Truth Takes Flight

The last few weeks have been fascinating to watch from any seat in the balcony of Life. A veritable duel between contemporary and ancient thought played onstage:

Earth science students found really, really old fossils in Illinois. The Pope changed his mind about Original Sin. And Creationists opened a $27 million museum near Cincinnati with exhibits depicting the Bible’s book of Genesis, which, among other things, claims that the Universe was created in six days, a mere 6,000 years ago–only 14 billion years short of geological estimates.

Speaking of geology, a University of Illinois at Chicago earth and environmental sciences professor and his students recently set out to explore a limestone cave in nearby Kendall County. Because northeastern Illinois is believed to have once been covered by a sea, the group expected to find 450 million-year-old fossils from marine life.

The fossils they found were quite a bit younger, only 310 million years old; and they weren’t aquatic. But the group was hardly disappointed with their treasures. These fossils were of plant spores, scorpion parts and needles from a coniferous tree-maybe the oldest ever found in North America!

But perhaps the most astounding news came from Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI uprooted a centuries-old Church belief, by approving a report claiming that there’s reason to believe that children who die without being baptized are not excluded from heaven. Before now, it was believed that these children still carry the burden of original sin, and would go into a limbo state after death because they weren’t acceptable to commune with God in heaven.

Of course, original sin hinges on the belief that God mercilessly blames every human for sins we didn’t personally commit. Millions fervently believe this. I wonder how many of them believe that it is fair, reasonable or Godly to jail them for someone else’s crime.

Either we believe in a just God or we don’t. Wouldn’t it be a novel idea if, when we read something that claims that God did something unjust, we questioned it instead of maligning God’s character by perpetuating the tale for generations?

Actually, some folks will go to great heights to defend God’s goodness. Case in point: the news conference for the Answers in Genesis organization’s state-of-the-art Creationist museum opening.

Buzzzzzzz. A buzzing sound overhead shifted everyone’s attention skyward. It was a small plane. From its tail flew a huge banner, commanding: “Thou Shalt Not Lie.”

That promises to be the first of many protests at this Bible-affirming museum that features graphics in its lobby of children playing with dinosaurs. Bet you didn’t know that dinosaurs were domesticated playmates, did you? In fact, one exhibit contends that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. How many cubits long and deep was that boat, again? Either the dinosaurs were runts or the ark made an ocean liner look like a tub toy.
It was that great punishing flood, the Creationist museum’s founders insist, that carved out the Grand Canyon in a matter of weeks-a claim universally disputed by scientists, who insist that the canyon was formed over a period of 6 million years and its deep channels reveal two billion years of the planet’s geological history.

Of course, the Great Flood story hinges on the belief that God is satanically genocidal and plays favorites.

Hey, will somebody please cue that plane?