Thursday, January 14, 2010

Closed Mindedness and Intellectual Laziness

Today, PZ Myers posted a point by point rebuttal to a recent piece on Ken Ham's blog. If you don't know who he is, Ken Ham is the fundamental Christian who founded Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Kentucky, both of which insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Anyway, Ham's original post decried the meaninglessness of the upcoming Atheist Convention in Australia this year. I might as well reprint the bulk of the post:

Imagine—listening to a meaningless talk at a meaningless conference held on a meaningless planet in a meaningless universe! Now, that would be an uplifting conference!

From their worldview, wouldn’t atheists see this meeting as a meaningless waste of time? Of course, they would claim they have some purpose and meaning—but it would be all constructed subjectively according to their own determinations! All because they shake their fist at God—but why?

The Scripture tells us they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1). Basically it comes down to the fact that they don’t want to have to answer to anyone—they want to set their own rules. They generally want to abort babies if they want or make marriage whatever they want to make it to be (or reject it altogether). They want to do what is “right” in their own eyes! Thus, a Creator who owns them, to whom they owe their existence, and against whom they have rebelled, is anathema to them!

It baffles the mind as to why these atheists even bother to try to aggressively convert people to their meaningless religion—after all, what’s the point? The only reason they would even bother is if they are engaged in a spiritual battle. Otherwise they wouldn’t care. They know in their hearts there is a God, and they are deliberately suppressing that, as the Scripture so clearly tells us.

Yeah, pretty much the standard demonization one can expect from fundamental Christians. There's little reason to go after the strawmen presented here because it's already been done so many times (PZ did a fine job in his post, if you do want to read a response to this). However, I do want to comment on this particular line: "They know in their hearts there is a God, and they are deliberately suppressing that, as the Scripture so clearly tells us."

I for one cannot fathom Ken Ham's worldview. He thinks everything he needs to know or should need to know comes from the Bible. Instead of actually listening to why atheists actually believe the things they do, he just goes with what an ancient scribe thought thousands of years ago. It's sad, really. He has blocked himself off from having an original thought that doesn't fall within his narrowly defined beliefs. What's worse is the fact that his beliefs are completely arbitrary. There are plenty of other religious texts he could believe in absolutely. He just happened to be born into a Christian culture, so that's the one he went with.

Furthermore, the world has changed radically since the various books of the Bible were put to paper. Some of it does not apply or shouldn't apply to the modern world. On the other hand, I'll gladly point out that some of its ideas are timeless. The Golden Rule, for instance, is an excellent idea everyone should live by. That's why it pays to be open minded. I'm more than happy to take the best parts of multiple philosophies, so long as they make sense. Ken Ham doesn't have that luxury. He's closed his mind into a small box, terrified that any step outside of it will result in an eternity of torture.

In Ham's post, we see the result of his closed mindedness. He assumes that atheists are simply lying when they explain where they find meaning. Why does he assume this? Because the Bible says so...and God wrote it's true. This kind of thinking encourages intellectual laziness of the worst sort. Instead of doing actual research, Ham just goes with his assumptions, based on his interpretation of the Bible. Even worse, he ignores the wealth of Biblical scholarship--written mostly by Christians, I might add--concerning the Bible, including its likely authorship, its sources, and its inspiration drawn from earlier cultures. As any historian will tell you (myself included), the history behind a historical document is just as important as the document itself.

Regardless, Ham will continue being intellectually lazy because he feels the Bible's words are all he really needs. Or maybe he's just scared to step outside of the box. Whoever came up with the idea of Hell is a genius. It's a prefect enforcement mechanism to keep minds closed and followers in line. The dictators of the world, past and present, only wish they could pull off something like that.

In the end, Ham's post just reminds me of why I completely reject faith. Religion closes people off from their minds, and prevents them from finding their full intellectual potential. Imagine the possibilities if we could only throw off its debilitating effects.

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