I got this question from John:
Perry, I am a former Christian turned deist. I could not believe in the god of the Bible because of the Bible’s flaws and because of morality problems with how the Old Testament Yahweh is portrayed but I could not give up my belief that an Intelligence had to have jump-started all this and then put natural laws into place to guide it to where we are today.
I read your thesis and would like to comment on how much I enjoyed it. I think your strength is to take a basically simple message–cell design/replication is intelligently designed–and explain it in simple, no-nonsense, no-frills terms.
I liken what you say to the belief by some atheist biologists arguing that chance could explain billions of English letters floating in a giant bowl of soup and then spelling out the complete works of Shakespeare when it is poured onto a table, given enough time.
Just curious: have you ever been drawn to deism as a better explanation for the origins of life–an Intelligence that has no note of or concern about the unspeakable levels of suffering that goes on down here regardless of how many prayers are sent up to Him?
I can well relate to the disappointment that leads one to prefer a deist God over a personal one. And I can understand the scientific logic that nonetheless indicates a supreme level of order in the universe.
But even if I were to try very hard, I’m not sure it would be possible for me to be a deist. Because I have had too many direct personal spiritual experiences. Ignorance is bliss but you can’t un-learn a truth.
Just two trails you can follow for now, of my personal story:
Re: the Bible…
I think the Old Testament makes a great deal more sense if you look at it from an evolutionary viewpoint. The pivot point is the modern notion of equality, which I describe here:
The notion of equality of human beings simply did not exist anywhere in the human race before Jesus. I flesh this out in the link above.
I would argue that before Jesus the very possibility of equality didn’t even exist. It was a Darwinian world. Period. There was no law or rule that said when you fight your enemies you should not kill them dead and take whatever you want.
There was no equality between the Jews and the Canaanites. None whatsoever. Not in theory, not in practice. A person from 1000 BC listening to our horror at those wars would be utterly mystified.
The only reason that you have this notion of “Old Testament Genocide” is from New Testament equality and visions of peace.
For those reasons, you can’t hold Old Testament God to New Testament morality, because before 30 AD there was no basis for spiritual equality of human beings in the first place.
Human equality is entirely a metaphysical construct (it’s manifestly false from an experiential point of view after all), and it comes from Christianity.
In Christianity, ALL men (not just kings and queens and religious figures) can be literally regarded as sons of God; which suddenly causes “evolution” to mean something incomprehensibly different than it ever did before.
Equality post-Jesus might even mean that we attempt to provide free health care for everyone on earth.
No one in 1000 BC would have begun to imagine such a thing.