Sunday, July 12, 2009

This one time, at the homeopathy ER...

I'm a really big fan of British sketch comedy and one of my all time favorites has to be the duo Mitchell & Webb. I recently saw a sketch by them that was not only really funny but also made a brilliant point about "alternative" medicine.

I can't help but be in awe at the power of satire. Arguing with someone who believes in homeopathy (I'm not even counting all the people who think that homeopathy is the same as herbalism here) can feel pretty futile. You can try explaining the why's the wherefore's the facts and the science of why homeopathic "medicine" is really nothing but water until you turn blue and still make very little impression on a believer. But here with a little bit of humour Mitchell & Webb manage to cut right through all that to a very important truth - if you are seriously injured, what kind of treatment do you want? Would you want real ER doctors treating you or would you want a homeopath or someone with some crystals "treating" you? If you trust science based medicine when your life is in immanent danger, why would you trust "alternative" treatments instead at other times. If you want a real doctor when it counts, shouldn't you go to a real doctor for other ailments too?

The last bit of that sketch was just as brilliant. The idea of homeopathic alcohol was also used by another brilliant Brit - Terry Pratchett:

A recent but short-lived line, which never caught on despite the best scientific recommendation, was Bearhugger's Homeopathic Sipping Whiskey. It is a founding fact of homeopathy that the effectiveness of a remedy increases with dilution. Jimkin decided, therefore, that this idea could profitably be applied to his own product.

Strangely enough, the slogan 'Every drop diluted 1 million times!' failed to attract custom even though, in theory, merely being in the same room as an uncorked bottle of the stuff should make the purchaser riotously drunk.

Terry Pratchett, The Discworld Companion

Again, satire manages to get to the point a whole lot faster than any other type of argument. If you laugh at the idea of homeopathic liquor, why would you take homeopathic medicine seriously? If you don't think ridiculously diluted alchol will have any effect on you, why then would you think ridiculously diluted medicine would?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fearing God

I doubt I would get along very well with the folks over at Rapture Ready but I have to concede that recently during a discussion regarding Babies and the Rapture one of them made a very good point:

“I believe that only the babies of believers will be raptured based on the examples of the families of Noah and Lot being removed before judgment came, while the children of the nonbelievers perished. I do not believe babies born to non-believers will be raptured. I agree rapture-me that the Bible is loaded with the precedence that the children of non-believers suffer right along with their parents.”

It may not be a very pleasant point or a moral one but it’s hard to fault it for Biblical correctness. Despite what the PR stunt by LaHey and Jenkins suggested, there is nothing in the Bible about an age of accountability and therefore there is no reason to suspect that in case of Rapture, all the children of the world would be included. According to the Bible it seems that God is a lot less Pro-Life than we would like Him to be…

To me this is the biggest struggle of my faith. It’s not evolution, its not questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible, it’s the fact that the God I call loving oftentimes seems to be everything but. I like to think it’s not just me though. This is an issue that pretty much divides Christianity, it forces most to go in one of two directions. On the one hand you get people (like those at Rapture Ready) who embrace the wrath and punishment of God to such a scary degree that their fantasies about God torturing the sinners seems almost pornographic. They don't try to excuse or explain away the tough Scriptures, they base their lives on it! They seem to worship a God as cruel and petty as they are and yet fail to see why people aren’t lining up to be like them. On the other hand you get most of Western Christianity, who decided to pretend that all the uncomfortable Scriptures either don’t apply or don’t exist. Instead they worship a much more fluffy, almost teddy bear-like version of God based on only the parts of the Bible they like. I once saw an atheist video claiming that Christians suffer from battered wife syndrome because no matter what God does, no matter how reprehensible we would find it in anyone else, we keep insisting that our case is different, that He really is good and that He loves us. That certainly gave me pause. Turning God into a hippie Santa requires constant (and exhausting) mental gymnastics to account for the massive chunks of the Bible that contradicts this view. Even worse, this fluffy and sanitized version of God just doesn’t work. All it does is turn God into the ultimate spineless parent who just loves to dote on and spoil His kids and can never see anything wrong with whatever they do. It pretty much assumes that God's only job is to make us happy and tell us how awesome we are. Mrs Betty Bowers (America’s best Christian™) put it very eloquently:

“You see, through the resourcefulness of American marketing (and our singular ingenuity for making everything all about us), God has suddenly become helplessly obsessed with His love for us, as if He spent the past decades having His power and morality bludgeoned out of Him by incessant sensitivity training and anger management. So, if you do something evil, instead of calling you into account and sending you to Hell, He meekly sits back and cries like a drunken drama queen watching "Terms of Endearment." With a languid, resigned flip of His lustrous dark-ash blond hair, Jesus simply, and timidly, dabs his Nordic blue eyes and watches you drown your children and set fire to your trailer, hoping you will get around to loving Him so He can give you all the neat stuff you want in the Hereafter!”

So here then is my dilemma – since I know both views are wrong I can’t believe in either one but how do I believe in both? Paul said that we should consider both “the kindness and sternness of God” but how do I find this balance? How do I reconcile the compassionate Father that Jesus talked about with the God who tortured Job on a dare? I really wish I knew. I know I disagree with the concept of a weepy impotent weakling god, but what is the right balance point between the compassion and ferocity of God? I agree that a certain amount of awe and respect is right but does the term "fear of God" literally mean that we are supposed to be terrified of God?