December 17, 2012

The Wisdom of Disbelief

by Donald G. Mashburn

In looking back over my 82-plus years, I’m a bit surprised at long list of things I’ve had to “unlearn, and the even longer list of stuff that was presented as fact but never held up under examination. It seems I’ve spent a good portion of my years trying to figure out what to believe, and what not to believe

The “figuring out” has led me to the conclusion that disbelief – or the healthy skepticism that demands some supporting facts – is an important part of learning and retaining what’s useful. Being driven to dig deeper helped me sort out a number of things that turned out to be different from what I was taught or led to believe.

The teaching in many cases was from college professors and others who were more learned than I, and their expositions were often absorbed with a sponge-like readiness to learn. I had not yet fully developed the strong objectivity that has room for both belief and disbelief that provides the contrast that helps the truth to stand out clearly. The persistent objectivity and contrast came later, and were provided by a lifetime of study and a stubborn insistence that facts about the world I lived in required more than the beliefs and agendas of the “learned ones.”

Along the way, I embraced some valuable truths, and tossed out a whole truckload of things I once believed, or at least tolerated, but which turned out not to be true. Among the latter were things like the “just so” stories of evolutionism, and a number of other things that have no hard science or facts to back them up.

Over time, sifting the accumulations of some 82 years through the screens of reason and fact left me with quite a lot of trash to be culled. The process led me to conclude that what we don’t believe is an important part of the combination of knowledge and insight that we can apply to living and other useful enterprises.

It’s that combination of knowledge and insight, seasoned with reason and tested over time, that is often called “wisdom.”

A good place to start any discussion of what we believe and don’t believe is the Bible. I believe Holy Scripture is the word of God given to us as “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV).

We don’t arrive at faith by the study of science. But the study of science, and comparing what we learn of science with the beliefs and agendas of men, helps to see that the Holy Scriptures provide a better basis for our understanding of what we see around us, and what we experience, than do the foundationless beliefs and unscientific claims of evolutionism.

With wisdom and experience, believers – including believing scientists – come to realize that faith in God, and His provision for salvation for our souls, is not based on scientific fact, but on a miracle – the miracle of belief, conversion, repentance, and faith. And miracles are not in the province of science, for they are exclusively in the province of Almighty God.

Another good place to look at beliefs and disbeliefs is our own Constitution. A reasoned reading of that great document leads me to state emphatically that I don’t believe the Constitution prohibits prayer or any other manifestation of belief in God. I don’t believe it because my years in a country school, followed by my high school years under some outstanding teachers in America’s Heartland, taught me to read. That combined with several other inputs led to the related abilities to think and to reason!

And with the thinking and reasoning came some conclusions that are my own – hewn, honed, and hammered into a shape that fit the facts of the creation I observed around me and on the seven continents I’ve been privileged to travel to and study. The studies, travels, and the analytical sieves of facts and reason combined to form an important foundation for the truths that became emerged over the better part of a century.

So viewing our Constitution as it is clearly written, illuminated by the light of reason, it’s apparent that it doesn’t take a law professor to interpret its clear meaning. When it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the objective, thinking mind can understand that it did not, and does not now, mean that God must be banished from all areas of public life in America.

As a result, I don’t believe a religion is “established” simply by children learning about the Bible, God, and the faith of our founding fathers. The key word is “learn.” And reasonable minds know allowing children to learn about their Creator and their Constitution in no way “establishes” a religion, and that anti-God activists are not justified in whining about being “offended,” or “singled out,” or being “forced” to believe or do anything.

Further, I don’t believe the ACLU and NEA are qualified, morally or academically, to teach our children about “lifestyles.” I don’t believe that hanging a banner with the words, “God Bless America,” at a school or in a public area should be illegal, nor does it “establish” anything other than the right of free people to express themselves.

Additionally, I don’t believe members of Congress should give themselves pensions for life for serving just a few years in office. No one drafted them. Their overall record is poor, and when they leave Washington, I don’t believe they should be deprived of the opportunity to work for a living like the rest of us.

I don’t believe global warming is caused by SUVs or bovine flatulence. In particular, I don’t believe that those who rant about global warming know what causes it, or if it’s nothing more than a natural cycle our Creator has deemed our planet should go through every so often.

I believe Christianity has been all-important for mankind – compare a map of the spread of Christianity with a map of free nations. But I don’t believe that Christians – be they called “religious right” or “fundamentalists” – are a negative influence on society.

I don’t believe it’s detrimental to mankind if people everywhere imitate the Founder and the Reason for Christianity by being “Christ-like,” and following His commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Returning to the wisdom of disbelief, I don’t believe that partial birth abortion, pornography, or anything else that degrades or harms children and women can be properly called the “rights” of anybody.

I don’t believe the “just-so” stories and lies of evolutionism, such as Haeckel’s false embryo drawings and claims, and the staged photos and discredited reports of peppered moths in England. Nor do I believe such discredited illustrations and claims should remain in textbooks used to teach our children the baseless, unscientific beliefs of evolution.

I don’t believe it’s a cause for concern for anyone, including our public officials, to call upon Almighty God in times of trials, such as during the horrors of 9/11, and the recent horrific shootings of innocent children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

How can anyone believe it’s wrong to openly voice our faith in God and ask Him to bless our wayward and wounded nation?

Finally, I don’t believe it’s wrong to change our minds and quit believing something if we find out it’s not true.

That’s a mark of wisdom. For sometimes the better part of wisdom is disbelief toward things that reason or plain, hard facts tell us are not true.