Sunday, 24 June 2007

Jesus with Dinosaurs, Part I

Religious fundamentalism is, in my view, the biggest threat to societal cohesion that we face today. Deadly serious, fatally misinformed, fundamentalists work fanatically to force their terminal world-view on others. In my hometown of Atlanta, this takes the form of one Gwinnett mother's attempt to ban Harry Potter through the courts because they "promote satanism" - even though she admits she has not read the books, and based on her court testimony, has no idea what they are about. Elsewhere, and in history, fundamentalism has more insidious manifestations. The solution to this threat? Mock the hell out of them. Nothing kills germs like sunlight and laughter.

Young-earth creationists are particularly entertaining - they insist the Earth is 6,000 years old, despite the crush of research suggesting otherwise (radiometric dating, ice cores, fossils, the size of oil/coal reserves, accumulation of erosion, cave formation, the size/nature of the universe, the hydrogen/helium proportions of the sun, and so on and so on.) They have a love-hate relationship with science, desperate to cherry pick supporting evidence, but distrustful of an enterprise that is not a priori loyal to their literalist world view. When confronted with a possible conflict to their young-earth world-view, the conflict must be reconciled to minimize the cognitive dissonance. In the case of dinosaurs, many young-earth creationists believe they are real - but were formed with the rest of the creation 6,000 years ago and lived and walked with Jesus - and are now (for whatever reason) in hiding in the deepest depths of Congolese and Amazonian jungles. The same is true of unicorns (not joking).

This has lead to a particularly interesting microgenre of art: the Jesus-with-Dinosaurs composition. Comical, compelling, and slightly disturbing, there has been a rapid growth in their appearance on fundamentalist websites. This is one my favourites:

I like how the creator has put a great big smile on the face of that pygmy brontosaurus. The image is from Conservapedia, the fundamentalist counter to Wikipedia, created because of the "bias" in Wiki, such as allowing non-US citizens and non-Christians to have input in creating articles. Although toned-down recently, many of the original Conservapedia articles were hilarious in their absurdity, such as defining Jews as (paraphrased, but very close) "people who get touchy when they hear about the holocaust" and unicorns as "controversial animals which we know exist because they are mentioned in the Bible." Good times.

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