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October 06, 2009

The Banana Man Chronicles-2: What's really on Banana Man's mind

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)

In the first post in this series, I wrote about Banana Man's arguments against evolution which, together with a short biography of Darwin, constitutes about 40 pages of his introduction to Origins. But even Banana Man must know that there was nothing new there. It was clear to me that this was just an excuse to gain attention and on the final pages 39-50, he gets down to the real issue that concerns him, which is to get you to come to Jesus.

Banana Man has a bigger challenge than the sophisticated religious intellectuals who are content to argue for the existence of merely a Slacker God. Such people like Karen Armstrong, Robert Wright, and H. E. Baber only wish to believe in the existence of something, anything at all, however small or inconsequential, that is outside the reach of scientific investigation. They then give that the name 'god' and move on. The existence of their god leads to no practical consequences whatsoever and the world would be indistinguishable whether their god existed or not, but this does not seem to bother them. For this reason I call such people 'religious atheists'.

Banana Man, however, believes in the literal truth of the Bible, in Jesus' virgin birth and resurrection, in other words the whole Christian ball of wax. So he has a bigger task than the religious atheists. He not only has to argue for the existence of a supergod who intervenes in the universe all the time, he has to argue for existence of one and only one very specific god, the Jesus-god that he happens to believe in.

In order to achieve this you would think that, at the very least, he would try to show that the god of Christianity is the true god and all the other gods are false. But religious people cannot really argue for the falsity of other people's gods because those same arguments can be used against their own god. So instead of true and false, Banana Man argues that Christianity offers goodies and rewards that the others don't, which makes it preferable to believe in. It is like a store that competes against other stores in sales for the identical item by offering sale prices or throwing in a free toaster, and then suggesting that the resulting higher sales means that they are selling the genuine article while their competitors are selling counterfeit. The argument makes no sense.

So using a long and complicated metaphor involving what would be most useful if one were forced to jump out of a plane (seemingly inspired by seeing the Disney film Up), he tries to justify why it is better to be a Christian than to be a Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.

Interestingly, he does not include Judaism in his list of loser religions. If you think about it, in his eyes Judaism should be an even bigger loser than Islam. At least Islam recognizes Jesus as a great prophet and is even willing to concede that god gave him a virgin birth and the power to do miracles, although not conceding that he is god incarnate. As far as Jews ago, Jesus was just an ordinary Jew of his time, if he existed at all.

But Christians in the US have come a long way since the days when they despised Jews as Christ-killers. While antipathy towards Jews may exist among individual Christians, a political alliance has been cemented between right wing Christians and right wing Jews. It is now Christianist policy to talk of the 'Judeo-Christian' heritage of the US and of 'Judeo-Christian' values and be nice to Jews and not say any bad things about them (at least publicly) even though they believe that when the Rapture comes, Jews who haven't seen the light and come to Jesus are going to slaughtered by god, just like all the other unbelievers.

So how does Banana Man try to persuade the reader that Jesus is the only god they should believe in? Those familiar with Banana Man's schtick know what to expect. He basically does the same thing that he and Crocoduck do when they are out evangelizing in the streets, which is that they accost random people and go through all the ten commandments, one by one, asking people which ones they've broken.

Just to be sure that you realize you have broken a lot and get a perfect or almost perfect score of 10, he takes liberties with the wording of the commandments. He says that any use of the word god other than in prayer constitutes taking god's name in vain and is thus a violation of the third commandment. He expands the word 'murder' to include hate, justifying the modification by using some quote from Jesus. So if you've ever hated anyone, then you've broken the sixth commandment against committing murder. Again roping in Jesus, he expands the meaning of the word 'adultery' to include sex before marriage and even simple lust, just to make sure you have broken the seventh commandment.

Basically, the idea is to present you with a list of rules that he says that god insists that you follow but which are impossible to obey. The point of all this effort is so that he can then pass judgment on you and say that because you have violated all or almost all of the commandments, you are a disgusting sinner and thus doomed to spending eternity in hell.

So what's the point? In the next post, we'll see why he goes to all this trouble.

POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert interviews Richard Dawkins

Look closely and you will see that Dawkins is wearing a crocoduck tie.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Richard Dawkins
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

By the way, I found a nice image of the crocoduck.

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Comments

Mano,

The current patch up or truce the fundamentalists (who call themselves Christian) have offered Judaism in the US reminds me of the schoolyard bully. Feeling restrained within the precincts of the school the bully tells his rival, "We will settle this outside the school." If you remember your Tamizh patois you would know how this is said in the language!

If you would bear with my taking this thread off on a tangent, I would like to point us to some funny and even bizarre behavior that has come to light on our religious landscape in the US. After the truce with Judaism was declared, Christian values became Judeo-Christian principles or some such thing. And then some Muslim groups too got into the act demanding recognition of their traditions and beliefs, about 15 years ago, prompting the GOP to reach out to Muslim notables just about anywhere they could. One GOP operative even penned articles about how Mohammad in old Arabia as an entrepreneur and businessman espoused what we would today call conservative and worked toward establishing limited government! This was around the time of the Bush 2000 campaign and a few Pakistani-Americans (probably miffed over Clinton's then recent visit to India) joined the bandwagon, becoming after lobbyists for the Middle East "Oiligarchic" tyrannies, smong the more enthusiastic supporters of the then emerging GOP agenda. And all of a sudden we started hearing about not Judeo-Christian values, but the Abrahamic tradition! This creating a mashup of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam! And then came the attacks of 9/11 and the vengeful backlash of hatred against Islam and Muslims, and all this seemed in doubt. But Bush and his oligarchic backers had other plans. Since the cozy alliance with the Middle East Oiligarchs has long been one of the two pillars of the corporate-war establishment - the other being the finance industry - an all out attempt was made to sustain this chimera of "Abrahamic tradition" With Bush for the first time hosting a Ramzan Iftaar at the White House. Soon enough spokesmen of another "religious group" - the Hindus - started to get all worked up over this. And so we had the cheesy spectacle of self-appointed "Hindu pastor/chaplain" Rajan Zed from Nevada reciting a "benediction" in the Senate, with some fundagelicals cat calling from the benches adding to the fun! Now I do not think it is incorrect from a scholarly point of view to talk about an Abrahamic tradition that traces the history of the myths and folklore that runs as a thread through Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This could be studied in contrast to what some call the "Dharmic traditions" of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. But to talk about some common God or some unseen, unknown, ultimate force (Tea Pot anyone?) is to stretch it into a farce. And jockeying for public attention especially from the political dispensation of the day, is beyond ridiculous.

Posted by KuraL on October 6, 2009 10:40 AM

KuraL,

Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten some of this history of religious realignments based on political expediency!

Posted by Mano on October 6, 2009 05:46 PM

To understand why Comfort does not denigrate Judaism, you must understand that Comfort is Jewish. His mother remains Jewish, not finding the same calling that brought Ray to his fundamentalist flavor of Christianity.

One of the saddest disconnects about Ray Comfort is that he has convinced himself that unless his mother accepts Christ, she will suffer eternal punishment, roasting forever in the fires of Hell.

She, at this time, has still refused to accept Ray's religion. It is very sad that this street preacher uses his religion as an excuse to violate his own interpretation of the ten commandments by so dishonoring his parent.

Posted by Benjamin Franklin on October 7, 2009 07:18 PM

Benjamin,

I had no idea about Comfort's mother being Jewish. I cannot imagine how she must feel about her son thinking that she will spend eternity in hell.

An incredibly sad turn in the story.

Posted by Mano on October 7, 2009 09:08 PM

KuraL,

Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten some of this history of religious realignments based on political expediency!

Posted by Breville BOV800XL on December 3, 2010 06:28 PM

I also almost had forgotten some of this history of religious realignments,you really remind me .so I really want to know why he goes to all this trouble and what's the key point .The image of the crocoduck is really amazing and funny,I'll learn to make another images like this,thanks .

Posted by breville on April 15, 2011 09:06 AM