“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:14
Interesting follow-up to my last post: I received a thoughtful Facebook message that pointed out that if a credible non-Mormon conservative candidate – Mitch Daniels, say – were running against Mormon Democrat Harry Reid, who would most Mormons, including me, end up voting for? Daniels in a walk. So tribalism is important, but it isn’t everything.
However, watching my religious tribe come under fire this election season becomes increasingly painful as Mitt gains more and more momentum. On Facebook, I posted this link to Bill Maher’s wretched “unbaptism” of Mitt Romney’s father-in-law, which is as mean spirited, sneering, and ignorant a demonstration of contempt for my faith as I’ve ever seen.
Caution: it has bad words in it, particularly when he starts condemning the “Mormon spirits” who are supposedly harassing Ann Romney’s dad. Indeed, I recommend not watching it. Life is short, and, if Bill Maher is right, this life is all there is, so why would you want to waste any of it on Bill Maher?
Indeed, Maher’s unbaptism is just the punchline, however, to a lengthy, contemptuous diatribe launched against all people of faith. He’s upset, apparently, that anyone would claim that atheism is somehow a religion.
There is a growing trend in this country that needs to be called out, and that is to label any evidence-based belief a religion… We are not two sides of the same coin, and you don’t get to put your unreason up on the same shelf as my reason. Your stuff has to go over there, on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kraken, with the stuff that is not evidence-based, stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens. I’m open to anything for which there’s evidence. Show me a god, and I will believe in him.
The first thing that strikes me upon hearing language like this is how Maher and other Korihors like him so fundamentally misunderstand the nature of faith. Specifically, they believe all faith is blind faith, exercised in things for which there is no evidence, and that all faith is confined to things religious. This is wholly rubbish.
Do you believe that you’re going to get a paycheck if you put in your hours at work? If that belief is enough to get you to go to the office instead of lying in bed, then you’re exercising faith. Do you believe that if you give Domino’s your credit card number that someone will show up at your doorstep with a pizza within the next half hour? That’s exercising faith. Why do you put your money in a reputable bank instead of Little Daisy’s Backyard Lemonade Stand/Savings and Loan? Because you have faith in one institution, and you don’t have faith in another.
I’ve addressed this idea repeatedly on this blog – see here and here and here and here and, notably, here. In fact, having reread that last one, I just discovered that I already made the point I want to make now in my post back then, so I’ve got to find a way to make this post newly relevant. If I fail, just reread the posts from that last link. Perhaps I should just quit writing now, but I’m already over 400 words into this thing, so I’m already in too deep.
So, anyway, Maher insists that all faith is unreasonable, and that he, as a man of profound reason, is just happy to go wherever the evidence leads him. “Show me a god, and I’ll believe in him,” he says. He goes further.
If Jesus Christ comes down from the sky during the halftime show of this Sunday’s Super Bowl and turns all the nachos into loaves and fishes, well, I’ll think two things: first, how dare he interrupt Madonna! She is gonna be pissed! And two: oh, look at that. I was wrong. There he is. My bad. Praise the Lord. But that’s not going to happen.
Notice, please, that the last sentence of the preceding quote is a statement of faith. Faith is confidence or trust in something happening, and, contrary to Maher’s malevolent snark, it is almost always based on evidence, even in the religious realm. Religious people reach out to God, and when God responds, he provides evidence that He is there, thereby strengthening faith.
But suppose a man actually did come down from the sky in the middle of Madonna’s performance and nachos turned to bread and seafood. Knowing Maher, I think it’s highly doubtful that “Praise the Lord” would be one of the first things out of his mouth. Would levitation and transformed nachos would be enough to convince him that the person descending created the universe and died for his sins?
That would be true only if Maher truly had no faith in his “evidence-based” account for universal existence. As is far more likely, his first instinct would be to process the events through his own lens of faith.
“I, Bill Maher, have lived my entire life based on the premise that there is no God. Since there is no God, this guy has to be something else. So is this some kind of publicity stunt? Is this guy a spokesman for a bread and/or fish company? There must be some reasonable scientific explanation for how these nachos are now pumpernickel and red snapper.”
Indeed, I’m not sure what amount of evidence would be necessary to convince a confirmed atheist like Maher. I think he would cling to his own preconceived assumptions just as surely as the hicks he mocks for their “stuff that is not evidence-based, stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens.” Scriptural precedent would suggest that those who militantly refuse to believe can never be given sufficient evidence to change their minds. So how are they different from religious people?
Sorry, Bill. They’re not. Any answers to life’s greatest questions always require faith.
Maher and company insist, then, that the only question worth asking is a yes-or-no proposition: “Is there a God?”
Well, that is a good question, but it’s not the only question.
I offer, then, a different question, one which would require Maher to exercise faith in order to answer:
“Why is there stuff?”
Think about it. You’re alive; you’re here; other stuff is here; the universe exists. Lamentably, even Bill Maher exists. Why?
Any answer other than “I don’t know” requires faith.
Maher repeatedly defines himself as an atheist, not an agnostic, which is an important distinction. An agnostic is happy to settle for “I don’t know;” he/she is content not to bother asking the “why is there stuff” question. Maher claims this is essentially where he is, but his aggressive stance against any answer that includes divinity suggests otherwise. He has enough faith in the random processes of the universe that they somehow produced him, his world, and any other stuff that he is willing to aggressively rule out God as the answer. And the minute he definitively rules out God as a possibility, he’s exercising faith.
Alas, I’ve said all this before. I think my earlier posts on this subject were better. The only new thing I have to add is this: I have evidence-based faith in the fact that Bill Maher sucks.