Facts Are Fiction. (Or, I Didn’t Come From No Monkey)

Good god, this could double as a list of criticisms of the Trump administration.

ANYWAY, guess who didn’t believe in evolution or the Big Bang Theory until college.

This girl.

Guess who thought climate change was a leftist conspiracy and that a tiny clump of cells was sentient enough to have human rights.

*Nervously raises hand*

Guess who thought people aren’t born gay and that abstinence until marriage was practical for everyone.

Me. I did.

Guess who thought the earth was flat, 9/11 was an inside job, and there is evidence for an ancient, advanced civilization of aliens sunken in the ocean somewhere.

Lol, just kidding.

Fun fact: did you know a 2000-year-old book that doesn’t even claim to offer a literal explanation for the creation of the Universe is more reliable than the scientific method? Well, now you do.

Apparently, the peaceful creation myth written to offset the violence of competing creation myths of its day cannot be seen as metaphor by some people.

I’m not insulting the intelligence of these people. It’s easy to do this if you don’t know any creationists personally. It’s the same caricature as the Trump voter: illiterate, backcountry redneck or crazed, Southern zealot. Neither of these is accurate – well, for most people.

It’s so easy – so easy – to downplay the ability of literalist interpretations of Christianity to convince people that facts are an affront to their beliefs, leading to indefensible justifications for their positions (e.g., the Second Law of Thermodynamics disproves evolution).

It goes like this:

A scientifically literate person with no ulterior motives: We know the Universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old because we measured the wavelength of Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

Biblical literalist who likely thinks someone who knows what the Cosmic Microwave Background is “thinks way too much”: Well, what happened before the Big Bang? How does something come from nothing?

Science person: Well, see, it’s not that simple. I could go into it if you like, but just because we haven’t found a concrete explanation for something, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exi…

Biblical literalist: GOTCHA.

Okay, so all of this might seem harsh, but all the people who have said something like this to me are intelligent by every metric. It’s more about Christianity’s ability to make intelligent people gullible in places of uncertainty. Biblical literalism plays on people’s fear of the unknown, especially when that unknown could reveal intrinsic nothingness in the Universe, and in turn, makes them susceptible to dubious explanations of the unknown. Even in places of scientific knowing, if science contradicts Christians’ ideas of a meaningful and purpose-filled existence, they will accept ridiculous alternatives to the facts.

I know because I did this. I searched for confirmation bias in every corner of the world, and only reading Biblical literalist literature on why “Darwinists” are radical, agenda-pushing, fact-skewing, godless, liberal mouthpieces who just want to watch the world burn as opposed to scientists whose opinions are shaped by empiricism and observations gave me all the bias I needed to be arrogant. Christians, however, are very good at making scientists seem like the arrogant ones.

But here’s the thing: FEIGNING CERTAINTY IS ARROGANT. ACCEPTING UNCERTAINTY, WHETHER TEMPORARY OR NOT, IS HUMBLE. Facts are not liberal conspiracies. What on earth would anyone have to gain from that? Let’s think of every morally reprehensible leader in world history. How did they come to power – by deferring to facts? No. They came into power by fear mongering and lying. And that shit really works (*cough* Trump *cough*).

And the arrogance I obtained from feeding my confirmation bias turned me off to opposing views, which led to me dehumanizing very real humans with very real experiences that differed from my very real experiences. This created uncertainty, and because I was convinced uncertainty could not exist, I deluded myself into thinking their experiences were inherently invalid. I was, in essence, a bitch.

People tell me it wasn’t Christianity that turned me into an arrogant bitch, that I did that to myself. Obviously, this is true. I wouldn’t use Christianity – or mental illness, for that matter – as a scapegoat for objectionable treatment of other human beings, but literalist Christian teachings definitely fueled my stubbornness, unyieldingness to, and hostility toward very uncontroversial facts. Sure, I have a propensity to speak passionately about my beliefs, but I no longer believe I can be 100% certain about something. “The more I see, the less I know,” I sing with a tube sock around my proverbial penis.

Sitting in my room eating piece after piece of humble pie was not at all how I intended to spend my first and second years of college. I ate it until I was so miserable that I had to reckon with the – perhaps unwitting – lies I had grown up believing and defending. Then, I went back home and got accused of indoctrination. Two competing and completely opposite ideologies were playing tug-of-war with my arms.

This transition from ignorant arrogance to cognitive dissonance to nihilistic uncertainty obviously threw my mental health for a loop. From being mocked for my ignorance to being isolated in my questioning to being demeaned for my disbelief, I wasn’t the only one unwittingly ruining my mental health. I don’t blame anyone obviously. It’s such a complicated web of wanting to know the truth but not wanting to hurt the ones I love that looking for something to blame is beside the point.

That doesn’t mean that I’m afraid to point out the ways that Christianity stifles intellectual progress in certain areas of study, but to paint those who interpret the bible literally as gullible and stupid is to show one’s ignorance of those Christians and from where Christianity really derives its power: exploitation of the fear of the unknown by creating a false-known to fear (i.e., people are scared of intrinsic purposelessness and are also perplexed by it, so Christianity’s offering of certainty attracts people and keeps them in the fold because refusal to accept the certainty of its truth results in eternal damnation, which is a very tangible thing to fear). And if the nonbelievers are wrong, it seems rational to believers to continue believing in something despite its dubiousness if unbelief results in having their worst – and tangible – fear realized. So at first, this option seems smarter. But read up on Pascal’s Wager for a more detailed unpacking of this line of reasoning.

Also, some people will do anything to quell cognitive dissonance, and I don’t blame them. Cognitive dissonance ruined me for a good two-and-a-half years. The only thing that eliminated it was accepting mine and my family’s worst nightmare: with the information I had gathered and my interpretation of it, I couldn’t genuinely call myself a Christian any more. This obviously led to infighting with my family, who was in disbelief that I could do such a 180 in what seemed like such a short period of time – though it was actually years worth of searching and thought.

I still get accused of “thinking and reading too much,” which gives further credence to biblical literalism’s hostility toward facts and knowledge. It hurts when my love of learning is called misguidedness or rebellion because learning has given me a new appreciation for the diversity and uncertainty in the world. The Universe is fascinating. It’s so fascinating, in fact, that you couldn’t make this shit up.

And now, here’s that song.

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