June 10, 1997
Fob James, always the macho clown, has laid claim to the courthouse doorway from which to assert himself as defender of the superior moral and religious probity of Christianity in particular and Western Civilization in general. And now another mighty Samson, Roger Bedford, is leading the charge to stake out another doorjamb to assert his own crowing and bragging rights to be an exemplary defender of embattled Christian values. Where James would keep in the holy relic, the 10 Commandments, inviolate in the inner sanctum of the courthouse, Bedford's bill, S.B.1, providing a $1000 fine for clergypersons who officiate at weddings for same-sex couples, would place in God's doorway a stumblingblock to those who wish religious recognition of same-sex marriage rites. May God protect these doughty heroes from bringing the temple down on their own heads.
The grandiose claims of James and Bedford are that they are standing up not just for the morals of Alabamians but for the morals of the nation, which they imply are imminently in danger of degenerating beyond all salvation. Woe unto you sinners in the hands of angry God, they shout as if they were privy to the Divine Will. But it's not God's will they care about; it's their own will. These cynics know quite well that their arrogant assertions are ominous music to the credulous ears of ignorant and bigoted segments of the electorate in Alabama, and they also know, quite well, that their grandstand political posturing will, in the long run, waste tax dollars in the defense of unconstitutional legislation. Does either of these sniffers of flatulent political wind doubt the will of the gay and lesbian community to resist their absurd antics all the way to the Supreme Court? The Rev. Troy D. Perry, a former Mobilian and religious leader of United Fellowship of Metropolitian Community Churches -- the largest religious organization with primary ministry to the Gay and Lesbian community -- vows that if S.B. 1 passes, he will "invite all UFMCC pastors, as well as enlightened clergy from any other faith community, to join [him] on the steps of the Alabama Capitol for the largest mass wedding for the gay community ever seen in Alabama." Perry said further, "I find myself amazed that an elected official who is sworn to uphold the Constitution would endorse and introduce legislation that so obviously violates the constitutional separation of church and state, and which curtails the free exercise of religion."
As it often happens, those who assume postures of moral probity are frequently found morally suspect and some have even spent time in prison cells. Jimmy Sweigert and Jimmy Baker come immediately to mind, not to mention our former Governor, Guy Hunt. Bedford, during his campaign for the U.S. Senate, running as a Democrat against Jeff Sessions, was charged by Sessions with using his position as a state senator to get state tax money funnelled through his County Commission to fund a sewer line to a hunting lodge that he has part ownership in. Those charges, while disputed by Bedford, were never convincingly answered and were probably instrumental in Bedford losing the election.
So it appears blatantly obvious that Bedford's bill is his pathetic attempt to resuscitate his own tarnished political image by masquerading in the sheep's clothing of a religious and political conservative.
-- Tom Brennan
The series of lectures on Science and Religion was a great success, in terms of attendance and audience participation. No one expected to change anyone else's mind -- that wasn't the point. But both sides wanted to explain themselves; it was a neural itch the Scientists needed to scratch; it was a righteous cause for the Believers.
Representatives of both camps met regularly to challenge each other. The Believers were a wondrous mix of fundamentalists: the Catholic Medieval and the Protestant Baroque; the High Church and the Low; men and women, black and white, young and old. The Scientists were all men, white and old.
They began the series of lectures refuting the sort of religion that is offensive to science -- that is, fundamentalism; they ended by attacking religious beliefs as unscientific. One quoted a scientist who had received a Nobel prize for his work on DNA as saying that the "soul" may be nothing more than a "bundle of neurons." That was called his "hypothesis." It's nothing of the sort. That was his opinion, his belief. As I have to explain to my fundamentalist students, a hypothesis is something you can test and prove by the scientific method. What has science to say about soul? If a scientist criticizes a religious concept, she relinquishes her authority as a scientist for a while, and becomes like you and me -- an amateur in the realm of belief.
A questioner at the end of the last lecture asked if there might be types of scientists corresponding to the spectrum of believers: fundamentalists, liberals, and whatever -- centrists. There may well be.
Fundamentalists trespass; that's their tragic flaw. In religion, they cling to the factual details of the stories that embody their beliefs. Therefore, instead of affirming belief in the priority of the Spirit in the Cosmos (God the Creator), they argue with scientists about the myth of Genesis.
There are such trespassers in science, too. They enter the world of belief, armed with awards and academic credentials, and affirm a faith in the Consensus of Scientists. As fundamentalists, they also make a false assumption: they mistake their premise for their conclusion. The premise of scientific thought is "agnosticism in the area of belief," so that investigation may go forward without prejudice or limitation. Well, fine; but if that's the premise, it can't also be the conclusion of scientific investigation.
Audiences regularly complained after the lectures, not so much about Evolution or Relativity, but about those who use the authority of the Consensus to advocate agnosticism in religion.
I have been reading some of the articles concerning the debates between science and religion. Something jumps out at me in debates on this subject that is almost never brought out for the reader or listener to think about. Most, if not all of the debaters from either side, who are supposed to know just "exactly" how this earth and the life on it came to be, miss a couple of very important facts.
One fact they miss is that it has been only in the last 350 to 400 years that we have known that the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Galileo was imprisoned in the early 17th century for daring to express this truth. Since that time science has discovered many wonders about the earth and how it was formed. First, there was water and then land. Then, there were water creatures, and then land animals with man coming along at a later time.
The second fact most of the debaters miss, or at least fail to point out, is that the Genesis account was written approximately 29 centuries before man began to discover some of the things science knows today. No one points out the parallels in the Biblical account and the scientific account of the beginnings.
I have a few questions for thought. How did a story depicting the sequence of formation of the earth, the heavens, and all life survive all those years? Remember as late as the early 17th century A.D., men were thrown in prison and even put to death for stating that the earth revolved around the sun. Was there an unseen force guiding the hand of the author?
At the time man came into being, had the dinosaurs turned to dust? Genesis states man was made from the dust of the earth. Could this be evol----?? No, not that way! I don't think??
I would challenge anyone who knows "exactly" how all this came to be to pause and think about all the "absolute facts" on both sides of this debate down through history that have later been rewritten. Just some food for thought.