Browsing Archives for Journey to Atheism

Throughout my life, prayer has played various roles depending on how holy I was feeling and how much I believed.  When I was in high-school, college and on up through my twenties, I prayed all the time.  I had this non-stop running conversation with God going on in my head.  I prayed for friends, relatives and co-workers.  I prayed for the people that I knew who were dabbling in Buddhism, vegetarianism, feminism and environmentalism that God would save them from the eternal lake of fire for their despicable heresy.  I prayed for my friends who were gay that they would accept Jesus and stop being such a heinous abomination before the Apostle Paul, God and me.  I prayed for strangers as they walked by and I would ask God to touch their hearts, their minds and draw them close to Him.  I prayed for people while I was having conversations with them, asking God to use me to show his love and share the gospel with them.

When I was in college I added fasting to my regular prayer regimen.  I made the startling discovery that fasting amplified my  prayers and I certainly wanted God to hear mine!  Evidently God hears you better when you have an empty stomach, except of course in the case of famine – where either people who are starving don’t pray or it doesn’t count as fasting unless you actually have food to give up.  (Boy that God… he sure is a picky bastard!)  But like most things that involve unnecessary hardship – fasting did not come naturally to me.  I am not built to suffer, I am built to indulge.  So I was constantly changing the rules about how long I was going to fast and what constituted a real fast and if fasting through my afternoon snack would be good enough for God.

“Dear God – Today I will fast until supper.  I will spend this day reflecting on your supreme glory and lifting my voice as a humble servant on behalf of all the people in this world who do not have a personal relationship with you.  BUT!!!   I am going to let myself have a soda at lunch time God… a regular soda…not a diet soda… and I can have as much juice as I want all day long and I am not going to start this fast until I finish off this bag of Twizzlers and the rest of the Corn Nuts.  And also,  I can have a cookie at the union if I start to feel really weak, but I will not get a latte to go with it Lord.  I will only get a regular coffee, with a tiny bit of cream and no sugar.  Okay… maybe only one packet of sugar, but only one packet God.  And then I will skip dessert at dinner to make up for the packet of sugar – unless dessert is really, really good.  Then I will skip dessert tomorrow instead.

As I got older, got married, and had babies, the habit of fasting disappeared and my prayer life dwindled.  I had too many diapers to change and nursing moms don’t ever skip a meal.  When I did pray, it was generally for my husband who was not exactly ‘on fire for the Lord’.  Somehow I had managed to marry and make lots of babies with a man whose knowledge of the bible was pathetic and whose basic understanding of evangelical Christianity was abysmal.  I married a Catholic who went to parochial school through the sixth grade and if he worshiped anything – he worshiped it wrong.  Everyone knows that Catholics don’t know the real God.  They are terribly confused.  They worship the pope and Mary, instead of Jesus.  I was sure that God had sent me into my husband’s life to save him and his entire family of devout Catholic Mary worshipers from an eternity in Hell.  So I was always begging God to ‘get a grip on my husband’s life’.  Turn him around Lord!  Bring him close to you Jesus – the real Jesus – not the fake baby Jesus that is really just a prop for their fake Mary god to hold!  Discipline him God and bring him to the truth of who you really are!

But then I would freak out about the whole ‘discipline’ thing.  I had been taught that God disciplines those that he loves and that means he basically beats the shit out of his favorite people by giving them cancer or giving their babies cancer or letting them be paralyzed in a fiery car accident or melting their faces off in a propane tank explosion.  So my prayers always had distinct parameters.  I would try to back-pedal my way out of being disciplined by saying things like…

Bring my husband to you Lord, but please don’t hurt my babies to make it happen.  Please God!  Please don’t hurt my baby!  I want my husband to know you and love you as much as I do, but I don’t want you to give my baby cancer to teach him about your infinite love.  So if you could get a hold of my husband’s life without giving my baby leukemia, I would really appreciate it.  Thanks God!  Love you!  You are so awesome!  And please don’t give my baby cancer God.  Please!!  Thanks God!

But the thing is – that Christians are supposed to trust God and believe that he is always taking care of them.  So if our baby gets leukemia, there is a reason for it.  It is part of God’s plan.  It will only bring us closer to God and make us stronger for Jesus.   But I didn’t want my baby to get leukemia for Jesus.  If God had to give my baby leukemia to bring my husband to Jesus, then I would prefer that my Mary worshiping Catholic husband just went to hell.  I’m sorry honey – but I did it to save our baby!

I do remember a brief revival in my ‘married with babies’ prayer life when my third son Drew became very ill.  He was a plump, rosy cheeked, eighteen month old, when he came down with pneumonia, spent 13 days in the ICU and eventually had emergency surgery to remove a ‘rind of pus’ that had walled itself off in his lung making it impossible for even the most potent antibiotic to kill off the infection.  Every time he coughed, the infection would break through the pus wall, flow into his blood stream and his fever would skyrocket back to 105 degrees.  After attempting to siphon the infection out of his lung with two different chest tubes, the pediatrician finally decided to send him in an ambulance to Wichita for surgery.  By the time they sent Drew to Wichita he had stopped eating and was being fed through his veins.  He had grown very weak and you could see all the bones in his back.  We were very scared.  I distinctly remember sitting beside Drew’s hospital crib in Wichita promising God that if he got my baby out of that hospital whole and healthy, I would re-dedicate my life to Jesus.  I would go to church eight days a week, I would teach Sunday school, I would host bible studies and volunteer to run VBS for the rest of my life.  I would give all my money to the poor and spend every free minute for the rest of my days walking the streets in Mexican villages converting all the Mary worshiping Catholics to the correct version of evangelical protestantism.  But I also knew that the odds were very strong that Drew would get better regardless of my prayers.  While at that hospital, I saw moms and dads with seriously ill children that were much sicker than my baby.  It was highly likely that Drew was going to survive this ordeal, but looking at those kids, I could see that their odds were not as good.  This left a grave imprint on my mind, knowing that God was going to spare my baby, but some of those kids were never going to see another Christmas or another birthday no matter how hard their parents prayed.

My baby did get better.  We brought him home.  His emaciated body had grown so weak in the hospital that he was unable to walk and he had stopped talking.  He was a year and a half old and he could no longer sit up by himself.  But Drew healed quickly.  He had youth on his side, a devoted mother and spastic brothers who kept up tornadic activity around him all day long.  Drew gained weight, and within a week he stood up on his skinny legs and tottered across the room.  He shoved fist-fulls of macaroni and cheese and fat sausages into his mouth and soon started talking again and he hasn’t shut up since.  In just a few weeks time, except for the scars on his stomach and back, you would never know that he had been so incredibly sick.

And who did I owe for the miracle of my son’s recovery?  Who did I have to thank for bringing my baby back from the brink of death?  Why God of course!  God healed my baby!  God brought him back.  The team of doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists, x-ray technicians,  pharmaceutical researchers, surgical tool inventors, paramedics, hospital administrators – what did they have to do with anything???

Except deep down I knew that if Drew had gotten this sick just a mere fifty years ago, his chance of survival would have been almost nil.  I knew that the ability to operate on an infant – the tiny tools, the properly sized respirators, the correct dosage of drugs, these were all new technologies.  God didn’t save my baby.  Humankind’s ingenuity saved him.  Dedicated doctors, curious researchers, caring nurses, organized administrators, hard working people – they saved my baby – not God.  But of course, even though on a certain level I understood and fully accepted this idea, I still thought that ultimately it was God who decided who lived and died and that advances in science had nothing to do with the delicate thread of human life. If science saved my son, it was because God ordained that science save my son.

So did I keep my hospital room promises to God?  Did I keep up my end of the bargain???

Well…. sort of...

My husband was a medical resident at the time of Drew’s illness and I had three young sons (18 months, three and five).  We went to church sporadically, but we were not exactly stalwart in anything religious at this point in our lives, but I never forgot the promise I had made and when my husband took his first job as an MD, I eventually got ridiculously involved in a church and I think you could say that I kept up my end of the deal I made with God in return for him saving my baby by using all the advances of modern medicine.

As we began to go back to church and got more and more involved, I introduced the idea of prayer before meals to my family.  It became a habit, a ritual, a customary pause before meals.  The boys all became good at saying prayers at dinner.  One son in particular was masterful at meal time prayers.  He was the one we paraded out when the grandparents were visiting, knowing that this boy had the proper amount of reverence, devotion, fervor, gratitude and also he was wonderfully concise.  My youngest son however was a horrible pray-er.  He was awful.  He just couldn’t do it. We would try and make it really simple for Jack.  Just say three things you are thankful for Jack – just three things.  Just say, “Dear God thank you for __________ and ___________ and __________ ” But Jack could not come up with three things.  He would pause and stammer and wait and lapse into silence while our spaghetti got colder and colder and colder.  I think Jack thought that his three things had to be three amazing things, or three thing that no one else would think of or maybe Jack just wasn’t particularly thankful for anything.  After all, he is the baby of the family and usually gets everything he wants within seconds.  Perhaps gratitude was a foreign concept to him?  Do you understand gratefulness if you have never actually wanted for anything?  Or maybe Jack just thought the right people to thank were the people that actually took care of him – his brothers, him mom, his dad.  Maybe Jack – still being young and very left-brained, considered thanking an invisible deity to be strange and nonsensical.  Or maybe he just enjoyed the extra attention he got when he couldn’t think of anything to say during his prayer.

Giving up family meal prayers was probably the most awkward part of becoming an atheist for me.  (Aside from writing about it on the INTERNET!)  We would sit around the table staring at each other waiting for some kind of signal to start our meal.  How do we know when to eat?  What is the new signal?  We need a new ceremony – a song, a poem, a very short story, some kind of ritual that lets us pause and see each other prior to digging in.

And then I became an atheist making every prayer I have ever said – moot.

Still – losing one’s faith is not just a new way of thinking, it is also about establishing new habits and getting rid of old ones.  Up until six months ago, it was still very much my habit to pray and prayer is not an easy habit to break.  I went through a transition phase where I prayed to God by saying – God… I really don’t believe in you anymore, but on the off chance that you actually exist, could you help me find my lost earring? And then if I found my earring, I thanked God by saying - God, I am not sure you are even there, but if you had anything at all to do with helping me to find this lost earring – Thank You. Of course I knew that these prayers were absurd.  I knew there were people starving and dying from easily curable diseases and women were being raped by husband’s with AIDS and children were being turned into brutal soldiers and babies were suffering from abuse and neglect.  So I would add a little tag at the end of my prayers that went something like this… And God if you could please stop all the immense suffering in the world that would really be great.  You are so powerful Lord -so wise and strong and loving… so if you really do exist -  just please make it all stop.  Right now.  Thank you.

As my prayer life and my faith diminished, I found that the only time I prayed was when I couldn’t sleep.  Usually this was because I was worried about something and that worry was usually centered on one of my children, but I had some serious problems with praying for my kids at night when I couldn’t sleep.  First off – I had to apologize to God for hardly ever praying anymore and for not really believing in him anymore and then I had to spend some time promising to believe more and to pray more before I could even get to what I was really worried about.  Finally – I had to deal with the fact that I was laying on my back staring straight up at the ceiling while apologizing for never praying anymore which was not exactly a very reverent position.  Would it be better if I turned over on my stomach?  What if I laid on my side?  Do I really have to get up and kneel beside the bed?  What if my Mary worshiping Cahtolic husband wakes up while I am kneeling beside the bed?  That would be kind of embarrassing plus I would be committing the sin of demonstrating my holiness in front of someone and then I wouldn’t get the extra credit for holiness – because my husband had seen it.  And I knew that Christians are only supposed to be extra holy in secret when only God can see it.  This results in an awesome prize in heaven instead of the crappy earthly prize of only being seen by other people.  What I really needed to do was get up and go into the bathroom, lock the door and then kneel down and pray.  But was it really okay to pray beside a toilet?  Isn’t that kind of sacrilegious to pray beside the shitter?  I guess I could tiptoe out to the living room and kneel down by the couch to pray.  That would probably be the most pious thing to do, but what if someone wakes up and finds me kneeling down by the couch praying?  Not only do I lose my awesome prize in heaven, but my kids might freak out and my husband might think I had lost my mind.  It’s probably best to stay here in bed, losing the pious points, but also not disappointing God for being caught being holy or praying by a toilet.  Praying in the middle of the night was an exhausting ordeal – which was good.  I usually drifted off to sleep in no time.

Besides my middle of the night prayers were usually just more desperate pleas to ward off ‘God’s discipline’.

God – I know we are not exactly the most Christian family on the face of the earth and if we really loved you as much as we should, we would sell everything we had, give it to the poor and go open a missionary hospital in Africa.  I know we are not really obeying your word by living a very comfortable life in America and by occasionally purchasing things on clearance from the Pottery Barn catalog – but could you please not give anyone in my family leukemia to make us better Christians Lord?  I promise to start having early morning bible studies with my kids and to read a James Dobson book with my husband if you please don’t give us cancer to bring us closer to you God.  I will also start to give a full ten percent BEFORE TAXES GOD… no… I will give eleven percent!  ELEVEN PERCENT GOD!!!  BEFORE TAXES GOD!!! And I will never buy anything from the Pottery Barn catalog again!  Just please don’t give my babies cancer!  And please don’t kill my husband in a fiery car crash!  Eleven percent before taxes GOD and no cancer!  Okay God!  Okay?  Thanks God!  You are the best God EVER!!!  And sorry for laying here on my back while saying this prayer.  Just remember -  no cancer God!  You are awesome!

A few days ago, I was visiting a friend’s house and a meal was served.  The food was laid out on the kitchen counters buffet style and we went around the kitchen filling our plates with hamburgers, hot dogs, and garden fresh tomatoes.  The food looked delicious, but just as my kids and I were about to dig into the condiments, someone behind us intoned, “Let’s pray.”  My children were their usual tumultous pile of boyhood and didn’t hear the request to pray until the prayer was halfway finished.  It was one of those Mary worshiping Catholic prayers… “Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty…..“  I whispered to my kids, “Boys… boys… they’re praying.”  My boys quieted down and caught maybe the last dozen words of the prayer.  I still have an automatic impulse to direct my kids to quiet down during a prayer, but I did say, ‘they’re praying’ instead of ‘we’re praying’, so a shift has been made.  Perhaps someday I won’t feel the need to stop placing pickles atop my hamburger when others start demonstrating public piety to an imaginary deity.  I don’t need to thank God for my food.  Even if there was a God, I wouldn’t thank him for my food unless he started giving food in equal amounts to everyone.  Every good parent knows better than to give some kids plenty and other kids nothing, and yet if you examine the world situation, and believe in a ‘father type god’ you would have to admit that he is a pretty crappy parent with a penchant for severe favoritism.  When I want to show gratitude for my food, I prefer to thank my husband for bringing home the bacon so that I can buy groceries and myself for growing a fabulous garden and Kay for raising some fine grass finished beef and Darla for her free range eggs and a nearby dairy for it’s delicious milk from healthy cows and my sister for a generous amount of pork from her home raised pigs.  I am not sure where the line is in terms of respect for the prayers of the household that is serving you homegrown tomatoes on a hamburger buffet, but I do know that I am perfectly willing to prostitute myself and at least be quiet for a few moments of prayer so that I can enjoy the food and the company.   But I don’t think I will shush my kids again.  I am sure that someone else will do it for me anyway.  At this point in my life – prayer is a supremely silly act and though I am frequently silly around my kids, I don’t need them to see me pausing in respect so that other people can speak to an imaginary deity that only gives food in abundance to those with the money to pay for it.

I am sure by now that most internet junkies have heard about the recent Pew Forum Religious Knowledge Survey.  Last night I was trying to access the site and it was down for hours.  When I googled it I noticed that it was #78 on world wide searches at the time.  That made me wonder what #1 was and then I realized that it was probably ‘Pioneer Woman Flowy Top’.  In short, the survey came back with the startling results that atheists and agnostics are the most knowledgeable about religious matters.

Since I couldn’t get on the Pew Forum site to read the results first hand, I spent a bit of time reading other people’s commentary about the survey.  I found a few interesting opinions.  Conservative columnist Cal Thomas had this to say about the ignorance of American Christians regarding their own faith…

Forgetting God produces not only eternal consequences, but earthly ones as well. Moses warned about forgetting God and when ancient Israel did, she was conquered by her enemies. New Testament writers penned similar warnings. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn concluded the major reason Russia suffered under Communism for six decades is that his people had forgotten God. Abraham Lincoln blamed the Civil War on a nation that had forgotten God “and the hand that graciously preserved us.”

Talk about propogating paranoia!  According to Cal, we are not only going to hell for our lack of religious zeal,but it is also going to destroy our country!  Oh I beg to differ Mr. Thomas.  It’s religion that destroys and logic and science that rebuilds the resulting catastrophe.

This much more meaningful response came from Clarence Page a columnist for the Chicago Tribune regarding what he felt were problems with the content of the survey…

But what really dropped my jaw with surprise were the two lowest-performing groups: Black Protestants (13.4 percent) and Hispanic Catholic (11.6 percent).

What? Having grown up in the black church since before I could walk, I think maybe the pollsters were asking the wrong questions.

I would not be surprised, for example, if quite a few black folks thought “Martin Luther” was a reference to a great American civil rights leader, not the German priest and professor who initiated the Protestant Reformation.

And I didn’t learn until I went to college that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, that Jonathan Edwards participated in the Great Awakening, that Maimonides was a great Jewish leader. Fewer than a third of the people polled by Pew got those last two right.

Maybe black church products like me would have scored better with questions like this:

1. How is Thomas A. Dorsey most often remembered by cultural historians?

2. What do the initials in the A.M.E. Church stand for?

3. What is America’s largest black religious denomination?

4. What do these “Negro spirituals” have in common: “Steal Away,” “Wade in the Water” and “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

Page raises some valid points in his protest of the survey.  Every religion has it’s own cache of pertinent factoids.  I am sure that there are cultural figures in the Hispanic Catholic church of whom I have never heard, so why should a Hispanic Catholic be able to identify John Wesley?  And like Page stated, I have no idea who Thomas A. Dorsey is, but I sure could give you a synopsis on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I wonder if the Pew Survey was broad enough to truly include the specialized knowledge that each religious group has.

When I finally did manage to access the Pew Forum Religious Survey site, I took this test which is a short version of the larger survey that was given to a random sampling of Americans this summer.  As mentioned previously (but let me just grind it in a bit) the results clearly depict atheists and agnositcs as having the most religious knowledge in the general population.  Jews come in second, Mormons third and white evangelical protestants totally drop the ball at a distant number four.  You can see all the results here.

The funny quote that I keep reading as a result of this survey is…

If you want to know about God – ask an atheist.

Ha har ha hee ho hee ho har har hee hee har har HO!

Of course there are all sorts of reasons why Atheists might do better in a survey like this.


One – to get the answers right you need a broad knowledge of religion and not be a specialist in the minutia of the book of Second Peter.

Two – People with more education tend to have less religion and more education means better Trivial Pursuit skills.

Three – Atheists are frequently people who left religion because they understood it very well.

In all my recent reading on atheism and the problems with Christianity, one of my very favorite quotes comes from one of Richard Dawkins’ books where he recounts the story of Evelyn Waugh bribing Winston Churchill’s son to read the bible with unexpected results…

In the late stages of the Second World War, Evelyn Waugh was trapped in Europe in the company of Randolph Churchill, the boorish son of the wartime prime minister. “In the hope of keeping him quiet,” he wrote to Nancy Mitford, “Freddie and I bet him £20 that he cannot read the whole Bible in a fortnight. Unhappily it has not had the result we hoped. He has never read any of it before and is hideously excited; keeps reading quotations aloud… or merely slapping his side & chortling ‘God, isn’t God a shit!’.”

I just love that response.

God!  Isn’t God a shit!

It really is the only way to properly respond to the bible.  I wonder if we will ever, as a race be able to view it as the hideous relic that it truly is.

In other news…

Someone sent me a link to this spectacular post which has gone viral in the past few days with over 1,000 comments.  And he didn’t even have to give away a mixer!  The post discusses our ridiculous pursuit of perfection and the damage that results.  I especially see the results of the ‘perfection disease’ in the world of mommy blogging.  Seems like everyone wants their lives to look like the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine.  I struggle with this every single time I sit down and try to write.  How much truth do I really tell?  Where do I draw the line?  What is the balance between writing for an audience, keeping an audience’s attention, entertaining an audience and delivering an authentic version of your life.

On the other hand – sometimes I think that if everyone told the truth about their lives, my favorite writers would be out of business.  I love David Sedaris because he is so honest and frequently shocking with the confessions he is willing to make in his books.  Tim Gunn, Ayelet Waldman and Julia Child are three authors I have read recently who struck me as very truthful for their willingness to reveal painful things about themselves.  But how much of that revealing is calculated?  How much of it is tested in the market prior to being released in book form? Has it all been engineered to perfect palatability prior to reaching the general public? Dooce knows she has to drop the F bomb in every third post to keep the kiddos reading.  PW knows that her audience drools over big heads with fuzzy backgrounds.  Have Sedaris’s people figured out exactly how shocking he can be and still be salable?  Did Ayelet Waldman’s publisher understand that her willingness to confess to aborting a child with genetic defects was the most marketable statement she could possibly make?  Or are they all still scarily risking something for the sake of telling the truth?

Do I go on?

Do I tell you about how much confessing to be an atheist has cost me personally?

Do I tell you about the friends I have lost, the family members who won’t speak to me, the alienation I feel whenever I see a member of my former church?  A few months ago I attempted to ‘friend’ someone from my former church on facebook.  Someone who I thought would surely still want to have a relationship with me in spite of our philosophical differences.  Someone who I truly loved when I was a part of the church and still love today.  My ‘friending’ was ignored.  I feel like the town leper.

‘Tis okay.

I still have a good life.

I have friends (though far fewer these days).  I have my own little family.  But there is a cost folks.  A real cost.  A real, painful, pound of flesh cost to renouncing your faith in a public way in a religious family and small town middle America.

A few months ago a man wrote to me seeking advice on how to tell his devout Christian wife that he no longer believed in God.  I told him that unless he was willing to pay heavily or his wife was an extraordinarily accepting human being – to skip it.  I could never counsel someone to reveal their atheism at this point in my life.  I know far too well what you can lose.  Tis better to spend the rest of your days pretending to believe like Mother Theresa did or maybe edge away from religion slowly and stealthily and never tell anyone why.

It turns out that the deep deep love of Jesus that all those Christians sing about???

It’s just a chorus in a song.

I recently attended a debate on the topic of intelligent design versus evolution at Washburn University in Topeka.

William Dembski, a research professor of philosophy at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas, and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institutes’s Center for Science and Culture took up the cause of creationism… I mean intelligent design.

While Michael Shermer, Editor in Chief of Skeptic Magazine spoke for evolution… I mean blind evolution (as Dembski prefers it to be called.  It’s BLIND evolution folks.  BLIND!)

The debate quickly got mired on the subject of where the intelligence in intelligent design came from and who intelligently designed the intelligent designer who designed intelligent design.

In a nutshell (emphasis on nut) Dembski’s answer to ‘who designed the intelligent designer who designed the intelligent designer’ is that you can’t ask that question.

According to Dembski, no one looks at a beautiful painting and asks who created the painter who painted the painting!  So why would you ask who designed the designer who designed the design!

Which is a fine argument except that it is an extraordinarily stupid argument.

Because lots of people spend their lives asking who created the painter who painted the painting.



I happen to have a little something that I like to call Exhibit A…..

This is our family quote board.  It hung on our bathroom wall for years until it got ripped and then I took it down and folded it up and put it in a drawer to prevent further destruction.  On this poster board, I have written down some of the stranger things I have heard my kids, husband, and various house guests say while they were visiting us.

Here are a few examples…

While stargazing with his dad when he was only two years old Ethan said…

“I can see the man in the moon, there’s his nose, there’s his eyes, there’s his mouth and there’s his gun!

While discussing our national currency with one of our boys, my husband said…

“They make sure you are really dead before putting your picture on money.”

And then one night, while chatting with his grandmother, Drew asked the following un-askable (according to Dembski) question…

“Grandma, have scientists figured out yet how God invented himself?”

If my six year old son can ask this question, I think the rest of us can too.

Besides!  Isn’t science supposed to be about asking questions?

While they were arguing the question ‘who designed the designer’, Dembski and Shermer started batting around a word I had never heard before.  The word was teleology.  I tried to grasp the meaning of teleology by listening to the context of their arguments.  It seemed to have something to do with ‘implying an agent’ and ‘having a purpose’ but it was also ‘untestable’ so teleological arguments don’t really fit in with science, unless your science is intelligent design.

When I got home I looked teleology up.

I spent half an hour trying to grasp it’s meaning.

I still do not understand it at all.

If you can explain what teleology means to me in a succinct, simple manner, I will send you a book.  Beware!  It will probably be an atheist book.


During the part of the debate when Shermer and Dembski were tossing around the word ‘teleology’ like their favorite chew toy, my upper brain ceased functioning and I turned to stare blankly at the two college-aged men who were sitting beside me.  One of the young men held up his cell phone and showed it to the other young man. Psalm 14 was displayed on the screen of the phone  The two men smiled and nodded and gave each other a telepathic high five while exuding a sort of subtly hostile ‘don’t mess with my Jesus, homeboy’ vibe.  Not knowing what Psalm 14 said, I made a note of it so I could look it up when I got home.  I assumed that the scripture would speak on the origins of God saying something about how God is the alpha and omega and is and was and is to come, but I was wrong.  The verse dealt with another topic entirely…

Psalm 14

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.

All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Will evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people as men eat bread
and who do not call on the LORD?
There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous

You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Needless to say I was very disappointed with the content of Psalm 14 as it did not specifically speak to the debate. Dembski and Shermer were not arguing whether or not atheists are corrupt cannibalistic fools. They were debating the origin of God (unless you were Dembski and then you were debating whether or not you could debate the origin of God).  So I googled ‘bible verse that says where God came from’.  This is the verse I found from Habakkuk 3:3…

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

So there we have it!  God came from TEMAM!

Should someone tell Dembski about this verse so he can reference it the next time some skeptical bastard starts going all ‘where did the intelligent designer come from’ on him?

Skeptic – And exactly where did your intelligent designer come from Professor Dembski?

Dembski  – According to the book of Habakkuk, God came from Temam. Next question?

A few other nuggets that I took away from the debate included…

The God of the Gaps Theory

Intelligent design hinges on the idea that ‘If science can’t explain something, it must be supernatural’.  This is called the ‘God of the gaps’ theory.  Unfortunately, science keeps making the gaps narrower and narrower and a lot of gaps have disappeared entirely. I suppose there will always be things that we don’t completely understand, fortunately, there will also always be people like Dembski who frantically point to the gap and say, ‘SEE!  I TOLD YOU!  IT’S GOD!!!  IT’S GOD!’  Thankfully a lot of very smart people ignore the Dembskis of this world and as a result, we continue to make progress towards understanding how things work which leads to longer life, better health, a safer environment and way cooler cell phones.

At one point Dembski acknowledged that evolution by natural selection is in fact a workable theory and most likely part of how the world came about, he just doesn’t think that it explains everything. At this point Shermer wanted Dembksi to tell him exactly which parts of ‘creation’ came about from design and which parts arose from evolution.  Dembski basically said that anything with fabulous design is from the designer and anything that is a haphazard mess is from evolution.  For instance the male nipple is clearly haphazard evolution- because that is some sloppy workmanship there buddy!  But the supremely complex bacterial flagellum of the sperm – now that is some supernatural intervention mojo at work baybee!

Bacterial flagellum

This is the little propeller on some cells that is so intensely complicated there can be no way (according to Dembski) it could ever in a million billion trillion years have evolved on it’s own.  The only way to explain it is ‘God did it’.

Sounds like good science to me!

Irreducible Complexity

This phrase was coined by Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and senior fellow of the Discovery Institutes’s Center for Science and Culture.   Irreducible complexity basically states that there are some things in nature that are just too freakin’ complicated to explain so you might as well just throw your hands up in the air, walk away and say God did it.

Behe has nine kids who are homeschooled by his wife.  He is a Roman Catholic. A poster to the message board REDDIT claiming to be Behe’s eldest son recently came out as an atheist,.  This poster said that he is ‘quarantined’ to the basement of his parent’s home in order to limit the contact he has with his younger brothers and sisters.  Sounds like Jesus love at it’s best!

The Reddit conversation with this young person who is very likely Behe’s son can be found here. It is fascinating reading.


After the debate was over, people lined up in front of both men to get an autograph or to ask a question.

One child stood in line to ask Shermer a question. She wanted to know why God created the world. Shermer told her that it wasn’t really his field and to ask Dembski that question. He then performed a very bad magic trick for her and everyone laughed.

So the little girl moved over and stood in line to ask Dembski the same question.

‘Why did God create the world?”

Dembski explained to the little girl that God created the world for his pleasure.

He may not want to discuss where God came from, but he has God’s motivations all figured out.

Thus ended my evening at the Dembski/Shermer intelligent design vs (blind) evolution debate.