An Evolution of Lies

Mark Cagnetta

As I made the short walk back to my house from my mailbox, shuffling my stack of mail along the way, an impersonally addressed, oversized postcard caught my eye. So intriguing was this invitation to an upcoming event, I began perusing its content before I reached the front door. Apparently, per the return label, “Emmanuel”—the Messiah himself, who now resides in Tecumseh, Michigan—was on a nationwide tour to educate Americans. “The Evidence: Does God Exist?” was prominently displayed on the back of the card with a list of nine dates, each corresponding with religious subject matter; most of which, not coincidentally, has been challenged at some point by modern secular scholarship. The colloquium was to start with a bang, answering the initial query, Does God Exist? Each consecutive night’s subject matter was designed as a counterargument to topics concerned with science, paleontology, archaeology, history, and reason: Where did life on Earth come from? Does science support evolution? Are fossils millions of years old? Does archaeology support the Bible? Can the Bible predict the future? The last three evenings focused on theological questions: Whatever happened to the second coming of Jesus? Why theodicy? What is love?

At first glance, this appeared to be an exercise in disguised apologetics. Truth, which Thomas Henry Huxley referred to as “the heart of morality,” was obviously going to take a backseat to these pseudoscientific prevarications. Having been raised a Catholic, I was well-versed in the mythology that is religion, and these imminent proceedings roused in my mind a scene from the pages of the Old Testament. As I recall, in Exodus, the necessity of truth-telling was revealed to God’s minions. With a dollop of poetic license, the biblical narrative went something like this: To the musical accompaniment of a supernatural trumpeter, Yahweh, disguised as a thick cloud, descended upon the mythical Mount Sinai to address the Israelites. Amid a raging thunderstorm and a concomitant earthquake, Yahweh presented Moses and his followers with a slew of precepts ranging from the stoning of misbehaving children to a demand for monotheism in a wildly polytheistic world. One such dictate addressed the need for truthfulness, however ironic it may seem, particularly in light of the fact that the entire narrative is a fabrication. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” God commanded his chosen people. “False witness,” technically, means to not perjure oneself, but it has commonly been interpreted as a moral imperative to tell the truth.

Assuming those who currently practice the Judeo-Christian religion adhere to this adjuration as vehemently as they wish to uphold the Levitical law against homosexuality, one would assume that honesty, for them, is of the utmost importance. I decided to attend at least one of these indoctrinational seminars to put my supposition to the test.

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