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Seriously, Now: How to Combat Anti-Religion Bias?
The incredibly depressing photograph to the right has been flying all over the interwebs recently. As you can see, a cute little girl is being used as a prop to bash religion and tout science (which, of course, are assumed to be mutually exclusive).
I was struck by the response to this photo on a blog called Bookwormroom.com, the subhead of which claims that “conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions”. The blog rewrote the sign the little girl is carrying to say things like:
According to religion, I am a sacred life from the moment of conception
According to Abstract Science, I am a petri dish for stem cells
According to Leftist Applied Science, I am undeserving of life until after I am born and, if I am flawed or unwanted, not even then
Now, I understand the anguish of religious Christians when they see offensive tripe like the above photo disseminated, especially with the big steaming side of self-righteousness that always accompanies it. (One yearns to give the people zipping it out to all their Facebook friends a good patsch to wipe away the smirk.) Still, responding by announcing that religion = pro-life seems counterproductive: it reduces the issue down to pro-life vs. pro-choice and shuts the conversation down immediately. (It also discounts the reality of religious believers who are also pro-choice, but that’s a secondary issue here.)
What has always amazed me about the God vs. Science line of thinking on the left is how unimaginative it is. Why not attack on that line instead? Why not force a leftist to explain why the math behind the movement of the spheres disproves the existence of a creator? Put them on the defensive, don’t go into your own defensive crouch. A person who puts a sign like this in his own daughter’s hands is not going to hear a word you say if you open with a pro-life argument. That’s for later, no?Published in General
A worthy topic, but you went a phrase too far. Here’s where you should have stopped your sentence:
What is “Leftist Applied Science”? I see this thing from time to time on FaceBook. Look, this is a theism-atheism thing. If you make it pro-life v pro-choice, you’re making it something it ain’t. Same as if you make it a Left-Right thing. There are plenty of atheists on the right and the vast, vast, vast majority of people on the left are theists (especially Democrats, and especially elected ones). Something like 90% of the American population believes in God. That’s despite, well, everything. Theists are winning the war.
You may be right in terms of tactical argument with the parent who drafted that straw man of a sign. But I have to say, the life issue was the very first thing that sprung to my mind too. It’s pretty foundational. But I terms of engaging the debate with those of the worldview like the parent in question, probably better to open with references from religion describing the deep value placed on individual lives. There are plenty. And also the natural logical progression of an atomized and amoral materialist view of life. Eugenics was a product of the “scientific” worldview. Though in many ways, that particular point circles it all back to the pro-life position too.
It ain’t “Religion vs. Science,” unless Yer “religion” is global warming.
(To use Fred’s terms) Theists accept science, atheists reject religion… oh, except for marriage, then They’re beating down the door demanding to be let in.
The creator of the sign doesn’t know what science is. Science says none of those things.
I think the saddest thing is not that someone wrote this sign, but that so many will repost, retweet, and otherwise rehash it without any critical thinking (i.e. “Wait a minute, what religion says that people are dumb? Do all religions actually say the same thing about human beings? Has science ever been used to justify inhumanity?”)
I know, I know. Critical thinking? Who does that?!
How exactly does science say she is all those things on their list? And so far as I know, religious people pretty much think that most people are most of those too.
And why doesn’t science say she is flawed (who isn’t?), [maybe] weak and [potentially] sinful?
My first thoughts were, ‘what religion says that?’ and ‘which branch of science makes value judgments on beauty, wonder, etc…?’.
Maybe someone can whip up one of these with a child with Downs Syndrome. Something we can use to reply when this silliness shows up in our Facebook timelines.
Judith, I agree with you tactically…when conducting an argument, it is best not to open with a line guaranteed to make the opponent stop listening.
Note, though, that Bookworm is not a religious Christian but rather an agnostic Jew.
Brilliant suggestion, Israel P! Ubi vita est, spes ibi est.
How to combat it? Try prayer.
Subtitle: “Using my daughter as a prop to display my intellectual and moral superiority over right-wing, knuckle draggers.” Unmentioned in the statement is “I am humble.”
The first comment for religion should be Made in God’s image.
No, because the audience isn’t the moral and intellectual idiot who put the picture in his poor daughter’s hands. It’s eveyone else who might see it. And the time for calm, level-headed fact and nuance, when we’re up against direct, literal falsehood and proactive evil, is behind us.
NB: this includes the “pro-choice” “religious.” If anyone is uncomfortable with that… good.
According to science, if I am
then I’m aborted.
According to religion, I’m
-full of wonder
-a great learner
-potential for greatness
Nothing in the book about wonder or beauty.
Do they have any units on those measurements?
I suspect this kind of thing appeals mostly to people who aren’t actually raising children. It’s fairly common for people who haven’t given much thought to religion for most of their lives to then become more religious when they are confronted with the problem of what values they want to pass down.
So I think there are two responses to this kind of thing. The first is: What do you want to teach your child about his or her place in society and in the universe? The second is a variation on the idea that “living well is the best revenge”. Whenever you see children who are capable, mature, polite, constructive, helpful, and generally well-adjusted socially, odds are that the child’s education has a strong religious component. Well-adjusted children are the best advertisement for a religious upbringing.
It’s a proxy war: anti-religious people versus Christianity, not theists versus atheists. That it is a war is very dispiriting, especially since religious beliefs are supposed to bring one inner peace. Losing the culture wars does not mean losing God.
To be clear, I find beauty in physics and chemistry – well, physics anyway.
This child in the picture is a human being, which means that she is beautiful and sinful, at the same time. Wonderful, and yet weak.
Whoever put that sign in her hands, obviously, can’t stand to accept the whole truth. And so when told that she is sinful and weak, that’s apparently too insulting for a fragile ego to bear. So he or she lashes out by putting shallow thoughts on a sign, hoping that the appreciation of the innocence of a child will distract us from accepting the humanity (and therefore the weakness and sinfulness) of every human being.
Just goes to show … if your ego can’t take criticism, you don’t understand religion.
Breathtakingly ignorant of both science and religion (at least Jewish or Christian)!
The saddest part to me (other than the exploitation of a child for such an inane, gross misrepresentation) is that the “author” (if the message merits him the title) may as well have been born on another planet. He has no philosophical identity recognizable as a (classical) westerner anymore. Classical, Judeo-Christian liberalism has been ripped from his worldview root and branch.
I’m not sure one can engage someone whose worldview is so badly distorted. Where to begin?
Maybe, “You really believe that religious folks talk to/about their children that way?” Oof.
The whole thing is absurd. Science says absolutely none of those things about that girl, and the religion I know only says she, like all of us, is sinful. I am so sick of people assigning value judgements to science, and knowing nothing about religion trying to force conflict.
I’m not sure one can engage someone whose worldview is so badly distorted.
…or who has such poor capitalization skills.
In every person there is an emptiness that only religion can fill. The reply, then, is as simple as saying:
‘Jesus (or The Heavenly Father) loves you.’
‘He loves you’ when you are: full of wonder, smart, a great learner, beautiful with potential for greatness,
and ‘He loves you’ when you feel broken, flawed, sinful, dumb, weak, nothing.
He loves and cherishes you always. He will lift you up and carry you through hard times; his tender mercies will heal your broken spirit when beaten down and bind up your wounded heart after any loss.
Science can teach and inspire the mind, but not the soul. It can say that the following may not be exactly true:
but cannot explain why we yearn it so, nor supplant with physics the poetry of the soul:
God is the stuff of Man’s spirit and soul.
You combat lies with truth. And here’s a bit of truth: to a lot of folks, religion does communicate many of the things on the left side of that sign. You can say that it doesn’t, but that is probably just your experience. This is why I posted by religious summary: I ought, I don’t, I’m toast. Because that is what is taught by far too many Christian churches. But that is simply a lie, because Christianity is really about whats on the right side of the sign.
So, to combat a lie, let’s start telling the truth. Though I have sinned, I am no sinner. Though I am not perfect, I am made perfect. Etc.
A Book Review.
“[T]hen I sat down and read The Bookworm Returns: Life in Obama’s America, an eBook which should be mandatory reading for every American. Bookworm Room is a wife, a mother, a lawyer, and a blogger who is something of a hero to me. Whenever I need some common sense talk about difficult political or social issues, I make my way to Bookworm and see what she has to say. Her opening essay on guns, written as a letter to a teacher (but wisely never sent) is a classic discourse on the Second Amendment, and how best to protect our children. Because Bookworm is a brainy lawyer who has not sacrificed her common sense, she writes astonishingly clear sentences that manage to cut to the heart of, well, everything. Her chapters on what the Democrats have done to our health care system is, quite simply, revelatory.” — Robert Avrech, Seraphic Secret, who is an Orthodox Jew. Bookworm is also a Jew, but how does David Foster know she is an “agnostic Jew?”
Of course the real contrast the person is drawing is not between science and religion, but between revealed religion and materialist philosophy. But neither science nor materialism will tell the little girl that she is “smart”, “beautiful” or “destined for greatness”. More like a package of natural-selection-honed survival instincts which is destined to be worm food.
Revealed religion by contrast can tell her that she is a rational creature, made in God’s image and destined for an eternity of bliss in His presence. But yes, it’s still a bit of a long road to get there.
There are lots of angles of approach here, but perhaps one good one would be to talk about human potential. What *does* a person have the potential to become, and why? You really want to say that science has *more* potential to humanize than religions that believe in divinely-infused rationality and the immortality of the soul?
Kay of MT…”how does David Foster know she is an “agnostic Jew?”
Direct quote from her post: “I have an alternative poster for that sweet little girl, one I easily created even though I’m a Jew who believes in the possibility of a divinity, rather than in a divinity’s absolute reality”
…possibility rather than absolute reality, surely falls somewhere on the spectrum of agnosticism, in Book’s case probably closer to the “well, maybe” end of the spectrum than the “prolly not” end.
Note also that the original poster says “Which do you think is damaging?” rather than “Which do you think is TRUE?”
I’m reminded of something C S Lewis’s devil said, in The Screwtape Letters:
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.