Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

I Just Narrated Ken Ham's Audio Book and It Gave Me the Thinkings

I do not miss the irony that shortly after I wrote a couple of blog articles talking about socio-political conflict and how some aspects of it bothered me, I was awarded the contract to narrate Ken Ham’s audiobook The Lie: Evolution.  I wanted to take some time and write down some of my thoughts on the book, since, frankly, I was a little surprised by its contents and Ken’s arguments.   You don't read a whole book aloud into a microphone and not have something to say about it afterwards.  So, here we go.

First, let me set up my bias (since we all have one).  I am a very moderate conservative, I would say, though I am loathe to identify with any one group of beliefs because I think that way leads to the dark side of closed-mindedness (the “party line”).  I am not a Christian.  I am a former Catholic-turned-agnostic-turned-Protestant-turned-agnostic.  It’s complicated.  We won’t get into it here.  But that helps you understand where I’m coming from when I talk about what I read in Ken’s book.  There is plenty of stuff I absolutely disagree with in The Lie, but there’s also some stuff that I thought was pretty sound logic.  So before you attack me for being either a burn-in-hell heathen or an intolerant religious zealot…don’t, because you’ll look silly and everyone will laugh at you.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ken Ham, he is an ardent and somewhat infamous Christian creationist; he and Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) recently had a public debate on creation vs. evolution.  I didn’t watch it, but lots of people did.   But the most poignant thing about Ken’s views, however, is that he is a “literal creationist,” that is he believes that the Bible is an infallible document which must be taken literally.  In today’s world, that’s a reaaaaallly tough position to take.

The Lie’s first surprise to me was that it really wasn’t an argument for creation.  Ken took almost no time to talk about archaeological evidence for the flood, the Cambrian explosion, and other science-like approaches to the creation debate – this was absolutely not a Lee Strobel novel.  I realized quickly that the book wasn’t about creationism.  It was about Christianity’s own interpretation of the bible, and it was, in my opinion, clearly written to present an argument to creationists, not evolutionists.

Now, I think Ken made two big points in the book, and I’ll deal with what I think the lesser one is first.  One of them basically levels the playing field a bit by saying that evolutionists, atheists, agnostics, and Christians all share one basic trait:  they are all religious.  I’ll wait until you stop gasping to keep talking.

He argues that evolutionism is just as much of a religion as Christianity.  It is just as dogmatic.  It requires just as many leaps of faith to cover information available only by inference.  And if you ask a Christian what it would take for him to stop believing in Jesus as his lord and savior, he will say: “This is not possible.”  Ken spent some time asking evolutionists and atheists the same question – what would it take for you to start believing in creationism?   He got similar answers – people had already made up their minds, and a shift in opinion simply was not possible.  Now that’s a broad brush to paint all evolutionists with, but I think he’s got a point for the cross-section of that population that DOES answer that question with “I will never change my views.”

So, Ken summed that up by saying (and I am paraphrasing, not quoting): “Everyone has a bias.  No one is immune to the dogma of their own personal religion, whether it is evolutionism, atheism, Islam, or Christianity.  The real question is: which is the right one?”  Now, of course, this assumes there is a “right” one.  But I thought the argument was interesting, and it might be helpful to just about everyone to sit back and assess their own dogma before engaging in any kind of argument.

Second, and now we’re really on to the main point of the book, was that if you do not take the whole bible literally (that is, you take Genesis figuratively), what’s the point of it all?  It was a big, giant, finger-wag to Christians everywhere.  Most of the anecdotal arguments he details in the book are between him and other pastors or other Christians, not between him and evolutionists.  I admit, I wasn’t expecting that.

I actually wrote a blog article a while ago on this very same principle, and I’ll be damned if I don’t agree at least a little bit with the point here.  If you can interpret Genesis in a loose way, why can’t you interpret, say, the resurrection of Christ as wholly or partially symbolic?  I know those are different sets of circumstances with different historical evidence, though.  So, in dealing with something a bit less controversial, if you can apply historical context to a document and argue that it’s not about what the text says but about what the text means in that context, why can’t you apply it to the phrase “sexual immorality” as used in the New Testament and argue that homosexuality is not a sin according to the bible?  Why couldn’t you, say, use it to create one of 41,000 denominations?  (My tongue may go right through my cheek, here.)

But the converse of “all or none” is also problematic, and it’s one point that Ken didn’t deal with in The Lie.  If you keep Genesis locked into a literal statement and ignore historical context, you must also do so with the rest of the bible.  The problem is consistency – what you do with one part of the bible, you must do with all parts of the bible (right?).  If you believe that the earth was created in six literal days, you must also believe that it is disgraceful for women to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), you have a whole slew of confusing rules about multiple wives and slavery and death penalties.  You also must, “if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow [Jesus].” (Matt 19:21).  Not a whole lot of wiggle room, there, if you want to be literal about it – but I don’t see a lot of people selling all their possessions (nor do I think them hypocrites if they don’t…I’m not passing judgment here).

Yeesh.  It’s not an easy spot to be in either way, is it?  But Christianity isn’t easy.  I’m not sure any religion is.

Ken extends this argument to “compromise positions.”  He tsk-tsks at Christians who say that God used evolution, that the “days” in Genesis do not mean literal 24-hour days and could mean millions of years, or any such middle ground. Many of them have a logical flaw that, when tied back into his original argument, result in a loose interpretation of Genesis, which results in a potentially loose interpretation of the bible.  He insists that these views are sometimes more damaging to the creationist movement than the evolutionists, and I can see where he has a point.  It’s a pretty thick series of if-then statements that support his claim that if the bible’s not totally literal and infallible, why bother?

He doesn’t, however, address the “mature earth theory” as one of those compromise positions, which was disappointing as it is my personal favorite; that God created a universe that was billions of years old, but it only took him six days to do it.  Maybe he created a universe that was billions of years old to give us the pleasure of discovering it, fossils and all.  We’ll obviously never know.

So, to make a short story long, if I didn’t precisely agree with Ken or much of the content of his book, it did certainly make me think a bit.   His discussion about bias and everyone having their own religion made me snicker a bit at the comments I got from people when I told them I was narrating his book, who immediately dismissed him as an idiot (particularly people that weren’t even that familiar with his position), and his comments about all-or-none in regards to the bible, while maybe a little tailored to serve his own bias, had some good points.  I hope for a little while you could set your bias aside and just enjoy perusing my thoughts, as I felt compelled after spending so much time immersed in such a controversial topic to sort of let some of my brain leak out.


Just kidding.  Post it below!


AVWAS: The Bible, The Whole Bible, and Nothing But The Bible

The Bible is a BIG book.  A really big book.  Not nearly as big as the entire Wheel of Time trilogy put together, but at least as big as two of the books.  It’s about 800,000 words, depending on the translation.  From the Christian perspective, that’s a lot of perfection.  Many Christians – most that I’ve met – consider the Bible to be the irrefutable, if often misinterpreted, word of God.  That means that every one of those 800,000 words needs to be true in some way that is always applicable, never negotiable.

To me, this is one of the greatest stumbling blocks on the path to Christianity, and I’m sure I’m not alone.  The Bible says an awful lot of really good things about loving each other, being kind, being generous, meeting the needs of your community, and in general gives a pretty solid guideline on living a just and moral existence on this mortal coil.  Even if you hate what someone is doing, the Bible is pretty clear that you’re supposed to love them anyway.  That’s a good thing.  That’s tolerance – not a message we hear often associated with Christianity in the media.

But, to me, the Christian view is necessarily all-or-nothing. Either you believe everything the Bible says or you believe nothing of what the Bible says.  Or, perhaps I should rephrase that as either you believe everything the Bible says or you’re not a Christian.  I certainly believe a lot of things that the Bible says – don’t kill people, don’t lie to people, etc. – but I just as certainly don’t believe everything that the Bible says.

So, every time I read the Bible (which has been several times, for certain sections) I keep finding myself stopping and saying, “No, that’s wrong.  I don’t agree with that.”  And then it makes me want to put the book down completely, because with each stopping point there closes a door between me and Christianity.  I think there is a logical contradiction in saying “you need to take some of the Bible with a grain of salt” and also saying it’s the infallible word of God.  There are phrases in the Bible, such as “It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor. 14:33-35) and, and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 reaffirms that sort of thought when it says that a man should never be taught by a woman.

There are many other examples in the Bible, but this isn’t a post trying to pick apart specific phrases; it’s about looking at the Bible as a whole and why that’s a tough thing to swallow for me personally.  The point is that there are bits and pieces of the Bible that I’m pretty sure I’ll never agree with.  To me, that’s a break in the logical chain – I can never become Christian.  Right?  Well, that’s how I feel sometimes.

“Taking it with a grain of salt” is often confused with “context.”  Context is king, I’ve been told, and I agree.  Context is important.   Context, however, is in the hands of the person interpreting it.  The church has used context to evil ends many times, so it makes me wonder if context is really that important after all.  If we misinterpreted the bible to support segregation (applying a different context to passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that said not to mix races), are we now misinterpreting passages that say that homosexuality is wrong?  How are we to know if anything in the Bible is being interpreted correctly if context has caused the church to fracture a hundred different ways over two thousand years?  All of this is sitting on the foundation of the biblical canon being chosen by a bunch of old men in a closed room 400 years after the death of Christ.  Whew.  That's really tough for me to wrap my head around.

I'll actually be meeting with a pastor relatively soon to talk about this issue, and I'll definitely share the results of that conversation.

I don’t intend to solve the problem here, only talk about what’s been on my mind.  If I could eliminate some of the stuff in the Bible that doesn’t make sense to me, I’d probably be more inclined to become a Christian.  In fact, I generally agree with everything that Jesus says all throughout the New Testament. He gives some incredible advice – some of which is tough love, too.  If I could be a Christ-Follower instead of a Christian, I might consider it (though Jesus throws a few curveballs, too).  I think it’s sad that the church focuses a lot more on Paul, who, in my opinion, was kind of an asshole.  But that’s tangential - I’ll write another post on that another time.

I don’t pretend to be a Biblical scholar or apologist, but I do know that if you have to eat the Bible whole, I’m not convinced I can stomach it.  I can’t simply ignore the massive book of violence and God-Wrath that is portions of the Old Testament, how God seems to have turned off his Smite switch when Jesus came around, etc. even if I believe that Jesus had the right idea.  Jesus came to cancel out some of the Old Testament, yes, but not all of it.  If I have to take the Old with the New, the Leviticus with the Luke, or the Paul with the Jesus, I might not want either.

A (Vegetarian) Wolf Among Sheep

I go to church every Sunday.  I go to a  Bible study every week.  I volunteer at church on my free time, and I occasionally do some "extras."  You might find me at church on a Friday or Saturday night, even.  My children will be raised in church, possibly attend a Christian school, and participate in religious education and activities.

I am not a Christian.

A lot of people find that pretty strange, and I don't blame them.  I find it stranger every day, myself.  It's a new kind of awkward when you go to a bible study full of Christians for the express purpose of studying a book about how to devote your life to a God that you're not sure really even exists.  Even though everyone around you might be welcoming, there's a bit of an electric tension that surfaces, a sort of feeling of not belonging.  I likened it to being a wolf among sheep, at first, but there's nothing malicious about it.  I don't come to all of these things because I'm going to challenge God and Jesus and other people's faith.  So, it's not quite like being a wolf among sheep at all.  A vegetarian wolf among sheep, maybe.  A wolf that thinks that sheep pretty much have the right idea, but disagrees with a couple of fundamental issues - like wearing wool, or bleating.

I think this puts me in a pretty unique position, and for a while now I've been thinking about writing down my observations from this point of view.  My goal isn't to make this blog into a platform for the discussion of religion and philosophy, but from now on if you see something titled AVWAS (A Vegetarian Wolf Among Sheep) followed by a subtitle, that's what this is going to be about.  There's no curriculum, there's no agenda.   It's only a blog, and I'm pretty sure that's what blogs are for.  So if you've been following this because you enjoy my writing or my music and you simply don't want to hear any discussion about one of the most taboo topics in American culture, you can feel free to ignore any of the articles that might follow.  I mean it sincerely that I generally respect all beliefs more or less equally (the Rastafarians are on thin ice with me, though).

In this lead-in, I want to give a bit of a background of where I am coming from:

I've done a lot of cultural studies.  I've traveled to a lot of places, done a lot of different things.  As a result, I like to think of myself as open minded.  A lot of people outside the church have a very narrow-minded view of Christians, and a lot of people raised in the church have a narrow-minded view of non-Christians.  I'm smack in the middle.  I've been in and out of churches my whole life.  I was a fairly devout Catholic when I was a kid, and I'm serious when I say that.  I prayed every night to God, went to church on a regular basis, attended Sunday school, and did other church activities, without complaining too much (though you'll have to ask my mother).  I wandered away from it in my teenage years, and when I met my wife I dove right back in to a completely different kind of Christianity.  I'm talking about the speaking in tongues, jumping up and down in church, rock music for two hours, people putting their faces on the floor and crying kind of church.  I didn't quite jump in that deep, but I was there for a while.

People ask me sometimes if that was really genuine - a lot of people think I was just playing the game so I could date my future wife at the time (she is a devout Christian and has been raised in the church her whole life).  Only I can really know where I was during that two or three year period of my religious journey.  All I can say is that if you grow the guts go home and try to convert your staunchly atheist/agnostic parents, you probably have to believe in what you're saying.  Other than that, I don't have to prove my experience to anyone.

But I've also done some other things, too.  I've read literature and studied religions from Greeks to Hindus to black magic and Alister Crowley to reading the Koran and parts of the Book of Mormon.  So, I'm not only looking at this from the Christian perspective, though I'm going to focus on it because that's the environment I'm immersed in right now.

I would say that I am not a Christian because the fundamental doctrine of Christianity states that you must believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, sent down by the father to live a perfect life and be given up as a perfect sacrifice to cleanse us of our sins and be our permanent intercessor as well as our gateway to eternal life in heaven.  Frankly, I'm not so sure.  I don't deny that it could be a possibility, but right now I don't believe it.  There are  a host of other things that I'm not in line with the church, and I'll deal with them eventually.   Since I don't believe in Jesus, I can't be a Christian.  It's cut and dry, for me.

There are, however, a lot of things that I am in line with the church on.  And I also acknowledge - and encourage everyone to be cognizant of - the fact that Christians are people.  In general, I support what Christians do.  No, I don't support radical right-wing psychopaths that want to lynch homosexuals or burn abortion clinics.  Those are the kinds of Christians that make headlines, and those are the kinds of Christians that aren't Christians.  I'll explain that more another time - the issue of ceremonially succumbing to the anecdotal logical fallacy when religion is involved.

So there it is.  A non-Christian acting mostly like a Christian who plans on writing a bit about why he is where he is.  A vegetarian wolf among sheep.  We'll see just how quickly someone sets my house on fire.  Hopefully I can get some profound thoughts out, first.

Until next time,




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