Confessions of a Creationist: the making of a serial killer

When I was growing up, my family was deeply religious, and they had some interesting beliefs. We had a book at our house, for example, entitled “Dinosaurs and the Bible”. I came across the book recently at Amazon at this link — apparently it’s still in print. This short Creationist picture book is aimed at young children and claims the dinosaurs were brought aboard the Ark then went extinct after Noah’s flood. I remember the last page of the book featured a drawing of Tyrannosaurus rex chomping on a watermelon. All animals were vegetarian before The Fall, the book explained; while T. rex’s teeth might look fearsome, they were no more so than those of the fruit bat, and in all likelihood T. rex’s diet was the same.

As a kid, I was taught at home and in Sunday school to regard the theory of evolution as an untruth, a subversive materialist creed which owed more to a social agenda than to science. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I finally discarded Creationism/I.D. altogether. Today I know much more about biology than I did at that time, and the Creationism I was taught when I was young seems crass to me now. In a way, however, it’s interesting, because many of my relatives and a sizable fraction of the American public still believes God created life while the devil created evolutionary biology.

How do you reason with Creationists/I.D. advocates? Sometimes you can’t. They aren’t listening because they think that if they do listen God will be very very mad at them. Some people are willing to listen to reason, however, and I know because I was one of them. So when I talk to Creationists, I like to think back and ask myself, what persuaded me? And for me, the first thing that convinced me the theory of evolution just had to be true was pathogens — killer microbes.

Why pathogens? It’s actually pretty simple, but it’ll be more interesting if I give you an example, so I’d like to tell you a story, the kind of story that I believe will convince anyone with an open mind. It’s about the birth of a serial killer in a muddy river delta — and how a bizarre accident let that killer travel around the world.

-

In 1817 crowds of pilgrims gathered along the banks of the Ganges to celebrate a three month long Hindu festival called the Kumbh Mela. They came to bathe in the sacred river and wash away their sins. Little did they know its holy waters concealed a lethal surprise.

By September an epidemic of cholera erupted in Calcutta (Kolkata). From there it spread across India as returning pilgrims brought the disease back to their homes. Over the next few years, cholera spread outward from the Indian subcontinent and across the British empire, eventually reaching Europe and the United States.

For many years the nature and origin of cholera remained a mystery. Doctors of the day blamed it on tainted air. It wasn’t until 1883 that German doctor Robert Koch identified the true culprit, a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. Apparently cholera bacteria had dwelt in the Ganges River delta throughout most of human history, giving rise to occasional local outbreaks that flared up for a while then fizzled out. Rapid transportation and the British Empire enabled them to escape the Ganges and go worldwide.

 This much Koch could figure out; but the story of cholera was more complicated than he realized, because most strains of V. cholerae don’t cause diseaseIn fact, V. cholerae bacteria are actually common in coastal environments around the world. Only a mere handful of V. cholerae strains are actually dangerous to humans.

So here’s the mystery: what happened in the Ganges River delta that turned this peaceful aquatic bacterium into a killer? As it turns out, the best place to look for clues is the genome of the bacterium itself.

-

Cholera bacteria need two key tools to exploit you. The first of these is a molecule called cholera toxin.

At first glance cholera toxin looks like it’s just one protein, but if you look close it’s actually multiple subunits. One part of the protein recognizes a molecule present on the surface of the cells that line your intestine, triggering a process that unloads its cargo — the A subunit — into the interior of the cell. The A subunit is an enzyme, and it catalyzes or speeds up a reaction that interferes with a signaling pathway inside the cell in such a way the cell is prompted to dump water and salt into the intestinal tract. As countless cells along the walls of your intestines take up the toxin and respond by dumping water and salt, you begin to suffer from severe diarrhea. The loss of water and electrolytes is so rapid it can potentially end in death.

The other mission-critical weapon in cholera’s arsenal is a structure called the TCP. These hairlike threads protruding from the bacterium’s surface enable it to grab onto and colonize the lining of your small intestine where it can rapidly multiply.

Both the cholera toxin and the TCP are encoded by genes located in one of the two cholera chromosomes. If these genes were active all the time, the bacterium would waste a lot of energy. The best scenario for the bacterium is one where these genes are active only at the right time. Changes in the bacterium’s environment activate a protein called ToxR; once it’s activated, ToxR in turn activates the cholera toxin genes and the gene for another protein called ToxT. ToxT in turn activates the genes that code for the TCP. In this way, the bacterium can start producing TCP and cholera toxin once it’s inside your intestine and stop producing them once it’s back in the water supply, where these tools may not be so useful.

If you look closely at the cholera toxin genes, you’ll find they’re different from the rest of the bacterium’s genome in some peculiar ways. It turns out the region containing these genes is actually the genome of a dormant virus, CTXΦ, that became incorporated into the cholera bacterium’s genome. Vibrio cholerae first picked up these genes when it was infected by CTXΦ, and this was a crucial step on the road from aquatic bacterium to pandemic disease. In a way, however, this only deepens the mystery, because the receptor the CTXΦ virus uses to infect V. cholerae is actually the TCP! So V. cholerae must have acquired the genes for the TCP first. The TCP genes are located in a region of the genome called the TCP island which also has some unusual genetic features. It’s been suggested the TCP island may also be another dormant virus, although this is currently in dispute.

If cholera got the ctx genes through infection with a virus, then where did the genes originally come from? We don’t really know, but it’s definitely strange that the sequence of cholera toxin is over 80% identical to the sequence of a toxin produced by certain deadly strains of E. coli. Moreover, the E. coli toxin enters cells and does its dirty work in a very similar way.

It’s also interesting that the TCP and the ctxAB genes are both regulated by ToxR. This couldn’t have been true when they were first acquired by the bacterium, because they were acquired at different times. So this system of regulation must have come about subsequently through mutations in the bacterium’s genome — in regulatory regions of the TCP and ctxAB genes, perhaps.

So here’s what must have happened. At some point V. cholerae picked up the TCP island; later on V. cholerae picked up some version of the ctxAB genes through infection by CTXΦ. Natural selection favored strains equipped with these new tools and also favored further improvements like regulation by the ToxR system, because strains with this genetic equipment could exploit a new niche.

The important thing to bear in mind is that bacteria like V. cholerae aren’t sentient agents; they’re just robots. A bacterium keeps on making copies of itself as long as it can find the resources and energy it needs to do so. Any population of bacteria has some amount of genetic diversity owing to random mutations and also to events like transfer of genes between bacteria (as through infection by CTXΦ, for example). If environmental conditions give an advantage to bacteria that have certain types of genetic equipment, those bacteria will make copies of themselves more efficiently than their competition, and over time the genetic equipment they carry becomes more common in the population. This is evolution in a nutshell, and the rise of cholera illustrates how it can go horribly wrong (from a human point of view). By colonizing your intestine, the cholera bacteria obtain resources they’ll use to grow, and by producing cholera toxin they force you to put them back into the water supply en masse so they can repeat the cycle. It’s also interesting to note that cholera is still changing and evolving — the strains involved in most modern epidemics, for example, are different from the so-called “classical” strains in some interesting ways.

How would a Creationist or I.D. advocate explain all of this? They don’t believe bacteria can develop significant new adaptations, so they’d attribute all these changes to recent surreptitious tinkering by an Intelligent Designer (who is presumably still tinkering with cholera bacteria to make it look like they’re evolving, of course). For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a minute that this unlikely explanation is true. If so, we could deduce at least three things about the Intelligent Designer (possibly more):

1) The Intelligent Designer doesn’t like humans. (Why else would s/he/it design lethal pathogens?)

2) The Intelligent Designer is tricking us by surreptitiously intervening in a way that makes it look like bacteria are evolving in order to fool us.

3) The Intelligent Designer is not very smart. If you were an all-powerful Intelligent Designer that wanted to make bacteria that would kill lots of humans, you could do a much better job, because cholera bacteria don’t survive very well in highly acidic conditions. The vast majority of the cholera bacteria you ingest when you drink contaminated water will perish in your stomach acid. From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense, because we know that cholera became a killer through a blind process of evolution by natural selection. From a Creationist or I.D. perspective, however, it makes no sense at all. Indeed, the only way a Creationist or I.D. advocate can explain cholera is to shrug and say that “God moves in mysterious ways”, which is just dodging the question altogether.

True, there’s lots of evidence for the theory of evolution; so why choose germs like V. cholerae to illustrate? I think they’re compelling for several reasons. In many cases we see pathogens evolving almost right before our very eyes. Take, for example, the rise of antibiotic resistance, which is a textbook case (and one of the first things that made me question I.D./Creationism when I was a teenager).  But I also think that pathogens are a dramatic example because they’ve claimed more lives than all the wars in human history combined.

When you think about it in this light, the I.D./Creationist argument becomes even more bizarre. Bacteria like those that cause tuberculosis, bubonic plague and cholera feature adaptations that enable them to invade the human body and get what they need at our expense. To believe in I.D., you have to believe that an Intelligent Designer deliberately crafted these bacteria in this way in the certain knowledge they would cause horrific suffering — suffering on a scale that dwarfs any of the wars we’ve fought in our history. You also have to believe the Intelligent Designer is all-powerful, not very smart and deliberately out to trick us, because I’ll be damned if things like the rise of antibiotic resistance and the rise of cholera don’t look a helluva lot like evolution in action.

So if you are a Creationist or if you believe in I.D., stop for a minute and ask yourself this: What’s the most logical way to explain something like the cholera? or Yersinia pestis? or Mycobacterium tuberculosis? Do you really believe these were deliberately designed in order to kill you, and if so, then why? If you stop to think about it, I believe you’ll find the theory of evolution is by far and away a more satisfying explanation. And once you’ve come to terms with the theory, I think you’ll begin to see it both as a logical explanation for what we see in the natural world and a truly fascinating one as well.

————————————————–

I haven’t really gone anywhere near as deeply into V. cholerae molecular biology as I could — it’s interesting, but there’s just too much to cover in one post. Nonetheless, I’ve kinda summarized what’s important for my argument. If you’re interested, check out the papers below.

[1] David A Sack, R Bradley Sack, G Balakrish Nair, AK Siddique, Cholera, The Lancet, Volume 363, Issue 9404, 17 January 2004, Pages 223-233, ISSN 0140-6736, 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)15328-7.

[2] Lipp, E. K., A. Huq, and R. R. Colwell. “Effects of Global Climate on Infectious Disease: The Cholera Model.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews 15.4 (2002): 757-70.

[3] Shah M. Faruque, M. John Albert, and John J. Mekalanos Epidemiology, Genetics, and Ecology of Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. December 1998 62:1301-1314

[4] Waldor MK and Mekalanos JJ. Lysogenic conversion by a filamentous phage encoding cholera toxin. Science June 1996: 28;272(5270), 1910-4.

[5] O’Neal, C. (2005). Structural Basis for the Activation of Cholera Toxin by Human ARF6-GTP Science, 309 (5737), 1093-1096 DOI: 10.1126/science.1113398

About these ads

27 thoughts on “Confessions of a Creationist: the making of a serial killer

  1. Does this really cause hesitation among creationists? I thought most of them do view God as vengeful. When hurricane Katrina did its damage, various pastors trumpeted it as God retribution for the US being lax about homosexual activity and other debauchery. AIDS has been touted as God’s solution to homosexual activity, even though it affects more straight people than gay people. The old testament has God smiting various groups left and right for a multitude of reasons, even when they are God’s chosen people.

  2. It’s because of the Sin. God is mad because those were his apples and you don’t mess with someone’s food. A version of that will be the typical explanation. Great post. I came over from Pharyngula, but you just made my bookmark list.

  3. I’m not a creationist, so don’t shoot me, but i would reckon that the typical creationist/Id’er would respond with: “It was actually original sin that corrupted all life. God didn’t create these bacteria to kill us, we did it to ourselves.” What’s your response to this ?

    • @Ahmet Duran: A creationist/fundy that makes this claim is essentially stating that the process of evolution was created by “God” and existed in his creation before it was ‘fallen’, and that his creation required his constant intervention in order to keep corruption (mutation) from creeping in. That somehow “the fall” blocked this sustaining power from being expressed in all of creation. The implication here is that Evolution is therefore not anti-faith, but part of “his” plan.

      Of course the second implication here is that by doing so, “god”:
      1) Essentially created a single point of failure in his system design (creation), and is at best a bad engineer.
      2) Placed this burden on innocent, uninformed, unreasoning man and subsequently beat him and his children mercilessly for generations for making a mistake. What kind of parenting would you call that?
      3) Actively takes the roll of genetically engineering plagues to indiscriminately punish vast numbers of humans (and the rest of creation too) because their book says often that their deity is bringing plagues upon their enemies, friends, families, associates, etc.

      All of these argue for an incompetent, vindictive, malevolent personality. Ask them if they’d vote for a politician with this record.

    • Yeah, that’s what some Creationists will tell you, but it’s a bizarre argument — God loves everybody, but is simultaneously responsible for carefully designing organisms that cause suffering on a massive scale, all in order to punish people for sins that a distant ancestor committed. Moreover, the Creationist would also have to argue that God is currently tinkering with said organisms to make them more dangerous (hence the emergence of new infectious diseases, new strains etc. and the rise of antibiotic resistance). At the end of the day, if a Creationist remains so committed to Creationism that they’re willing to swallow a story like that, I don’t think there’s very much you can do. Some of them basically will not listen to you because they’re worried they will go to hell if they do. But for me personally the rise of antibiotic resistance and similar stuff was/is very compelling, and I think that may also be true for anyone who’s open-minded enough to at least engage in a rational debate. (Many of them are not.)

      Just for the record, BTW, I personally am no longer religious, in large part because of contradictions like the one you mention and the so-called “problem of suffering” — i.e., what evidence do you see in the world around you to suggest that this place is run by a God who cares? for me personally I don’t feel religion makes a whole lotta sense. But I don’t want to force my views on that on other people — as I say, many of my family are religious and I know a lot of religious people, so that’s not an issue I usually tackle on this blog. I do feel, however, that we need to do a better job explaining why the theory of evolution makes sense, because somehow the message is not getting through for at least a fair percentage of the American public today.

      • You stated:
        “But I don’t want to force my views on that on other people — as I say, many of my family are religious and I know a lot of religious people, so that’s not an issue I usually tackle on this blog.”

        People hold faith-based beliefs for emotional reasons more than rational ones. Our system-1 (intuitive) thinking predisposes us to believing Woo, but our social and emotional attachments are what makes the belief sticky, and what prompts the defensive reaction.

        SciAm recently pointed to a study that stated that the more folks think critically, the less religious they become. “http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=losing-your-religion-analytic-thinking-can-undermine-belief”

        You can avoid the direct challenge to their beliefs by engaging them in evidenced based critical thinking exercises about important but non-critically held subjects ( like Homeopathy or Psychic Reading) and go through the evidence. Also explain to them the concepts of mental heuristics and cognitive biases like Pareidolia, Hindsight and Confirmation biases. Give them tools to build a more reality based belief system.

        As to breaking down or side-stepping the emotional defensiveness, start the conversation by asking what their world would look like if evolution were true? How would it change their life? What would be the social cost. Get them to think about why they’re afraid.

    • The response would be that god is an ignorant a-hole, who could prevent all this from happening (he is omnipotent after all), but choses not to do so.
      Any human court of law would through this bastard into jail no questions asked.

  4. I used to be a creationist, and here’s how I would have rationalised it: Well, blame Satan! Satan is able to manipulate things in the world to create evil, because of what happened in the garden of Eden resulting in a “fallen world”. You can also attribute it to human willpower if you are so inclined, going off the example where stripey shadows on sheep changed the colour (and therefore genetics) of their offspring, due to the person observer’s faith.
    It’s all nonsense of course, but someone who’s not interested in what’s true can rationalise it away easily. Yahweh can still come out of this situation perfectly just and good, with enough mental gymnastics.

    • Well, given enough mental gymnastics, sure, you can cook up a completely implausible cover story. But I think that someone who is willing to be open-minded and to think critically will find this persuasive. As I said, not all Creationists are willing to do that. Unfortunately, you really only have a chance to persuade if your audience is at least willing to hear you out, and many Creationists are not. I think also that when it comes to explaining evolution to a Creationist or I.D.er, different approaches probably work for different people. For me personally, I found the argument I’ve made here very persuasive.

      Just out of curiosity — you used to be a Creationist/I.D. advocate, right? So what first caused you to doubt what you believed? or what convinced you that evolution made more sense than I.D./OEC/YEC (whichever flavor of Creationism you preferred)?

    • “Satan is able to manipulate things in the world to create evil”

      Not much of a Christian are you? Perhaps you guys might actually read Bahnsen or Van Til before making such lame comments?

      • Sorry, let me clarify:

        “I used to be a creationist, and here’s how I would have rationalised it: Well, blame Satan! Satan is able to manipulate things in the world to create evil, because of what happened in the garden of Eden resulting in a “fallen world”.”

        Firstly, “creationist” is a very broad-brush, you may have been some uncatechized fundy nut job, but don’t assume that all creationists believe your irrational unbiblical views.

        The God of the Bible is sovereign, and created all things for a purpose. Sin is a result of the fall which was a covenantal failure on the part of Adam, by which God cursed man, and the world. Sin is not a creation of Satan, nor does Satan have any such power (Biblically speaking).

        It would behoove you to actually study the views and arguments of the best of your opponents before making such statements. I would start by reading the works of Cornelius Van Til, then Gregory Bahnsen, and John Frame, just to have a primer of what Christians believe, rather than assuming your ignorance was universal.

  5. Pingback: The evolution of cholera « Science Notes

  6. Although an interesting read I do not think this will be very persuasive because at the end of the day it still is a bacterium and even more specific it remains Vibrio cholerae.
    I personally have never met a creationist that has any problem with point mutations or horizontal gene transfer but, judging from your post and the comments here, that is not always the case.

    • i wanted to say the same ^^ reaally interesting. i used to believe in god some years ago but now i don’t, and this just refreshed my mind and arguments

  7. On May 10 Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis critiqued this blog in HER blog – see ‘Are killer microbes a reason to reject creation and embrace evolution?’ – WITHOUT providing a link to THIS blog or naming its author.
    She wrote: “For evolution to be true, these very complex bacteria with their very complex mechanisms would have to develop by random mutations that cause the gain of new genetic information. Since random mutations cannot do this, nor can any other genetic mechanism, evolution is simply not possible”.
    She said NOTHING about a virus or E coli, and scarcely quoted from the parts of this blog describing the genome of the Cholera bacterium, its probable history, and how and when it starts to affect humans.

  8. Intelligent Design is not the same thing as Creationism. ID and Evolution can coexist, Evolution and creationism cannot. Your argument (and science in general) pokes holes in creationism, but intelligent design can still be plausible…assuming evolution is part of ID.

    • Lazlo, did you read anything about the trial in Dover? That the same people now pushing Intelligent Design are the exact people who were behind promoting creationism in textbooks and such. After earlier cases rejected their creationism as unscientific and a thinly veiled attempt to bring religion into the science classroom, the put the pig in different clothes and tried again.

      They even were so lazy to amend their “science” book by doing a simple search and replace on “creationism” to turn it into “intelligent design”. The didn’t quite get it right when they attempted to replace “creationists” with “design proponents,” leading to the coinage of the term “cdesign proponentsists.”

      You can cross your fingers when you are lying but it is still a lie.

  9. your point in this article is that you don’t believe in God because well…why would He create humans and then create bacteria/the devil/natural disasters/whatever else is out there threatning our existence it just doesn’t add up..to which my response would be that maybe just maybe He created all this with a purpose …if you do have an open mind give this idea (as bizarre as it might sound) a shot… what if life was not meant to be pure happiness, what if He knew that happiness would not be appreciated unless we (humans) knew what suffering and trials felt like…can you imagine a life without pain, sorrow, hatred? can you imagine not knowing what despair feels like? being in an emotionless state where we have no problems or worries…in other words would you appreciate the summer if you didn’t know what winter was like? or would you appreciate a plate of food if you had never been hungry before? probably not.. what if trials in this life are essential and make us better people, in other words what if our souls can progress ONLY by going through trials…now remember your open mind-ness and ask yourself if maybe the religion you were introduced to was not complete…what if there is another “belief” out there? …a belief that without pain and sorrow life on this earth would be pointless that we might have as well not come to earth and stayed in our child innocent state living with God for eternity and to make you even more confused would you believe me if i told you that we (yes, you, me and everyone that is alive on earth) chose to come to earth…to experience all these feelings of happiness, sorrow, despair, anguish, etc? (now what kind of fool would do that you might ask) we did…everyone did… because we knew that we could not appreciate one without the other…am i saying that life was was meant for us to suffer? no. i’m saying that all these trials are for us to progress, for us to learn and decide our fates,( which is GOD’s greatest gift to us) which is why we choose what to do with our lives today, tomorrow and always, which is why He is not angry if you don’t believe in Him because He loves you and is more than happy to see you use your free will…now i can’t cover all of our beliefs in one little post but be assured that God loves you no matter what type of life you may lead…but if this post made you a tad bit curious or created a spark of interest, doubt, confusion or maybe even gave you hope..there are men with white shirts and black name tags riding their bikes going throughout the world knocking on doors, men that lead normal lives but dedicate two years of their lives to spread this beloved gospel which does not only bring happines but also understanding and peace and they would be more than willing to tell you more if you decide to listen and receive them with that open mind you pride yourself of..THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS is the name you would google, good luck and thanks for taking the time of reading this extremely unnecessary long post.

    • katherin –

      You are quite right — an existence of pure bliss is illusory. But don’t forget your own mythology. God intended the world to be pure bliss, right there in Genesis. If God was so wise to know that we need travails to make us appreciate the good times, why did He set out with the wrong idea?

      Also think about the implications of what you said in regards to an eternal blissful hereafter in heaven. Only people who haven’t thought much about what that would really be like would think it is a good idea.

      • Ahhh you don’t understand the fall (adam and eve being kicked out of the garden of eden) and i’m with you on that one, it’s hard to grasp it. But i promise it makes sense, honestly you’d have to speak to lds (mormon) missionaries that are serving full time, only they can explain fully, but if you’re ok with my long lame posts i’ll give it a shot.To understand you need to see the whole picture.The point of us (every human being) being here on earth is so that we could progress…progress from what?…well like i said previously we used to be “spirit children” living with God in an innocent mind state ,by that i mean not knowing good from evil, seriously why would we? we’re with God everything’s great…not quite…like every other parent He wants us to be better, wiser.He wanted us to progress. He wanted us to become more like him, therefore He created the “plan of salvation” which consists of phases we have to go through.

        Phase number one: well we already passed it. By that i mean we chose to follow the plan God made for us, which is why we are here on earth, yay for us! Remember that guy named lucifer? Well he didn’t pass it and chose against it…which is why…he is where is…but i’ll talk about that later. You see when the plan of salvation was revealed to us as spirit children, we were told that we would come to earth for a short period of time to be tested (choose between right or wrong) and gain human bodies, like God wanted us to.

        I might have to explain that when i say a short period of time – I really mean short. We sometimes feel like our life here on earth is long and never ending but in reality it’s just a little tiny part of our REAL lives. You see, our souls are eternal and this episode of a life that we have on earth is nothing but a tiny speck of sand compared to the long lives our souls are going to live. I heard a really neat metaphor from another fellow lds member once, i don’t remember who it was i really wish i did, anyways he said imagine a long rope that stretches across the universe eternally, straight across, and now imagine a piece of thread at a random spot of this rope, tied in a knot. That piece of thread is our life on earth and the rest of the rope represents the everlasting infinity of our souls, neat right? Anyways back to the conditions of our trip to earth….

        We would have this thing called Free Agency, which means: we can choose our actions but NOT the consequences. That’s deep isn’t? It scared us a bit and to make things worse we would have a “veil” over our minds right after being born that would prevent us from remembering that we used to live with our Heavenly father. We were scared but we were not sent here on our own. We were promised that even though we would feel alone, we woud not be. Because we would have this certain individual with us at all times, you know how we all have this “thing” called a conscience? Well it’s actually the Holy Ghost, sent from God to guide us in choosing the right over the wrong. So are we expected to be perfect and pass this test with an A plus? No, of course not! God knew we were going to mess up, which is why in His loving mercy He prepared a way out for us, a way for us to come back to His path if we did happen to stray. But for this he needed a savior, someone to pay for our sins because in a just world when you do wrong, you have to pay the price. So he needed a sacrifice, someone willing to pay for the wrong doing of others, that way when we repent, when we truly repent, we can start again, start anew, a clean slate to continue the path He has laid out for us. He needed someone that could come to earth, live a sinless life and endure the suffering it took to set us all free of our sins. So this savior would need to be half human, half God…the ultimate sacrifice. There were two candidates for this position, our brothers Jesus Christ and lucifer. Jesus Christ said he would do what our Heavenly Father required him to do but lucifer proposed another plan. He would come to earth as our savior, and instead of allowing us to choose between good or wrong, he would force us to choose good. In other words our free agency would be no more, that way “no souls would be lost” and we would all pass the test. God refused, because free agency is a given right, lucifer and his followers rebelled and were cast out of God’s presence, being denied the chance to progress, the chance to come to earth, to gain bodies, to take the test. Which is why i say that we passed the first test. We chose God’s plan and accepted Jesus Christ as our savior.

        Now, the bible says that because of eve and her choice of eating from the forbidden tree – which would let her know right from wrong – caused them to be cast out from this blissful garden to experience sorrow and pain and suffering and labor pains, along with men having to work from the sweat of their foreheads and what not…well does that story not seem symbolic to you?

        If eve and adam had not eaten from that fruit, they would not have been able to reproduce, if they had not been able to reproduce, all those spirit children would not be able to come to earth through childbirth. In other words the fall (eve and adam being cast out from the garden, was meant to happen).

        What do you think?

  10. Katherin, wow, that is quite a reply! I feel obliged to answer with a similarly long note.

    I’ll start from the end: “What do you think?” I think it is a tall tale that doesn’t make sense as a whole, but even the self consistent parts are to believed because a church leader said so, not because it is anything that anyone would otherwise come to.

    Your story contains a bunch of assertions which I simply don’t accept. “He needed someone that could come to earth, live a sinless life and endure the suffering it took to set us all free of our sins.” Why did this person need to be sinless, other than it makes the mythical character impressive? You say someone has to pay the price for our transgressions (I don’t agree — this isn’t a monetary exchange), but even if one accepts that parallel, good people and bad people equally are able to pay monetary debts.

    “So this savior would need to be half human, half God…the ultimate sacrifice.” Why “need?” Why do people claim Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice? He was a God, and he didn’t die. Supposedly his corporeal body is even walking around somewhere that we can’t see. He suffered intensely for three hours on the cross. There are millions of people who aren’t gods and suffer excruciating pain for years. There are people who make tremendous sacrifices in anonymity — it is a bit easier to make a sacrifice if one knows the outcome and knows their sacrifice is going to make some huge contribution to the world. Who has made the bigger sacrifice?

    “[re: the garden of eden] well does that story not seem symbolic to you?” Yes, it does seem symbolic. I can’t at all understand people who think it is literally true, that Abraham lived 800 years or whatever, that the flood happened, that Jonah actually lived in the belly of a whale, etc. etc. I come from a Catholic background; Catholics are fare less literal about the bible than Baptists, and have a 2000 year history in creating “revealed knowledge,” meaning the smartest priests would spend their lives deciding what parts of the Bible are indefensible and come up with some alternative interpretation to make things cohere better.

    Your story has many very specific claims towards representing God’s mind. Yet so often when faced with some senseless suffering, say an infant with spina bifida, Christians will fall back on, “God works in mysterious ways.” From where I sit, it seems that Christians will claim to know God’s mind when it fits their narrative, but will sweep it under the “mysterious ways” rug when something poses a challenge to their claims.

    Have you studied any other religious? Many have very detailed and complicated stories that interlock and are self consistent in some ways, and their believers are all too willing to skip over problems in those stories. You, as an outsider, would quickly dismiss these stories as being mythical. But to them, your stories are in the same way easily discounted.

    You claimed that God had two choices: create Jesus to send down to redeem us, or Lucifer. Well, we all know that Lucifer is renown for tricking mortals. Consider this possibility. God and Lucifer were talking about how to judge good people from bad people, and Lucifer came up with a plan, which God approved. Lucifer wrote a book of history and rules, a mishmash of contradictory lessons and stories which are easily interpreted in multiple ways; essentially, an inkblot test. Lucifer said: God, send this book I’ve created to earth, and promote it among the mortals. You will be able to judge who is good and who is bad by observing which parts they decide to accept and which parts they decide to ignore. And here we are. To my view of things, this story is more consistent with observed reality than the story you told.

    • haha i warned you it would be a long post, sorry about that and thanks for taking the time to read it and actually reply…i get a little carried away when i talk about the gospel to others. Why? well i don’t mean to be cheesy but it makes me very happy, and i’d like others to be as happy as I am. (It’s hard to explain but if you ever meet lds missionaries you’ll realize there is this peace and happiness about them, it’s pretty neat) Yeah i know much stuff doesn’t make sense or add up or even fall into place. I have struggled with the need of understanding every single thing that comes my way throughly since well as long as i can remember. It’s a horrible habit… but it benefits me in school so it’s all good. Anyways my point is we can’t understand everything and that is a BEAUTIFUL part of life, what would we be without wonder and faith. Anyways i just got out of church and i am having an amazing sunday, and although i do have answers for why God would allow a baby to be born with spina bifida or why Jesus Christ was required to live a sinless life….well i think i have covered enough about my beliefs in my last two posts to answer those questions. If you would truly like to hear more and have an interesting debate look for the mormon missionaries on the street. Thanks for your insights, they made me think of topics i haven’t given much thought to and i truly appreciate that, have a great day and good luck!

      http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Atonement_of_Jesus_Christ

      p.s here is a link explaining the atonement of Jesus Christ, explaining that his greatest suffering did not happen on the cross as most people believe, it happened in the garden of gesethmane where he payed for the sins of everyone’s souls, his anguish was so exceedingly great that it is usually narrated as “bleeding from every pore” and the reason he had to be half God was because no mortal human can bear this type of suffering, the suffering of paying for everyone’s sins is unimaginable and only someone half God could bear it, oh and he did die, but it was a physical death to which he ressurected as a gloried perfect being (remember i said souls are eternal?)….it’s symbolic of what we all have to go through….ok now i’m really finished.

  11. I too was raised hyper-religious, so I know that feel. At 6 years old my grandfather was teaching me to use a concordance so that every question I had about god, I could investigate on my own. Problem is, the greek and hebrew words do little to shed extra light on the kind of questions I had.

    These days I am so far from that place that I can scarcely imagine anything I could ever hear or see that could make me believe the christian myth is anything besides the recycling of older myths, which was then heavily refocused through a new lens by the likes of Aristotle and pals. Even though I am not a christian, like you, I posses insight into their ideas having been steeped in them the first 20 years of my life. Its seem so obvious to me that the universe as a whole is a complexity engine, to borrow a term from Terence McKenna. It has moved towards complexity from a swarm of free electrons, to hydrogen, to lithium, to heroin to my dogs eye lashes. I have come to believe that anywhere in the cosmos where conditions are acceptable, not necessarily favorable, just acceptable, and when this planet reaches a certain threshold of complexity in its composition, life will emerge and it cannot be stopped. That’s right, I believe that there are literally billions upon billions of planets in the cosmos with living things on them. In-fucking-credible. This, to me, inspires an incredible amount of wonder and numinous charge, I guess some may call it. The idea that a life energy is bubbling just under the surface of every square inch of the cosmos to me is much bigger than any god story told to kids in the last 700 years.

    I ask you christians, why is this mechanism unacceptable?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s