2023.47 : AM Radio Faith Crisis

Photo Location: Sunnyvale, CA, U.S.A. (Circa 2023)

The Pirahãs are firmly committed to the pragmatic concept of utility. They don’t believe in a heaven above us, or a hell below us, or that any abstract cause is worth dying for. They give us an opportunity to consider what a life without absolutes, like righteousness or holiness and sin, could be like. And the vision is appealing.

— Daniel L. Everett (Christian Missionary Linguist)

Took a driving job to pay my way through college. It allowed me to indulge in my life’s passion for consuming information that I would later try to turn into knowledge. The medium of the day was AM talk radio.

There were good reasons to yearn for belief and trust in faith, yet the evidence eluded me. Undeterred, I persisted in my quest for answers by exposing myself to Christian talk radio. After the culture shock of what I heard, it soon made it onto my presets. My favorite show was a call-in therapy program, with the host being one of the best therapists I ever heard. Myself and some members of my family would eventually end joining his client list. Most of the other hosts’ shows on the station I experienced as shock radio.

My second favorite show was called “The Bible Answer Man,” hosted by the late Dr. Walter Martin, the founder and former president of the Christian Research Institute. For an hour a day, five days a week, callers called in with their questions about the Bible. Dr. Martin knew his Bible on a level I had never been exposed to before.

I remember vividly driving down I5 approaching the 110 freeway in Los Angeles, listening to a caller ask how and when the Bible was compiled. Nonchalantly, Dr. Martin said there was a council of men around the year 300 AD who voted… I’m uncertain about what he said next because the shock I experienced led to a genuine fear that could have resulted in me causing a car accident.

Men decided.
Infallible Word of God.
Men voted.
Mortal minds.
Men of might.
Dictate my life.
Men like me.
Many shall come in my name . . .

Those were my reactionary thoughts that paved the way to my faith crisis.

Intellectually Honest Moment
I was young. Naive. Driving. I don’t recall every word Dr. Martin spoke. He might have been referring to the First Council of Nicaea, which convened in 325 AD and voted on the Nicene Creed. It’s important to note that this council’s purpose was not directly related to selecting the books that eventually made it into the Bible. Instead, its focus was on attempting to establish a unified understanding of Christian beliefs, given the lack of universal agreement at that time. Predictably, the virtuous and intellectually honest men ensured that the two dissenters who dared to vote against the creed faced excommunication.

Dr. Martin may have alluded to Athanasius of Alexandria who, in 367 AD, decided which books he wanted in the Bible, then proclaimed, “these are the wells of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the sayings in these. Let no one add to these. Let nothing be taken away.”

While I was reeling in shock, Dr. Martin could have mentioned the Council of Trent and their vote on the biblical canon held between 1545 and 1563.

Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle is a marvelous book chronicling the transformation of its author Daniel L. Everett from an evangelistic missionary Christian who went to save the souls of a tribe of people in the Amazon. He returned to become an important linguist after the Pirahã people saved his soul.

The following quote from the book encapsulates a life lesson that I have integrated in my life, influencing not only my approach to business, politics, family, friends, and strangers but also shaping my perspectives on science and religion.

The Pirahã men then asked, ‘Hey Dan, what does Jesus look like? Is he dark like us or light like you?’

I said, ‘Well, I have never actually seen him. He lived a long time ago. But I do have his words.’

‘Well, Dan, how do you have his words if you have never heard him or seen him?’

They then made it clear that if I had not actually seen this guy (and not in any metaphorical sense but literally), they weren’t interested in any stories I had to tell about him. Period.

This is because, as I now know, the Pirahãs believe only what they see. Sometimes they also believe in things that someone else has told them, so long as that person has personally witnessed what he or she is reporting.

— Daniel L. Everett

And now… know the photograph.

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