Of Talking Snakes and Virgin Births and Men in Whales
In his large, almost-the-entire-movie segment on Christianity, Maher focuses on certain Biblical events which he claims to be representative of Christian gullibility. Three such events are: the belief in a talking snake in the Garden of Eden, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and Jonah living in a whale. He also rails on creationism.
Maher completely misunderstands the value and purpose of these stories. Even if they are true, they are not used to create doctrine or effect people’s lives. They may be illustrative, allegorical, or explanatory – but they do not occupy a central place in the lives of believers. If the entire religion were based on and around such fanciful tales, then Maher would have a point. But as it is, in a regular sermon, one talks about sin, repentance, redemption, belief, trust, obedience, love, charity, hope, faith, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Maybe it’s because of the church I am in, but I have never heard an entire sermon or talk that revolves around any of these fanciful tales. They exist to teach a lesson, and what’s important is what we learn from them, not whether they are true.
Maher made a big point that the virgin birth is not in every Gospel. Obviously! Each author focused on different elements. Each Gospel was not an exhaustive history of the life and doings of Jesus. We expect that in books today, but that is not how things were done back then. It is ridiculous for Maher to insist on modern conventions and standards for ancient texts.
To insist that every single element of belief be rational is impossible. Not even rationalists’ beliefs are all rational. Many rationalists believe in reincarnation, auras, karma, and other things that cannot be proven.
Maher, like many anti-religious rationalists, attack the fanciful beliefs and claims of religions without understand what role they actually play. Such fanciful items are not the religion itself but rather keys to unlock teachings.
Creationism is a big thing, indeed. Many people believe in it. Many scientists don’t. But I find it interesting how each side believes its view is immutable Gospel Truth. The rationalists are as inflexible and intolerant as the religionists. And while this is a significant issue, to some degree, it is not as important an issue as Maher makes it out to be. And not all religionists are anti-science. Many scientists and researchers and academics are devout religionists. For centuries, it was Church-funded figures who blazed the trail to modern science. What we know about astrology is thanks to Jewish and Muslim astronomers, for example.
While it may be difficult for Maher to understand things which seemingly are incomprehensible, it’s somewhat arrogant to assume no one else can understand or believe it without jepoardizing
After all, science is a way to find things out and not a religion in itself. Maher forgets an intrinsic part about science: discovery and refutation. Experiments are erected to refute theories as much as to prove them. One man I admire is part of the Presidency of the nearby Temple. He said that in his career in science, he has seen many cherished hypotheses fall overnight because of one experiment. “All it takes is one good experiment to disprove a hypothesis,” he said. Maher’s confidence in science is misplaced: good scientists known that science is evolving (no pun intended) and to assert today’s hypotheses and theories as Gospel truth, which Maher seems to want to do, is wrong, for who knows what new discoveries tomorrow’s science will bring. Maher tries to push today’s science down religionists’ throats as Gospel truth. This is wrong.