Thursday, February 1, 2007

Thinking, Evolution, & Faith

After reading Dawkins' The God Delusion, the thought came to me that Christians with their faith teach implicitly that self-reflection, reflection, inquiry, and reason in all but its theological forms, is a liability significantly increasing one's likelihood of eternal damnation.

A momentary digression: theological reasoning is an exception because it bears a superficial resemblance to thinking. Theological reasoning is simply the charade of an inquiry to prove what one already knows. Theology is the science of proving what one already knows. Is it any wonder that when a Christian studies something that there really are no surprises except the thought that somebody might really find such tortured logic persuasive? Has a Christian ever found anything unexpected in one of his charades of faithfulness? Well, maybe one has, but such a Christian quickly in many cases becomes an ex-Christian.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution strongly implies that reason, thinking, and rationality are an essential part of being human. They are not tools of the devil to mislead the faithful. They are tools human beings have acquired for living. In order to have faith, Christians must excise their critical faculties. Hence their notorious reputation for gullibility, superstition, and self-surety.

It ought to give every Evangelical pause to realize that in the former Soviet Union young people were often told not too think too much. Just like young people in American, especially in Christian, families are often told. It is not just religion that discourages independence of thought.

Given the Evangelicals' belief that little good comes of thinking, a question arises: why did God imbue human beings with the capacity for thought if it was so likely to lead to damnation?

The party line among evangelicals is that the question is falsely posed. It is not a matter of reason per se, but of having free-will. God wanted human beings to choose freely. He wants human beings to love him. Making will, meaning loving God or not loving God, primary means that inquiry and reason are secondary to (the proper shows of) faith. The doctrine of free-will is a long-winded way of saying that in order to avoid eternal damnation one must choose God. In choosing God, reason and rationality are impediments to "salvation."

Free-will, then, means that either one loves God, or one does not. One is accountable for actions and outcomes irrespective of motivations for those actions and motivations. Reasons, knowledge, facts are irrelevant. Consequently, they must be impediments tools of Satan and incitements to damnation.

Considered in the context of these ruminations, one of the key differences between denominations is where the line is drawn beyond which inquiry unenlightened by revelation is forbidden. Another closely related division is how different denominations would punish forbidden inquiries.

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