Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Franklin Graham, Islamic fundamentalists, and acting as God's mouthpiece

One of the (many) things I find mystifying about the very religious is their tendency to think that God agrees with them.

Not, mind you, that they agree with God.  Once you've accepted that some deity's dictum is your ultimate guide to life (whether it be the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or whatever), it isn't strange at all that you would then follow the rules to the best of your ability.  So although I do wonder what could lead anyone to accept that a self-contradictory text that was pretty clearly written by people is the infallible, literal word of God, I see how (once you've done that) it becomes unassailable.

What is more curious is how many of the same people who think that God has spoken to humanity through a revelatory book then make the further leap that any other thing they believe must be God's opinion, too.  I've commented before on the wild meanderings of Pat Robertson, who (for example) decided that the people of Haiti were sent the devastating earthquake of 2010 because of their history of practicing voodoo.  The upshot of most of Reverend Pat's pronouncements is that God has decided opinions on what should be done about the wickedness of the world, and coincidentally, those agree exactly with what Reverend Pat himself would do, if he were God.

The latest in this long line of people who seem to feel like their whims must be God's whims as well is Franklin Graham, son of the iconic evangelical leader Reverend Billy Graham.  Now, while I don't agree much with Billy Graham's philosophical and political positions, I've always thought he was a good man, who tempered his religious fervor with a genuine love for humanity and a sense that he should follow Jesus' command to render unto God what is God's and render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.  Billy's son Franklin, however, doesn't seem to be restrained by any such understanding, as was evidenced by a recent interview he granted to, and which was summarized here.

"In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God," Graham said, in an obvious shot at the Obama adminsitration. "We have taken God out of our education system.  We have taken him out of government.  You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any kind of a public forum."  He went on to say, in a remarkable echo of Reverend Pat, that because of all of this God will visit upon America "a complete economic collapse" in order to bring us back to the "path to godliness."

I very much get the impression here that all of the fire-and-brimstone he's putting into God's mouth, and his prediction that God will smite the American economy with his Mighty Fist to teach us a valuable lesson, is not something he's abstracted from reading the Bible, but is what Franklin Graham would like to see happen because of his own particular bent toward Christian fundamentalism and political conservatism.  It's peculiar to observe someone who has so identified himself with the holy writ that he feels that he has the duty to pronounce God's word to the people -- as if he had become the mouthpiece of the deity, as if every word he said must be God's opinion as well.

This is a completely baffling stance to me, and I say that not only because I'm a secular atheist, but because I know how often I get things wrong.  I am far from infallible -- there are (many) topics about which I am partially or totally ignorant, I think illogically sometimes, I come to false conclusions.  Human minds only take you so far; our task, as far as I can see, is to hone and train our brains insofar as is possible, and always remember that we might not be seeing the picture correctly.  But what if you felt like you had, for one reason or another, a direct pipeline to the mind of God?  You would no longer doubt anything that came into your brain; surely God put it there, right?  You would lose that sense of perspective that keeps us all moving forward in our understanding of how the world actually works; and you would, scarily, have an instant justification for any action you took, any words you uttered.  Franklin Graham, I think, has crossed that line -- and that puts him in the same category as the British Islamists who just yesterday announced a fatwa against Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.  [Source]

I find the whole thing bizarre and frightening.  That anyone can stand up in a public forum, and say, "I know what God wants," without the entire audience simultaneously shouting, "How the hell do you know what God wants?" is deeply puzzling to me.  But, oddly, that does not seem to be a very common reaction.  Many people, for some reason, want a figure to act as God's spokesperson, and the question, "But what if he's got it wrong?" never seems to occur to them.


  1. There are days where your posts offer interesting avenues of conversation and there's a few replies. Then there are days where you get no replies, because you hit the nail on the head and drove it in.

    Have a heart warming, fulfilling Thanksgiving, Gordon!

    I'm thankful for Skeptophilia!

  2. Oh and for some hilarious entertainment related to the subject matter of this post, might I recommend hopping onto Youtube and checking out the "Axis of Awesome" and their track titled "What Would Jesus Do?"