Monday, April 18, 2011

Calling a Spade a Spade

I think there are times when berating someone can be a useful accompaniment to constructive criticism. Generally speaking, I try to make my response appropriate according to the tone of the original statement(s), but occasionally I run into something so ignorant that it deserves to be called out. Usually it's a suggestion that defies all critical thinking and ignores very basic natural explanations. So when a guy on my YouTube channel sent me a link to this video and asked if I had heard of the "jewels argument" for god's existence, I had to call a spade a spade.

The video investigates a small church in Puerto Rico, where the pastor and some of the parishioners claim to find oil seeping through the walls and out of the bible, as well as jewels and diamonds falling from heaven. I should note that I use the word 'investigate' very loosely here, because the one thing the video doesn't do is show any sense of objectivity or skepticism. It begins by stating that major media news outlets seem to be ignoring the "incredible events," while only Christian sources are covering it. I have a guess for why this might be.

No one but the pastor is interviewed for the video. At one point they claim that the diamonds were shown to a professional jeweler who told them the cut was more flawless and perfect than he had ever seen, and yet they neglect to find and interview this jeweler. But how would impressively cut stones make any kind of case for the involvement of the divine? Perhaps the diamonds were purchased and planted there by the pastor or by someone else. Perhaps their quality has been exaggerated by the pastor, since we don't have the actual testimony from his source to consider.

I pointed out to the YouTube Christian the fact that hearsay is all the video has to offer. Nothing has been caught on camera, no experts are consulted in person, and the most we get is a story after the events by people who have a clear bias. I even threw out the idea that if the diamonds had fallen from the sky, they might have leaked out of an open bag in a malfunctioning luggage compartment on a plane. Then my believing friend objected that this "phenomenon" is happening all over the world.

Of course he didn't provide me with other examples of where across the world this is happening, but even so, the real point is that with any number of natural explanations available, it is irresponsible to say that god raining down jewels from heaven and causing oil to leak from walls is the most plausible explanation. South America is well known for its affinity for fake miracles like bleeding statues and fraudulent practicioners like psychic healers. It is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that perhaps these churchgoers in Puerto Rico are either involved in a deceptive ploy for attention or witness to bizarre but entirely natural events.

What is a stretch is god's involvement. As I said to the Christian YouTuber, you don't just get to point to some anecdotal evidence in a completely non-objective and heavily biased Christian video and say, 'explain that if there's no god!' I don't have to account for your gullibility. When you've actually presented nothing of any substance, you are the one that has some work to do, not I. This miracle video is no different from a cryptozoologist who claims to have found bigfoot tracks or an alien abductee who claims to have an alien implant. We don't need to find the bigfoot shoes or run tests on the implant to suspect foul play, because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and these have not met their burden of proof.

The thing about insulting and berating someone is that most people who are offended will spend some time mulling over the exchange in frustration. Many of the softer spoken critics might say that this accomplishes nothing, but I don't find this to be true. It wasn't the kind and calm words of a respectful dissenter that motivated me to rethink my beliefs. Sometimes it takes a firm tone to get people to really think. While, as I said before, I don't often adopt this in conversation, it does serve a purpose from time to time. And if the subject of mockery doesn't respond in a friendly manner or change his/her thinking at all, I don't feel that there's been any opportunity lost. I'd rather speak the truth and be thought a jerk than say what's comfortable and politically correct.

Humorously, the Christian responded to my berating by calling my message "hate mail" and trying to argue the implausibility of people dropping jewels from planes all over the world. In a moment of wonderful irony, he demonstrated the appropriateness of my insults by misunderstanding my alternative theory and taking it way too literally. I don't know what else you can call such blind faith and willful ignorance other than gullibility. And I'm not even sure that qualifies for an insult, and certainly not hate speech. We're all gullible in some ways. What's important is recognizing it and taking the steps to change. If you refuse to learn when the facts are slapping you right in the face, then me insinuating your ignorance is the least of your problems.

1 comment:

  1. Taylor,
    I'm LJ. Many years ago, I attended a small church in Abilene,Tx. One day the pastor announces that an evangelist, by the name of Lucy Rael was coming for an 'old fashion' revival. She was known for a 'Signs and Wonders' ministry. One of the signs and wonders was that she would have oil appear in the palm of her hand (supposedly, where many believe that nail scares of Jesus were). I, being a devout christian, who was sort of searching for God, looking for Him, and gullible careful not to judge other christians, especially ones doing '...the work of the Lord Jesus...', my savior. I did see oil in her hands and, as I recall I was sort of swept up in the worship music. I felt very blessed. Later on that month, that same pastor came before the congregation and apologized for bringing Lucy Rael to the church because, as he put it, she was found out to be a 'FAKE' ( in christian circles, we called it false prophet or false teacher). She, actually would bust oil viles in her hands (claiming it was the supernatural 'work-of-the-spirit' and claim to a God-Loving and attentive audience that it was a miracle, and it wasn't. I was/am deeply ashamed of believing a falsehood. From my reading of the bible and prayers to God in Jesus's name, my understanding of His personality is that He does not like ANY LIES (to say the least)! And He won't bless a lie in any shape form or fashion. Christians are supposed to be wise, discerning,gentle and not fooled by such falsehoods.I was confused, as well. I'd received a personal miracle at a church softball game I pulled a hamstring was prayed over by various members of the congregation during the evening service and the hamstring was healed, instantly. But I was so disappointed with the deception and ashamed of my own gullibleness that I left that church. Later, I heard that the church disbanded for other reasons. I never forgot this experience. A few days ago, I thought of Lucy Rael and decided to see if she was still around. When I looked on You tube, I learned that after all of these years, yes, she is around. I learned that she had close dealings with John Osteen's church, and Kenneth Copeland. One female member, at John Osteen's church exposed her to be a fake and published statements (just google Lucy Rael, you'll see--look under pictures and click on an older white haired lady and then the article will come up). The same female member of John Osteen (now Joel Osteen's church) said that she believed that Lucy Rael was like some sort of witch. Today, Lucy Rael is "ministering" in New Mexico and she claims to have the signs of gold dust and diamonds falling from heaven, she claims to have the feet marks of Jesus on her feet. I tried to post a comment on her you tube asking essentially where in the bible does gold dust and diamonds fall from the sky because as a christian for many years I know that GOD NEVER GOES CONTRARY TO HIS WORD, WHICH I BELIEVE IS THE HOLY BIBLE, but my comment, even-though very respectfully put wasn't allowed on her channel. I was ashamed that I fell for fake-miracles and wish I'd never been exposed to such falsehoods in the church. However, I do believe in Jesus, I've personally had too many answered prayers not to know better. But I have learned that I must not allow my self to be so gullible as to believe some bizarre miracle that does not edify Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Because, Taylor, wolves in sheep's clothing, sometimes, never change they just get more brazen. Thanks for listening. LJ.