Advertisement

Archive for Friday, October 3, 2008

A believer - with questions

October 3, 2008

Advertisement

In a moment, I will say something you've probably never read in an opinion column.

Last week, you see, I wrote about Sarah Palin's attempt to ban books when she was a small-town mayor. In the process, I noted that "we all have questions" for Palin. Among them: "Does she really take the parable of Adam and Eve as literal truth?"

Which unleashed a flood of e-mails from people angry that I had demoted the Christian creation story to the status of parable and suggested by implication that anyone who believes it is, as one reader put it, a "fool."

Which brings us to those seldom-used words:

You're right. I apologize.

Let me be clear: I don't believe the Bible's account of creation. Never have. Leaving aside Darwin and taking the story on its own merits, there are still holes in it big enough to walk a dinosaur through. Not the least of which is the conundrum of how, short of incest, humanity reproduced itself if there was only one family on Earth.

And had I framed my question more narrowly - Does Sarah Palin really want the Bible story of creation taught in schools? - you'd be reading no mea culpa here. Science classes are for science and faith is not science. Nor, in a pluralistic society, does anyone have the right to impose faith on someone else.

But I didn't pose a narrow question. Instead, I airily dismissed a belief I don't share, yet a belief which, in and of itself, hurts no one, marginalizes no one, and is a fundament of faith for millions.

That was needlessly (as opposed to necessarily) disrespectful. It also was arrogant. Which is, oddly enough, the one trait of the lately resurgent atheist movement that vexes me. I'm not affronted by their unbelief, per se. But among some atheists there is often a stick-in-the-eye condescension to their expression thereof - let Bill Maher stand as its avatar - that really gets tiresome.

In fairness to atheists, though, I've always suspected that was a reaction to the equally irksome arrogance some religious conservatives - let the Rev. Jerry Falwell stand as avatar - have exuded upon the rest of us for 30 years.

If you sense angels moonwalking on the head of a pin here, you're right. My problem is that within the confines of this debate as it is usually construed, I am neither fish nor fowl. I can no more buy unbelief than I can Adam and Eve and for the same reason: holes big enough to float an ark through. Not least of which is this: OK, there was a Big Bang. Who lit the fuse?

I've said before that some of us will never believe; some of us will always believe without question. And some of us will always believe "with" questions. I am in the last camp. In the stillness of their own souls, I suspect most people are. Indeed, I suspect that's the largest camp on the planet.

And yes, a reasonable person of whatever theological bent might wonder how and where you draw the line. If you question Adam and Eve, why not question all of it? Isn't life after death just as unlikely as a world created in seven days?

I can give no answer that satisfies intellect. Which is, I suppose, the very nature of faith.

It is, however, too often the case in these contentious days that faith devolves into loud, insoluble arguments like this one over how human life came to be. Meanwhile, there's a comparative silence about how we treat each other while we are here.

Maybe we should let creation take care of itself. Heck, it already has.

But see, the Bible also says do for one another, serve and sacrifice for the least of these among us. So when I hear the debate about creation, I wonder: where is the debate about ministering to the broken, lifting the fallen, tending the sick? Why isn't it at least as loud as this one is? Where is the urgent exhortation to step out from the confines of your own life and help someone else?

That, too, is faith.

- Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Comments

canyon_wren 6 years, 2 months ago

I more often disagree with this writer than agree, but I certainly agree with this particular column! He said it so well and so kindly. Wish we could all take this position, because belief is simply a personal matter. And I feel his last paragraph is particularly meaningful.

cthulhu_4_president 6 years, 2 months ago

Well done article. Too many people in the religious and atheist camps do not realize that skepticism does not need to be accompanied by cynacism. Nor does the one imply the other.

Satirical 6 years, 2 months ago

bozo..."Most likely a contractual obligation, as with all their syndicated columnists."Since I have never worked in the media, maybe you can provide more insight. Do these contract typically have clauses that require the publication, or just a promise to pay? Because if it is the latter, I would have saved "real estate" in the LJWorld for something else.

Satirical 6 years, 2 months ago

merrill....You posted that on another forum already. Did you want to discuss the issues in this article or are you just hear to spam your liberal rhetoric to convince absolutely no one?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

" Is it just a standard rule to run every column written by Pitts?"Most likely a contractual obligation, as with all their syndicated columnists.

Satirical 6 years, 2 months ago

The article was fine, but why run it in the LJWorld? Is it just a standard rule to run every column written by Pitts?To the final point of the article. The Bible does talk about about helping the poor etc, but what the liberals insert into the Bible before all the phrases is "it is the government's job"

craigers 6 years, 2 months ago

Seems rare to get an article from Pitts not about race. Nicely written article Pitts. Questions can lead to growth.

jaywalker 6 years, 2 months ago

Merril's a moron, sat. In deference to the article, you can take that on 'faith'.Excellent column from Pitts this time around. Well written, thought provoking, even self-deprecating which is refreshing from him.I've always contended that the Bible is a solid guideline for some moralistic values. But as the Boss said, "..they say (a naked) Eve tempted Adam with an apple...Man, I ain't goin' for that......"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

"Not least of which is this: OK, there was a Big Bang. Who lit the fuse?"Yes, Leonard, but that begs the question-- who created the fuse-lighter, doesn't it?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

The lady was not that great of a governor which is why she is under investigation at the request of the Alaska republican party. Bush,Cheney,McCain are doing their best to sweep it all under the rug aka squash the investigation.Is McCain still running for president?VOTE OBAMA 2008 YES!

Jaylee 6 years, 2 months ago

Satirical (Anonymous) says:To the final point of the article. The Bible does talk about about helping the poor etc, but what the liberals insert into the Bible before all the phrases is "it is the government's job"i think pitts' point and what you refer to as a liberal point is that the poor, sick, and needy are to be cared for by the morally fit and we are not that until we engage in helping those less fortunate. generally the opposite of that which you seem to characterize per your comment is called selfishness or just not giving a sh*t.

ReadingSports 6 years, 2 months ago

Good article from Pitts. Hey, that's wierd...That thing on the top of my car looks like the feces of a pig.Now how did that get up there?And who called me, and said to send blankets to H*** and that the inhabitants were cold. Probably Tra, that's right up his alley. #-)

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

Jonas,Pitts says he has problems believing creation:"there are still holes in it big enough to walk a dinosaur through. Not the least of which is the conundrum of how,"One would assume he would list his biggest issue with it. (If not, why not?) He then proceeds to say he can't believe in creation because he can't figure out how brothers and sisters can have sex?!!! Have brothers and sisters not produced offspring in the past?And as far as genetics go, I recall you have participated in discussions quite a bit about genetics. Surely you understand that it only takes one, if at most two, rabbits to populate a whole area, or one bacteria, one zebra mussel, etc., etc. And if you don't want to go with creation but with evolution, consider that 'all life descended from one common ancestor'.I just don't see how any thinking person could even question that the whole population of one species could be descended from one pair unless they are completely ignorant.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"He then proceeds to say he can't believe in creation because he can't figure out how brothers and sisters can have sex?!!! Have brothers and sisters not produced offspring in the past?"This is pretty thin, here. It's rather ludicrous to believe that he literally doesn't get how it could happen. It still doesn't answer the timeline hole, anyway, or answer the question. In the book, when Cain leaves his family (and there is, of course, no note in the book of any other family but Cain and Abel at the time, there is already a completely populated place called Nod. "And as far as genetics go, I recall you have participated in discussions quite a bit about genetics. Surely you understand that it only takes one, if at most two, rabbits to populate a whole area, or one bacteria, one zebra mussel, etc., etc."Funny, I don't recall talking about genetics, it's way out of my league. Maybe you've mistaken genetics for another branch of science. But. . . "Rabbits have between 28 and 35 day gestattion. Meat breeds should average 8 per litter."From wikianswers, I believe. I've never bred rabbits. The humans, to keep up, would have had to get pregnant 72 times more than a rabbit in order to increase the population by the same numbers. That might be somewhat far-fetched. "I just don't see how any thinking person could even question that the whole population of one species could be descended from one pair unless they are completely ignorant."Well, with your tie in to evolution, it's not my impression that is what most of them actually believe is the case, and certainly not on the same time frame as you are presuming. At any rate, you might have valid points in there somewhere, but certainly nothing that's going to convince anyone that the original point was in some way shallow minded or ignorant.

bad_dog 6 years, 2 months ago

"Because if it is the latter, I would have saved "real estate" in the LJWorld for something else."With a record of 1357 post in 13 months (and counting), your concern for saving the LJW's "real estate" looks a bit like a conflict of interest to me...I'm just saying...PS: Ifill sends her regards.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"Because if it is the latter, I would have saved "real estate" in the LJWorld for something else."I think we're all sure you would have. I thought you'd figured out by now that you are not necessarily the only kind of viewpoint out there.

MeAndFannieLou 6 years, 2 months ago

There are two creation stories in Genesis - really! Go back and read it again. In the first one, the gods (elohim) create mankind in their image. Male and female created they them. In the second, God (Yahweh) creates a man out of clay in his own little experimental biosphere called Eden, etc. So when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, their sons took wives from among the people that elohim created.

Satirical 6 years, 2 months ago

Jaylee:What a surpise, if someone thinks anyone but the government should solve problems liberals characterize them as heartless. You assume that because I don't think a large inefficient and wasteful government is the answer to every problem there are no answers. But the answers are in the Bible, people helping people.

beatrice 6 years, 2 months ago

"He then proceeds to say he can't believe in creation because he can't figure out how brothers and sisters can have sex?!!! Have brothers and sisters not produced offspring in the past?"Jonas, If we were all descendants of the same parental line, wouldn't that show in our DNA? Not a scientist, so I really don't know how that would show up in DNA. Just asking.

tunahelper 6 years, 2 months ago

Cal Thomas is my Hero.Rush Limbaugh is my Mentor.Ronald Reagan is my God.Sarah Palin ROCKS!!!!p.s. omaba is a weenie!

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

"Not the least of which is the conundrum of how, short of incest, humanity reproduced itself if there was only one family on Earth."To me, that statement seems pathetic, shallow minded, and reveals ignorance of genetics and life in general.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"To me, that statement seems pathetic, shallow minded, and reveals ignorance of genetics and life in general."Errr. . . . how? Can you justify that opinion, past casually dismissive rhetoric? Seems like a pretty accurate conundrum to me, if we're taking Genesis as the literal truth. (which, I gather, most Jewish people don't, but I won't stand by that statement absolutely)

denak 6 years, 2 months ago

Modern man(and woman) are all descendant from seven women. We know this through Mitochandrial DNA which is passed from mother to child. There is a book called the Daughters of Eve that describe how scientist have narrowed it down to each woman and when and where she lived and where her descendants ended up in this world.Dena

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 2 months ago

"Breaking the Waves" (1996)... a challenging exploration of religious faith for any believer( sadly, perhaps out-of-print )

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 2 months ago

bea, like bndairdundat, I, too had heard rumors of DNA evidence suggesting that all of humanity sprang from a single mother.( Talk about yer Big Bang. )

gr 6 years, 2 months ago

jonas: "It still doesn't answer the timeline hole, anyway, or answer the question. "Timeline hole?"In the book, when Cain leaves his family (and there is, of course, no note in the book of any other family but Cain and Abel at the time, there is already a completely populated place called Nod."King James version, 5:4: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:Now it could appear that only after having Seth did Adam have other sons and daughters. But in the Modern King James version: And the days of Adam after he had fathered Seth were eight hundred years. And he fathered sons and daughters.There is a period and new sentence. I realize there was no punctuation in the original writings. But, something indicated to the translators there should be a new sentence. Could they be wrong? How often does the Bible list daughters? How would you state the message that Adam had lots of kids during his life and Seth was the next major player in relation to the purpose of the Bible?However, you have to realize Adam DID have at least sons (Cain and Able) before Seth. What's the probability of having equal number of daughters? Well, yeah, some parents can have six boys in a row.Now comes my reference to ignorance. How old do you think Cain was at the time? Do you really think Adam only had sex with Eve and Eve bore children twice in the 15+ years leading up to the murder?"From wikianswers, I believe. I've never bred rabbits. The humans, to keep up,"I'm sorry, but were we comparing rates of production between humans and rabbits or were we making the comparison of rabbits and other organisms getting along just fine with lots of inbreeding with the possibility of humans inbreeding.So, although you seem to indicate you agree rabbits could, not sure how any of your responses fit in with one pair of humans not being able to populate the earth.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.