Why Kurt Wise Was the Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

I was recently asked why it was Kurt Wise who was the final straw in my deconversion from Christianity. Here I will attempt to explain.

I had watched a video (but it’s a blog post of his that I’ll link to) in which Richard Dawkins remarked on Kurt Wise, a Harvard educated geologist.

At the link, Dr. Dawkins says the following:

He achieved the first part of his goal, but became increasingly uneasy as his scientific learning conflicted with his religious faith. When he could bear the strain no longer, he clinched the matter with a Bible and a pair of scissors. He went right through from Genesis 1 to Revelations 22, literally cutting out every verse that would have to go if the scientific worldview were true. At the end of this exercise, there was so little left of his Bible that

[now quoting Wise]. . . try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture. Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution. With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science.

[the brackets were mine]

 Some Personal Background and Christian Train of Thought

At the point I heard this, I was teetering on the edge of Christianity. I had been a staunch Fundamentalist. Due to the abuse I experienced, I exited Fundamentalism, though not yet all of Christianity.  After that, I freed myself to think critically of… well… everything really. I began reading. I watched debates. I searched. I was doubting Christianity now, based on evidence that I had not seen or read while in the church. It was at this point that I heard Dr. Dawkins speaking on this.

I’m very familiar with the thinking that Dr. Wise illustrated in his above statement (granted the exact details of his thinking and mine likely differed on some slight points).  We were always taught that the Bible is the ultimate authority.  I have always had a healthy respect for logic and evidence, but I also had a very UNhealthy fear of the alleged consequences of disbelief. To trust science when it was at odds with the Bible was to “deny Christ.” In the church, you’re not even allowed to deny Christ to save your children if they are about to be slaughtered in front of you unless you do.

We were told that “Satan goes out to steal, kill and destroy.”  He uses many tools to instill doubt in us and “lead us astray” from God and from truth.  The word “science” was often put in quotes and accompanied by a Bible verse in which Paul is talking about “science so-called.” In short, we were to systematically deny anything–anything at all– that contradicted scripture on the grounds that the contradiction renders it (that is, the statement or evidence in question) a lie and a tool of the devil. If science contradicts the Bible, then obviously science is wrong, because the Bible says something different. God wrote the Bible and God knows what’s really true.

And you better not doubt. Doubt is sin.  Jesus suffered for that sin! Unless you’re doubting because you’re not truly a Christian. Are you REALLY a Christian? Do you want to end up in Hell?  You need to “decide this day which god you will serve.” Will you serve science and self? Or will you serve God?  That’s how the manipulation went anyway.

Back to Science and Kurt Wise

Many Christian circles subscribe to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. These churches promote these materials to their congregations and to their communities. The emphasis is supposedly on scientific evidence. While they filter the evidence through a tight Biblical filter, they do still promote the IDEA of facts and evidence, and the IDEA of following the evidence to the truth.  (And the truth will set you free, amen?)  The evidence for God was touted as undeniable and overwhelming at AiG. We could believe the Bible, and science proved it.  Didn’t it?

Evidently not, for Dr. Kurt Wise. His statements fly in the face of the whole purpose of Creation Science. He not only shows that the evidence does NOT back the Bible, but he demonstrates that truth/evidence is not what being a Christian is all about. If/since science does not stand in support of the Bible, then what even IS the purpose for the use of science in Creation Science?

His experience and education make him a rare treasure to Christianity. People love having him, because HE KNOWS STUFF. Well, that and the name Harvard; we can’t deny that a geologist from Harvard lends Creationism some credibility for many people (he might as well be, say, a biologist from Oxford. Fancy stuff there). He knows the science and can articulate it. On the one hand, Christians point toward science and evidence, as well they should.  On the other hand, they demonstrate (usually unwittingly) that it is merely a manipulative tool to be used insofar as they are able to shoehorn it into the Biblical narrative.

As I said before, I have a great respect for logic and evidence and always have. To see that it does not support the Bible after all (and Kurt Wise would know) was the tipping point. Kurt Wise demonstrating that truth/evidence must be discarded in order to believe the Bible was evidence that truth and Christianity were fundamentally opposed to one another, and this was the final straw for me.

His conversion story, rather than being a “witness” for Christianity, should instead stand as an ominous warning to others of what a person must sacrifice in order to believe.

That, I hope, is an adequate explanation for why Kurt Wise was my straw that broke the camel’s back where Christianity is concerned. I needed far more than Twitter’s 140-character limit to respond properly.

“Why Do Christians Think Questioning Their Beliefs is ‘Attacking Them?’” Pt. 2

In my post “Why Do Christians Think Questioning Their Beliefs is ‘Attacking Them?’” Pt. 1, I began trying to answer this question as posted on Twitter by someone.  I then listed some of the answers that others gave as responses on Twitter, and am going down that list with explanations that are based on my experience as a Christian.  I wrote about two of them in part 1.  In this post I will be continuing down that list with “cognitive dissonance.” I’m only writing about one this time, because the whole thing can get a little messy.

“Cognitive dissonance.”  For those who perhaps aren’t familiar with what cognitive dissonance is, Merriam-Webster defines it as “psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.”   Psychological conflict indeed. You don’t even have to go out of Christianity to have this; read the Bible a few times through and you’ll have enough psychological conflict to keep a therapist well-paid for a good while.

There is a practice in the faith called “Apologetics.” It’s a whole system designed to explain and validate Biblical concepts to those who are finding these concepts difficult to swallow (for whatever reason it may be).  Christian apologetics is designed for both believers and unbelievers alike, and often succeeds, for believers anyway, in reconciling conflicting ideas just enough that the believer can maintain some semblance of peace about her sometimes delicate faith.

Now what happens when some big, bad wolf comes along and starts asking the believer challenging questions about the validity of Christianity and starts giving reasons for why he or she cannot believe?  What happens when someone starts bringing up possible problems with the reasoning within certain areas of Apologetics?  Well, this could potentially mess with the Christian’s sense of peace in the faith that her entire life revolves around.  She wonders if what she believes is really true, but she still clutches onto it desperately (there are a number of reasons for why that is, but that’s for another post).

Merely challenging a Christian’s beliefs and providing reasons for one’s disbelief might seem, to a non-believer, to be a rather casual affair. After all, most generally aren’t attacking the Christian herself, just her beliefs, right? Right? Think again.  Depending on the level of involvement that the Christian has, the church, the beliefs, and the people might be an enormous part of her life.  After all, a Christian’s life is literally supposed to be “lived for Jesus.” She had a “spiritual experience” in which her heart, her very self, is believed to have been made new. She was “born again.”

And she believes this.  All of it.  Well, usually. Mostly.  I mean, YES! YES, she really believes it without the shadow of a doubt.!  Really.

An unbeliever expressing exactly why he or she cannot believe is not merely posing a personal objection or question.  That unbeliever could now be renewing the Christian’s cognitive dissonance that the apologists work so hard to placate, or the unbeliever could be intensifying the psychological discord that is already there.  The questions can cause the Christian to doubt, and that doubt will trigger the defensive reflex. She may withdraw from this “attack on her faith by Satan,” and she’ll probably pray to God to forgive her for doubting…. meanwhile she’s possibly still doubting while she’s praying for forgiveness for it.

A challenge to a Christian’s faith is commonly taught as being a DIRECT ASSAULT on a Christian’s faith by Satan, who is trying to devour their soul. THAT is why “just” asking questions or pointing out contradictions or pointing to any number of other reasons for unbelief is often seen as an attack.  It causes cognitive dissonance which can lead to doubt, and is seen as a direct attack against them by Satan through the one asking the questions.  In the minds of many, this sort of thing is literally “spiritual warfare” with YOU, the unbeliever, being a “tool of the devil.”


Go to Part 3 

“Well I’m a Christian!”

… and can therefore accept only one possible conclusion in a fascinating but inconclusive archeological dig.

That pretty much sums up a Christian’s concluding argument in a conversation I had today on the subject of the 2007-2013 Khirbe Qeiyafa excavation.  She kept pointing to things as “proof” of Biblical accuracy (and we’re talking “proof” that an armored Philistine warrior who was 9-10 feet tall was killed by a divinely-guided river stone thrown by a teenage shepherd’s slingshot).  

My position in this conversation was that we have to weigh all of the facts, big and small. We need to examine the evidence and which conclusion(s) the evidence fits with and to what extent.  For instance, a chip of pottery with the name “goliath” on it indicates, as stated in another piece, that “Goliath” was indeed a name used in the time period of that pot… but it does not indicate that there was a giant who fought a future king of Israel.  Just things like that.

There were several other “AHA!” moments that I had to point out were more inconclusive details that could support several possible conclusions, and that more research needs to be done. Her response? “Well I’m a Christian!” saying,of course, that the only conclusion she (and others like her) was open to from the outset is the one as told in the scriptures.  I said,”Well, shouldn’t a Christian be very concerned with an honest approach to a matter?” She said,”Exactly,” again, implying that an approach that interprets the evidence through the lens of one’s preferred position (in this case, the accounts as described in the Bible) and disqualifies other possibilities is an honest approach.

It’s a good thing our justice system doesn’t work this “honestly.”

Whether one is Christian or Muslim, Wiccan or Atheist, we need to examine an issue honestly. Look at the evidence. Which conclusions does it fit with? What does it say? What does it not say? 

“Why Do Christians Think Questioning Their Beliefs is ‘Attacking Them?'” Pt. 1

This was a question posed on Twitter to @RichardDawkins by @seonf.  Quite a few answers were given.  I’ll pick out some of those that I could identify with and then elaborate.  I will be separating this into more than one post, as there is a lot that goes into all of this.

  • “they have invested so much of their identities into their beliefs.”
  • “cognitive dissonance”
  • “Because when your scam relies on complete faith,  any doubt-mongering IS an attack.”
  • “It’s easier to not have to think about it, so most just push it away.”
  • “coz we were taught not to question our religions”
  • “They’re just playing the victim card, and expecting tolerance of their intolerance”
  • “because their afraid where the conclusion leads to?”
  • “For same reason they unfriend someone on Facebook who reveals that they’re an atheist. That’s how religion survives.”

“They have invested so much of their identities into their beliefs.”   The Christian is taught that he is to be “God’s/Jesus’ ambassador here on Earth. Let the old you fall away, and adopt the new you that Christ makes you into.”  That’s just a basic Christian idea. As a person becomes more Fundy, he starts believing such things as,”Take every thought captive to Christ. God should take priority in EVERYTHING you do.” A fundy can be completely swallowed up by a desire to not be seen as disobedient to god, and therefore to pledge their service to him in everything they think, say and do. Every day. All the time. They try to be as Jesus-Christ-like as they possibly can. It can really start to resemble a disorder.  There are varying degrees to this, of course, but the person’s identity can become so dominated by this that any critique of Christ or Christianity is seen as a critique of the person.

“Because when your scam relies on complete faith,  any doubt-mongering IS an attack.”   Whether you think it’s a scam or not, faith takes a front seat in Christianity. Feelings are often presented as actual evidence that the object of the Christian’s faith in a particular area is true or factual (if “not all Christians are like that” then I’m obviously not talking about “all Christians”).  Feelings and faith are also often believed to be given by the “Holy Spirit,” (god).  Any arguments against their faith is an argument against something that they believe is personally given to them by god.  This is also a challenge, not only to the actual topic, but to the validity of the Christian’s connection with god.  Challenging a Christian on his beliefs or feelings could be seen as taking aim at a personal connection the believer feels he has with his god.  A Christian can sometimes take this as a personal attack, and may even come back with statements like,”are you saying that I’m lying about what I feel? I know what I feel, and it’s from God.”   You can be seen as questioning the person’s sanity, since you’re questioning the legitimacy of a significant piece of their reality.

Baffled unbelievers often scratch their head over believers’ heated reaction over simple challenges or expressions of doubt. For a religious person, a challenge can feel like a lot more than “just” a challenge to a religion.  I’m attempting to explain what can go on internally, based on the years I spent as a Fundamental Baptist evangelist (and wife of an evangelist).

> Go on to  “Why Do Christians Think Questioning Their Beliefs is ‘Attacking Them?’” Pt. 2

The Bible: Like a Crayon??

I was reading up on some Christian explanations for certain Biblical contradictions and how a god could have let these come about. One explanation that I’ll paraphrase goes as follows:

God gave us, mankind, this responsibility. Man is fallible, and of course we will mess things up sometimes. This doesn’t mean that GOD was wrong or inaccurate.

It’s like a parent giving a child some crayons to look after. We give the crayons in brand-new, pristine condition. Of course those crayons will be broken and jumbled up after some time.

We can’t blame God for inaccuracies in the Bible. It was given to us perfectly. Inconsistencies are just due to human fallibility.

First… This is supposedly Almighty God we’re talking about. You’re telling me that such a being- a being that supposedly works by overt miracles like creation and by divine providence like with Esther- could not keep an eye on things to make sure that the ultimate message to mankind was not rendered totally without credibility?

Second… Crayons? You’re comparing an Almighty God giving us a treasure of eternal proportions to a parent giving their kids a box of crayons? Even if you’re not saying “crayons” but are still using a similar analogy, there really ought to be no such comparison if you believe the Bible is what it is. If the Bible was what it is claimed, it should have been compared to a parent setting aside an enormous treasure as an inheritance for their child. Now, what responsible parent lets their child heir play around on the floor or tamper with this treasure in any manner that might damage it? No, a parent who cares for the future of that child will take pains to make sure that this treasure is kept in pristine condition.

Perhaps I'll give my oil pastels to my 3-year-old to look after. I'm sure she'll show great enthusiasm

Perhaps I’ll give my oil pastels to my 3-year-old to look after. I’m sure she’ll show GREAT enthusiasm!

Considering 1. the claim that the Bible was given as God’s word and 2. that there are some rather embarassing contradictions in it for such a document, what does that say? Surely a god who operates by both overt suspensions of physics and biology (miracles) and by choreographing events naturally (divine providence) could have (and should have) preserved a writing so precious.

Given this god’s ability and given the alleged value of what is in the Bible, you would think that this god would have excercised some responsibility. At least a human parent has the responsibility to keep the family heirlooms out of the reach of their very cute, but very destructive toddlers.