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An Open Letter to Sam the Intolerant, Antireligious Troll

What follows is a delayed red eye flight-induced response to a rather cheeky comment by an extremely misinformed (and most likely militant atheist) troll. The troll’s name is Sam…and they probably had no idea just who it was that they were messing with.

The comment:
 “Your 1st line cracked me up here. "I'm Catholic and I'm a science geek" How can you be a science geek when you pick and choose which bits of science to agree with depending on the opinion of a book that has nothing to do with science! Keep working on your standup act, its not bad but you need a few more jokes in there after the first line.”
 My snarky response (typed in an airport as I waited for flight information that seemed to change every hour or so): Sam, Thank you for stopping by my blog. Really, THANK YOU. All of the effort you made to visit my blog, read my intro, and write such an eloquent and well-informed comment are a blatant reminder of why I continue to maintain this blog. I really had no idea that one could successfully promote science by insulting the religious beliefs of another. Therefore, I am really glad that you took the time to write such a well-informed response to my introduction. You have definitely proven to me that one really must go through great lengths in order to ensure that the entire world approaches science with open mind. Blarney aside (couldn’t help the Irish reference…it’s almost St. Patrick’s day), your comment demonstrates what I am up against when it comes to dealing with ignorant fools who feel the need to discriminate against others for the sake of “reason.”

Before I continue, I must apologize in advance to my respectable atheist friends. Sam’s unsubstantiated bigotry and failed attempt at sardonic humor are one of the reasons why atheists have a tough time getting accepted for who they are by some. Christians, like myself, have to deal with having fundamentalist fools on our side of the fence. Atheists, on the other hand, have to deal with having militant atheist fools on their side of the fence. If you happen to be a reasonable atheist capable of engaging someone like myself in an intelligent and respectful discussion on religion and/or atheism…please disregard the rest of my post. The rest of this post is for the atheists out there who think they’re entitled to be prejudiced against people of faith just because they’re still getting their feet wet in the waters of atheism and feel like they know enough to prove the rest of the world wrong. Sam, get ready to take off your swimmies. People like me have a habit of forcing you to take a leap into deeper waters…whether they be atheist, Christian, etc.

Sam, your comment was more biased and redundant than it was humorous. Such a comment can only come from one whose faith (or lack thereof) is lukewarm. I am very sorry if I have to be the one to break it to you, but you are really going nowhere with lukewarm militant atheism…except perhaps a militant atheist convention where you will learn to blindly quote Dawkins instead of truly exploring atheism. You will learn how to buy the books of other prominent militant atheists just so you can throw slogans and more mindless quotes at people like me…instead of learning how to debate the hardcore apologists and theologians out there. Regardless of the argument you bring up against the existence of God…we’ve already addressed it time and time again over the centuries. Don’t believe me? Check out Augustine, Thomas of Aquinas, and a few other choice reads. I understand that their sound theology may be a bit hard to swallow at times. However, at the very least, your grammar will improve dramatically just by reading their eloquent works regarding God, religion, and yes…even science.

Contrary to what your lukewarm and extremely misguided line of atheism may tell you, I think it's safe to say that I agree with more science than you will probably ever agree with or even understand in your entire life. Why? I have an open mind that is just as curious as it is insatiable....and so I have sought to learn from various fields whether they be evolutionary biology, genetics, plant science, or even astrobiology. Contrary to what you assume, I don’t need to “pick and choose” because my religion embraces scientific exploration. If I were to approach science or even my own life with the same narrow-minded and offensive attitude you expressed in your comment…I would have never chosen to major in biology as a freshman. I would have never chosen molecular biology as a masters student and I certainly would have never made it to the toxicology-laden PhD. Instead, I would have dropped out of school, subscribed to every militant atheist group out there, and spent the rest of my life trolling people on the internet, in the New York Times, and in discriminatory billboard ads. Furthermore, I would have avoided any attempts to understand where the other side is coming from…because God forbid I try to understand my fellow human being before I start assaulting their beliefs.

Yes, you may think that the Bible prohibits science. This form of thinking, however, only demonstrates to me just how ignorant you are of my faith. Furthermore, your outright refusal to even attempt to understand my Catholic faith only demonstrates that you are even MORE narrow-minded than those Christians you must dislike so much. Contrary to what your favorite militant atheist may tell you, religious folk like me simply cannot see religion and science as two mutually exclusive entities. Call me crazy, but I see God in all I’ve ever learned about molecular biology, organic chemistry, and especially neurobiology. Call me crazy, but I feel that science and Catholicism work well together. The Bible lays a foundation. Science explains how this foundation works…and so I explore as many fields and ideas as I can.

However, science has yet to discover the “why” behind everything. I can never be satisfied with just a “how.” I’ve studied enough about our solar system to know how the earth revolves around the sun. However, I have yet to find the “why” in the countless textbooks I’ve ever been forced to study. Religion gives me the “why.” The Bible gives me the “why.” Countless Catholic Science Geeks before me have also used both religion and science to explore the “why.” Though a lot of science seeks to explore the “how” behind every structure, force, and function behind everything we see and experience…I doubt that this “how” is the only reason behind each scientific exploration. Let us take human origin as an example. How did we come about? Evolution. How did evolution work? A countless series of advantageous and heritable mutations. How did mutations come about? Mistakes in the transcription of DNA that then altered the structure and function of a particular protein, which somehow gave an organism some advantage over its neighbors. I cannot help but surmise that our exploration of the universe is fueled by the “why.”

We’ve already discovered so much about the universe and have some pretty sound theories regarding our origins….but we are still driven to know more. Why is it that we constantly push the limits of our knowledge in order to determine what’s out there? My theory is that we want to finally determine whether or not God created it all. Atheists like you demand people like me to prove that there is a God. Catholics like me would believe in God regardless of any “proof” you can procure and any insults you care to share. Catholics like me look you right in the eye and say “prove it” whenever the militant atheist states that God is not real. You can quantify all of the matter and antimatter of the universe, you can bring up evolution, you can bring up as many studies from as many fields as you would like in order to disprove God’s existence. People who are like me, however, will merely shake our heads at your blatant misuse of science.

Even the militant atheist who treasures science above all will find themselves blaspheming against her by misusing her for the sake of a personal vendetta against people of faith. I know how science works and know the thrill I’ve felt when I’ve had an experiment work. I know the type of questions scientists ask when they pursue a field or a particular project. We don’t slave over lab benches just so people like you can use our findings as hostages in your war against religion…your war against tolerance…your war against something you simply do not and may never even attempt to understand. I just don’t understand how militant atheists claim to love science, but then proceed to use it as a weapon to justify their own personal beliefs and attitudes towards people of faith. To make matters worse, these individuals then have the gall to take the Bible out of context in order to tell me how to read it. Therefore, not only am I bothered by your misuse of science…but also by your misuse of any of the teachings, people, ideas, etc. that I respect as a Catholic. To make matters worse, you also attempt to sell me your own particular interpretation of a Bible passage. You do so in order to corner me into admitting that the Bible prohibits this or allows for that scientific tidbit.

Do you see the hypocrisy and foolishness you are using here?

You mock my beliefs. You then twist my beliefs around to make your own cause seem more appealing. Lastly, you proceed to pass off these flawed beliefs as if they were my own to begin with.

There are two fatal flaws to the approach you used when writing your comment…..

First, you assume that I use the Bible alone as a guide in my religious life. WRONG. Yes, the Bible is important. However, I also have the Church, countless hours talking theology with priests and other religious folk, countless books, millennia of tradition, and centuries of theologians and saints that have explored both the Bible and the natural world. I use as many, if not all, of these as guides in my own religious life. Who are you to deem yourself superior in thought and Biblical studies to any of these other sources? YOU HAVE NO IDEA what the Bible truly says or doesn’t say regarding science. As short as your comment may have been, the ignorance and prejudice within it are all the indication I need to know that you haven’t bothered studying much of my faith to any great length. If you had, you’d have known that Roman Catholicism TEACHES THAT THE BIBLE IS NOT THE ONLY SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. If you plan on cornering me in an argument regarding my religion and attempt to make it sound like you know more about my religion than I do, BE SURE TO USE DOCTRINE FROM MY RELIGION IN YOUR ARGUMENT. You can’t debate Catholicism with me if you’re using material from other religions in your debate. If you want to debate Catholicism with me, be sure to know as much about this religion (or more about it) than I do. Mistaking a CATHOLIC for a FUNDAMENTAL CHRISTIAN only succeeds in making YOU look FOOLISH.

Second, you completely ignored or have refused to acknowledge the contributions of many Catholics and other religious folk to the scientific field. Where would evolution be without Friar Mendel’s pea plant experiments and data? Where would the Big Bang Theory be without Father Lemaitre? These are two of the hot topic issues between the militant atheist and fundamentalist nuts out there….but I take no issue with them…and neither does the Catholic faith. Don’t believe me? Try doing a little more reading. I really don’t want to join you in this game of “Jumping to Conclusions,” but I cannot help but assume that you really have a poor understanding of what it means to be a science geek….just as you have a poor understanding of what is actually written in the Bible…and of just how many religious science geeks have contributed to science as we know today (even the most Militant Atheist Science Geek nut out there will have to begrudgingly admit that is was a Catholic priest who first proposed the Big Bang Theory and another Catholic who provided the “science” behind Darwin’s observations). Then there’s Pasteur, Descartes, Coulomb, Ampere, and quite a few others. And I’ve only just named Catholic Science Geeks like myself. I am sure, however, that there are plenty of Jewish Science Geeks, Protestant Science Geeks, etc. Why do you feel the need to ignore these geeks?

Judging by your incredulity regarding my love of both science and my Catholic faith as well as your substantial arguments (or lack thereof) against my love of both science and the Catholic faith, I can only assume that you haven’t really studied my Catholic beliefs in much depth. Furthermore, I may even venture to say that you have either ignored or refused to believe much of the history behind the science we know today. There are so many religious folk out there that have embraced religion as I do…I am only one person in a long line of such people.

Therefore, based on all of this, my best guess is that your understanding of Catholicism (and religion in general) is based on one or more of the following:

  1.  An article by some prominent militant atheist (at worst, because it only demonstrates that you possess that sheep mentality militant atheists enjoy throwing at people like me) 
  2. A lack of thorough religious education (not your fault here, though your refusal to learn more about the religious beliefs you attack definitely would be your fault) 
  3. A jaded and extremely misguided interpretation of the long-since abandoned religious studies of your childhood (if this is the case, shame on you for giving up at such a basic understanding) 
  4.  A mix all of the above (most likely the case, which will require you to do a lot more reading if you plan on debating religion with people like me in the future) I don’t blame you to some degree. It is very hard to read the Bible and/or the works of those who spent most of their lives studying and interpreting the Bible. 
However, if you really want Catholics like me to take you seriously, you really have to do a lot more reading and you really have to provide stronger arguments for your own beliefs (or lack thereof). Had you approached the Bible or even Atheism with Thomas of Aquinas’s thirst for knowledge, St. Augustine’s determination, or even C.S. Lewis’s courageous skepticism… I doubt you would have left such a “wimpy” comment on my blog.

You must really be a lukewarm atheist in dire need of a good theological thrashing, an open mind, or even a simple history lesson in the very least. You're probably drunk on this new wave of militant atheism after reading some militant atheist's work and probably think you're so much smarter than a Catholic like myself.  I am sorry to say, but you are going to need a lot more than a touch of sardonic humor if you plan on getting far in the world of the religion and science debate. Personally, I see no reason for this debate considering my experience of how well religion and science complement each other. However, if you are really adamant about taking part of this argument and really adamant of practicing discrimination in the name of “reason,” please develop a stronger basis for your accusations. If you are confused about some things, read. If you are questioning some elements about your own atheism, read theological books that aren’t written by militant atheists. Perhaps this will provide you with the material you need to build more substantial arguments. Perhaps it will bring you some answers to the questions you’ve been asking yourself. Perhaps it may lead you down a path to inner peace that you never dreamed of taking before.

I sincerely hope that the latter happens...

Sam, do your best to enjoy the rest of your spiritual journey. I am pretty sure that you’re in for some bumpy roads ahead…but a little more effort on your part may just make it worth it in the end. If not, at least be sure to provide better arguments in favor of your position the next time you decide to go out for an afternoon troll.
Just be sure to watch out for these guys if you venture near Moria.


Pax Vobiscum

My apologies for the harshness...between the red eye flight, weather delays, torn up luggage, and stopovers from California, to Georgia, and then New Jersey...I had a rough day or so. My posts are usually a lot less severe.

7 comments:

  1. Touché! As an agnostic, I truly appreciate your views and "meshing" of science and religion. I think Sam may be whimpering back to his neanderthal cave with his club hung low and his esteem & jaw to the ground. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks!

      Unfortunately, there seem to be one too many neanderthal trolls out there in need of a reality check. Alas, anonymity on the internet has its cons...

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  2. The continued popular belief that Catholics don't believe in science saddens me. St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that science and faith must live in harmony for God would never have created a contradiction. Catholics have the best of both worlds - all the science plus all of the theology.

    Your atheist troll, like so many other militant atheists, just needs some help understanding what we believe.

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    1. "Catholics have the best of both worlds - all the science plus all of the theology."

      I couldn't agree more. However, I think one of the major problems with all of the misconceptions out there is how the media tends to treat religious folk...and science folk. Oy vey!

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  3. I'm sure "picking and choosing" what science fits you does wonders for your grades in graduate (doctorate?) level science classes.

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    1. Oh, absolutely. It all went downhill when I first used unleavened Passover bread and the wine from the Wedding at Cana to explain anaerobic respiration.

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