This post was started June 20th, 2010 and then left to collect dust in my draft folder. The top half is original to that day. Below the cut is what’s new today.
The book came by my desk at work the other day: Can God Be Trusted?: Finding faith in troubled times.
I didn’t bother flipping through the book. Clearly Thomas D. Williams’ answer was going to be a resounding YES that didn’t really need to be published.
Williams, a Catholic priest and CBS Vatican analyst, gathered a team of researchers and asked people for their views on trusting God. He incorporates their responses—some in the form of breakout boxes—in what amounts to a gentle defense of God’s trustworthiness. Adept at making the Christian faith accessible to general audiences, Williams looks at why trust in both God and people is important and why it is difficult, especially once lost. He examines how education, wealth, personal networks and ideologies compete with people’s reliance on God and, in a section on God’s Nonpromises, explains how trusting God doesn’t necessarily result in perfect justice, explanations for why bad things happen, knowledge of what’s coming and inner consolation.
It seems to me that there is no lack of faith in troubled times. Faith, while never completely under the radar, leaps into the stratosphere going mach 10 when a religious person’s chips are down. It doesn’t even matter what the trouble is, there’s that faith popping up like one of those Whack-a-Mole moles that no amount of hammering can shift. And few would try.
On that topic, I may as well mention another book that came across my desk recently – actually my friend left me a Facebook message saying she’d left a book deliberately on my desk because she knew I’d find it hilarious. It’s a vanity publication by Ray Comfort: You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence But You Can’t Make him Think. Google Books offers parts of it for your own reading enjoyment. I’m going to use their site to quickly find me quotes so I don’t have to waste time scanning every page of this bunk.
I enjoyed flipping through it the first couple times, though. He’s completely shameless and laughably ignorant about all manner of topics, yet tries to play expert in all of them. I don’t even try playing expert on any topics I write about but I suspect I’m far closer to that ideal than he is.
Ray doesn’t like being called religious, by the way. He likens it to the difference between calling someone African American and the N word (pg 11). He’d rather be called “stumpy” (pg. 130) so I’ll oblige.
Stumpy has a low opinion of the scientific method. While he admits he has no idea how old the world is (pg 13), Stumpy doesn’t seem to understand that while the scientific research can’t seem to pin a year down either (he quotes dates of 100 million years to 4.55 billion without references to which scientists concluded those) it doesn’t make all science wrong.
I’m sure contemporary scientists think they have the right number this time, until they change their minds again when more data comes along…and, of course, none of the “faithful” will question it. … Science admits that it cannot know anything for certain. It’s forever discovering more knowledge and therefore changing its beliefs. That’s not something I made up. It’s a fact.
Stumpy then takes the smug route that God is the only one who’ll ever have all the facts. Well, I say scientists just need more time. He also seems to come across as appalled by the fact that people who do and follow scientific research are completely willing to alter beliefs to suit new information. This is entirely opposite of how religions work, after all. New information is ignored, thrown out, or hidden if it conflicts with whatever narrow world view has been in place since 100 AD. When it doesn’t conflict, they embrace it and then pretend their belief system has never been any different than it is today. God is “unchanging” (pg 21) after all. Never mind that people and minds will.
He wrote the book as if “angry skeptics” asked him some questions and he’s doing us all a favour by answering them. Most of the questions are like the title of the first book mentioned above – clearly leading up to the answers Stumpy likes. Others are just using a devil’s advocate tone so Stumpy can disagree and be “right” because he has God on his side, be it about homosexuals needing Jesus to save them from their sins (p72-73), or God being the reason we’re moral creatures instead of wolfmen who rape and pillage (p.34).
Here’s a good example of this from page 86-87. Italics for the question, regular for Stumpy’s answer.
So, a talking snake, a man in a whale’s stomach for three days, a virgin pregnancy, and a man walking on water don’t contradict logic?
So, a talking parrot, three hundred people flying through the sky in a big tin can called a 747, a human being growing inside another person, and men walking on the moon don’t contradict logic? Of course they do if you are small minded. … when we are born again, the supernatural takes logic into a new realm. When we discover that the supernatural is a reality our mind is suddenly expanded and logic explodes.
Animals could easily talk – if the supernatural is involved. After all, speech is merely thought manifesting as sound, and who would deny that animals think? A man could easily live in the stomach of a whale (or “great fish”) if it was “prepared” by the God who made it, as the Bible says it was. A virgin could easily become pregnant if the One who made the virgin was involved. And walking on water is a breeze…when God is manifest in human form.
With faith in the supernatural, you need not apply actual logic anymore. That appears to be Stumpy’s answer. By the way, humans have taught apes to sign and can have conversations with them about things. It doesn’t require any supernatural intervention – just time and patience.
Also worth a note – parrots talk because they’ve evolved to be imitators much like other birds have. It’s probably meant to be a survival mechanism. If they can sound like their enemy, their enemy won’t bother them, right? And weirdly enough, there are birds in the world today that mimic cell phone ring tones and have incorporated them into their vocal repertoire. What good that will do them is anyone’s guess, but it goes to show they’re versatile and able to adapt to changing environments – something Stumpy tries to claim has never been observed (p.21). It may be a teeny step in their evolution, but given enough generations, it might change the way they communicate interest in the other sex or something. Birds that never mastered the sound of a Nokia phone battery dying may die out themselves. We can’t see the future so we don’t know what influence our technology will eventually have on them. Sad idea though. Wish I hadn’t thought of it.
I love how he has to explain how special the whale must be if Jonah could be inside it, too. It’s in the Bible after all. The Bible says the Bible is true, therefore it’s true. Around and around. This is how so many questions get answered when you ask them of people who put all their trust in that book.
That’s all I can write about Stumpy. I’m not even going to count his book as one of the books I’ve read on account of me being incapable of reading it start to finish anyway. Cripes, what a load of trash that was. I’m glad I can return it tomorrow. I wash my hands of it.