Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why you can’t believe in Dandelions (Part I)

I have recently realized something about most people: they are inconsistent. Orwell described this state of mind in his novel 1984: “…holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” This is what most people in America do today, and like those in 1984, they do not know that they are doing it.

In most cases, people will plagiarize the pleasant parts of another philosophy (in the case of America, from Christianity), nor realizing that the stolen material is actually contradictory to the argument. This pair of articles intends to show several of the more important areas where this occurs like, Please, Soup Kitchens, Science, True Love, and of course, Dandelions. In the next article, I will show that these are possessions of Christians which have been stolen by Humanists. In this one, I will describe the dangers of such thieving to the Humanist, and thus my motivation for writing this. As this is a public safety announcement for Humanists, I will address the rest of this article to you, my Humanist friends.
You believe in a lot of Christian beliefs in things like “Please,” soup kitchens and Dandelions against all Humanist evidence (to your credit). You know true things to be true no matter how inconsistent it may be with your worldview. One issue (which will be dealt with in the next article) is, “Which things in Humanism are borrowed or inconsistent?” The other issue (and the one I will deal with here) is: “So what if Humanism does borrow some things? Who cares if I pick and choose what things I believe in? I may prefer the idea of caring for others above the idea of Survival of the Fittest in society, but that’s not inconsistent.”
In this article I will try to describe why that’s a bad, or at very least, a dangerous idea.
The first problem is that borrowing ideas without citing them is stealing. In most of these cases, you are taking what was a Christian virtue, renaming it, and then calling it your own (or that of your philosophy). “‘Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,’ (Matthew 7:12)” becomes, “I should do to others what I’d want them to do to me.” You don’t cite sources, because you usually don’t know that it’s plagiarized. While it helps, not knowing does not excuse you. You have received stolen merchandise; your ignorance about its origins doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got somebody else’s stuff. Nevertheless, the plagiarism in itself is not so much a logical problem as a moral one.
What is a logical problem is the fact that you are using far too many Christian ideas. To help illustrate this, imagine we are both building structures. Imagine I am setting bricks onto a stone foundation according to a blueprint. Now imagine you are watching me. You like the way one of the walls of my building is coming along, so you take some of my bricks (with or without permission) and start to make one that looks like it yourself.
In the parable, the bricks are Christian philosophies (the Golden Rule, for example). The foundation is my faith in Jesus and the blueprint is Christianity as a worldview (including all that is in the Bible and all the philosophical implications and answers that come from it).
The problem you have in the parable is this: in every location where a Christian brick is used instead of a secular one, it weakens your position in two ways. Your first problem is that you’re using my bricks. Why do you need my bricks? Are yours not good enough? Are mine better? Secondly, every time you look to me, a Christian builder, to watch what bricks I lay, it begs the question: “Why not copy the foundation, too?” If I were indeed a better builder (the evidence for this is accumulates with every one of my bricks you lay), it would be a very good idea to look to my foundation, which (as a Civil Engineer let me assure you) is the most important part of a building. It may be that the bricks form an excellent building, but that building was not designed to stand on anything but the solid foundation of Christ; in fact, when engineers specify strong foundations, it usually means that they are required for the building to stand.
What is also a very bad idea is to engineer by mosaic. Two heads may be better than one, but building according to two different blueprints is definitely not. You may think yourself bright, but there have been many before you who were brighter. And what’s more, these people have worked together over the centuries to come up with ideas which were comprehensive. They have thought of everything within a particular view and how it fits in with everything else. And so we have various worldview ‘blueprints,’ called Christianity and Atheism which are comprehensive. That is, they have answers (good or bad; attractive or repulsive; and I won’t say “respectively,” at least not yet) to all important questions.
When you take a girder from a Christian blueprint because you like the way it looks, and try to fit that into an Atheist building, there is no guarantee that it will not cause a structural failure. Unless you believe yourself more capable than the original architects, swapping pieces from separate blueprints is a very dangerous thing to do. It might be safe to change the façade on a Christian building to look more Mexican, but do not change a pillar of Atheism (selfishness) with one of Christianity (selflessness) and think the structure sound.
But what if you did? What if you fling all caution to the wind and throw up a structure which had all the attractive elements (stolen from the Christian worksite) put together on the loose and sandy foundation of Atheism. Imagining that you could get an engineer to sign off on it, and assuming it was a possible construction (that is, assuming you took the spires with their flying buttresses), you’d end up with a building.
Some might call it a monstrosity, an amalgam of two contradictory styles, Gothic spires above Greek columns, or a Renaissance façade on a steel building. But you could claim that it was your monstrosity, and that you liked the way it looked. They might claim that you had no single theme in mind when you designed it. But you could say that a building doesn’t need a single theme. Some would call you a fool for sleeping in a structure which would be shaken if rain fell or earth shook. You could say that you don’t care about the danger, and could assert with no evidence that your building would stand, come what challenges may. You would contend that, even though a structure like yours has never seen an earthquake or hurricane, it would be strong because it looked good and was built with good materials.
And maybe you’d prove them all wrong: all the architects throughout history who followed rules, all those who said you shouldn’t steal building materials, all the artists who said two styles couldn’t be mixed, all the engineers who said you should have built on rock and not sand, and all the meteorologists who predicted it would be destroyed in a storm. Maybe. But what are the chances? How likely is it that you’ve stumbled onto something that one of the real architects missed? Do you really want to live in a building that has no precedent? Certainly, if you are one of the visionaries of our age who is blazing a trail through unexplored country. But is that how you see yourself? Do you really feel safe in a structure designed by you, who are neither architect nor engineer? Do you feel comfortable in a building which those who are experts say is unsound?
In other words, do you trust your philosophy to stand up to all challenges of life? Do you have confidence that your untested and untried belief will be steadfast against seeing gross injustice, experiencing great evil, and will remain unshaken even in the face of your own death?
If the answer to these questions is, “Yes!” then I have nothing more to say. You are either a genius or insane (or both), and I hope that your structure does not collapse so suddenly as you cannot escape.
But for those of you uncomfortable with the prospect of mosaic architecture, stay tuned. I will soon attempt to show you which bricks you have stolen from Jesus, and explain how they work much better when laid upon a solid foundation.

1 comment: