On Science and Blasphemy ...
When I talk about religion on the O’Reilly Factor I get more mail than when I talk about anything else. And most of it is depressing.
Best I can figure I’ve talked about religion with Bill only three times on his program, and all three times he brought the subject up. Once, during a discussion about President Obama wanting to raises taxes on the “rich” Bill said: But the Bible says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. What about that, Bernie?
“I don’t care what the Bible says,” I told him – clearly meaning I don’t care what the Bible says about the tax debate. I got a ton of angry email, all of it from self-professed Christians, much of it warning me: “You better care what the Bible says!”
In that same segment I casually added: “Besides, if Jesus were around today, he’d be a liberal Democrat.” Boy, did that touch off the evangelicals. Some said, “What do you mean if Jesus WERE around today. Jesus IS around today!” Okay. But what they saw as downright blasphemy was the reference to a liberal Jesus Christ. Until then I never really understood just how much these people hate liberals – and yes, hate is the word I want to use.
Now I gladly grant you that reasonable people may disagree on this thing about Jesus being a liberal. But the people who wrote to me had no doubt whatsoever. No way their Lord and Savior would be a lefty. NO WAY! They would have been less angry if I said Jesus was a bank robber.
I wrote back to some and said, “Imagine if a modern day politician took the floor of Congress and said, ‘It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven’ – who do you think would be more likely to say such a thing: a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican?”
I rest my case, your honor.
The second time religion came up was not long ago when Michelle Bachmann told supporters in church that her husband wanted her to become a tax lawyer, something she says she had no interest in. But she did it anyway, because the Bible says the wife should be submissive to her husband, she said.
When journalists asked her about that Ms. Bachmann said “submissive” means “mutual respect.” “No it doesn’t,” I said on the air. She was backtracking, I said, the way gutless politicians often do -- because she understood that she could say something to supporters in church and get away with it, but saying a wife should be submissive to her husband would hurt her, I said, “even in Republican primaries and certainly in a general election.”
What followed that was another ton of emails with my name on them. This time the writers told me I shouldn’t talk about something I know nothing about; that Ms. Bachmann was right and I was wrong; that “submissive” may not be synonymous with “respect” in Webster’s dictionary, but the two words mean the same thing in the Bible.
The last time religion came up was just the other day when Bill asked if it is legitimate for journalists to ask politicians about their religious beliefs. Yes, it’s perfectly legitimate, I said, if religion is an important part of the candidate’s life. Then, as an example, I added this: Let’s say a candidate thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old [it’s 4.5 billion years old] and dinosaurs roamed the planet at the same time as people, “that kind of ignorance matters,” I said. It may not affect his foreign policy or her economic policy, I went on, but it will affect something – and so we need to know about such things.
That one didn’t go over too well, either, with those who take the words of the Bible literally. “The Earth is 6,000 years old,” they told me. “And dinosaurs did roam the Earth at the same time as people.” And again, they advised me to keep my yap closed if I didn’t know what I was talking about. A few also said that God created the world in six 24 hour days and that he created Adam and Eve pretty much by snapping his fingers.
A brief aside: If God created Adam and Eve, and they had two sons, Cain and Abel, where did the fifth person come from? So far we have three males and one female, right? So how did the next person get to the Garden of Eden? You see where I’m going with this? I’m sure the literalists will have an answer to this one too – an answer that probably will come straight from the Bible and will also strike me as dopey.
Let me be clear: I don’t care if someone believes in God or doesn’t. I don’t care if someone believes Jesus is the Son of God or doesn’t. I think religion has inspired many noble and selfless deeds throughout history. I think it also has spawned a great deal of stupidity. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion but not to his or her facts. The Earth is not 6,000 years old no matter how many true-believers think it is. It’s not 6,000 years old even if the Bible says it is.
The anti-science nature of these people brings me down – that is when I’m not falling down laughing at how silly they are. Why can’t they believe that a God that can create heaven and Earth and all the planets and stars can also create … evolution!
I’ll bet that something close to 100 percent of these people who write to me are conservative Republicans. Liberal Democrats may be nuts, but they’re not nuts about this kind of thing. A conservative running for the GOP nomination for president may do quite well in Iowa believing in religious fairy tales – but it’s not going to play well in other parts of the country, especially with independents who tend to be more moderate. And even Republicans running for president who don’t believe in this kind of thing, I suspect, will be afraid to say so – not wanting to alienate the Christian Right.
I have said that I’d vote for Scooby Doo before I’d vote for Barack Obama. Anyone who feels the same way should pray that no journalist asks any of the Republicans running for president: Do you think that dinosaurs walked the Earth side by side with humans?
The wrong answer could result in four more years for President Obama.