Friday, August 3, 2007

The Battle for the Meaning of Everything

I am reading The Battle over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design and a School Board in Dover, PA. The aurtho Gordy Slack is a science writer in the Bay area. He is atheist and his father became a born-again believer in ID and creationism.slack covered the Dover, PA court case over the teaching of ID for Salon. The book is helping me understand the importance of creationism and ID for fundamentalists. According to Slack, they are premodernists who believe that materialism (in the philosophical sense, not the consumerist sense) of the last few hundred years has led to a moral decay which will destroy this country. They see God as the only authority which can restore morality. It's an interesting position. But, if the fundamentalists' argument is that we cannot be moral without a God who has established rules for our behavior, their real argument is that we cannot be moral without a very real hell. After all, it is not the existence of God, or even a belief in God which would enforce moral behavior: it is the fear of punishment. 

It seems to me that part of the issue, then, is authoritarianism: the need for clear rules to follow and for leaders to tell people what to do. I am not an authoritarian. In fact, I see authoritarianism as dangerous. It seems to me that authoritarianism is one of the roots of evil in religion: that leaders will tell people what they must do to be saved and people follow without questioning. Think of Jim Jones and other religious cults, Hitler, the slaughter of Jews in the Middle Ages. 

I believe that God gave human beings brains and that we are supposed to use what we have been given. I also think that there is merit to rules. I need to listen to people who disagree with me, because that's one way I learn and grow. There is a wonderful line in the Habitat for Humanity International mission statement about providing homes so that "people can live and grow into all that God intended them to be." That's what I hope to do and what I hope to lead others into.

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