It’s time to sneak a peek at Billy Graham’s mail again

I’d do this more often, but Graham’s advice to people always runs the same tired route, and I hate having to repeat myself. Here’s yesterday’s issue.

What makes us any different from other animals except for our superior mental abilities? As far as I can tell, we’re just another type of animal, and once we die that’s the end. I assume you don’t agree, but why? — Z.L.

I’m reminded of a Stargate SG-1 episode, interestingly enough. For those unfamiliar with the series (or the movie which launched it), it’s largely about Earth defending itself against this parasitic race called the Goa-uld, who evolved from weird and freaky water snakes into critters who can take over a human host and control it completely. What’s freakier is that such things actually do happen (cat people may not want to read that, but ought to).

So, it comes to pass that a dear friend of Captain Jack O’Neill (played by Richard Dean Anderson in the show, Kurt Russell in the film) is captured by the Goa’uld at the start of season one, along with the wife of Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks/James Spader). They later meet a different group of these parasites who call themselves the Tok’Ra, who have actually perfected a symbiotic relationship with the host, unlike the villains who just take bodies over and keep the host’s mind and memories trapped somewhere lost inside. They also have the ability to move parasites out of their hosts and into new, willing bodies (which are few and far between, for obvious reasons – pro: longer life con: never alone in your own head. Hmm. Toss up…).

Skaara (Alexis Cruz in both) turns out to have a pretty strong personality, though, and in season 2 (the episode “Pretense”), SG-1 (the team O’Neill and Jackson are part of) learns that he’s managed to take control of himself long enough to attempt escape. He lands on a planet full of people who give a damn about fair trials, so that’s lucky.

What transpires is something of a court case where Skaara is fighting for the right to his body. The Goa’uld invited to argue Klorel’s side makes some sly comments about the nature of intelligence during his speech, along the lines of the fact that humans will eat animals, therefore animals are the lesser species. Goa’uld think humans are the lesser species, therefore have the right to keep doing what they’re doing. Pigs think they’re smarter than rats, probably too, he says. Jack, Daniel, and Skaara argue their side well enough to tip the vote their way – that slavery is slavery – and anyway, having giant Goa’uld motherships appear in the sky looking like trouble probably helped a little, too (hence the title of the ep).

So back to the question. Is our mind’s ability to reason and rationalize the only way we can convince ourselves we’re the superior creatures here? I’m thinking yes. I’m also thinking that if we were to suddenly find ourselves without power and lacking most of our more enjoyable weapons of choice, though, the balance would tip in favour of the critters who’ve lived by their instincts for millions of years, instead of quashing them all, like us, because we favoured using our higher brain functions instead of our highly-evolved sense of risk. And really, how much intelligence does a virus need to lay waste to an unprepared immune system? Zip. They just do what they do and we pay for it.

So, onto Graham’s (predictable) advice.

Have you ever really thought about how vastly different we are from any member of the animal kingdom? The gap is enormous, and you need to take it seriously because it demonstrates clearly that we’re not just animals.

Darn tootin’ we are. Monkeys and crows and rats and elephants and many other kinds of animals have shown a clear sense of having the ability to figure things out in new ways. We have so much in common with our kin and genetic neighbours, it’s no wonder creationists get their freak on over so much of that.

Yes, there are similarities; we have bodies like they do, and someday — like them — our bodies will die and decay. Animals also feel pain (just as we do), and apparently some can even experience emotions in limited ways.

Yes, “apparently” some can. Wow, the science just radiates off him, doesn’t it? Animals do remarkable things for reasons that humans can only attribute to caring about others. And rightly so, I’d think. Once in a while you see stories or videos of rescues where it’s not just instincts coming into play. The willingness to raise the young of some other species is quite remarkable as well. Why bother if there’s no net benefit for the animal doing the raising? And anyone who’s spent any time around cats or dogs or horses can tell by their hackles, ears, and nostrils what kind of mood they’re in. It’s goofy to think they’ve got next to nothing going on in their heads. Worse than goofy; it’s ludicrous.

But we aren’t just a higher form of animal. We are unique, and the reason is because God has put something of Himself within us, what we usually call our soul or spirit. The Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Oh barf on it. So what you’re saying is that God’s the ultimate hermaphrodite? How else could both men and women resemble him? Besides, every animal is a unique animal. Maybe every lion looks the same in the prey’s eyes, but each lion knows who the other is, and anyone daring to study them at length can figure that out pretty quickly, too.

If we think we’re only animals, we’ll end up acting like animals, and we’ll also begin treating others like animals.

This kind of rationale bugs the hell out of me. Animals tend to keep the peace, just living their lives, killing whatever might be required for food – and no more (except in extreme cases). They live their lives with a far better “live and let live” attitude than any human being with a religion behind him can manage. They don’t wreck the earth on purpose. They don’t fight pointless wars. They aren’t tricked very easily, and aren’t easily made fools of in their own natural environments. We should be begging to be treated like animals. There’d be a hell of a lot more respect and decency were that the case.

I pray you won’t go down this path, but that you will discover the joy of knowing God by giving your life to Jesus Christ.

And I hope you realize that Billy Graham can’t give you anything useful in the way of thinking about the world and what lives in it with you. You’d be far better off reading some books about the natural world and how amazing the animals that populate it really are, instead of diving into a book that doesn’t even know how many legs insects have and won’t differentiate between real and fantasy creatures besides.

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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