Everybody loves a good story and, as Aristotle taught, nothing drives impact like a beginning, middle and end. Start off with fetching characters and compelling themes, a plotline awash with suspense, then cap it off with a wow ending. Genesis oozes mythic ingredients as pre-science scribes, with nary a clue about impenetrable mysteries, fashioned a poetic rendition in part to discourage nitpicking. The stage set, we shift to high drama of the Fall, then the dysfunctional, disaster-prone first family that marches into the real world of earthly time. The loss of Paradise — by which godlike figures trade Eden for death — is no less than humanity’s greatest tragedy, indelibly stamped with permanent, if metaphoric original sin. No factual history inhibits this myth.
Then along comes Louis Gohmert, the mocking dunderhead who represents Texas in Congress. This clownish fundamentalist, thrilled to play to the cheap seats, not only mangles this most unliteral, mythic core, he snubs modern science — and the overwhelming consensus there is no single, identifiable beginning, nor does existence come “from nothing.” Thus, the notion of “God the Creator” (with his own widely- fluctuating culture over time) is simply one shortcut that explains the conundrum of how and when did we get where we are.
And if you’re a Gohmert, you box yourself in your own dead end while displaying most unChristian intolerance. This is what passes for Gohmert theology at a three-week (!) fundamentalist prayer rally, “no matter how smart they think they are, an atheist has to admit that he believes the equation: nobody plus nothing equals everything.” Au contraire: the atheist simply refutes unbelievable (Judaic-Christian) myth-making, and hardly “has to admit” that so-called God is God because he allegedly creates everything out of nothing — and miraculously in only a week.
“Nothingness” is a figment of Gohmert blarney since modern science establishes that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, thus both always existed, needing no “creation” in our time or space (whatever these terms end up meaning). This God creator is then at best a cook, not a fabricator ex nihilo. That we mere humanity, spinning on a speck in an unimaginably vast cosmos, cannot “explain” how stuff came about doesn’t demand an all-powerful, all-omniscience father figure substitute. Thus reason refutes Gohmert.
Locking in the Lesser Literalism
My issue isn’t that such fundamentalists are stupidly literalist (despite the ambiguity that inhabits all language), but that they embrace unreliable, transparently outdated literalism. Fundamentalists galore make their cosmic blunders worse by worshipping misguided, child-like fables. If prudent literalism is your thing, why not instead go for something substantial, like the accepted Principle of Conservation of Energy? All you must assume is our clever species has learned a truth or two since, let’s see, about 800 BCE. And understands the scientific method.
While science is neither ultimate nor perfect, why snub elemental physics for a bad-tempered Creator who “invented” day and night before first rolling out the sun and solar system? Here’s one vast, “category” oops: Gohmert the Deluded embraces impossible literalism (“sourceless” light) while belittling basic science, whether cosmology or evolution, climate change or niceties of human reproduction. Don’t blame the universe for defying quaint, reductive earthy notions of cause and effect, let alone bizarre female chemistry that kills semen only from rapists.
Genesis, among many creation myths written to defy confirmation or denial, delivered its own fictional comfort to chaotic, murky episodes or impossible questions. Folks born a thousand years hence will view our convictions as anachronisms, but how many then will take Old-time Religion seriously? However new insights illuminate existence, what will ever explain away life as a blessing inside a mystery encircled by a conundrum?
Gohmert, Baffled by Genius
Louie the Loose Lip didn’t realize he was going against the smartest guy since Newton, Albert Einstein, establishing “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” In observable systems, cosmic conservation rules so why not by extension the ultimate system of all systems? What physicist today brags about “manufacturing” mass or energy from “nothing”?
In fact, the dubious myth-makers Gohmert worships weren’t even the smartest scribes then on the block. Soon enough ancient Greeks not only posited atoms and the earth circling the sun, but that “nothing comes from nothing.” Thus Epicurus (341–270 BCE) declared “the totality of things was always such as it is now, and always will be.” The non-creationist Jain philosophy following Mahavira (6th century BCE) stated matter and the universe cannot be destroyed or created. Apparently, Genesis fabricators were stuck in a pre-scientific backwater, thus their magic week of “creation” gambit. No moral judgments here: not until the 18th C did empiricists noodle proofs and equations that establish nothing comes from nothing.
The simple response to fundamentalism is not to defend atheism but clarify that existence simply is, for all time and space, across every cubbyhole. Like making cake, the cosmos obeys its own instructions, using existing ingredients to vary the mix and results. That makes Jehovah the cook and/or clock-maker, not the Be-All and End-all. Biblical myth-makers, smarter than the Gohmerts, used poetic vagueness to concede they were out of their depths, so to speak.
Stories Fail, Kids Bail
That’s why such narrow theocrats, preaching heaven is a pre-destined, even closed club for those who “believe the right truth,” are losing strength and leverage. Why are kids shunning the family faith, and why is fundamentalism, Christian and otherwise, relegated to the Know-Nothing dump for deluded absolutists? Certainly the wind has left social wedge sails, from gay rights and sexuality, to abortion and evolution, even plastering Ten Commandments everywhere. Regressive moments surface (like the Hobby Lobby morass) but contraception is no national controversy, only who pays.
Ultimately, the fundamentalist right is not about “winning arguments” or depicting reality, but scapegoating, histrionic “sacrifice” and self-martyrdom. “Original sin” insinuates this craziness like an 11th Commandment. Thus, Gohmert turns his theology into a bludgeon for selective salvation when he scolds one Christian minister, “Do you believe in sharing the good news that will keep people from going to Hell, consistent with Christian beliefs?” When the pastor doubted that people go to Hell for a specific “set of ideas,” Gohmert shot back, “Either you believe as a Christian that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life or you don’t.”
What could be simpler? So much for multiple returns to Paradise, let alone multiple universes filled with infinite mysteries. Paranoia of the close-minded explains why Gohmert distorts Christianity by calling it the most persecuted religion in the world, falsely alleging “No country has ever fallen while it was truly honoring the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Well, except for Rome and England, Germany and Italy, even Czarist Russia. Perhaps the US of A? To echo a succinct, Huff Post blogger, “The reality is that nothing plus nothing equals Gohmert.” Unless we’ve all stumbled on the one exception to the Conservation of Energy, wherein sufficient concentrations of stupidity create utter nonsense out of nothing. Nihil absurdi or absurdity from nothing. Miracle to behold. Hallelujah!