How Creationism Destroys Faith

July 8, 2007 at 6:00 am 11 comments

I wrote this article awhile ago on my personal blog (August 13, 2006 to be exact), but The de-Convert gave me permission to re-submit some of my old works. I apologize if some of the links are out of date. This post is, of course, a polemic against Biblical literalism, not all Christians. So lets not go there. If you are a theistic evolutionist or whatever, good on yea, let’s move on.

I often wonder what is a greater threat to the Christian faith, the theory of evolution or the belief in creationism (currently passing itself off as “Intelligent Design”). Honestly, I hate writing about the subject and so this will probably be the only time you ever read about it from me. The reason that I am writing this now is the result of a recent article I read in the Globe and Mail (a nationwide Canadian newspaper). The article stated that the journal, Science, published a study that found only 40% of Americans believed in the theory of evolution and an astonishing 39% considered the theory “absolutely false”. Comparatively, at least 80% of citizens of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and France believe that the theory of evolution it true. What is even more astonishing is that the percentage of “unsure” Americans has grown from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005. It is obvious that the culprit of the difference between Europe and the United States is religious fundamentalism.

The creationist movement set the precedent in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 and have not looked back. They were right in a sense – politics and religious fervour will rue science in a nation that depends on “divine authority”. One only needs to read about the “Intelligent Design” proponents to see that the battle carries on, especially in fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity. Last week the conservative Republicans lost their majority on the Kansas Education Board and have wasted no time in pointing fingers at the godless liberal media for destroying their campaign (although one has to wonder how to report on fundamentalists in a favourable light). The United States is not the only place where heated discussions continue to take place. Groups in Kenya, which has a massive evangelical movement, are lobbying to force the National Museums of Kenya to hide their world-famous collection of hominid skeletons, including the most complete Homo erectus skeleton yet found.

This latter example [July '07 note: I think it is fair to say that this is another example], I find, is the start of a two-fold problem with the creationist movement. One, it shows contempt for any genuine search for truth. Two, it shows an utter lack of faith, the very thing they pretend to uphold. The first problem is rather self-evident as long as you are not completely lying to yourself. The paradox here, however, is that the reason it shows contempt for a search for truth is self-admittedly “because of faith,” yet they continue to fight, usually on pseudo-scientific terms, often with much disrespect against evolution and its proponents and disregard for any amount of evidence.

“In science, if the facts don’t fit the theory, throw out the theory. In religion, if the facts dont’ fit the theory, throw out the facts.” -Unknown (Kudos to the Angry Astronomer for that quote)

The second problem I believe is more serious than the first. “Facts” and “evidences” can be disputed, and always are among scientists and their opponents. That is okay with me. What is not okay is what I see to be a blatant destruction of faith by the Christian church while pretending to be living in “faith”. Faith is a balanced composite of commitment and mystery. The term “blind faith” is a misrepresentation of the concept that it is trying to describe. Blind faith is actually overzealous faith consisting of a lack of mystery and an overabundance of commitment. Soren Kierkegaard once wrote,

“If people fancy that by considering the outcome of [the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac] they might let themselves be moved to believe, they deceive themselves and want to swindle God out of the first movement of faith, infinite resignation” (Fear and Trembling).

He continues by arguing that these same people would suck worldly wisdom out of the paradox of faith and that the movement of faith must constantly be made by virtue of the absurd, or what I call “mystery”. Atheists cannot subscribe to faith because they deny that there is mystery in the universe (but they can certainly have “commitment”). In the very least, atheists say that something is only a mystery because we have yet to understand it. The problem is that religious practitioners, in this case Christians, also deny faith by attempting to understand and limit God’s actions. By simply stating that “God created the world in 6 days because the Bible said so”, the Christian has paradoxically rejected faith by rejecting the mystery of God’s actions and limited them to a book written by man (which has since been held up as its own idol on par with God and Jesus). Every doctrinal attribution to God is man’s flawed finite attempt to understand the infinite metaphysical nature of the universe.

Let us pretend that the all-powerful God of the Hebrews did give word for word the Torah to Moses in the way that it now comes to us. Do you think that this God would tell Moses the detailed creation of man, i.e. maybe the process of evolution, when it does not concern him? God, as our friend Ricky Gervais pointed out in the clip above, left mystery to his own Word. It does not matter whether God created the world in 6 literal days or 6 billion years. It does not matter whether God created the world with the clap of a hand or some bad breath or the process of evolution. By saying God did not do something, or anything, is attributing finitude to the infinite and hence destroying the paradox that is faith. Quite honestly, if every Christian studied a little Buddhist philosophy, not only would this world would be a much better place, but I would have a hunch that the Bible would make a little more sense (Buddhists eat paradoxes for lunch – maybe I’ll get more into that another time).

The person of faith is the person that can believe in God and not be scared of the scientific method. The person of faith resorts to believe that God could have used whatever method necessary to create the world and be content in it. This means that if you care enough to argue for evolution or “intelligent design,” you must be completely willing to look at the evidence at hand for yourself and be willing to deny your current perspective. My studies are limited to religious studies and philosophy, not science. Hence, I am not at liberty to spout off what I believe is correct and incorrect like many people who deny the theory of evolution before actually studying it. This plague of stupidity is not exclusive to Biblical literalists, for those who blindly agree with evolution rarely have studied it, and have only accepted it because of a lack of alternative views. I have been indoctrinated with both and perhaps my views may change, but my negative perspective on blind dogmatism, whether admitted or not, will not change – I call it my dogmatic stance against dogmatism, it works for me.

Originally published @ The Audacity of Individuality, August 13, 2006

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. epiphanist  |  July 8, 2007 at 7:20 am

    I read in the news that a Gallup poll last year showed almost half of Americans believe that humans did not evolve but were created by God in their present form within the last 10,000 years. What is going on over there?

  • 2. justawatcher  |  July 8, 2007 at 10:40 am

    The person of faith is the person that can believe in God and not be scared of the scientific method.
    —————————————————————–

    That simply jumped off this writing for me, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think because it so neatly summed up the debate’s very core in so few words. A person of faith WILL believe that God used what ever means at his disposal to achieve his end goal, a person who has faith easily shattered will argue so that his faith is not challenged in any way. I have not agreed with everything you have written, but I always do enjoy reading it. You make me think, explore, and take a new look at things I have taken for granted for a very long time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reevaluating one’s own perceptions at times.

  • 3. Stephen P  |  July 8, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    A creationist is someone who considers that Genesis chapter 1 is literal truth which trumps four centuries of painstaking scientific investigation, but that the prohibition on bearing false witness is a quaint old Jewish custom which can safely be ignored.

  • 4. Stephen  |  July 9, 2007 at 8:37 am

    This is the first post on de-Conversion that I strongly agree with.

    My own stand is summed up in the phrase, “truth over ideology”. I oppose ideology of whatever stripe: Christianist, Islamist, feminist, capitalist, partisan politics — whatever.

    The trouble with ideology is, as you said, that it misrepresents will deny truth before revising its dogmas.

    Therefore the enemy is not religion, narrowly. One can be an ideologue (and therefore an enemy of truth) in any number of arenas. And one can be a theist without being an ideologue.

  • 5. The Apostate  |  July 9, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Stephen,

    Many atheists, like many theists, see “religion”, wrongly, as having an underlying essence. I disagree with this for numerous reasons, none that I will specifically get into here. The major difference between ideologies and “religion” is that ideologies must have an underlying essence. A religion, such as Christianity, is an ideology. “True” Christians are ideologues. If a Christian compromises his or her essential beliefs, he/she is not a Christian (according to orthodoxy). A Christian who is not an ideologue is either not a Christian, or is a heretic (i.e. a Christian Atheist or Agnostic Christian).

    (essence: the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something
    ideologue: an adherent of an ideology, especially one who is uncompromising and dogmatic
    ideology: a system of ideas and ideals
    dogmatic: inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true)

    So no, the enemy is not “religion,” “Religion” is not anything in itself. Religions, however, are ideologies and most of them hold absolute values that are incontrovertible (thus dogma). If you are not an moral absolutist, you may be an existential Christian or a Mahayana Buddhist (although I have argued that the latter does hold compassion as a moral absolute and that the former still must hold to an ontological absolute).

    My problem is that “Truth” is thrown around with the grace and agility of a Brazilian soccer player, but with a deflated ball. One only has to step into any church to hear the word “Truth” without it actually being substantiated by anything other than the speaker’s charisma and the tradition of charismatic leaders (ie. the Bible).

    Misrepresenting truth is usually not the problem. I do not hold that most religionists are purposely misrepresenting the truth. They are holding steadfastly to something they believe, something to which has presuppositions that are based on emotion. The problem is that “Truth” is not attainable much like “Terror” cannot be demolished.

    Finally, can one be a theist without being an ideologue? No. One can be an Agnostic Theist, which I would probably classify myself as, and not an ideologue. A theist, however, must hold, in the very least, the theistic idea of a theistic god. A theist of a particular religious ideology, such as Christianity, must hold to the uncompromising essential characteristics of that ideology.

  • 6. Heather  |  July 9, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    I think much of the die-hard attitude towards creationism is that fundamentalists honestly don’t seem to have faith in God. They have complete and total faith in the Bible, and if one iota of it is not literally true, then their faith is shredded. For as much as they go on about it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship, they seem to be lacking the relationship part. For instance, the Genesis account: scientifically, it didn’t literally occur in three days. There was no literal Adam and Eve. Somehow, based on Biblical accounts, I don’t think it would’ve affect Paul’s relationship with God if he learned that Adam wasn’t literally true. For fundamentalists, it’s not about experiencing the presence of God. It’s about clinging to words.

    That’s why I think they fight so hard: without the Bible, they have nothing. They need the Bible, and flounder without it.

  • 7. karen  |  July 9, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    I think much of the creationists problem is that they have to believe in a literal Genesis story in order to believe in original sin. And if there’s no literal Genesis, and no fall of mankind and original sin, who needs a savior?

    Accept evolution – man arising from primate ancestors over millions of years – and there’s no actual Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and no eating the forbidden fruit. Their whole hypothesis kind of crumbles from there, if they are fundies particularly.

  • 8. Stephen  |  July 11, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    ThinkingApe:
    Can one be a theist without being an ideologue? No. … A theist … must hold, in the very least, the theistic idea of a theistic god.

    One cannot be a theist without exercising faith. But must the exercise of faith necessarily be dogmatic? Not at all!

    With respect, I think you’re working with a very outmoded conception of Christian faith. It’s the same conception that fundamentalists work with and therefore an easy (read: unworthy) target.

    Consider, for example, Walter Brueggemann, a highly-regarded Old Testament exegete. You can download one of his lectures here. If you listen, you’ll hear him engaging with members of the church who accuse him of relativism. Brueggemann maintains that we struggle toward truth through an open-ended dialogical process. That is, whatever we believe today is provisional, and we must always be ready to reconsider and reconceptualize it.

    Indeed, if I compare Brueggemann’s understanding of the Bible to your uber-restrictive definition of faith, I would have to conclude that there has never been a Jew or a Christian throughout history. Brueggemann describes scripture as “pluriform” — and I concur. That is, even the authors of scripture were continually revising the theology that had been passed down to them in light of new experiences, to fit it into new social contexts. Biblical faith is not dogmatic but undergoing a constant reformulation.

    In one of his books, Brueggemann describes as “normative” those beliefs that a person would stake his or her life on. Again, I concur. I am not certain that God exists, or that Jesus Christ embodied a powerful revelation of God. But even though I am not certain (and therefore I am not dogmatic in my beliefs) yet I build my life on those foundational convictions.

    I have a quote from Schumpeter on my blog: “To realise the relative validity of one’s convictions and yet stand for them unflinchingly is what distinguishes a civilised man from a barbarian.”

    In my view, that is the problem with agnosticism: it lacks the courage to assume any risk. There are very few things we know for certain in this life; and the bigger the issue, the less certainty we are likely to achieve. The agnostic plays it safe by not staking his or her life on anything that s/he is uncertain of.

    But I am a (Christian) theist: I avoid dogmatism while still taking a stand on my convictions, provisional though they may be.

  • 9. The Apostate  |  July 11, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Stephen, there is nothing in your response I really disagree with. As I stated, I was not targeting qualified, progressive apologists. Outdated – sure, but I’m only arguing against the majority of the North American audience.

    I think, however, we disagree only in semantics. I say dogmatism and most people cringe. I think you might have cringed a bit. But do you disagree with my definition of dogmatism as “inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true”? (Well it isn’t MY definition, it was the dictionary’s definition).

    I don’t think I ever said faith need be dogmatic. I said theists, if they hold fast to what they believe, must lay down incontrovertible truths about theism. I consider myself a spiritual agnostic because I am “without knowledge” – for me to proclaim otherwise would be dishonest.

    I am working with the strictest definitions possible, which is why I listed some important definitions in my last comment. I am trying to stay away from colloquial slander against dogmatism (such a dirty word nowadays isn’t it?).

    “But even though I am not certain (and therefore I am not dogmatic in my beliefs) yet I build my life on those foundational convictions.”

    I commend you sir and I hope we all do the same! But what happens when those foundations are incontrovertibly true? You may not be certain, and hence not dogmatic, but do you feel that you are truly representative of the majority of Christians?

  • 10. Stephen  |  July 12, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Do you feel that you are truly representative of the majority of Christians?

    I always make the point that the USA is different from other countries.

    I’m a Canadian. I assure you, I am not atypical here in this country. (Here is some relevant material from my blog.) Similarly, Christianity in Europe is not the hostile, aggressive beast that it often is in the USA.

    I’m glad to hear that we’re in substantial agreement. That was my initial impression when I read your post. It was your subsequent comment that I objected to,
    Can one be a theist without being an ideologue? No.

  • 11. Dennis Downs  |  June 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    To All

    There is only one thing wrong with the intelligent design theory, it is not intelligent!
    Intelligent Humans do design things, but I have never known one that ever created something he or she designed, they always work with the materials at hand.

    So, if you use humans as an example for intelligent design then god can only design the universe from matter that exists.

    If god is the only thing that exists where did the matter come from? Seems to me the only place would be himself or herself or itself, which leaves us as god being the universe.

    So, I say just believe the universe exists and leave god out of it, because the term explains nothing.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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