Easter- that spring time holiday when Christian families gather around a feast of Rack of Lamb with Mint Jelly (or, in the Southwestern USA, 2 inch thick Ribeyes on the B-B-Que) and argue about who in the family will win the "free trip to heaven" lottery while the rest of the family heathens roast in the eternal B-B-Que of damnation....
Invariably, my personal affinity and understanding of physics, economics, biology, sociology, and all the natural processes that intertwine them makes me the perfect target of the "Darwin was Satan, and the Bible is the immutable word of God" dismissals of those who have it all figured out and find my incessant and prolific study, meditation, and rationalization of the world around me as a fool's errand when, in fact, all I have to do is accept that blind worship directed toward Jesus Christ is the only path to eternal salvation.
Now let's be clear- I'm a huge fan of Jesus. I don't think there has been a human before, or since, who has so loved the Earth that he gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we would all be allowed to continue living as the lying, thieving, and whoring sociopaths that our nature seems so willing to reduce us to.
The question of whether Jesus was God incarnate, or just some atypical guy who REALLY had it together intellectually and emotionally, is the ultimate question of Faith. For me, the question is moot. Jesus in Human form was as much the personification of God as any of us are. To the question of faith- mine is unwavering, but so too is my unfaltering allegiance to the practical teachings of Jesus; meaning that if I live my life as Jesus lived his (without trespassing on his neighbors, facing and confronting human corruption and evil head on, and walking the path of enlightenment) then our walk with Jesus through this life should be (to me at least) measured as a success.
To the question of worship, things get a little more shaky for me. Jesus did not teach his Disciples to worship him. He did not ask them to, and from my own interpretations of the Bible (having read it 6 times) I just don't think he WANTED to be worshiped. It was after his death that Paul (who is still debated as to his Apostle status) began designing the dogmatic and ritualistic worship practices that would eventually comprise the roman Catholic church and all it's more modern off-shoots. There is no historical record to suggest that Jesus had any part in mandating any worship centric dogma.
The most self-aggrandizing thing Jesus is recounted as saying is simply to the effect of "eat some bread and drink some wine, and remember me when you do so that my loving spirit may live on in each of you". He didn't say anything about building temples and monuments to him.
If you believe Jesus is God, then you must also believe in the infinite love and infinitely transcendent intelligence of God. So how would such awesome power of intellect and emotional grace require such feeble expressions of exaltation as singing and waving your arms in the air every Sunday ? I'm not blasting those who choose to worship in such manners (hey- I like to sing every now and then too), but I am challenging that said practices are a mandatory part of the path to salvation.
Of course, On Easter Sunday I had to ratchet up the discussion by asking the age-old question "If Jesus is the only way to the light, then what about Moses and everyone in the old Testament?", to which the response is somthing equivalent to "well, everyone before Jesus got a free-pass to heaven"; but my Brother in Law actually (for the first time in the hundreds of times that I've asked this question) gave me an answer that aligns with my own interpretation of the Bible- The Mosaic Law- that immutable law from God that tells us that we have the inborn power to distinguish Right from Wrong. Abraham, Moses and everyone else in the Old Testament strove to do right by God, and they were rewarded for their efforts. Those who did not strive to do right, got the express elevator down, or were washed away in floods or turned into salt pillars (I must say- the "sentences" passed down on judgement day in the Old Testament were infinitely more creative- there are some folks I can think of today who could use a good dose of salt-transformation; but I digress)
So, The question of whether "works" (defined by the Mosaic Law) or whether "declaration" of Jesus as savior is the most important component of the Christian's walk through this life remains unanswered, and frankly, I think it will always be, because there is no definitive or comprehensive verse in the scripture that prevents the question from devolving into a political debate, and to me, politics has dishonesty at its core, so it can therefore not be holy, and so I must refuse to engage in a political debate surrounding the basis of faith. I'll debate the politics of fiat currency creation and the evil of Central Banking, but not faith.
But, back to nature (and Darwin). Evolution is at the heart of the Christian Creationists battle with science. I'm here to tell everyone who can claim an open mind that both sides of the debate are absolutely, 100% correct. Nature and organisms most certainly evolve over extremely long time horizons, branching into what science would classify as new species along the way. We see it in on a micro scale with bacteria that mutate to form resistance to antibiotics, We see it in the adaptive understanding that Humans are not the only species to care for and nurture their young...
In fact, it is caring for our young that seals the debate for me- it demonstrates how Darwin's "survival of the fittest" mantra fits perfectly with the eternal, intellectual love of the creator of the Universe.
Atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins declare that our intelligence (and our conflicted nature) is the random remainder of an unsolvable biological equation; but, to believe in the random origination theory of evolution requires a faith far stronger than simple faith in God (or some other intelligence that transcends the physical barrier of our Universe). This point makes the athiest the ultimate hyprocrite.
I contend that intelligence can not exist at all without Intelligence existing (how's that for circular logic?) Let me elaborate:
Intelligence exists in this Universe- you and I are irrefutable proof of this inescapable fact; and because the fact of existent intelligence is infallible, the argument of random origination evolution REQUIRES any and all Atheistic, random evolution theorists who ascribe to Dawkins, to maintain unswerving FAITH that intelligence is an accidental by-product of the evolutionary process. I’m afraid this makes them every bit as religious as those who choose to thump their bible and condemn everyone else to hell…
The ability to rationalize (or to reason) is what gives rise to intelligence, and yet the ability to rationalize is nurtured, fostered, and passed on through the generations- good choices are rewarded, poor choices are punished, and REALLY poor choices (like stepping off a building because you think you can fly) get you a one way ticket OUT of the gene-pool. Strong genetics continue, weak genetics fail. This is Darwin's theory in its most elegant form- the process of natural selection that relies on favoritism passed down through the generations.
And yet, there is no Darwinian process that accurately describes the emergence of reason and rationalization. IE: no one can describe the natural circumstances that inspire the process of passing knowledge learned to the next generation; but there is another point here that I think we can all agree on- The process of passing our knowledge to our offspring, and to others in the population whom we favor, is one that we undertake out of love or favoritism for those that we pass these lessons to- we want them to enjoy the Darwinian advantage of what we have learned, yes? And so, if this natural process is born out of love, and yet the end result supports the concept of slow change and evolution over time (as intelligence advances, society advances, and by extension the species advances), then I have to ask how a loving process can be distorted into evil by those who choose to fixate on the political nature of religion?
The Atheist Dawkins and others like him may dismiss intelligence and rationalization as a random by-product of evolution, but I ask you- how random can this process truly be? If the accidental by-product theory of intelligence is accurate, then how is the power of choice justified? Why are right choices rewarded, and why are wrong choices punished? This is all to coincidental to me to be merely random.
Ayn Rand said she could not prove there was God, so she chose not to waste any time debating the topic with herself.
I choose to think that God is simply the loving favoritism we share with each other.
Intelligence begets intelligence. The fact that intelligence is the ultimate gift we pass from generation to generation means that at some point far back in our Darwinian pre-history, this precious gift was passed to us for the first time by the loving intelligence that is the parental source of our own (sometimes) loving intelligence.
My last contribution to this discussion is simply that evil can not exist without good, and that goodness is not commonly considered as the corruption of evil, while the inverse definitely is a commonly held viewpoint; So the question of God (the loving favoritism we share with each other) as the ultimate Universal force of good seems to be a lock, and yet at the same time one can not decry Darwinian natural selection as evil lest they choose never to eat again, for every calorie required to sustain our biological selves comes from a formerly living organism of some sort. We must kill to survive, which seemingly makes a mockery of the 6th commandment and challenges the viewpoint of the Bible as the "irrefutable" word of God. If it truly is the word of God, then it is written in God's language, and we are too stupid to translate it accurately...
So I am left with my logical understanding, and I am left with my personal beliefs and faith.
The only logical conclusion I can draw is that there is a God, because we have been blessed with the ability to ask the question and to rationalize the answer, but in reality, the logic is completely irrelevant to me.
I know there is a God because I have felt the natural advantage of God's love for me as I have journeyed along my own path through this world.