Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Ted Haggard's Sexuality Is Symbolic Of The Relationship Between Christianity And Facts

Back in 2006, we all got to witness the spectacular decline of conservative anti-gay Christian pastor Ted Haggard, who it turned out was secretly paying a man for gay sex. I remember what a ride that one was to watch. Watching religious hypocrites fall from grace is first class entertainment for atheists. I mean, what atheist wouldn't want to hear about some ridiculous religious figure turning out to be doing the very thing they spent so much time railing against in the name of their god?

If Haggard's initial fall from grace wasn't enough, we were all further given an encore not long after when it was announced that he was declared "completely heterosexual" after being "cured" of his homosexuality through counseling. It was hilarious because any educated person knows that sexuality cannot be cured or repaired by mere counseling or therapy. Sexuality is innate. All ex-gay therapy can do is teach a gay person how to repress their desires and live in dissonance with themselves. That's all the evidence has ever shown it capable of doing. (See here.)

Ted Haggard's cognitive dissonance on his sexuality forced by his Christian belief that being gay is a sin is symbolic of the kind of cognitive dissonance Christians in general must endure in order to maintain their religious faith with the constant sting of the secular sciences and politics challenging them. Suppressing scientific facts and the moral atrocities of god in order to maintain the faith is a lot like gay Christians suppressing their sexuality. I debate with Christians all the time online and I'm always entertained by the kind of cognitive acrobatics they must deploy in order to maintain that the Bible is the word of god, and that their god is good. I've dealt with so many Christians for example who will deny the evidence for evolution at all costs to the point where they will compromise logic and sanity in order to do so.

Now of course one can be a Christian and a scientifically educated person and accept things like evolution. And of course a Christian can hold a liberal view on scripture and believe that all the Bible's nastier parts are mere legends. But consider this. To be an actual believing, practicing theist, and to be educated on evolution, sexuality and neuroscience must require cognitive dissonance. For example, how does the theist explain the fact that we humans evolved over a process of 3.5 billion years during which time there were at least 5 mass extinctions that helped contribute to millions and millions of evolutionary dead ends where species became extinct often through a long slow painful process, and during which consciousness evolved as brains grew more complex so that these species could begin to experience their suffering?

To say that an all-knowing and all-loving god guided evolution and may have taken pleasure in it (as some apologists have suggested) is absurd. Any god who would choose to create humans through a haphazard process that required millions of years of conscious suffering for no logically necessary reason, is to say god is either totally incompetent at creation, totally indifferent to the suffering that he chose to engineer for no reason, or is totally cruel and evil for taking pleasure in this process. If you grant a creator, you have to grant that. There's no logical way out of it.

And believing in a wishy-washy liberal god of pure love doesn't fair any better. In fact, a liberal god is even less compatible with such a picture. Consider the following argument from the Rationally Speaking blog:

(1) God (an omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent being) exists.
(2) Natural evil exists.
(3) God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it.
(4) Natural disasters, and the evil they cause, are a direct byproduct of the laws that govern our universe.

To deal with this, many Christians have had to deny that animals consciously experience any pain. William Lane Craig had a recent high profile screw up over this. Not only does this argument fail spectacularly upon close examination, it's even refuted by the fact that living primates and other mammals today are conscious and experience the same suffering that we do. And so many Christians who are aware of this problem suppress it like the way Ted Haggard suppresses his desire to have sex with other men. Just pray the gay away they say. But it doesn't work. It never did. Neither will praying away the facts that logically contradict the traditional omni-god. And this is just one of the many problems theism faces.

As Christopher Hitchens said, "The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism." 

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