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Gay Chicken Sandwiches, or When to Fill Your Mouth with Chicken so as to Stop Talking

I haven't eaten at Chick-fil-A in years. Don't get me wrong, I think adding pickle juice to the batter is genius, and the stuff does taste pretty good. Really, I'm weary of the Chick-fil-A story. This seems another slacktivist moment, and I'm weary of those, too. Click this. Like that. Repost if you have vaginal warts. Sick of all the faux activism from all sides. Sick of the posturing. Think it's ridiculous we have to actually talk about whether or not LGBT folks should have the same rights and privileges as every other citizen in the U.S. Why is that even a question? I'm not surprised that Christians are getting behind Dan Cathy (there's a gay joke there. see it?), and I'm not surprised they have the story wrong. My facebook wall is currently full of well-meaning Christians and political conservatives opining about the Chik-fil-A story.

Brief recap. Dan Cathy said this to Baptist Press:

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that."

No surprise there. The man is the 60-year old son of a 90-year old conservative Christian. People in their 90s are opposed to many things, including divorce, marriage equality, interracial marriages, lesbian adoptions, pole dancing meth heads, and 2 for 1 Wednesday at the Whore House. They're 90 for fuck's sake. Conservative Christians are opposed to many things as well, and many of those things are on the  'What Scares 90 Year Olds' list. Dan Cathy is 60 and a conservative Christian. Guess what? His list is very similar. This much we can all agree on: there is no surprise here.

However, when I saw one of those someecards pinned to a friend's pinterest account, I learned that social media was going to start fucking this story up badly. (That sentence would have made no sense a few years ago; it still makes no sense to most 90 year olds.) The card said something to the effect of asking the Christian CEO about his views on gay marriage and then getting upset about his answer. See, the difference? It's the liberal media's fault for asking. Only the liberals or liberal media didn't ask the question. Cathy said what he said in an article for Baptist Press, hardly the liberal media. No liberal I know of solicited his opinion. That's a minor quibble, though, but I would appreciate conservative friends getting it right.

What the liberal media or mainstream media or lamestream media (whatever Michelle "McCarthy" Bachmann is calling them these days) did ask Chick-fil-A was how much money they gave to defeat marriage equality in 2010. The answer was about $2 million. See, that's more of a story. It's not that a nonagenarian, Christian billionaire said he's opposed to gay marriage. That is no story. That is almost so pedestrian as to warrant a shoulder shrug, and having it printed on Baptist Press where only conservative Baptists give a shit what is printed there should have relegated the story to a double shoulder shrug. That a company gives $2 million to defeat marriage equality is a story. Make of that what you will.

The ecard was the first thing I saw. Next was the Gene Wilder meme with him asking when boycotters were going to stop purchasing gasoline since it comes from Middle Eastern oil where there are no human rights. This is a false analogy for many reasons, but more than anything else, it's wildly hypocritical. The boycotters typically don't support unrestricted trade with nations that violate human rights. Congressmen, senators, energy companies, and billionaires do. The boycotters would love to stop purchasing gasoline period, I think, and that could have been a very real possibility had conservative politicians not spent the past four decades getting paid off by energy companies so as to torpedo all attempts to change the energy industry away from oil. To now say that liberals or gay folk or boycotters are being hypocrites is to pretend the past 40 years didn't happen and that plaintiffs and defendants are fungible. Such is the logic of conservatism.

Then, I saw this:


This makes me want to have an embolism. Here's what the Constitution actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let's take out some words so it will make more sense: Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech... That's it. It's illegal for Congress to make laws against free speech. Simple, right? Apparently not. My conservative friends now believe that this Chick-fil-A debacle is a free speech story. It's not. Congress isn't involved. I've heard no plans for Congress to tell Dan Cathy he has to shut the hell up. No officer has arrested him. What he's experiencing is the consequence of letting the public know your private views when you are a public figure who happens to own a big-ass chain of fried chicken stores. Sometimes the public thinks you're a bigoted, senile git, and they stop eating your chicken. The public hasn't said Cathy shouldn't be allowed to voice that opinion. If they had, it still wouldn't be a First Amendment issue because the public is not Congress. See how simple that is?

Now, Christians and political conservatives are going to have a big-ass "Let's Buy Chicken from the Gay-Hating Fried Chicken Chain" Day on August 1. Baptist Press even has a story about how a large seminary in Texas is going to participate. Fantastic. This is America at its best and worst. People exercising their right to purchase the food they want where they want, speak their minds, and support the ongoing denial of basic rights to the LGBT community. God bless America. By eating a chicken sandwich you will make clear that you stand for the right of Dan Cathy to speak his mind—even though no one ever tried to deny him that right. By eating a chicken sandwich you will say to liberals and gay people everywhere that you too oppose the rights of men and women to marry any adult they choose. Be sure to get extra pickles. By eating that chicken sandwich you will make a bold statement that $4 can buy you peace of mind about the moral decay that is America. Leave off the mayo—it looks know, and you don't want people thinking you're gay. Eat that chicken sandwich knowing God is well-pleased with you for conflating human rights and religious preferences. You are absolutely His favorite children, because you understand that you should be able to eat a goddamned chicken sandwich in a wonderful country where you have more rights than other people because you put your dick where the Bible intended it to go. 

Confessions of a Bible Thumper: A Review

I could just as easily have called this "How to be Reasonable for Eleven Chapters so People will Hopefully Believe that Nonsense in the Pseduo-Science Chapter," but that seemed a bit long for a title. I'm reviewing this for Mike Morrell's Speakeasy, by the way.

Confessions of a Bible Thumper is a new ebook by Michael Camp, a former self-described "missionary, pro-life activist, and lay leader." He is not to be confused with Steve Camp, the man responsible for so many bad songs in the CCM world. I had literally never heard of the guy, but I am endlessly fascinated with spiritual narratives, as I've found most all of them, including my own, are redacted in layers over many years, and I try to understand the motivation to tell a story in such a way as to account for the present moment in terms of how anyone views the world and its relationship to god(s).

The book is unremarkable in many ways. I think his discussion of human sexuality, especially gay rights issues, is worth reading. I think the biographical portions could have been left out entirely. I found them tedious. The profanity is always appreciated, but it seems only to serve to show how "outside the box" this writer is vis-a-vis "traditional Christianity." Yes, I'm using tons of scare quotes because so many words and phrases in this book aren't defined. He also has a bad habit of setting conversations in a bar which allows him to nerd out about his favorite microbrews, a complete waste of time for an undertaking like this, and indicates the book needed more editing. Other than to earn some sort of beer culture cred, I have no idea why the references are in there. We get it; you like beer, microbrews especially. The other problem with the bar conversations is it all felt so New Kind of Christian Dan meets Neo, as if Camp took the idea from McLaren and has been drinking enough high end beer in a Portland dive to be able to tell just this story that never really seems to accomplish much.

I know; I'm being a little harsh, but there is absolutely nothing here that hasn't been said better elsewhere. If your claim to fame is that you used to be super conservative and now you're not, I find that unremarkable. Congratulations. We'll put this title in amidst all the other titles wherein someone has an epiphany and switches from Religion X to Religion Y or to No Religion. Personal narratives about metaphysics are sort of built on the idea that the writers somehow have experience or credibility based on a prior way of being in the world: I once was lost but now I'm found, or I once was found but now I'm happily lost. Both are pointless in one respect: if I don't know you well, trust your judgment, or give a shit about you, your story is not compelling. This is largely a function of the fundangelical idea that testimonies ought to be told so that someone might hear and believe, or disbelieve, or disbelieve certain things in the case of this book.

Camp does a good job of covering issues, and his tone is reasonable and full of conviction. He clearly cares about these issues, and he wants us to care. There's the rub. Who is us? Who is the audience here? Does he believe a current Bible Thumper will read and be moved? That current Bible Thumper will get to the first use of "fuck" (page 34) and close the book. Do we post Bible Thumpers need to read this, and if so, why? What good will come of me reading about someone else's abandonment of fundamentalism. Preaching to the choir would be an appropriate analogy here. Seriously, he has good chapters on hermeneutics, politics, and sex, but you're better off to read explications from Paul Achtemeier, Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture, Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (New Forum Books) and Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. Just kidding about that last one! That guy is a freak. Anyway, I don't know good theist sex books. Probably you should just practice having sex and maybe even ask your partnter what works and stop writing books about how God wants you to have sex.

Excursus: I'm pretty sure your GodConcept's rules can be enumerated very briefly: No kids. No animals. She cums first (and last if you're any good). Be respectful. Communicate. Have fun. Be safe. Turn off the television, unless the Thunder are playing, and then go reverse cowgirl or doggy so she can't see you watching, unless she likes the NBA also, and then you two work it out.

Finally, he does the one thing I wish he hadn't done. In the penultimate chapter Intelligent Debate, he tries to cash in on the reasonable tone he's used all along to sell us Intelligent Design. First, he's not a scientist. Christians who aren't scientists or even science savvy should not weigh in on this. You're just functioning from a place of confusion. If you really want some help, here's another book for you: Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul. Second, he uses an incredibly dubious source. And third, he has no idea what he's talking about. This chapter makes an unremarkable book remarkable for all the wrong reasons. Rather than break it down for you, I asked someone who actually knows what the hell he's talking about to review the chapter. I should have just done this in two parts, but I'm stubborn, and I realize, all of you won't be interested in the ID debate. 

Leighton, known to many regular readers around here as a remarkably brilliant, patient, and reasonable atheist, happily sent me a thorough critique of the chapter. Perhaps Mr. Camp will find it useful. This is a review that Leighton recommends on Camp's dubious source. Everything from here on is Leighton, including right up front, his assessment of Camp's dubious source.

*Berlinski is a self-confessed crackpot who has not actually published
any original research in mathematics, and his histories of mathematics
have material inaccuracies both in the history and the mathematics. In
short, he fits right in with the Discovery Institute. I find him more
entertaining than enraging, though, and I agree with him about the
dry, pedagogically useless style of mathematics papers (not that he is
the first person ever to make that observation). More of substance to
come once I've read the chapter.

* It's deeply convenient that he doesn't name any names when
attributing ridiculous quotes to the scientists he supposedly
encountered in college. "'Biological evolution explains the origin of
life on earth without the need to appeal to a miraculous creator,' my
Botany teacher confidently asserted." (262) Well, no, evolution and
abiogenesis are two distinct things. It's true that abiogenesis would
explain the origins of life without the need of a creator, pushing the
mystery back to cosmology - how did the planets form, and whence came
the laws of physics? But claiming that evolution and creationism are
the only "suspects" (261) is the usual tactic for propagandists who
like to hand-pick quotes from Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens and
Dennett where they sound dickish, and juxtapose those with ID quotes
where the science-deniers come off as simple, honest folk wrestling
with difficult questions, head in hands, with no ulterior motives. "We
may not have all the answers - we probably don't - but isn't that
better than pretending to know everything and being angry all the
time? Come ask some simple, honest questions with us." Tone is more
important than substance in propaganda.

* "Intellectual honesty has the moral high ground, whatever one
believes about life's origins." (263)'s hard to argue with
this, but note how he doesn't define honesty, so much as imply that it
entails "go[ing] where the evidence leads," as distinguished from
"axe-grind[ing]." Who gets to pick what evidence matters? Are we
talking the evidence of nature that the overwhelming majority of
evolutionary biologists use? Or are we talking the hand-picked and
largely fabricated rubbish that apologists build their edifices in?
"Gee, maybe there could be something to that" is a shitty way to
approach arguments you've already spent a lot of time studying, which
makes it a bad idea to use tone as a heuristic for evaluating the
opinions of experts. Is a political commentator intellectually
dishonest because she assumes a priori that a politician seeking
re-election is lying about his intentions, or is this the result of
decades of careful observation of the political process? Substance is
more important than tone in works that aim to discover things.

* His recitation of apologist quote-mining in 269-272 is extremely
suspicious. The Gould and Eldridge quotes he cites are very common to
find out of context like this, cf.   And Lynn
Margulis was arguing for the autopoietic Gaia hypothesis (the entire
earth is a single organism), for fuck's sake. If he were doing his own
research (instead of quoting apologists), he would have used her as an
example of the diversity of views in biology. You could twist that
much easier into an argument for the lack of consensus among
evolution-studiers. Instead, he cites her credentials and her zinger
quote about Darwinian evolution, because he's so invested in using
evolution and creationism as thesis and antithesis so he can later
spontaneously discover ID as the synthesis. Oh, and she didn't "later"
formulate a theory to answer those questions, as he claims. That line
came AS she was arguing for her hypothesis. This is a really subtle
thing: he's using her as an example of someone who stood up to say,
"This doesn't work, period!" before later coming up with something
that does. Well, he's doing that too! Evolution doesn't work,
creationism doesn't work. This sets up the stage for him later to
independently decide that the Discovery Institute's answers work.

* "Mutations are generally destructive." (276) False. Mutations are
generally neutral, as they usually do not occur within a region of DNA
that actually codes for a protein.

* Berlinski's argument is flashy but irrelevant. Genes are
ridiculously flexible. In a nutshell: Nobody has used the metaphor of
DNA as a blueprint for 75 years (this is partly, though not
exclusively, why no scientist ever took Michael Crichton seriously).
Genes aren't specifications for a product, so much as a set of
contingent instructions. Every part of development is contingent on
having a certain kind of environment, whether in utero, or having eggs
a certain temperature, things like this. Changes in the environment
with zero changes in genetics lead to wildly different things
happening in development - this is why we don't like pregnant women
smoking crack. Not all the environmental changes lead to detrimental
effects, though; a lot are strongly adaptive. Carl Zimmer's "Endless
Forms Most Beautiful" is a good, slightly dense treatment of this. In
short, having ~100,000 minor morphological changes between forms does
not in any way imply that we would need ~100,000 transitional
generations; that's utter nonsense. But it's also the best way to
baffle scientists: ask them a question that shouldn't even occur to
someone who even faintly understands the material they claim expertise
about. There is not a sufficient description in the book for me to
decipher what specific claim Berlinski was making (which is exactly
the point when the objective is to insinuate rather than claim
outright that all these angry scientists are dishonest), but Talk
Origin's fossil record responses are CC200 and following, and may shed
some light on how actual paleontologists view the fossil record:

* "I was fascinated with David Berlinski more than any of the other
debaters because he seemed the most objective of all. He was neither
religiously nor academically motivated. ... He took nothing for
granted and questioned everything. It appeared that he just wanted to
go where the evidence led. The quintessential skeptic. He must be a
distant cousin of mine." (278) Note the similarity here between this
and how Lee Strobel described William Lane Craig in "The Case for
Christ"? Camp got conned (people who think they're skeptical of
everyone and everything are usually the softest targets), and like
Strobel, he is happy to perpetuate the con because it flatters his ego
to think that he too can be a brilliant investigator simply by being a
bit obnoxious toward people who annoy him and making a few clever
word-plays. Watch a few Berlinski videos on Youtube if you want to see
this effect first-hand - seriously, take some time to check him out.
He's a brilliant showman from whom every public speaker should learn,
particularly with respect to insinuation. (Not everyone can get
audiences to repeat their talking points verbatim while also believing
that they only arrived at those opinions after their own grueling
inquiry.) But he's not a biologist. And from Camp, now we finally know
what "go[ing] where the evidence lead[s]" means. Hint: the evidence in
question isn't found in nature.

* Note that when he's contrasting Berlinski's lucid brilliance with
Dawkins' blinkered crow-cawing on 279, he doesn't actually quote
Dawkins. This is a common approach of both con artists and con
victims; they tend to authoritatively dismiss competing views with
insinuations and vague, unspecific impressions that can't possibly be

* On 282, he uncritically cites Ben Stein's "Expelled" film, without
mentioning that this was the same film that compared evolutionary
biologists to Nazis setting up death camps.

I'd have to read the rest of the book (which I won't) and probably
meet him in person to decide whether he is an ID propagandist
sophisticated enough to conceal his ideology in a couple layers of
smokescreen, or just one of the least skeptical people in the world.
(Which is typical of people who go out of their way to volunteer,
repeatedly, how skeptical they are.)

Evangelizing Gay Chicken Sandwiches, or Eat Mor Crow

Recently I wrote a post about what non-Christians get wrong when talking to conservative believers about same sex marriage. Thanks in large part to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's rather Pat Robertson-esque remarks about God's judgment, I get to turn the tables. Here then is a primer on how Christians ought not address the issue with non-Christians.

We can begin with Dan Cathy's remarks. Unless Mr. Cathy has now joined Westboro Baptist Church, he will have a difficult time accounting for all the sins in America that God hasn't judged us for. Let me be clear, I'm pretty sure Westboro has exactly two convictions, neither of which are related to Christianity: we are media whores and we love money. What they have managed to do, though, is provide a blueprint for Mr. Cathy to follow. God's judgment is everywhere, and not all of it is related to homosexuality. Soldiers dying in war are a result of God's judgment. Crime. Porn. AIDS. Just connect every ill to God's judgment, and voila, you have the perfect method for insisting that people follow the rules your tribe thinks are important to avoid God's judgment. The criteria are nebulous, but what really matters here is power and having the world the way my tribe prefers it.

Excursus: To show how abhorrent this practice can become, one only need read the heinously stupid, offensive, and sexist comments by one Jared Wilson, a self-flaggelating Calvinist with an abiding hostility to women couched as righteousness. As part of his diatribe against the shitty 50 Shades of Grey (the only thing we agree on is that modifier), Wilson quotes an even more odious Wilson, Douglas Wilson, who once wrote that rape is God's "general judgment" on America for abandoning our god-ordained gender roles, including women submitting to their husbands' sexual desires. What is clear about this tactic is that there is simply no way for a Christian to convince any nonChristian of any kind of connection between what is happening and "God's judgment," nor can they connect their assertions to any tenable biblical position.

Homosexuality is not natural. Well, the people engaging in gay sex aren't androids, so it's clearly part of the natural world. You may mean it's against natural law, but then you'd have to explain why animals do it as well. Then you could say it's against god's natural order, and I'd ask you why man on man was prohibited in Leviticus and not woman on woman. (This is the case, by the way. The prohibition is gender specific.) Is lesbianism part of god's natural order? That would make me feel so much better about certain porn sites.

Homosexual sex is anatomically improper. This is a mechanical argument. Here's all I know to say: they seem to enjoy it, and straight couples enjoy similar experiences, so unless you're part of the "vajayjay only" movement, leave this one alone.

Homosexual sex doesn't lead to procreation. No shit. But it does lead to recreation. Again, unless you're part of the "ovulation only" movement, you probably ought to leave this one alone as well. I should also point out that many people don't give a single shit about having kids. To say that it's improper because it doesn't lead to childbirth is to confuse pragmatics with aesthetics or biological function with physio-emotional activity. Unless you can demonstrate that it's immoral, you're making an argument about preference.

Homosexual sex is immoral. There it is. Trot out the verses from Leviticus. You'll need to pretend God doesn't order the execution of homosexuals (Lev. 20:13). You'll also need to pretend lesbianism doesn't count (Lev. 18:22). You'll then need to explain all the prohibitions from the holiness code (Lev. 17-26) that are no longer considered immoral. And finally, you'll need to realize you're talking to people who don't believe your magic book is magic.

That's the critical issue here, folks. People like me who don't believe the Bible is inspired will only shake our heads at you when you pick and choose verses from your magic book while you happily ignore hundreds of commandments from the same book. Even if you followed every jot and tittle of the law (that's Bible talk for you pagans), I still wouldn't believe the book is binding on people because I don't believe in the inspiration of your book. No "rule" in the Bible is binding on anyone. Christians who think the rules are binding are loathe to actually follow them, but when it comes to an issue of power, politics, or cultural control, they feel absolutely free to apply rules with no hermeneutical method save preference.

God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexual sex. Here's where ignorance of your own text gets you, Christians. It would help if you actually read the damn book. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, the prophet chronicles the sins of Sodom: overfed, unconcerned, haughty, contempuous of the poor and needy, and committing abominations. There's that word. What is clear here is that Ezekiel doesn't list homosexuality, but a Christian will be quick to jump on abominations. Two things, read back through the holiness code to see how many abominations there are, many of which will shock you for their utter banality, and then recognize how hospitality customs functioned (function) in the Middle East. The greatest sin of Sodom was that her inhabitants intended to rape visitors to the city. It was an egregious offense to treat a visitor badly, but to consider sexual violence against them, male or female, would certainly qualify as an abomination.

I fully expect Christians to still use these passages as if someone somewhere will finally be convinced that God hates homosexuality. The odds are good that if anyone is converted by this shclock, the next obvious question ought to be "When do we start executing them?" After all, isn't consistency warranted here?

Not Desiring God, or Tell Me a Better Story

I was reading a damn good essay earlier about how theists, especially Christians, get it wrong in the debates with atheists. What also stands out in the debates is how atheists get it wrong. The writer is very sincerely trying to make the point that Christians must posture themselves in word and deed as people who make their god look desirable. This comes as no surprise to those of us who studied at Southern Nazarene University. Over and over again in the grad program, Prof. Steve Green emphasized that we are all people know of our god. Words don't mean anything; how we behave will communicate to people what kind of god we serve. It's one the main things I took from my education there, even as my faith was finding no handholds for the deconstructive process I was in. 

I like to think of philosophy as therapeutic, as a means of clarifying language. (Yes, I had a heavy dose of Wittgenstein.) It won't tell us very much beyond what someone's words seem to mean versus what they actually mean. Still, that's a valuable tool (and I do recognize that the logic side of philosophy helps us understand more than the meanings of words.) Just allow me to oversimplify, and you'll see where this is headed. When atheists and theists debate god, the field of battle is all wrong. The current tactic when debating scientific materialists is to show why scientific materialism is untenable. This isn't necessarily true, but it does leave more questions open than answered. As if theism doesn't. And that is sort of the point. Neither system works all that well, so both sides attack each other based on the weaknesses of the opponent, never offering a substantive defense of their own weaknesses. Why defend systems when the therapeutic approach shows that both systems suck? Why not allow the questions to be open? Why not admit the ad hoc nature of both endeavors? Why not just admit that there is a ton of shit no one knows? (And if you're wondering, I'm far closer to the materialist view than the theist view.) 

If by some miracle a theist was finally able to demonstrate irrefutably that materialism is an empty system, she would not be one step closer to demonstrating the truth of theism. This is what the debaters don't seem to understand. The very best of the modern Christian philosophers, Plantinga, was seemingly aware of this, so he created a fiction called "properly basic beliefs," and then he put "belief in god" in that category. Lovely. No more hard work showing why the hell anyone would believe in this god. It's just properly basic. Now, let's allow the howlingly funny assumption that belief in god is properly basic. Where are you? Deism? Polytheism? Animism? How far does that path take you? It sure as hell doesn't arrive at "Christ Crucified." At that point, the apologists will abandon their faith claims and insist on playing by the same rules as scientific materialists: history, textual criticism, archaeology, linguistic analysis, and so on to prove the superiority of their version of theism over the other versions. Pay no attention to how we got here, folks, just pay attention to where we're headed. Yeah, no thanks. 

Back to Professor Jeff Cook's excellent essay. Here's the best line in his argument: "We have not established that Christianity should be revered, nor that it is attractive, nor that it is worthy of affection. We prefer to pull out our five proofs for its 'truth and argue our misguided interlocutors into the Kingdom cold." I have no quibble with the second part. Five proofs mean nothing to someone who doesn't already want to believe. Belief is seldom rational, and it's almost always intuitive when it comes to abstract concepts, except for those who actually do the hard working of thinking things through. As a professor myself, I assure you it's a rare student who thinks things through, and as a former pastor, I assure you congregants aren't any better than their college-age offspring.

As for his first sentence, though, I do have a quibble. It's bigger than a quibble. You will never be able to show me that Christianity is attractive, and not because of all the hypocrites in the world. Shit. We're all hypocrites; we just have different convictions about when to live the lie. I don't believe the story. I don't believe that I need salvation. I don't believe that you offer a remedy to a malady that besets me. I don't believe the whole narrative, and having rejected the metanarrative because it doesn't hold together at all, I will automatically reject the extrapolations that come from it. He speaks of a desire that we already know is there. Fine. But many of us tried for decades to fulfill that desire in the context of your theistic metanarrative, and we have left unfulfilled. Now, that could be because Calvin was right and I am a reprobate, but that just makes your god a dick, and once again, unattractive. 

That is why in a debate I don't need to defend a system. I just know yours doesn't work. What's mine? Well, after four decades in a theist worldview, I'm still cobbling bits together. I happily call it ad hoc, and I'm untroubled by it. I don't worry about eternity. Who the hell wants to live that long? Yeesh. I don't worry about sin or forgiveness, except in this material world of hurt feelings and betrayals and sins against each other. I don't worry about hell. What an unbelievable amount of time and energy and paper have been devoted to that most barbaric of obsessions. I don't feel any sense of angels, demons, holy spirits, burning bushes or any other encounter with the holy. 

This is not to say I've utterly rejected all concepts of god, and that is why I don't call myself an atheist. I call myself a skeptic because I'm withholding judgment in case more evidence becomes available. What kind? No idea. I reject theism. I reject all the prefixed theisms as well. That doesn't mean I'm a materialist, but it does mean I'm weary of watching atheists defend materialism rather than just go straight to the demand that theists give any shred of evidence of the truth of their extraordinary claims. It's a tedious process, and Professor Cook is right that we do well to ridicule any idea that a story of violence, death, blood sacrifice, invisible creatues, and unverifiable ontological claims could ever lead to a desire for theism. He didn't mean it that way, but I do.

God Particles and Particular Gods, or Can We Call it the Jesus Particle?

First the good news. This is not about science, not directly anway. About all I know of the Higgs Boson is that it's a tiny tiny tiny particle--smaller than the dust mote in Horton Hears a Who I'm told--that physicists believe has something to do with how we and all things around us have mass. If that's not right, Leigton will let me know. Some shortsighted nitwit decided to call it the God Particle a few years back, and now that scientists finally have evidence of it, facebook and twitter have lit up with Christians who simply don't understand how language works--nor have they ever heard of the god of the gaps, it seems.

Stephanie Drury, whom you should totally follow on twitter @stuffcclikes, has done a great job of tracking some of these. Really, you can do it yourself if you need a chuckle or an embolism. Just search #godparticle and prepare to be embarrassed by your fellow Christians or amused by your former tribe. I think the best word for me is exasperated. Why? Because I knew what someone would eventually say. Knew it. Predicted it in conversation. Could see it in the future like that old black lady in The Stand. It's Colossians 1:17. The verse occurs in a hymn of sorts by the Pauline author of the letter to church at Colossae. Here's the verse: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

The reference is to Jesus, and the author is talking about his supremacy over all things. Christians are horrified (or disdainful) by the discovery of the Higgs Boson, although physicists have known for many years that it had to be there. The unfortunate "God Particle" name has led to consternation on the part of Christians, and even non-Christians like me. As much fun as it is to say "God Particle" and watch the forehead veins begin to throb, I'm intentionally not using the term in conversation with anyone. It's not helpful. However, Christian friends, quoting verses from the Bible to show the Higgs Boson's job is already taken by Jesus is not a great idea either. Here's a favorite from Hebrews 1:3, another hymn to Jesus: "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power."

The god of the gaps is the god who does whatever jobs are left once we discover the natural causes and structures in the universe. These days, god's primary tasks, apart from sporting events, seem to be creation, Second Coming, loving unborn babies, improperly communicating his plan for my life, and wanting me to be happy and live forever with him in heaven. It's a thankless fuckin' job for the most part and certainly without flash.( No one really believes that Tebow plays well because the Holy Spirit moves his legs the right way, do they?) The best analogy I can come up with on the fly is how emasculated Zeus must have felt when we figured out that lightning bolts weren't in his quiver.

The Higgs Boson will help us understand another layer of what used to be a mystery. That's good for science, and certainly good for humanity. Had no one ever called this the God Particle, Christians would not be so upset right now. Imagine if we'd called atoms Jesus Particles. Yeah, you get it, right? So, do your favorite physicist a favor and stop calling it the God Particle. Science loves you. Amen.