Category Archives: The Old Religion

Bumper Stickers and Bigotry

We’ve all seen those Jesus fish bumper stickers on cars. We’ve also seen the Darwin fish, sprouting little legs, that have emerged as a reaction to the Jesus fish.

National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg doesn’t like the Darwin fish. Let him speak for himself:

I find Darwin fish offensive. First, there’s the smugness. The undeniable message: Those Jesus fish people are less evolved, less sophisticated than we Darwin fishers.

He goes on:

the whole point of the Darwin fish is intolerance; similar mockery of a cherished symbol would rightly be condemned as bigoted if aimed at blacks or women or, yes, Muslims.

Well, my trusty Buick happens to have a Darwin fish on its bumper. Turns out Goldberg is putting words into my mouth that do not belong there.

The Jesus fish is an expression of faith. The driver is saying to his fellow commuters, “this is what I believe.” It is a positive statement.

I am also making a positive statement. I am saying, based on the evidence I’ve seen, that I believe the universe is more than 6,000 years old. I am saying that it is possible for species to evolve over time.

That’s it.

There is no smugness. No mockery. No implication that people who disagree with me are less evolved. Nor do I have any animus toward any religion, Christian or otherwise; disbelief does not equal contempt.

Goldberg reads a bit too much into it, frankly. Evolution says nothing about whether or not God exists. It says nothing about the origins of life itself, let alone the divinity of Christ.

I certainly have my opinions on the matters. The Darwin fish has nothing to do with them. It says only that, as the eons pass, life changes. It evolves.

I get the sense that Goldberg’s faith is deeply held, and is for him a source of strength. That is wonderful.

What a shame then, that he a priori assumes ill motives of people who do not share his faith. My beliefs give me strength, comfort, and beauty, too. Even though they’re different from his.

Huckabee and the Constitution

Quoth candidate Mike Huckabee:

“I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

I’m getting a better sense of why Democrats view Huckabee as an easy kill in the general election.

People believe in some weird things, and that’s fine; freedom of thought and all that. I just wish people like Gov. Huckabee weren’t so eager to force their beliefs on others.

Faith and Virtue

A letter I sent while away over Christmas.

Editor, Washington Post:

Michael Gerson’s attempt to reconcile evolution and belief in God is laudable (“Divine Evolution,” Dec. 21, A35). But his implication that theism is a requirement for virtue is unnecessary.

Gerson writes of religious skepticism’s “disturbing moral and political implications,” and asserts that “those who believe that men are meat are more likely to treat men as meat.”

In other words, only religiosity ensures human decency. Not so.

Those who do not believe in the hereafter have all the more incentive to ensure that this life is one well lived. After all, it is the only one we get. Virtue is crucial for making this life the best we can.

It means less weight on one’s conscience. It means earning the love of family and friends, and returning it in kind. In our careers, honesty, integrity, and reputation are good for business.

Faith can help some people be more virtuous; it is good that they have that recourse. But to say that virtue crumbles without faith is wrong. There are good, honest people throughout the world who live without Gerson’s faith. I try every day to be one of them.

Ryan Young
Arlington, VA

Religion and Decency

Some people believe faith is necessary for decency. Some think it hinders it. The truth is far more nuanced, but here’s a pithy example of one skeptic’s point of view:

“If a man needs a religion to conduct himself properly in this world, it is a sign that he has either a limited mind or a corrupt heart.”

Ninon de Lenclos

Pope Criticizes Atheism

I’ve never met Pope Benedict XVI. I’m sure he is a kind and good man, but I’m led to believe he would not say the same of me. In a new encyclical, he blames atheism for “some of the ‘greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice’ ever known.”

It would be more fair to blame the people who committed those acts (Mao, Lenin, Stalin, et al), rather then their religious persuasion. We all know about atrocities committed in the name of faith, but that does not make faith itself evil.

The Pope’s argument rests on the assumption that one simply cannot be a good person without religious faith. This is false on its face. All of us know people of integrity who are honest, hard-working, loyal, and kind – and secular. I try every day to be all of those things. I don’t need faith to compel me to be a good person.

Faith is not a necessity for a virtuous life. To say that it is insults good, honest people everywhere.

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design has become a trendy idea in the last few years. In short, it states that nature and life are simply too complex to have arisen spontaneously. A “designer,” i.e. God, simply has to exist.

How does anybody know that?

They don’t. Nobody does. Despite all of mankind’s achievements, we have yet to figure out the origins of life. Nobody is happy with this conclusion, so some people have simply made up answers to fill in the blanks.

That’s where every religion has gotten its unique creation story. That dissatisfaction is also the root of Intelligent Design. I want to know where we came from as much as anybody, but I’m afraid I just don’t know.

So let’s admit it. It’s not that hard. I know it’s not satisfying, but that’s the way it is.

There is a lot of excellent writing on Intelligent Design, especially by my fellow travellers at Reason. While they may be more eloquent than I, it’s frustrating that no one ever makes that single most persuasive argument: We don’t know. Accept it. It’s ok.