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1:51 am EDT 74°F (23°C) in Schiller Park, IL
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About an hour ago, I made my delivery just a few miles from here, after coming 800-plus miles (over 1,300 km) in all of about 32 hours. Later on today, after getting some overnight sleep, I will head down closer to Joliet to get my next load, and it looks like — what else is new? — that one will be going right back to the Northeast.
As I was motoring along westbound on the Ohio Turnpike earlier today, I had one of those moments where the light bulb above my head really lit up quite brightly, if you get my drift. If you know anything about so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” (a term that, in my usage, also includes conservative Catholics, conservative Lutherans, Mormons, and even the conservative factions in more progressive denominations, in addition to the usual suspects of Southern Baptists and Methodists), you know that they all claim to be the possessors of “the objective truth,” and that those who disagree with their positions on anything are “moral relativists” for whom “anything goes.” However, it is quite clear to anybody with even a shred of brains in his/her skull that this kind of “one truth” absolutism cannot possibly be correct, and I am going to lay out an example here, one that just occurred to me today, to prove it.
Some of you may have taken a physics class in either high school or college, and chances are you may have at some point been faced with the “fly on the dashboard” problem. For those of you for whom that description just went right over your head without even mussing your mullet, that problem basically asks you how fast a fly sitting on the dashboard of a moving vehicle is going. There is no one absolute correct answer to the problem; rather, there are infinite possible answers, any one of which is correct in its appropriate frame of reference. I’m going to lay out a table here with possible speeds of the fly, and possible observers.
- 0 mph (stationary)
- -7 mph (-11 km/h) (backward)
- 3 mph (5 km/h)
- 130 mph (210 km/h)
- 65 mph (105 km/h)
- 69,000 mph (111,000 km/h)
- Driver of a vehicle being caught
- Marvin the Martian, on Mars
- Driver of the vehicle the fly is in
- Driver of a vehicle speeding away
- Guy standing on the berm
- Driver of a vehicle going the other direction
You’re scratching your head and saying, “how in the hell can a fly possibly be moving at all six of those different speeds at the same time?” Each of those different speeds of the fly is correct in the frame of reference of the appropriate observer. To the driver of the vehicle whose dashboard the fly is using as a resting place, the fly is indeed stationary, because that driver is using the inside of his/her vehicle as a frame of reference. However, the guy standing on the berm, several feet away from the travel lanes of the freeway, would (correctly, for his frame of reference) say that the fly is moving at 65 mph (105 km/h), the same speed as the car; his frame of reference is the ground he is standing upon.
The driver of the faster car, which is going 72 mph (116 km/h) in front of the fly-occupied car and pulling away from it, would (again correctly) say that the fly is moving at -7 mph (-11 km/h), with the negative sign here indicating backward motion relative to the faster car. (There is no such thing as negative speed — that would be physically impossible.) The driver of the big slow 62-mph (100 km/h) semi ahead would say that the fly is moving at 3 mph (5 km/h) toward him, because his frame of reference is his cab. A driver going the other way would correctly say that the fly is moving toward her at an Autobahn-esque speed of 130 mph (210 km/h) — remember, her frame of reference (her car) is moving at 65 mph (105 km/h) in the opposite direction. Finally, Marvin the Martian would also be correct in saying that our fly is one friggin’ hell of a speed demon; Marvin’s frame of reference is Mars, and he sees the Earth hurtling through space, in a counter-clockwise direction around the Sun, at roughly 69,000 mph (111,000 km/h). (The motion of the car in question is negligible in comparison to the Earth’s revolutional speed about the Sun, and I am ignoring Mars’ motion during the couple seconds Marvin spends observing our fly.)
This exercise involving the fly, and its apparent speeds to different observers in different frames of reference, is a fairly easy way to explain parts of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. (There is a lot more to the theory that has to do with how even time becomes distorted at extremely high speeds approaching the speed of light, but that is beyond the scope of what I’m doing here.) Although I am greatly oversimplifying something that Einstein spent over 20 years formulating, the essential lesson for the layperson to learn from the theory of relativity is that your reality — the way you define everything — is dependent on your frame of reference, and those with a different frame of reference have an entirely different yet equally valid reality.
This has profound implications in all aspects of life, not just in the physical realm. Einstein’s work proved that there is no one absolute truth, rather only truths that are valid in their appropriate frame(s) of reference. So-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” claim that there is only one objective, absolute “moral truth,” but this simply is not — cannot possibly be — the case. Their most basic tenets, like their beliefs that homosexuality is the most detestable of sins, abortion is murder, and Islam is the greatest enemy faced by the Western world today, are only valid in their chosen frame of reference of “fundamentalist ‘Christianity’” (which is so twisted and perverted that it isn’t really Christ-like at all, but rather more like reverence for the most gruesome parts of the Old Testament). Those who have a different frame of reference find “fundamentalist ‘Christian’” beliefs laughable at best and downright horrifying at worst. So-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” have not found any absolute “truth” at all, despite their vociferous claims to the contrary; rather, they have simply chosen to accept hatred of gays, male control over women, and nutty “end times” theology, among other things, as their frame of reference.
What I find truly amazing is that these so-called “Christians” are so in love with moral absolutism when the Gospels pretty much prove Jesus Himself to have been a big-time moral relativist. In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11), we find the Pharisees standing up for moral absolutism, preparing to stone the woman; when they ask Jesus to confirm their absolutist worldview, He instead says, “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” In a relativistic way that modern-day “fundamentalists” would no doubt condemn, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that they, too, were sinners, and that the woman’s adultery was no worse a sin than anything they had done; eventually, as this teaching set in, the Pharisees started skulking away from the woman, realizing that Jesus’ moral relativism was right!
Ever the moral relativist, Jesus points out in Luke 10:10-12 that anything done in Sodom (an ancient city that “fundamentalists” now associate with homosexuality, incorrectly so as proven in my essay “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist”) doesn’t even begin to compare to the sin of inhospitality (being unwelcoming). The lesson in this passage apparently lost on “fundamentalists” is that their exclusion of gay people from their churches is going to subject them to eternal punishments many times worse than those suffered by the inhabitants of Sodom! For some reason, though, “fundamentalists” continue in their incorrect absolutist beliefs about their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters in Christ.
Honestly, if Jesus Himself were to give a sermon at one of these so-called “Christian” mega-churches that can be found all over America, the congregation would see to it that He would never again be allowed to take the pulpit! They would condemn the very Christ they claim to worship as a “moral relativist” and accuse Him of teaching that “anything goes — if it feels good, do it.” It was moral absolutists (the Pharisees) who pushed the Romans to crucify Jesus two thousand years ago, and today’s so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” — modern-day Pharisees that they are — would no doubt do likewise, as evidenced by the death threats constantly received by those who continue Christ’s true work on earth today.
Mind you, this whole thing with so-called “Christians” threatening the lives of those who reveal the lies, fabrications, and hypocrisy of their absolutist worldview is nothing new — the great Italian scientist Galileo was forced to repudiate the truth that the earth revolves around the sun by the Catholic Church in 1633. Just as Galileo was charged with heresy by the Church’s Office of the Inquisition, modern “Christians” ignore and condemn the truth they don’t like to hear — that there is no absolute truth — by threatening the messenger.
That last statement is so important that I’m going to leave you for tonight by repeating it: the only truth is that there is no absolute truth.