Often a cartoon speaks more truth than thousands of words. Thanks to Pharyngula, here's a great example:
The complete comic says even more. Yes indeed, "the truth will set you free."
Which leaves religion out of the picture, because it puts barriers between us and reality – substituting wishful thinking for clear-eyed understanding of the universe.
A recent comment conversation over on last year's "Atheists crush Christians at 'Does God Exist?' debate" post is a good example.
I appreciate that "C," a Christian, was willing to enter into a dialogue with us churchless heathens (see his July 7, 2008 comment and subsequent responses).
C said that scientific conceptions about the big bang and evolution are theories. That's true.
But I pointed out that there's a big difference between: (1) a theory with lots of evidence to back up, and (2) a theory backed up by little or evidence.
A belief that Jesus died for our sins falls into the second category. A belief that the universe began with a stupendous "explosion" some 14 billion years ago that eventually led to life on Earth evolving into creatures capable of pondering where we came from falls into the first category.
I heartily disagreed with C's statement to Adam:
One thing I'd like to hear you admit is that evolution and the big bang are theories, they are not facts, and that it takes just as much faith to believe in that as it takes for me to believe in Christ.
This betrays a serious lack of understanding of the scientific method. And of theology.
In Christianity, faith is a virtue. In science, it's a defect that has to be minimized as rapidly as possible if a theory is to be considered anything more than blind belief.
Yesterday C wrote this to me in a comment:
Just to close, could you please just show me the tons of evidence evolution has? I'm not asking this sarcastically, I'd just like to see the evidence that you speak of and that I've never heard. Thanks.
P.S. Please don't send me links, not that I'm being ignorant. I just like hearing it better from learned people like yourself.
Well, C, you didn't want links, but I suggest you click on the two a few lines above. There's no reason for me to repeat what I've already said, and what Dawkins' book is all about.
There's just as much evidence, albeit of different kinds, for the big bang. With both the big bang and evolution theories, many truths remain to be revealed in detail, but the foundations of understanding are well fleshed out.
What these theories answer, and Christianity (nor any other religion) can't, is a simple question: How did things come to be as they are?
If an all-powerful God exists, he or she could have created everything all at once. In fact, that's what Genesis erroneously says. "All at once" being over the course of a few days, which is close enough for religious work.
Yet, everything we know about the universe and Earth points to a different conclusion. Living and non-living things have been changing continuously. In short, stuff happens.
And there's no evidence that all this happening is under any sort of conscious guidance. Unless you want to call the laws of nature "conscious," which I feel there's good reason to do. But Nature is a far cry from the notion of a personal God who sets into motion and subsequently guides both cosmic and human affairs.
So I'll continue to kneel at the altar of science. I'm devoted to reality. I also admit that I'm devoted to having reality turn out to be the way I want it.
I do my best to resist having the first devotion undermined by the second. That resistance is a big part of what science is all about: honoring the way things really are above how we'd like them to be.
Which is why I like that comic so much. "The truth will set you free." Yes, Amen to that.