Thursday, February 25, 2010

Atheist Test: The Second Coming

I'm almost ashamed to confess that the simple little booklet that Nicole found on the train is still on my mind.  The Atheist Test is really a piece of work.  I've read it a couple times now and I've realized that I love it.  Check out that link first before finishing this entry - give it a read.  I'll wait.

Funny, right?  Let me count the ways.

1)  It's well-plotted.  It has to be, since it's examples are so particular.  For instance, it talks about how the banana was clearly meant for human consumption because it has, amongst other things, a pull tab, a slip-resistant skin, is easily held in one's hand, etc.  Clearly an excellent design.  The problem here is that the banana is almost the only fruit that fits the bill.  Imagine making these arguments for a coconut or a prickly pear.  Maybe we're supposed to infer that only the banana comes from God, all other fruits are here merely to tempt us into sin.  Freudians and feminists could argue about that one till doomsday.

2)  I'm in love with the overarching logical theme, best exemplified in this excerpt: "The odds that ten oranges would fall by accident into a straight line are mind-boggling, let alone ten rows of five."  Never mind looking for context - it really is that absurd.  The author is basically asking us to ignore one incredulous, albeit possible (given non-zero odds and 4.5 billion years of earth history), explanation, and then to accept another even more incredulous, supernatural explanation.  The booklet says it in different ways throughout.  A building with no builder?  Crazy!  But a building whose builder was an omniscient ghost?  Now you're making sense!

3)  It is completely unaware of its own failings, which, granted, is a prerequisite for stubborn, blind faith.  Every one of its arguments could be easily turned on its head and used to "prove" the opposite point.  It teaches us that unless you know everything about something, you can't make an absolute statement regarding that thing.  I don't know everything about the universe, so I can't say, "there is no God."  Do you see where this is going?  It's fun and easy, try some on your own!

4)  It compares faith to a television broadcast.  We don't understand how the TV works (nobody does, that's impossible!) but once we have the right receiver, we can witness the power and the glory of the television "waves."  In this analogy, God is in the TV.  Marilyn Manson had it right all along.

There is so much more in there, sports fans, there really is.  This post is getting a little long, but for the love of the Saints, go stew on it a while.  It's rare that such a short work of literature is so brimming with intrigue.

Stay tuned for my sequel to it, The Agnostic Test.  All questions, no answers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"...and the Devil is a Railroad Car."

I spent the majority of this past weekend on a train - approximately two out of the past three days. The brief time not spent en route was spent cramming in as much friend-and-family time as possible in LA. Total count? About 30 hours, 30 relatives, and 15 friends. Thank you to everyone who made time to see me. I appreciated every second.

Nicole and I tried to sleep most of the round-trip. It's hard not to when 12 of the 16 hours in transit fell between dusk and dawn. But Amtrak seats are only a bit more comfortable than airplane seats, and not very conducive to restful slumber. So I read a little, stared blankly into the darkness, and sometimes went to the lounge to sip coffee see who else wasn't sleeping. Besides, I don't think my reading Catcher in the Rye aloud to Nicole was much appreciated by the giggly church volunteer behind us or the elderly Mennonite couple across from her. Bits like, "...and his soul's in Heaven and all that crap," could not have been warmly received.

There seemed to be an inordinate number of Jesus fans on the rails in general. That Mennonite couple was only the first of three couples I saw during my round trip, and on the way back yesterday I suddenly found myself locked in conversation between a preacher and a hard place - the hard place being a former farmer from Burlington, Iowa.

He was good company, though, in between feeding his pop addiction and pointing out livestock and buildings as we trekked across the sparsely populated snowy mesas between Flagstaff and Albuquerque. He also consented to be a guinea pig for my new blogging idea (to be revealed soon). Nicole even found a hilarious pamphlet of Christian propaganda entitled "The Atheist Test". Apparently, the Big Bang theory doesn't hold up to scrutiny when applied to the origins of soda cans. This is an actual graphic from the booklet.

They insisted I'm a believer, whether or not I knew it. This isn't the first time I've heard such things, but it makes me wonder if they say that to all the 20-somethings, hoping it will win them over to the church with trust and goodwill. Are they just spiritual confidence men? Yesterday I almost believed them, today I have more doubts. Of course, yesterday I was sleep-deprived, and today I'm better rested. Maybe this is what Saint Anthony, Buddha, and all their ascetic company mean when they say physical comfort distracts from what is truly important. Whatever that is.

By the way, have you ever seen Los Angeles' Union Station lit up at night? It's an elegant and stunning sight, as well as a dangerous one, considering it will make people loathe to leave, as it did me.