Monday, March 30, 2009

Et Tu, Church Lady?

Okay, with a minimum of Chicken Little madness, of "things are darker now than ever before" nonsense, of "we're all doomed! Doomed! Dooooooomed!" screaming, I present to you the following:

(Again, trying oh-so-hard not to histrionicize).

1. Nightline held a debate on the existence of Satan. And I know, I know, I know that Nightline is not news, not journalism, but it presents itself that way, ultimately -- as a part of the industry of news, of journalism -- and there are plenty of people who take it as such. And I know, I know, I know that this is no different than other commentator-based television or radio programs. And I know, I know, I know that this recognition of the non-news-ness of Nightline is, likewise, not news. But, return to that first sentence: Nightline held a debate on the existence of Satan. Invited guests on to their "news" program to argue about this. As if maybe if each side receives an opportunity to state its case, then this becomes responsible journalism; after all, weren't "both sides" presented? Isn't this the very definition of unbiased journalism? And, given both sides of the argument, what can a reasonable, logical, otherwise intelligent viewer-at-home do but conclude that, "Gee, the truth must be somewhere in between those two sides."

2. This quote from a story about the debate: "Nobody in the Bible talks about hell or Satan more than Jesus," said audience member Mike Garcia. "If Jesus talks about Satan and the reality of hell, then it has to be true." (Hulk want to smash. Want to smash. Must smash. Smash!) Wonderful logic, isn't it? If Jesus says it, it must be true. What more can you say after a conclusion like that? Can there be any further discussion, any further questions?

But, Chicken Little be damned: obviously, this sort of thinking (thinking?) has been around forever and not solely in the context of religion. Politics. Advertisements. Wartime announcements. Be like Mike. It's a Crab Step, not travelling. Science, too.

I used to give students Edward Abbey's essay "Science with a Human Face," in part because it made for an interesting companion to Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman and Barry Lopez (and not, clearly, because they all agree with each other) and in part because the essay works as a fine example of how "essay" does not mean "easily digestible three-prong thesis that no one is going to dispute anyway because it's both simplistic and already believed by just about everyone" and how an author's conclusion may be more complex than you immediately assume. Any attempt -- whether by religion or by science -- to reduce the world down to something abstract, something ultimately incomprehensible, is wrong. And any hands-up acceptance of such a reduction -- whether through religion ("Oh, well, you know, God works in mysterious ways, so I can't possibly understand why things happen the way they do, but I believe that they all happen for a reason, even if I can never have access to those reasons because God works in such mysterious ways") or through science ("Oh, well, you know, science is so complicated that I don't understand it, but the whole universe works in really, really complex ways that I can't understand and I can't have access to different models of how the universe is constructed because I'm not a scientist") is, likewise, wrong.

Anyway, check out Abbey's essay if you never have. It's worth a reading. Not in order to accept everything he says, but in order to consider it. To think about it. To think.

1 comment:

FreeYourMind said...

"If Jesus talks about Satan and the reality of hell, then it has to be true." (Hulk want to smash. Want to smash. Must smash. Smash!)

WOW... we're more alike than I thought! hahaha. I have said the exact same thing almost the exact same way. It was only about a week ago that I said it actually.
I am trying to get a speaker here to JMU that wrote a book about the psychology of religion and how it causes otherwise rational people to shut down mentally. Here we see one of the most common examples that I see in many of my more mind-numbing debates.