Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Delos McKown

I live in Alabama, and the most well known University in the state is Auburn. Anyway, Auburn's former Philosophy Professor, Delos McKown, wrote an essay about how to deal with bible thumpers. Here's an excerpt to wet your appetite:

Bibliolaters should not be humored by being allowed to prattle on unchallenged but should be put in the position of having to put up or shut up. Positive good can come from making them suffer what sociologists commonly call cognitive dissonance, for it is out of intolerable intellectual and emotional conflicts within oneself that deliverance often comes.
In the early 1970s a former student of mine named Terry, mad as a hatter, returned to see me, as was his custom. This time he brought a dirty, wraith-like little man who stank to high heaven. "This here's Alphonse," Terry said, "Alphonse Rossignol. We want you to test a spirit."

"Test a Spirit," I said, thinking, why me? "Our university has a religion department now," I said, happily. "Why not get one of those guys to test your Spirit?"
"No!" thundered Terry. "They're hypocrites. Better an honest atheist any day than a hypocrite."
"Put that way," I said, "I don't see how I can refuse. What is this Spirit I'm to test?"
"Alphonse here's been fasting for six weeks," Terry said.

"Yes, that's right," Alphonse agreed. "I've been taking nothing by mouth except my own urine, sweetened with a little branch water from the creek behind my cabin. The Bible tells you to do it."

"Surely not!" I expostulated, then rued my outburst as some of the weird stuff in the Bible skittered through my mind. Taking a Bible from my bookshelf, guided by dim traces of memory and a hunch or two, my eyes soon alighted on John 7:37-38, in which the King James Version (KJV) has Jesus say:

"If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Alphonse beamed, having been justified in drinking his own pee by the very word of scripture itself, at which point he pulled a small plastic glass from his shirt pocket. The glass stank mightily and was ringed by a dirty yellowish precipitate.

"That's his communion cup," Terry announced exultantly.

Deciding it was time to throw a little cold water on these proceedings, I asked Alphonse, "Do you know what follows John 7:38?" He didn't, and it occurred to me that he might be illiterate, having only heardthe hypothetical imperative.

In the KJV John 7:39 appears in parentheses, which I read to Alphonse:

"But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive."

"See," I said, "the Bible itself tells you in verse 39 not to take literally what it says in verse 38. It's just a metaphor. You're not supposed to be drinking your own urine."

"Jesus told me to do it," Alphonse replied.

"Where did you see Jesus?" I asked.

"Out back of my cabin," said Alphonse.

"How can you be sure it wasn't the devil?" I shot back, getting down to business. "The scriptures say that the devil can disguise himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14). Why couldn't he dress up like Jesus and try to fool a person like you?"

Behind his grimy exterior, Alphonse blanched. He sank down in his chair, obviously rattled by the prospect that he might have met the devil. Meanwhile, banging hard on my desk, Terry cried out, "Now that's testing the Spirit!" as though they were getting their money's worth in Spirit-testing for the first time.


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