Do You Believe in Magic? (And I Hope You Don't)

By Bret P

RAOK Suggestion #5 Do a magic trickImage by garethjmsaunders via Flickr

I'll freely admit that I've become somewhat cantankerous lately. It's not that I'm an angry person, in fact I'm far from it. I laugh at life's follies, and thoroughly enjoy my existence. I am frustrated however.

Because of my past associations with various churches and living in the bible belt for ten years, a good majority of my Facebook friends are believers. There is quite a range in the levels of rationality and amicability among them, but given my fundamentalist background, it's understandable that I would have a few that are extreme on the right (some of those who are extreme are attempting to understand, so I don't want to lump them into one solid mass).

Needless to say I really can't go a day (yes I'm a Facebook addict) without seeing some kind of "praise the lord" or other wishful thinking in my news feed. This isn't really a problem in and of itself, and far be it for me to curb anyone's freedom of expression.

I'm relatively new in my committed stance on the improbability of a deity. I'm coming out of the closet so to speak, and just feel the need to break the assumption that I agree with my former associated theists.

Once in awhile I'll post something on my wall that might be a little agitating to believers, but since it's on my own page, I feel I'm within my right to express my thoughts and feelings. For me it's more about initiating discussion and raising awareness, not just to be controversial. Well I posted a status update over the weekend that got some unexpected attention:

"I wonder what our national debt would look like if churches weren't exempt from paying taxes. Hmm. We probably wouldn't have a national debt."

Now I would hope it's somewhat obvious that I intended it to be a more tongue in cheek comment about the separation of church and state, rather than a solution for our enormous national debt. Of course not everyone knows me well enough to get my humor style, but boy did I get a couple of interesting responses.

One of my very conservative friends made a joke about the government taking the money and doing nothing with it, which I thought was clever and funny. I agreed and elaborated a bit on why I made the comment in the first place. No issues there.

My thread caught the eye of the daughter of one my former pastors, and without engaging in the discussion at all, she posted "Answer not a FOOL!" in the comment thread. I felt the need to address this, as I thought it very rude and immature, but she had de-friended me. Talk about a hit and run comment. No tears shed for this loss. I think it's actually quite funny (and also sad).

What I wasn't prepared for was a rather fiery reply from a former college classmate. The details aren't all that important, but she obviously didn't understand my intent. I called her out on some of her points, to which I got an even more fiery, condescending, and very defensive reply.

What stood out was her outrage that I made a claim that the church promotes scientific illiteracy, and ranted about how she had two science degrees (bachelor's in nursing, currently working on her master's) and still believes in creationism.

I think this is pretty easy to detangle. Just because someone understands how the body works, doesn't mean that they understand (or need to believe) the documented evidence of how it evolved in the first place. Do I really need to list the evidence for evolution, abiogenesis, and the big bang?

This person may be scientifically literate in the function of the human body, but failed on a fundamental level to apply scientific methods and principles to her own belief system. Since she is a self proclaimed believer in creationism, it's safe to assume that she believes in magic.

God magically created humans. God magically concocted the Genesis flood (by all scientific accounts, the whole story is absolutely absurd). Snakes and donkeys talk, bodies of water part into walls, a virgin was impregnated by a spirit, a man comes back from the dead, and an invisible spirit dwells and manifests itself in humans. The list goes on and on (which I'm sure most anyone who reads this is more than familiar).

Of course it's very likely that I may be de-friended when this gets published. I won't deny that there is commendable charity work being done by religious institutions, and for that specific work I believe that tax exemption is valid.

What I have a problem with is that these institutions have no reasonable evidence for their claims and beliefs, yet they use tax free money to proselytize, advertise, and exert influence on politics. This is a HUGE violation of the establishment clause in the first amendment of the constitution.

I'd absolutely love it if I could put on a concert and rant my ideals to a willing audience, and take up donations tax free. I understand why there was such fiery backlash as the Christian right gets quite defensive when their tax exempt status is threatened (and I'm severely skeptical that my Facebook comment has the power to do this).

Christians seem to be all for free speech, until someone criticizes their claims and status. I shouldn't be surprised how my rather benign observation created such a fired up response, but I am.

Everyone has the right to believe what they want, and I fully support that right. I also exercise the right to criticize claims of magic (even if it's disguised as miraculous events caused by almighty god). I find it far more inspiring to explore and try to understand the wonders of the universe than to be awed by anecdotes of magic. Even in disagreement may we continue to discuss, debate, and express our opinions in a civil and intellectually honest manner.

Pageviews this week: