For it is written so

I thought I’d take the opportunity that it is Sunday (I wrote this on a Sunday) to write something a little bit related to religion, namely Christianity. I know, I know! This blog is all about science, and it will always be. I’m not going to try to convert you to anything. Relax.

I’d like to write today about the conspiracy theory ( artilcle) that RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips will be implanted in humans as part of “Obamacare” starting sometime soon. Of course, it’s all bunk. The Snopes article does a really good job of explaining why this rumor is false.

But why do people believe that rumor?

There are quite a number of Christians who take what is written in the Bible literally. To them, the Earth is a few thousand years old, all of humanity descends from the survivors of the Great Flood, and there will be an “End Times” where a totalitarian government will rise to rule over the earth. My hope in Christians is that there is a good number of them that understand that the Bible was written in times when detailed explanations were not possible, so the book of Revelation was written in code and for the people living under control of the Romans. For all intents and purposes back in that time, Rome was the “One World Government” that everyone feared. Nero (or one of his contemporaries) was the “Antichrist” because the Roman emperors of that time were all about persecuting and killing Christians.

The Christians who believe in a literal meaning of the books of the Bible do something interesting when they want to spread their conspiracies. They take a literal approach to the Bible and then add a non-literal element to it. In the case of the RFID chip conspiracy, they take the literal meaning of “Mark of the Beast” in the Bible and then say, “Well, it’s not quite a mark but an RFID chip.” Anything to sell the idea, I guess.

But this idea of the RFID chip is not exclusive to the Obama era. They’re rehashing an old conspiracy and adapting it to the here and now. The “Bible Answer Man”, Hank Hanegraaff, answered a question about RFID and mentioned how the conspiracy, at least with RFID chips approved by the FDA, go back to 2004, when that approval took place. He wrote:

“In October 2004 the Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of a microchip implantable under the skin of humans for medical identification. Paranoid prophecy pundits immediately began touting Verichip technology as the mark of the Beast spoken of in Revelation 13. Contrary to such newspaper eschatology, there is no biblical basis for believing that the mark of the Beast is a silicon microchip.”

Why is this conspiracy theory wrong from a theological point of view, let alone a scientific one? Because:

“Furthermore, the forehead and the hands are Old Testament symbols of a person’s beliefs and behavior (cf. Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18; Ezekiel 9). In other words, what you believe and how you behave mark you as either belonging to God or belonging to Satan. As such, John’s reference to the mark of the Beast in Revelation is securely tethered to Scripture. Conversely, the notion that the mark of the Beast is Sunday worship, a social security card number, or a silicon microchip has no biblical basis whatsoever.”

See, the person who wrote the book of Revelation, which is really a letter to the early Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans, wrote it in code so that the readers could carry it around and the message within could not be easily read by others. He used symbols to describe people and places. In short, the letter was written to them and then compiled in the Bible for us.

Now, I know a lot of atheistically-inclined folks will read that some conspiracy is based on the Bible and discredit it on that alone. And that’s fine if that’s what works for you. But what if you’re trying to explain to a “believer” that their belief is unfounded? Do you just just try to convert them away from their belief? Or do you go to a source — like I did with the Bible Answer Man — in order to explain to them that the conspiracy doesn’t even stand up to their own belief system?

There’s no good answer because it will depend on how comfortable you are discussing these things with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs. If you’re an anti-theist, you might be encouraged to tell people that they’re crazy for believing and continue the debate from that angle. (It puts people off, by the way. They pretty much stop listening once you tell them they’re crazy.) If you’re more moderate in your views, you might want to find evidence with the history and study of the Bible — or some other holy book — in order to explain things away. It’s up to you.

I recommend a balance.