Bad Advice, Goddess

Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess takes on the unenviable task of defending Ann Coulter in her latest ill-spoken diatribe on Christians and Jews:

Now, if you’re a Christian, chances are, it’s because your parents were Christians, and they took you to church and told you you were one, too. Typically works the same way for Muslims, Jews, and the rest. Few people actually make a conscious decision to worship a certain religion, let alone consider whether any belief, sans evidence, in god, makes sense…yet people of each religion tell themselves, essentially, “We’re cool and everybody else sucks!” (Neener, neener, neener!)

Now the Goddess is one smart cookie, who’s more than capable of defending a contrarian position. And although Coulter’s raving critics ain’t exactly throwin’ heat on this topic, the Goddess nevertheless wiffs big-time on this one — and in fact makes the exact same mistake that Coulter’s interviewer made, along with many of her critics. Sorry to say, it’s back to the dugout for the Goddess.

Not that I want to step up to the plate to defend Ann Coulter — she’s a major contributor to the rabid attack school of political discourse, barely a hair’s breadth above the Michael Savages and Michael Moores of the world; all heat, no light, genuinely obnoxious. If I were king, duct tape would be firmly applied — with super glue — to all such flapping orifices. I know, freedom of speech and all, yada, yada, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

But back to the Goddess — her core rebuttal, if I read her correctly, is that all religions believe they have the truth, and so of course they believe the next guy’s religion doesn’t — or at least is less enlightened or “complete” than they are. So why be offended, after all? I prefer chocolate ice cream, you prefer vanilla, so chocolate is “better” than vanilla, no? True enough, as far as it goes — which really isn’t nearly far enough when talking about matters of faith and religion.

The assumption which the Goddess makes is exactly the assumption Coulter’s interviewer, and his kindred spirits in media and the secular intelligentsia make, to wit: religion is nothing more than a personal or cultural preference. You get raised a Catholic, you grow up Catholic, or Jewish, or Muslim, or whatever. The idea that one might be able to measure such things against an absolute standard of truth is anathema to this way of thinking. The default logic is, all religions claim to have the truth, about things which are unprovable, so let’s just dismiss them all as fantasies and move on, shall we? The Goddess tips her hand to this line of thinking when she says:

Obviously, if Coulter didn’t prefer Christianity to Judaism and other religions (or didn’t think it would sell books — like all the rest of her shock-jockery)…she wouldn’t be a Christian. I mean, is this really so hard to grasp? Is it offensive? Or is it just…her opinion? Just as it’s my opinion that this country and the world would be much better off if the silliness that is belief without evidence in god was wiped out tomorrow, and people started living rationally.

Ahh, the old “faith is belief without evidence” line — where have I heard that one before? Sigh. It’s sad to see bright people fall face-down into this kind of intellectual porridge (not too hot, not too cold), this mental miasma whose sweet aroma is seductive but deadly to true philosophical integrity. A nice, easy comfortable generalization, this — salving the spirit while deadening the soul.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s lots of religions out there on pretty thin ice when it comes to providing solid evidence that their beliefs are at least reasonable. If you’re a Mormon, for example, you need to get past Joseph Smith’s scams and skills as a con-man, well-documented by a (former) Mormon historian, as well as the absolute dearth of archaeological evidence for the battles and civilizations depicted in the Book of Mormon. If you’re a Scientologist or New Ager, well, abandon all hope of finding objective evidence supporting belief in these religions which revolve in the far outer orbits of reality. In fact, when you get to the heart of most religions, there is a large central core of belief which cannot be objectively substantiated, whether it be reincarnation, or ancestor worship, or animism, or pantheism, or the fevered prophetic mutterings of Mohammad.

Then you come to Christianity.

And that sucking sound you hear is your comfortable smugness being swallowed up by evidential quicksand.

You find — if you are willing to look — a real man in history, acknowledged by even his pagan detractors as someone worshiped by his followers as God and reported to have been raised from the dead. You find an enormous body of ancient literature, preserved with uncanny accuracy unmatched by any other ancient texts, written by eyewitnesses whose accounts depict extraordinary events, while displaying their first-person storytellers in a harsh light utterly inconsistent with mythical generation. You find an abundance of archaeological evidence confirming many of its story characters and otherwise-obscure ancient places and customs.

And you find an empty tomb with no good explanation save that proffered by those who then saw him in the flesh: that his His claims could not be ignored, and that we would no longer have the luxury of dismissing Him and His followers as just another “belief without evidence.”

Of course, the Goddess is free to believe as she chooses, as we all are. But to dismiss such evidence out of hand, and posit in its stead a world where we can by denying it “start living rationally,” is, well, irrational, and does not demonstrate true intellectual integrity.

A common shorthand used by physicians when documenting a physical exam finding or lab result is “WNL”, meaning “Within normal limits.” We had a standing joke in my medical residency for those would document things they had never actually examined — “WNL” meant “We never looked.” And it likewise describes perfectly our modern skeptics who dismiss all religion as foolish, irrational fantasy. Some of it surely is — but being half-right means you’re all wrong. There is a price to pay for examining the evidence for Christ and the claims of Christianity, a price many are unwilling to pay: if you tackle this pursuit honestly and objectively, it will likely cost you your life.

But then, someone famous once said, “He who loses his life for My sake, will gain it.”

In my experience, it’s the best deal I’ve ever gotten. And that’s my advice to Amy.

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