kind that would not seek to ban public displays of religion, only the establishment of a national religion or the elevation of one particular religion above all others in the public sphere. And, second, the view that religion is inherently bogus and “science” (however defined) or secular culture either already does or will shortly provide all the answers to all the questions and problems of human existence. I have no problem with the first kind of “secularism,” but I think the latter kind of secularism goes hand in hand with materialism (both as an ontological/metaphysical stance and as a rough synonym for consumerism). Actually this kind of a view is every bit as dogmatic and irrational as what it establishes itself to be in opposition against, viz. the dogmatism and irrationality of religious traditions.

        • Banty

          Agree. I perceive a secularism which is a lack of religion and a desire to make a place in our social milleau livable for all, and a more aggressive secularism which is anti-religious while putting forward its own moral codes.

          Many evangelicals object to both, even if they do distinguish them.

    • zaybu

      Steve D wrote: The Religious War began the day the Supreme Court outlawed public prayers in school.

      A secular state is the best guarantee that all religions are treated equally. That was the intention of the founding fathers, many of them, or their ancestors, had fled religious persecutions in Europe.

      • Steve D

        That may be. But conservative Christians weren’t in that kind of danger. They were stripped of privilege and they feel wronged as a result.

        Think of this as an insurgency. The disadvantage we have in foreign insurgencies is we want to go home, and they are home. Defeating the insurgents means getting them to live in a society they reject. Well, our home-grown insurgents have no intention of giving up. They reject your vision of society completely and they will not quit. Better dig in for a long struggle.

    • Velocity

      “The Religious War began the day the Supreme Court outlawed public prayers in school.”

      Of course, the problem is that, to the right, “public prayers in school” only applies to one religion, Christianity. We all know how they’d respond if schools allowed, say, Islamic prayer sessions for Muslim students.

    • medinnus

      Well, they are welcomed as liberators – to Jews, to Buddhists, to Muslims, to Wiccans, to Shintoists, to Taoists, to Confusianists, to Hindi, to anima spiritualists, to anyone not of the “If not Christian, then second-class citizen” mentality.

      • Demosthenes

        I look forward to the day when our President can proudly profess that he or she takes refuge in the Three Jewels. There is an important difference between “banning public religious expression” and the meaningful toleration of religious diversity. I submit that banning public religious expression is precisely intolerant.

        • medinnus

          “I submit that banning public religious expression is precisely intolerant.”

          I agree with you, as far as that goes – but you don’t take it far enough.

          If you don’t ban public religious expression, then you must allow all public religious expression; the very people who call for organized prayer in school would excrete themselves if a Wiccan priestess tried to organize the prayer.

        • think4yourself

          I consider myself a person of faith and have a Christian perspective. But I came to believe in religious freedom as a teenager, when I saw a cartoon about prayer in public schools. It showed a classroom where the teacher was introducing a senator who supported prayer in school. The teacher asked “Timmy” to say a prayer and he started “Honorable Buddha, in the great beyond…”, while the senator is having an embolism.

          I believe in America those who founded this country set up a system where we were free to worship as we choose or not at all. Nor should we feel pressure in the public square from others to conform to their dictates as we worship. Having said that, the application is messy and we ought to give each other some leeway if and when our belief’s spillover (such as a President, leading the nation in prayful mourning at a tragedy). However, that doesn’t make it right for a group to use political power to promote their version of religion (Christianity or others – including secular humanism) at the expense of someone else’s beliefs.

      • Steve D

        Yup. But people in the “If not Christian, then second-class citizen” camp lost what they perceived as a right (Zaybu will tell you all about how perception creates morality) and they intend to fight to get it back.

        People who don’t believe in equality don’t see equality as fair.

        • medinnus

          “Yup. But people in the “If not Christian, then second-class citizen” camp lost what they perceived as a right, and they intend to fight to get it back.”

          You can say the same about any group of “oppressed religious fanatics”, ie the militant lunatic fringe of every religion, from Christian to Muslim to Jewish. That doesn’t make their cause right (except in their myopic world-view).

          “People who don’t believe in equality don’t see equality as fair.”

          Agreed. So what?

        • Steve D

          You need to have an accurate idea of what you’re up against before you can devise any counter strategy.

    • Banty

      Banning public religious expression != banning prayer in public schools led by authority figures or otherwise intrusively (which is what was banned, NOT ‘prayer in public schools’)

    • Banty

      SteveD:”Right was okay with tolerating other religions. Tolerating = I in my magnanimity allow you to do your thing, provided you understand this is a Christian country. ”

      Very good distinction. This kind of thinking is also behind the “gays want special rights” idea. They want the *same* rights; but that’s an uncomfortable step up from the position they’re ‘supposed to’ understand, so it’s asking for something “special”.

      This kind of thinking applies to a lot of other areas too. Gender roles, even concepts of class status. There’s an unconsciously held norm, from which wanting something else means wanting something ‘special’.

      • Steve D

        Yep, you got it. And I suspect that MOST people harbor some kind of belief in asymmetrical rights, that is, what’s okay for me is not okay for you.

  • Sinan

    The alternate world begins and ends with the notion that a super being exists and a bunch of rabbi’s that lived thousands of years ago had long discussions with this super being. Once you rid yourself of this insane superstition, reality comes right back in the door.

    • Demosthenes

      Yet another example of the dogmatism and arrogant a priori question-begging of the secular Left

      • zaybu

        To give a taste of your own medicine:

        PROVE THAT GOD EXISTS.

        • Demosthenes

          1) Define “proof”

          2) Define “exists”

          3) The idea that anyone could be convinced about the existence or nonexistence of God on an online discussion forum is laughably juvenile. As are your views about US foreign policy re: Israel, and apparently everything else.

        • zaybu

          The same definition you used when you ask me to “prove “a dozen of nonsensical things. Let’s see your intellectual rigor.

          What is laughable is you getting a taste of your own medicine and you can’t take it.

        • Demosthenes

          That was Steve D, not me. But I’ll play anyway.

          You claimed that “the problem with religion” is that religions are skeptical about other traditions but not skeptical about their own. You were asked to prove the validity of your own views, in a way “that uses methods and premises that you’d accept from someone trying to overturn your beliefs.”

          A secularist trying to overturn belief in God would generally do so by asserting that God is at best unprovable by empirical means and at worst a fiction imposed to make sense of data that “science” explains better.

          I accept the premise that God is unprovable by sense-data (i.e. “empirical means”) except in the case of miracles. BTW this is Hume’s position.

          As for the idea that “science” explains anything definitively or in terms of some kind of absolutely rigorous “proof,” I suggest reading The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. You also sound like you would benefit from Bohr’s Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge. Actual working scientists are much humbler about the (lack of) ontological or epistemological foundations in the scientific enterprise than the secular atheist crowd.

        • Banty

          This discussion does not matter for public policy.

          But, discuss away…. :-)

        • zaybu

          What is ridiculous is to try to apply scientific investigation to religious beliefs or morality. That’s why asking someone to “prove” these things is laughable. I was being sarcastic about the “prove god exists”.

        • Demosthenes

          I was being sarcastic about the “prove god exists”.

          Suuuuuure you were

        • Banty

          “As for the idea that “science” explains anything definitively or in terms of some kind of absolutely rigorous “proof,” I suggest reading The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. You also sound like you would benefit from Bohr’s Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge. Actual working scientists are much humbler about the (lack of) ontological or epistemological foundations in the scientific enterprise than the secular atheist crowd.”

          Science is a method anyway. At most, as far as is related to this, a body of knowledge confirmed by current methods, + a big set of questions about what is unconfirmed.

          When I hear of “science” being invoked as an alternate authority, I consider that religious thinking is being applied to science, even by the un-religious. Western Abrahamic religion is all built on revealed truths and authorities, not science.

          Now, I’d much rather, despite quantum mechanics and string theory etc. etc., look to science for most kinds of information rather than some purportedly revealed text, or some divining by a shaman or holy man. But I don’t pretend it’s an authority.

          And that’s not to say there’s some equally valid magical religious authority, by the way. Having to speak of some authority is the problem.

        • Demosthenes

          “Science is a method anyway. At most, as far as is related to this, a body of knowledge confirmed by current methods, + a big set of questions about what is unconfirmed.”

          There are of course disputes about what constitutes “confirmation,” usually centered on falsifiability as the criterion of properly scientific methodology and what that entails for epistemology, but yes I agree with you.

          “Now, I’d much rather, despite quantum mechanics and string theory etc. etc., look to science for most kinds of information rather than some purportedly revealed text, or some divining by a shaman or holy man.”

          I think it depends on the kind of information, I wouldn’t look to The Structure of Evolutionary Theory or The Selfish Gene for moral or spiritual guidance any more than I would look to Genesis for information about the Krebs cycle. But that is more or less your point, as I understand it.

          “Having to speak of some authority is the problem.”

          Yes it is! Fundamentally of course the idea of a reliable authority is all bound up with intractable questions about power, patronage, and prestige.

  • MattP

    If only Michele could have hooked-up with a “God damn America” pastor somewhere on her faith journey, then she might have had a chance of becoming president…

  • armstp

    Bachmann and Palin are both borderline insane.

    Nicolle Wallace, who worked for President George W. Bush as communications director and was a senior adviser to 2008 Republican White House candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin infers in her new second book, “It’s Classified”, that her main character, a female Vice President (read Palin), is insane or goes insane. I think this insider is basically saying that Palin is insane. I would add that Bachmann is likely more insane than Palin.

  • Houndentenor

    This closely mirrors my Southern Baptist upbringing.

    I don’t think people from outside understand what all this is about and don’t believe us when we try to explain it.

  • anniemargret

    That’s rubbish. A person running to be the POTUS represents all citizens of this nation. Therefore they can keep their religious views to themselves and stick to facts.

    Remember Kennedy? Remember the brouhaha surrounding his campaign, mostly from the WASP sectors of America that he was going to bring “popism’ into the White House? Now, during the Presidency of Kennedy, he never once revoked his beliefs nor stopped going to Mass at the Catholic church. He did, however, not use the public sphere to engage debate about his religious beliefs, nor applied them to laws or public policy, domestic or otherwise.

    It’s why we have a Constitution. And separation of church and state. As a Christian myself in heart and mind I dislike a politician using the public forum to express their personal religious views.

    With that attitude, and leaving the Bachmann’s of America on the campaign trail using the pulpit as a religious one, we may as well announce that only WhiteChristianAnglos can be president. No Catholics, no Jews, no Mormons, no Unitarians, no Muslims, no agnostics and atheists!

    I think this borders on religious fascism in high places.

    • MattP

      Poll your average practicing, weekly mass attending Catholic and see if they are offended by Bachmann…or would much rather have her (or any conservative for that matter) than President Obama in the White House.

      I know in my Catholic Church I could probably count the Obama supporters on one-hand. The reason the Catholic vote tends to be split and even a slight majority towards the Democrats is because that stat always includes millions of non-practicing Catholics.

  • Dr_GS_Hurd

    Prof. Giberson has every reason to be worried. We all do, regardless of where we happen to live.

    “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion-must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
    – Gary North – Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989, p. 87.

    This is held as true by the Religious Right today just as much as when first published. The fact that that statement eliminates the Constitution, and would, if allowed to be imposed, eliminate the United States, is totally lost on these fundamentalists. While waiting for the professor’s new book, I recommend reading;

    Blumenthal, Max
    2009 “Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party” (2009 New York: Nation Books).

    Hedges, Chris
    2008 “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” New York: Free Press.

    Phillips, Kevin
    2006 “American Theocracy” New York: Viking Press

    Mooney, Chris
    2005 “The Republican War on Science” New York: Basic Press

    Sharlet, Jeff
    2008 “The Family: The secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power” New York: Harper Collins

  • ottovbvs

    “And, second, the view that religion is inherently bogus and “science” (however defined) or secular culture either already does or will shortly provide all the answers to all the questions and problems of human existence.”

    1. Christian religion is bogus. It provides solace to believers but then so do most other forms of religious belief including Islam. I don’t dismiss it’s role as a sort of spiritual and moral crutch but they are all essentially forms of superstitious belief.

    2. And whoever said science or secular culture provided all the answers to the problems of human existence? That’s as self evidently not true as is the non existence of the after life.

    • anniemargret

      Yes, there is an element of superstition in religion, if taken too far. I think most people seek out religion because they find they are missing an essential aspect of life – a spiritual need – that materialism does not offer. That the majority of human beings that have ever lived and died on this planet attests to that.

      To point out that some of religion has its stupidities and mythologies misses the point. My point is that religion as an organized force must be separate from laws and the Constitution, otherwise we go down a dangerous road to religious fascism.

      But I support people who seek that aspect of life that is missing. LIving as an atheist appeals to many people because intellectually they are offended by religion – it appears to be puerile and simple-minded to many, or anti-science.

      But atheism doesn’t fill the hole in the heart. We are more than blobs of DNA randomly organized by some ‘other’ or just happened to come together to form a breathing, thinking, self-aware human being. Religion feels that need like no other.

      For myself, I am no longer a church-goer. I no longer hold dear the ‘superstitions’ of what was taught to me as a child. And I like to be free to think and find my own spirituality.

      But it sounds a bit arrogant to presume that science alone will give us the answers – it won’t. There are too many really good anecdotes of the near-death phenomenon, which is now being given a lot more credence than ever before. And it points to a consciousness that lives outside the brain, which physicists are already saying is possible.

      So perhaps human DO have a spiritual side, and DO need a spiritual path. We can point out the wrongs and the discrepancies, but why throw the entire baby out with the bathwater?

      • Demosthenes

        There are too many really good anecdotes of the near-death phenomenon, which is now being given a lot more credence than ever before. And it points to a consciousness that lives outside the brain, which physicists are already saying is possible.

        Not just physicists, cognitive scientists as well are increasingly at a loss to explain the available scientific evidence by strict reference to exclusively material processes in the brain. There is a lot of work going on in the relatively new field of “Contemplative Science” and it is up-ending some deeply held beliefs about minds and brains.

        http://www.mindandlife.org

      • ottovbvs

        “Yes, there is an element of superstition in religion, if taken too far.”

        An element? It’s all mumbo jumbo indistinguishable from pagan ritual.

    • Demosthenes

      Okay, now we really are off-topic, but what the heck.

      If religion is nothing but “superstition” and science doesn’t have all the answers, then presumably (unless I have missed something) you are arguing that there are questions without any answers or indeed without any hope of ever being answered. While I am not so naive as to think that every question has an answer that is simple or immediate, or even expressible in terms of words or thoughts, that seems to me to be an overly bleak stance: it robs human life of its purposiveness. Maybe that is precisely your conclusion — “there is no point to it all” — but that is a conclusion that I think even the majority of atheists would resist.

      Second, about death and dying, it really depends on whom you ask. Christians are committed to the idea of a bodily resurrection, but (theologically) your “resurrection body” is not the same as your physical body while you were alive, nor does one’s ego-oriented personality survive the dying process. So it’s not as simple as “BELIEVE IN JEEBUS AND LIFE 4 EVAR!!!”

      In my time in Nepal and Tibet, I have seen, heard, and felt… things… that defied rational explanation. Some of these had to do with death and dying. Now of course a staunch materialist/rationalist such as yourself could dismiss my experiences as hallucinatory or mistaken, however the point is that those experiences as I experienced them were as real to me as the computer you are reading these words from is to you. I did not “imagine” these experiences, nor did I ingest some psychoactive substance which then gave rise to them. Of course personal testimony is an extremely weak rhetorical support, my only point here is that it is not “self-evident” to me that “the after-life” (whatever that means) is “non-existent.” In fact I have direct — we can even call it “sensory” — experience to the contrary. Do I expect that my word here is good enough to convince you? In no way, shape, or form. Nonetheless I feel obligated to mention it, since you call “self-evident” the non-existence of a continuum stretching from life through the death and dying process to life, and it has been made “evident” to me that this continuum does exist. Thus I could no more agree with you about the self-evidence of the non-existence of this continuum than I could agree with you about the self-evidence of the non-existence of heat in a fire. In my experience, what is “self-evident” is the opposite of your claim. But I have no illusions that this will be sufficient to convince anybody of anything, least of all yourself.

      • indy

        If religion is nothing but “superstition” and science doesn’t have all the answers, then presumably (unless I have missed something) you are arguing that there are questions without any answers or indeed without any hope of ever being answered. While I am not so naive as to think that every question has an answer that is simple or immediate, or even expressible in terms of words or thoughts, that seems to me to be an overly bleak stance: it robs human life of its purposiveness.

        How does an inability to have immediate and definitive answer to any question rob anyone of anything, let alone all of humanity of its ‘purposiveness’? A scientist would, in fact, probably consider attempting to find answers to questions (sometimes extremely tiny questions that take an entire lifetime) to actually be the purpose of their life. To accept the premise that since we can’t know the answer to everything we should turn our back on what we can know, or accept some other framework for it, is a form of nihilism that would undoubtedly rob those people of their ‘purposiveness’.

        As Banty mentioned, science is merely a process. The attempt to use science as dispositive in relation to religion is a mistake. Religion and science do not form a zero sum game. The fact that science can’t answer a question (or all possible questions) says nothing about religion and certainly doesn’t imply anything about the purpose of our existence. Many people, in fact, might say that purpose is something that is pursued and not imposed. If you are dissatisfied with existing answers, perhaps the correct response is to keep looking. Just because we only have two major avenues to explore, we needn’t accept the premise that one of them must somehow provide the correct answer to whatever question we want answered if the other doesn’t.

        • Demosthenes

          I agree with you 100%, that sounds like a nice summation of the point I am trying to make. The bit about “purposiveness” was because I think that, ultimately, the purposiveness of a human life is going to have to involve something outside of the scope of that (or “a”) single human lifetime. This is where faith enters the equation: wherefore, as Wittgenstein said, we cannot speak, and therefore must pass over in silence. It is the “Cloud of Unknowing” that requires faith and contemplative practice to even begin to understand. Can I “know” that human life has a purpose outside of the narrowly and particularly material? Strictly speaking, no, I cannot.

          And yet.

      • ottovbvs

        “In my time in Nepal and Tibet, I have seen, heard, and felt… things… that defied rational explanation.”

        “Nonetheless I feel obligated to mention it, since you call “self-evident” the non-existence of a continuum stretching from life through the death and dying process to life, and it has been made “evident” to me that this continuum does exist. ”

        Yes you strike me as being somewhat suggestible if I may say so. Enjoy your next seance.

        “Not just physicists, cognitive scientists as well are increasingly at a loss to explain the available scientific evidence by strict reference to exclusively material processes in the brain.”

        And are you seriously telling us the scientific and medical community is coming around to the view that there is some material basis for the existence of religious belief systems?

        • Demosthenes

          And are you seriously telling us the scientific and medical community is coming around to the view that there is some material basis for the existence of religious belief systems?

          Absolutely not, in no way, shape or form. I was making indy’s point, above: science and faith are not the same field of discourse, the fact that there is some overlap neither necessitates nor justifies adopting one and excluding the other. But yes, there is some overlap, at least to the extent that it is possible to articulate a faith that does not contradict science, just as it is possible to articulate science (which is, as indy and Banty and others have pointed out, not monolithic in its structure) in a way that does not contradict faith.

          Enjoy your next seance.

          I always do!

        • ottovbvs

          “the fact that there is some overlap”

          There’s an overlap between scientific rationalism and religious faith? Where exactly does this overlap occur?

          “But yes, there is some overlap, at least to the extent that it is possible to articulate a faith that does not contradict science, just as it is possible to articulate science (which is, as indy and Banty and others have pointed out, not monolithic in its structure) in a way that does not contradict faith.”

          This is complete nonsense. Scientific rationalism is in no way, shape or form remotely compatible with the central tenets of the christian faith. I’m well aware of the existence of Deism but that’s essentially a cop out which says we believe in some higher being but accept that all the central doctrinal and recorded elements of the christian religion are baloney. One might as well believe in Martians.

        • Demosthenes

          The overlap is in truth claims. If religious faith is going to be in any sense genuine or efficacious, then it can’t contradict “the way things are,” whatever that means. Otherwise it’s sheer insanity, like the kind described by the author of this piece. Any religion which attempts to defend truth-claims that are falsified by experience or overtly contradicts “the way things are” is not going to last very long. In a similar vein, while I would argue that the scientific method is inherently anti-foundational — in the sense that you are always limited to falsifiability as the sine qua non for scientific investigation — nonetheless at some level there is a kind of truth-claim being made. Science is a methodology, not a set of beliefs, so it gets tricky here. The point is that, from the viewpoint of the scientific method, what is going to separate out valid hypotheses from invalid hypotheses is experimental evidence, interpreted as being in some sense indicative of “the way things are” (whatever that means). A valid hypothesis is somehow considered to track “the way things are” more closely than an invalid hypothesis. This presupposes the existence of a “way that things are,” which gets us back to right back to the truth-claims of religious faith.

          However you are right that Scientific (I would say “Scientistic”) Rationalism is not compatible with faith. At that level you are talking about a set of beliefs. Science — the scientific method — is prior to those beliefs, they have been formed in dependence on science, but science does not depend on them to proceed. Ergo faith is compatible with science but not Scientific (or Scientistic) Materialism/Rationalism.

        • ottovbvs

          “The overlap is in truth claims.”

          Yes… entirely spurious ones.

          Scientific (not Scientistic) rationalism can be briefly defined as systematic analysis, experimentation, verifiability and questioning of the nature of reality. Scientific rationalism says that nothing should be accepted as knowledge until it is proven as true and can be consistently verified to be so.

          Faith, is the acceptance of claims where no evidence exist. In fact, it is premised on the acceptance of a proposition in spite of any evidence to the contrary.

          Basically, you’re indulging in casuistic waffling Demosthenes. Religion is bunk. I have no objections to its belief or observance (my wife is a devout Catholic) just so long as I’m not expected to believe it, and its practice or tenets are not imposed on wider society or government.

        • Demosthenes

          Scientific rationalism says that nothing should be accepted as knowledge until it is proven as true and can be consistently verified to be so.

          Yeah but my point is that the above is a philosophical stance that is not simply or a priori identical with the scientific method that it employs. The idea that science itself constitutes a “body of [verified] knowledge” is extremely problematic; at best, as Banty put it, science constitutes a method, some results which are taken to be known, and a huge set of unanswered questions. It is definitely not the case that that body of “scientific” knowledge uncritically or a priori “proves” religion to be wrong. It is possible to interpet that body of knowledge in such a way that is incompatible with the truth claims of religion, but it is not necessary to do so. In the strictest sense, science is silent on the matter. And in any case the idea that “science proves X to be true” is unscientific and internally problematic, this is why I keep harping on falsifiability. Every attempt to describe the scientific method in terms of verifiability fails, that is why falsifiability is the sine qua non. Science is a method, not a set of beliefs. You can derive justification for “Scientific Rationalism” from the scientific method, but SR itself is an interpretation/set of beliefs, and thus a fundamentally different kind of thing from science itself (which is a method, not a set of beliefs).

          “I have no objections to its belief or observance… just so long as I’m not expected to believe it, and its practice or tenets are not imposed on wider society or government.”

          Here we are in complete and total agreement! I don’t think the Establishment Clause enjoins a blanket prohibition on e.g. moments of silence in public school, but it does render most (if not all) of Michelle Bachmann’s stated agenda Unconstitutional.

      • TexasDog

        The purpose of life is the continuation of life. Everything else is just filler.

  • Holmes

    Lookit, Bachmann may be brain-dead, intolerant, and ignorant, but she has faith. That her faith is bogus nonsense is not the point. That she vexes liberals with her devout gibberish is the point because it makes her an attractive candidate in the eyes of the national media. And media is reality: without media, the universe goes poof.

    • ottovbvs

      “That she vexes liberals with her devout gibberish”

      She doesn’t vex liberals any more than Palin did. They recognize she’s one of their greatest assets. There is nothing they’d like more than for the Republicans to nominate her. Unfortunately, they’re not going to oblige.

    • nuser

      Bottom line : Bachman when caught lying , will tell you , Oh! but I am not the source. Does
      anyone really take her seriously?

  • pdj06

    Whenever I read Karl Giberson I feel like saying Amen! I am beginning to suspect that there are multitudes of us who are at home in the broader evangelical tradition but who are disgusted with the “Christian” Right.

  • Alan Clarke

    Karl W. Giberson’s life story seems to parallel Charles Darwin’s. When he was young, he had child-like faith (Mark 10:15). As he grew older, he became “educated” by the world:

    1832 — “Formerly I was led… to the firm conviction of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, ‘it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.’ I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.”

    1876 — “Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress… now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind.”

  • radish2

    The thing that most pains and appalls me about my Christian Brothers and Sisters on the far right is the degree of arrogance they display in being sure – not just that they are theologically right, but that anyone who disagrees with them is opposed to God and opposed by Him as well. Not a lot of support for that in Scripture.

    They are essentially Gnostics – convinced they have secret knowledge that the rest of us don’t have, and unable to see the hand of God at work in the world.