Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Creationists Should Drop the Issue

Just fill in the quote marks around
"museum" using your imagination.
As a child of about ten, I enthusiastically embraced young earth creationism because at the time I thought it gave me concrete support for what I believed. A few years ago I became curious about what evolution supporters had to say about various issues, and I was blown away at how much sense it all made. It took a long time for me to eventually deconvert from Christianity, but the evolution/creation issue was one of the major factors that caused me to start questioning my faith.

Here's the deal: creationism is obviously wrong, and that should be enough reason to stop promoting it. But for creationists themselves, who can't see the evidence staring them right in the face, there's a more pragmatic reason not to try and press this issue. Nearly all creationists in the West are also fundamentalist Christians, and thus presumably consider saving souls to be more important than promoting what they think is the correct view of our origins. Evangelism is paramount; creationism is an important but still peripheral side issue.

I think that such creationists are doing more harm than good, even from their own perspective. There are many others like me, former creationists whose discovery of the real science behind our origins led us to wonder what else we had been lied to about. Unfortunately much of my evidence is anecdotal—I've heard and read a great many stories about people like these—but based on one informal poll, "science-based reasoning" was the number-one factor that led to people to leave the faith.

By promoting creationism as the only valid interpretation of the Bible and demonizing evolution as "atheistic," creationists are creating what many (especially theistic evolutionists) see as a false dichotomy. This leads people who reject creationism to reject their religion wholesale rather than adopting a more liberal form of it. Personally, I have my own reasons for finding theistic evolution unsatisfactory, but who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe millions of people are marching straight into hell because they switched quickly from conservative Christianity to atheism, with creationists unwittingly holding open the gates.

So from their own point of view, creationists should probably stop pushing so hard. And from mine? It's true that I find their alternate narrative irritatingly immune to reality and hate to see people taken in by it. However, I do appreciate them helping to create a fast track from fundamentalism to unbelief, allowing millions to neatly avoid the vague and wishy-washy quagmire that is liberal religion. Even if creationists refuse to drop the issue, though, I think it will slowly fade away whether they like it or not. Although public opinion is moving at a snail's pace, science is gradually prevailing.

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