Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Final Blog Post

What I’m about to say may be contentious, and I admit that.  This is an issue about which I feel passionately and I have much to say.  (Shameless plug time!)  If you’d like to hear more from me on the topic of religion (as well as dozens of other sociopolitical, philosophical, and musical topics) you can check out my book Stark Raving Lunatic: The Life and Times of a 20-year-old Part-Time Cynic, due out on Amazon.com as Paperback and Kindle on June 1, and in fine bookstores everywhere on September 1.

But I digress.

The reason why I’m here is to talk about faith (and other forms of pseudoscience) and the negative effects it has on education.  I’m not here to say that you shouldn’t have personal faith.  It’s not my job to dictate your life.  But what I am here to say, from one CoPhilosopher to another, is that if we are truly to be Lovers of Wisdom--Philosophers--we must make sure that we examine the beliefs we hold dear.  And most importantly, that religion or no religion, God or no God, we still need to care about each other.

And so, it is with that in mind, that I will begin to discuss
Well, here we are.  I’m in currently writing this on my phone in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, parked in front of the private Southern Baptist school that I attended.  I’ve talked about this place before many times; it’s really ground zero for so much of my personal development.

This is the place where, within 5 years’ time, I accepted Christ as my savior, did some actual study on religions, thought critically, and ultimately converted to Atheism.  This place, although it holds no sentimental value to me, proves to be incredibly important to my point.

See, here, along with untold thousands of places across America and millions around the world, people are taught to surrender their critical faculties and accept that which is presented without evidence as truth.

This school, running from Kindergarten to 12th grade, is just one amongst many indoctrination institutions--I mean, “schools”--that teach the untruth as truth.  Here I was taught that evolution was a myth because there were no half-man-half-monkeys, that the earth was 6,000 years old and was created in 6 days (and no more) because, you know, god said so, that dinosaurs and humans must have coexisted, that global warming was a myth, that Barack Obama was a Muslim/worker of Satan, that gay marriage was ruining our country, that Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of punishing the wickedness of New Orleans, and above all, that there is no reason to not believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent deity known as the Christian God.

It’s in this angel-white building in front of me that the school’s students are forced to attend sermons once a week delivered by homophobic, xenophobic, reason-hating, god-fearing southern Baptists, the headmaster of the school notwithstanding.  Time is taken from classes with altered textbooks to discuss the importance of ignoring science.  Liberals, critical thinkers, nonbelievers--all viewed with disgust.

Now, most of the students with whom I graduated had been attending this school since elementary school.  They didn't see what I saw--5 year old children being brainwashed, indoctrinated, and taught to harbor hate towards anyone who dared think differently.

Fast-forward some 13 years, and these bubble-residing children take their first step onto a college campus.  They have no concept of critical thinking.  They have no capacity for reason because they stopped learning before they ever started.  They don’t understand philosophy, they can’t accept different viewpoints, and above all, they don’t even know that they don’t know what's going on in the world.


Blissful ignorance.

This is both the cost and reward of religion.

Whether or not you believe in god--or gods, for that matter--it is important to know that there is a place far more meaningful than any church building…it is the most sacred place in the world--the classroom.  The classroom is where we should learn HOW to think, not what to think.  Education is something to be taken seriously--and sadly, in many places in this great nation, it’s not taken as such.  The so-called “Intelligent Design” movement is rewriting science textbooks, presenting the idea of a God as scientifically equal to the Big Bang theory.  News flash: IT’S NOT.

Having personal faith is okay.  That's not what I’m here to say.  What I AM here to say, however, is that the classroom is far too sacred to be clouded with pseudoscience and bold-faced lies.

It all stems from humans’ discomfort with not having answers.  Humans are meaning-making, pattern-seeing creatures.  Our brains, to make it easy on themselves, like to have nice, clean-cut answers to everything.  Religion is an answer to the unanswerable.  And that’s the problem.  When you try to say that you have all final answers, everything--writing, reading, learning--becomes purely meaningless.  When you're not willing to say “I don’t know,” you miss the opportunity to try to seek wisdom.  If you're not willing to turn to reason and evidence, then you can never come to your own understanding.  You become ignorant of all things.  The unexamined life is not worth living.

As the late Christopher Hitchens said,

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason.  Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

And that’s just it.  Faith, by definition, is belief without evidence.  It is the denial of the entire critical thinking process.  It undermines the one thing that sets humans apart in this world.  If we surrender our mental faculties, we’ve already lost.  We cannot move forward in this world if we cling to final answers.  We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent in society and allow non-science to be taught as science.

Even if you believe in God, you must accept that faith and science are not meant to exist on the same plane.  If we are to be truly critically-thinking, ultimately philosophical beings, we must remove ourselves from things that we believe without reason or evidence, because quite simply, that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.


  1. Jon,

    I'll definitely take you up on that book-swap offer from awhile back, I look forward to reading more of your very sane "lunatic ravings." And, as a vocal millennial spokesperson, you may be interested in a piece I just posted to the Happiness site:

    ...millennials are ahead of the curve in our embrace of what Grist’s David Roberts calls the medium chill, or the decision to forgo the rat race — where “there will always be a More and Better just beyond our reach, no matter how high we climb” — in pursuit of more authentic and lasting happiness. From our perspective, a traditional career path looks like an endless ladder constantly sprouting new steps, while we’re all still on the ground, jumping for the first rung. So we’re looking for ways to avoid that ladder altogether — maybe by climbing a tree instead.
    As achieving success in the traditional sense requires ever more exhausting amounts of ambition, it makes sense that millennials would see the pursuit of meaningful relationships as a better investment of energy. Just look at hipster enclaves like Brooklyn or Portland, with its reputation as “where 20-somethings go to retire...”


    Millennial medium chill: What the screwed generation can teach us about happiness | Grist

  2. As a devout Christian, I applaud this post. I have personal faith, but I do not let it dictate my academics or my craving for knowledge. I took Existentialism this semester as well as this Intro class just to be more open minded of those around me, to gain more insight into philosophy in general, and possibly to test my own faith by surrounding myself with non-believers. I enjoy being around those who do not agree personally with me, because its not about that in the institution of school. It is about learning on a different level. I agree that science and religion do not and should not exist on the same plane, because they are two completely different ideas that do not coincide.

    Great post. =]