Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Calling God A Liar

Something recently made me think again about the way science and Christianity sometimes clash rather violently. You know what I mean; the way that some Christians believe there's a conspiracy or a plot of the Devil to spread the lie that all humans have evolved from more primitive life-forms, while some atheists believe that Christians are simple-minded fools who put their brains to one side when they came to faith.

My blog post from a few months ago shows what side of the argument I'm on. I just don't see the need to take the Bible as a crudely literal account of how the earth and all the life on it came into being. But plenty of Christians do believe that the Biblical account of creation is meant to be taken literally; God really did create the universe in six days.

What got me thinking about this was hearing Brian Cox on the radio, talking about his new book, The Quantum Universe. The interviewer asked, as an aside really, about how some religious people (Christians and others) reject pretty much all of modern science because it contradicts a literal reading of their holy books. I don't remember the details but Cox was keen to stress that he's not anti-religion as such, just anti-anti-science. So any religious belief that rejects science is going to get pretty short shrift from Prof Cox (although it seems that's not enough for some people...).

I'll be honest, it baffles me that plenty of Christians – intelligent Christians – find it possible to reject the story of creation that the overwhelming majority of scientists believe to be true; that life on earth arose starting with simple molecules which could replicate themselves, and these eventually (over a few billion years) developed into all the variety of life that we see on earth today. Sure, there may well be gaps in our understanding of how life arose (especially on the question of how the first living things came about) but for the whole idea of evolution by natural selection to be plain wrong...? I'd be amazed, frankly.

And yet, I wonder how I'd feel about all this if I'd been brought up to believe that God made the universe in six periods of time, with all the different plant and animal types appearing roughly as we currently observe them. I'm trying to imagine how I'd handle being told at school that, basically, that idea was a load of rubbish and it all really happened according to this process called evolution. Wouldn't accepting evolution be calling God a liar? The Bible clearly says that God created everything in six days and 'blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation'. No wonder many intelligent Christians reject science in this one particular area, because to accept it could lead to questioning the very heart of their faith. And that's a pretty terrifying thing to do.


  1. "No wonder many intelligent Christians reject science in this one particular area, because to accept it could lead to questioning the very heart of their faith. And that's a pretty terrifying thing to do."

    What happens to those young people who are brought up as literalists/young earth creationists, and they run head first into evidence that contradicts a literal interpretation? Or they find that the scientists or papers that are supposed to support a young earth actually say just the opposite because someone once misread it (or deliberately cherry-picked a quote) and came up with the opposite conclusion to what the authors really wrote?
    People are taught to believe in a literal interpretation because of arguments like a) what other parts of the Bible will you then start to reject as allegorical, and b) if you don't believe in a young earth creation, then you have to believe in we're all here by random chance, we're no different from animals and there are no morals, and you'll be an atheist and supporting an idea that inspired Hitler to kill the Jews.
    These wrong and logically flawed ideas (and other ideas) are given to them from the pulpit, from people they admire, from special speakers, from conventions (where they can buy books) so it becomes all part of Christianity.
    When the person then finds that many of the creationist talking points are childishly wrong and based on misunderstandings of basic biology, chemistry, physics, evolution, geology and other sciences it may be hard to accept evolutionary processes and still retain the rest of the things they've learned at church. Many will just outright reject Christianity or even the existence of God rather than disentangle things.
    By pushing a literal interpretation we help drive people who are in the church, away from the church, and hold the church and Christians up to ridicule by those outside the church.
    As an aside, I remember being shocked as a child when I counted the ribs on the male school skeleton and found there wasn’t a rib missing after all.

  2. Sorry...format fail. There were paragraphs in there.

  3. 100% agree - I think it's a tragedy that people are given the idea that being a Christian *requires* you to accept things like a literal 6-day creation. And as for the childishly wrong arguments that sometimes get used in favour of 6-day creation and so on, well science is not an enemy of Jesus but ignorance surely is.