How Creationism Destroys Faith
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 I apologize if some of the links are out of date.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