Seeker of Truth

Ruminations of One Suspended between Catholic Christianity and Scientific Utopianism

Location: Washington, United States

Monday, July 10, 2006

On Heretics and Crackpots

Religion and science both have their renegades, people who decide to run with their own quaint ideas of what constitutes truth, rather than bow to the mainstream doctrine. In science we have the perpetuum mobile inventors, the faster than light travelers, the action at a distance aficionados. These people are quite rightfully ostracized, marginalized, disempowered, made fun of etc. It is not simply that they are wrong, but how they are wrong: maybe at some point we will have faster than light travel, or action at a distance, but if so, it certainly won’t be via the theories proposed by the current scientific dissidents. The same goes for the currently popular creationism, intelligent design, related theories. If God makes the world, he seems to make it pretty much self-contained, organic as it were, not a curious patchwork of incongruous pieces. As such, living species hang together very nicely, with a common method of inheritance, structures, chemistry etc. Does it ultimately mean that there was no God creating these phenomena? No, he could have made them all in one day, in one second, and made it look like it took billions of years from big bang to now. We are in creation, in time, in space. God is outside of either and all, I believe. Not being much of a theologian, I tread on unfamiliar turf, it does make sense, however, to me, to conceive of things that way. Claiming this does in no way invalidate scientific discoveries, merely relativizes their significance as belonging into the world, rather than being outside, leaving that area to the divine.
Does religion have its equivalent of the scientific crackpot, the man with the idea that is blatantly ridiculous, like the hollow-earth advocate, or has been refuted numerous times but is being kept alive tediously, like some romantic dream of a better world? Junk science replaces the complexity of true science with simpler formulae, explanations, theories. Junk religion does the same. Instead of worrying about how God’s all-knowing nature can permit free will, the protestant of Calvin’s or Luther’s bent simply does away with it, postulating predestination. I have previously written about the problem with determinism in a scientific universe. It does not get much better in a religious one. If the saved ones are known and pre-elected, there is not much sense in keeping a religion, is there?
The main difference I see is the fact that science has a somewhat better PR factor when it tries to clean its stable from heresy, while in Christianity all manners of heresy are not only tolerated, but the orthodox church itself is often maligned as being unnecessarily autocratic. I wish to state here for the record that I do not blame the vast numbers of lay people who were raised under and believe in some form of protestantism. I do however, take umbrage with their clergy, who ought to know better. How can an Anglican bishop, for instance, defend a church that was founded on the lustful inclinations of a British monarch, and the greed of that nation’s aristocracy for Catholicism’s riches? What about the ‘liberal’ protestant who denies the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection? It is one thing to be an atheist denying God. It is another thing entirely to be a Christian denying Christ. The first position is in itself logical and consistent, and implies certain difficult to answer questions, which are nonetheless legitimate - how to define values, how to circumvent the determinism conundrum. The second one is blatantly stupid, no other word suffices here. It is my conjecture that most forms of protestantism, particularly those of post-medieval European descent, are doomed to die from their own inanity, and are just a bit slow in doing so. I do not know enough about the pentecostal-type forms of Christianity to consider those. In general, I believe that a religion can easily sustain mysteries, i.e. areas incomprehensible to human intellect, but it must never provide pat answers to life’s difficult questions.


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