Science, Civil Liberties, and The Bible

Posted on July 25, 2011


So, I’ve been patrolling a few Christian news websites in order to stay up-to-date on their wacky views regarding science, gay marriage, politics, and their overall lack of sanity.  I mostly just find drivel that’s not worth blogging about, but I occasionally find a piece so coffee-spitting ridiculous that I cannot pass it up.  Here’s what I found:  A new study out of Baylor University found that reading the Bible may “help American Christians become more concerned about issues of poverty, conservation and civil liberties.”  I read that and my bullshit detector went off the hook.  It’s such an absurd claim, and so patently false.  It’s like reading a headline “Drinking poison may have positive health benefits.”  Alas, I read on.

Knowing what a wacky bunch those Christians are, I wasn’t surprised to discover that the article totally contradicted itself in the beginning of the fourth paragraph.

“Thus, even as opposition to same-sex marriage and legalized abortion tends to increase with more time spent with the Bible, so does the number of people who say it is important to actively seek social and economic justice, Franzen found.”

Emphasis mine.  Well, there goes their whole claim regarding the Bible and its relation to civil liberties.  Later on they, again, show that their idea of civil liberties is left severely wanting.

“In the case of another major public policy debate, same-sex unions, nearly half of respondents who read the Bible less than once a year said homosexuals should be allowed to marry, while only 6 percent of people who read the Bible several times a week or more approved of such marriages.”

This supports my claim that, the more one reads the Bible, the more bigoted one becomes.  It appears that their idea of civil liberties is from a purely Christian point-of-view.  It’s not a civil rights violation to discriminate against homosexuals, in their eyes, but liberals attempting to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples violates theirs.  They’re the victims here, not the gays.

This article also makes the bold claim that frequent Bible reading increases one’s acceptance of science and the need for conservation.  I am completely befuddled by this claim, because it is pretty common knowledge that the greatest enemy of science, especially as it relates to evolutionary biology and climate science, is the religious right.  Sure, many Catholics accept evolution, but only because the Pope mentioned that evolution is compatible with the Catholic faith.  If the Pope were to later denounce evolution, Catholics would be dropping their belief in evolution in droves, because they never used good reason to believe it in the first place; they believe in it on authority of the Pope.

Furthermore, I don’t know any Catholics who don’t believe in the existence of the soul.  This soul, it is widely believed, exists in humans but not other animals.  But, given that evolution is gradual in nature and illuminates the fact of common ancestry, the notion of a soul is problematic.  Unless Catholics grant that there are degrees of a soul (I have never heard this claim), they have to embrace the idea that some soulless human ancestor gave birth to a fully modern human imbued with a soul.  This is what happens when you try to make evolution compatible with bogus theology.  I have never heard a response to this challenge either–they just seem to be perfectly content with the knowledge of this logical inconsistency after having it revealed to them.

All right, enough with Catholicism, I want to turn our attention to the originator of this supposed “study,” Baylor University.  A quick Googling of this institution unearths many reasons to view this study with great skepticism, that is, if you were not already extremely skeptical after reading the article by title alone.  Here is an excerpt from their extended mission statement.

“Baylor is founded on the belief that God’s nature is made known through both revealed and discovered truth. Thus, the University derives its understanding of God, humanity, and nature from many sources: the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition, as well as scholarly and artistic endeavors. In its service to the church, Baylor’s pursuit of knowledge is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Without imposing religious conformity, Baylor expects the members of its community to support its mission. Affirming the value of intellectually informed faith and religiously informed education, the University seeks to provide an environment that fosters spiritual maturity, strength of character, and moral virtue.”

Given the above, how could the “researchers” have concluded that reading the Bible has anything but positive corollaries?  Any other conclusion would be a condemnation of the Bible, and an overt suggestion that one ought not read it due to its damaging effects.  And can we really expect a University that “derives its understanding of God, humanity, and nature from. . . the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition. . .” to conclude that the Bible shouldn’t be read?  Of course not!

I can, however, give my own formulation as to how reading the Bible could make one value science and social justice more greatly.  It is widely stated among atheists, that actually reading the Bible cover to cover was integral in the process of losing their faith.  The Bible’s credibility lies in the fact that it is widely unread.  In light of this, the above study from Baylor University starts to make sense.  People who read the Bible more frequently are more likely to become atheists, and research actually shows that atheists and agnostics are the most educated about religion than are any other denomination.  Atheists, not prescribing to faith-based belief systems, turn to science for tentative answers regarding what’s most true.  This also explains why the importance of conservation rises with reading the Bible–atheists are less likely to reject climate science, because it’s science, and represents the most educated and informed view on the nature of reality.

Another consequence of atheism is the rejection of an afterlife.  This rejection adds value to our current lives, since it is now viewed as the only life we have and not some dress rehearsal for greater things to come.  We all have to get along, here and now.  This, coupled with the fact that we are the products of millions of years of evolution, and the fact that diversity is required for evolution to take place means that homosexuals are not abominations, as religion would lead one to believe, but rather they are part of a biologically diverse species and are just as deserving of equal rights as any other member of our species.

There.  So, I agree, reading the Bible certainly can lead to the findings of the “study,” but through a very different process.