Having renounced most of my faith in supernatural powers, I thought it would be a wise decision to explore the root of the secular lifestyle: The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. So, I went to my local Half-Price and found a 150th anniversary edition, marked as such by a special introduction. None of my Christian friends or family members were around, so I could purchase it without any hairy eyeballs tracking me down to the cash register, which is always a plus. To make things even better, the cashier actually became excited to see the copy in my hands. “Oh, wow, Charles Darwin!” she gasped as she slid the bar code beneath a scarlet string of light. “He was such a cool guy!”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said, grinning at her intellectual enthusiasm. (Or was it youthful naivety?)
“Such a cool, cool guy!” she affirmed. “I hope you enjoy reading it! He’s so cool!”
She’d be disappointed to know that I didn’t experience Darwin’s “coolness” that day – and that I still haven’t, even though I purchased the book a month ago. For one day, I took Origin of the Species with me to read during the off-periods of my work shift (which can happen quite often – I work at the circulation desk at my university’s library, which is a most serene workplace), and I’ve found that the text angered me. Not the text that Darwin wrote, though. Rather, it was the “special introduction.”
Well. They weren’t kidding when they said “special.”
First of all – which may very well be the last of all – it was authored by Ray Comfort. The majority of us will recognize him by his work in heavily edited Christian documentaries that address the “ignorance” and “bullheaded stupidity” of atheists (one of his documentaries is entitled “The Atheist Delusion”), all the while oversimplifying the concept of evolution and the Big Bang, and hyperbolizing the drawbacks of atheism on society. If you were to Google him, your eyes would be yanked to the side-bar, which declares him, first and foremost and only, as an evangelist. So, here swings the million dollar question: Why the hell is a guy like Ray Comfort writing the special introduction to the 150th anniversary edition of The Origin of the Species?
Well, we’ll answer that question in a moment. Firstly, I’d like to answer the thousand dollar question: Why did I buy the 150th anniversary edition of The Origin of the Species when it had a special introduction by Ray Comfort? The simple answer is: ignorance. I had no idea who Ray Comfort was, or what his goals were, until I read his introduction and did some research on him. I also looked into the publisher of my subject of buyer’s remorse, Bridge Logos Foundation, and found them to be a heavily Christian book publisher – they’re the kind that publish Christian lifestyle paperbacks for the central Texan Walmarts. I would also like to take the time to state that I did find The Origin of Species in the religion/metaphysics section of the Half-Price. Again, I must address how blind with ignorance and passion I was at the time I noticed the book. I was like a drowning man, scrambling and flailing for a log as it drifts overhead, only to find that once has grabbed it and clawed onto its back that the log was not a log – but a goddamn alligator. Like the drowning man, I was so blinded by the emotions of opportunity that I did not take stock of my surrounding, and now I’ve been metaphorically bitten by an alligator because of my fifteen minutes of stupidity.
However, is it wholly my fault? The Origin of the Species is emblazoned in gilded, ribbon-like text. Charles Darwin’s face is the cover’s sole imagery. Am I totally in the wrong for assuming that I had purchased an unaltered, un-Comforted edition, published by an unbiased but intellectually driven publishing company? Why would a publishing company like Bridge Logos Foundation produce the actual Origin of Species, instead of one of their many counter-arguments?
(One answer: to boost sales.) Why would a guy like Ray Comfort be allowed to write the introduction to The Origin of the Species anyway?
Ah. So we’ve returned to the million dollar question. Told you we’d be getting back to that.
The answer is very easy. What do evangelists do best? They evangelize. In apparently the sleaziest way possible, nigh comparable to the art of fur-trapping.
First of all, they set the bait. In this case, they decide to publish The Origin of Species, as many respectable publishing companies would for the book’s 150th anniversary. But Bridge Logos isn’t a respectable publishing company, they’re an evangelist one, so they recruit the scholar of our times, a clearly renowned expert of Darwin and Darwinism, Ray Comfort. Then the trap is set: in this case, they distribute it to any retailer that will have them (mostly Central Texan Walmarts), and make sure that they’re neatly placed in the religious section – don’t want to false advertise, you know. Then, the trap is unleashed: some curious atheist kid who only poked her little brown nose in to see what bullshit is being distributed notices the bait, gets excited, and goes for it.
Unfortunately for Bridge Logos, the prey must be highly susceptible to influence. I, although clearly unobservant, am also not that susceptible. In my case, the trap only bruised my faith in humanity. However, let me open up a random page of Ray Comfort’s erudite and articulate introduction and jot it down for you, so you can get a taste of what more susceptible prey would read:
“Adolf Hitler took Darwin’s evolutionary philosophy to its logical conclusion. […] Anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith said of Hitler: “The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist.”
With that logic, the susceptible atheist would have to conclude that he is siding with Hitler whenever he states that he believes in evolution. Therefore, he is a Nazi. As such, he should believe in the slaying of “weaker races.” However, being a normal (if not naive) human being, that doesn’t really settle well with him, and he becomes grossly uncomfortable. Even though many other people and texts before The Origin of the Species, one of them being the Bible, features if not encourages ostracizing and/or destroying of “weaker races” – or, for more Biblical terms, “faithless nations,” “wicked nations,” etc. (For example: Sodom and Gomorrah. Its destruction wasn’t even a human one, but an all-out supernatural one – that is to say, God, whom men are supposed to love and worship, wholly believes that certain people or maybe even races are not worth a breath of life, and should be destroyed on the spot. Much like with Hitler.) It’s a dark part of human history that has been around since its recorded beginning. “Social Darwinism” is no vice of the modern and/or secular world, but rather a universal thorn in humanity’s side that has only recently been given a name. And just because “Darwin” happens to be in said monnicker, does not mean that people who side with him are Nazis or support Nazi-like ideals. To say otherwise, or to even imply otherwise, is not a logical conclusion, but rather a jump in reasoning. To also suggest that the Holocaust could have been avoided if Darwin had not written The Origin of the Species is much like saying girls won’t be raped if they just wear more modest clothing. The reason behind Hitler’s motivation means nothing, and nothing – except maybe Hitler’s early death or Hitler’s reawakening as a more moral man, but even those are hyperthetical; anti-semitism was rather common in Europe at the time anyway – would have prevented it.
There are other such examples all throughout Comfort’s introduction, such as only quoting creationist anthropologists to ensure that the susceptible atheist feels like an idiot. It then takes it further and discussing Darwin the man, and his viewpoints on life in general. One such viewpoint being Darwin’s stance on the company of women. To quote a quote, supposedly taken from Darwin’s journal:
“Better than a dog, anyhow.”
Well, you know, at least he didn’t mention anything about: “You know, if I had two guests come over and this gang comes up and they ask if they can rape them, I think I’ll give them my daughters instead. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.” You know, kind of like Lot. Or: “I think that if my wife turns out to be infertile, I think I’ll just ask her if I can rape her maid instead.” You know, kind of like Abraham. “You know, humanity’s kind of in a shit-hole. I better put myself in human form and save them. Oh, shoot, humans come from where? Fine, I’ll just impregnate one of their women without her consent and just say, ‘Ay, he’s the son of God – don’ worry ’bout it,’ and it’ll be totally cool.” You know, kind of like God.
The fact of the matter is, Comfort doesn’t really write scholarly articles. Instead, he atheist-shames. Secular shames? Whatever. And as Bridge Logos evidently supports this flail-in-hand manner of evangelizing, what other evangelical methods are they willing to use to achieve their die-hard goal? Censorship? Rewording? If they’re willing to insert Comfort’s smear of an essay to ensure the discomforting of susceptible atheists (and, supposedly, they’re eventual flight to Christianity to avoid the “bad, bad men”), then what else are they willing to do? How much of the book’s actual text is truly Darwin’s, but rather one of Comfort’s crucifix-fiddling gremlins trembling over his blue markers and yellow pages? “Can’t let another one go to the Devil, oh no, not another one…”
As a former Christian, I’m actually rather embarrassed that there are those who would go to such awkward and immeasurable lengths. Because, besides the trapping and furrying, punish and shame tactics that are so evident in this copy, this really is offensive. To put it in perspective: if you were writing a book about the history of ancient Africa, would you include an introduction about how ancient European civilizations were clearly more advanced ethically, mentally, artistically, et cetera? No. You wouldn’t. Because that’s improper, that’s rude, that’s racist, and to top it all off, has little to no weight on the subject matter. See, that’s what Bridge Logos and Ray Comfort have done. But Bridge Logos and Ray Comfort don’t care; they’ll atheist-shame till the cows float to Heaven, and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, so long as those cows keep floating on up.
However, while I am disappointed, I’m not surprised. Much of what I learned back in middle school about Christian apologia (which was the main period in my life where I was exposed to Christian apologia), wasn’t so much actual Christian apologia as it was atheist shaming. It’s how they uproot the weeds; it’s nothing new. (Kind of like social Darwinism.) Which is one of the reasons why I stopped being a Christian.
And why I’ll never return to Christianity.
Tangent 1: Why “Special Introductions” Suck
Tangents are not relevant to the post at all. Skip if you’re not interested.
As many bookworms will know, many classics tend to have “special introductions” in almost every recently published edition. Some can be insightful and educational, such as when they present us with brief biographies of the authors, or when they discuss the impact the text has made on culture (it is even more intriguing when there is a comparison between the book’s immediate reception and its criticism hundred years after publication). But other than that, they’re really the most useless essays I’ve ever read. They add nothing to the text. All of them are opinionated, many of them are longer than they need to be, and they’re all quietly patronizing of the reader. For instance, in the introduction to my copy of Sophocles: The Complete Plays, the author (it does not give a name) begins by informing us how tragic plays were written to explain what it’s like to be a human being. And that’s about it.
Honestly, when I first read Oedipus Rex, I thought it was about the hazards of dating a MILF, but I guess not. Had to skim the ever so important introduction to realize that Sophocles didn’t even know what a MILF was. Wow. Shut my mouth. That play actually means something to culture. Huh. Good thing I read the introduction, or I never would have gotten it.
I mean, really. No one’s going to pick up Sophocles and think: “Oh hell yeah, more Percy Jackson shit!” No. Nobody. The introduction is pointless. It wastes my reading time. I could be understanding Sophocles’ stance on the human condition, but instead, I’m spending five to ten minutes being lectured by some Ivory Tower sort that Sophocles simply does have a stance on the human condition. If I wanted to read things like that, or even be treated that way as a reader, I’d go back to my high school freshman English class. At least those had discussions.
Also, introductions have a terrible habit of spoiling books. My most recent example is when I read Wuthering Heights over my Christmas break. I skimmed the introduction because I noticed it discussed Emily Bronte’s life, which I thought was interesting; however, I made the mistake of going past that part and reading the Ivory Tower’s opinion on the thematic elements of the novel. In the span of a page, I learned not only whom Catherine Earnshaw was, but also who she was going to marry. If you’ve ever read Wuthering Heights, I’m sure you can understand why this severely disappointed me. It ripped a good chunk of the experience out of reading Wuthering Heights for the first time, and although I still enjoyed the novel, I just don’t think I can forgive the Ivory Tower for doing that to me.
Just, why can’t they put the more “thematically minded” introductions at the end of the book? When we’ve had time to digest what we think the theme is, when we’ve experienced the book as much as we could? That way, the experience of reading an introduction would turn them from half-hearted lectures to what could be discussions held millions of miles away. But no. I guess readers are so bloody idiotic that they need the books to be “introduced” to them.
Tangent 2: God’s Love Song
A lot of Christians like to claim that the Bible is God’s love letter to us.
Kind of reminds of this one.