By Dr David Laing Dawson
In a classroom annex of the United Church on Quadra Street in Victoria, the Sunday School teacher was presenting the story of God parting the Red Sea for Moses to lead the Israelites fleeing from the Egyptian soldiers and their chariots, and then letting the sea swallow up the soldiers, their horses and chariots, once the Israelites were safe.
A boy in the class, no more than 12 years old, raised his hand and asked, “Sir, is there any archaeological evidence that this actually happened?”
I remember it well because of the very uncomfortable meeting the teacher had with my parents and myself. He suggested perhaps I was ready for full-on church rather than Sunday School.
Writing this I realized today that 12 year old boy could simply put his question to Google. And so I did. And discovered the perils of the internet. There are dozens of tracts, essays, and videos of “scholars” setting out to prove this happened exactly as described in the bible. Their proof is thin gruel indeed: animations, paintings of the event, maps, speculation about which Pharaoh was in charge at the time, and a bit of coral found in the shape of a chariot wheel, with one expert announcing as a final word on the subject, “Science cannot explain miracles.”
Of course it is as easy to explain miracles as it is to explain Uri Geller’s spoon bending or Harry Potter’s dragons.
But it is very difficult for me to imagine living in a country or culture that would not allow that 12 year old boy to ask his question.
Prime Minister Trudeau called the assault on Salman Rushdie a “cowardly attack” and “a strike on the freedom of expression.”
No Justin. This was simply a deluded and tragic young man seeking meaning in his empty life, carrying out what he had been told by religious leaders would be an act of justified murder that could bring him martyrdom and a place in heaven.
But this was, Justin, your chance to condemn Fatwas, the concepts of heresy, infallibility, apostasy, extremism, absolutism, and any faith that forbids questions, investigation, criticism, satire and humour.