Thursday, November 08, 2007

Debating Creationism

My friend, Gaz from the UK, posted a rather thoughtful defense of creationism and literalism of the Bible. This topic always gets me fired up, as I always feel we're on the verge of The New Dark Ages when rational educated people hold beliefs which to me seem so irrational.

I was going to comment on his blog, but then I thought twice about it. I didn't want to clutter or offend his blog with my rants and ravings. Instead, I decided to post my rant here, where it properly belongs.

I welcome discussion on this topic, if anybody cares to debate the issue.


Oh boy. Here I go.

I don't understand is why everything in the Bible has to be literal for it to be compatible with our faith. Why cannot the Bible contain allegorical stories, especially the early chapters of the Pentateuch?

Just because it says "day" doesn't mean that it is a day. If it was allegorical, it still illustrates the same exact concept (in a nice literary way), and is still compatible with the faith.

I just don't see the point of all this Bible-defendism. People through the ages have picked and chosen what they want to believe from the Bible, and what they deemed irrelevant or anachronistic. There are plenty of examples:

  • Exodus 21.22-25
  • Exodus 23.19
  • Exodus 25 (the Tabernacle, anybody here still worship in one of this exact description or do burnt offerings?)
  • Leviticus 11 (only the Jews and Muslims still follow these rules!)
  • Leviticus 19.19
  • Leviticus 26 (goodbye black pudding and shaving one's beard)
  • Leviticus 20:10 (death for adultery)
  • Leviticus 24:16-23 ("An eye for an eye" is directly opposite of the examples in Samuel 1 & 2.)
  • Deuteronomy 12:32 (implies that anything but the strictest form of Judaism is heresy, including Christianity and Islam)
  • Deuteronomy 13.9-11 (death to non-believers)
  • Deuteronomy 20.12-16 (pretty tough stuff if you're a pacifist, as is almost all of Joshua and Samuel)
  • Deuteronomy 21.18-22 (Stoning to death any rebellious sons!)
  • Deuteronomy 22.10-12
  • Deuteronomy 23.1-2, 10-11
  • Deuteronomy 24.1-3 (divorce OK)

... and so on. Where do we draw the line, and who gets to draw it?

Personally, I can hold the Bible as the single most important book in the history of man, and still not need to believe that every single word in it is the uncorrupted Word of God.

My faith runs deeper than needing it all in plain black and white.


George Walks said...

Hi Scott,

I am an atheist but find your views extremely refreshing. It is logically impossible to believe in every part of something that at points contradicts itself. This doesn't mean you are any less of a follower of a faith, just someone who thinks! If only we could all live and let live, which I'm sure at some point is in there too!!


Scott said...

live and let live, which I'm sure at some point is in there too!!

Of course! It's one of the Ten Commandments! Exodus 20.13

Love the new blog, by the way, Andrew! (Still enjoy the old one more, though.)

Adolfo said...

"I believe in science"- From Nacho, seriously with all my respect I do not believe in religion, more specific I do not believe in their institutions.

I wasn't thought religion, and seeing all the hypocrisy and irony that there is, I am simply not moved to join nor believe in it. I have a slight believe that there *might* be something superior to us. Time will tell whether or not I choose a spiritual belief. Some of the values they promote (conventional institutions mostly) are terrific other values appear to separate people instead of unify us in a harmonious way. I am glad there is a variety of institutions though.I think is a healthy way to avoid centralization of one single belief. I just wished they honestly respect one of the other AND gender/sexual preferences are not an issue to any. Cheez, is that hard to comprehend?

"Where do we draw the line, and who gets to draw it?..." to me, it is where you and only you want to draw it. Curiously, I am learning to welcome coaching. We all need coaching someway or another, and I guess that is why people rely on God to solve and/or fix the world. We are not perfect, I should say I am not perfect, but I am looking to do better.

"live and let live"- for most instituions do not work that freely. They tend to add "only if"

We all have the choice to contribute or not to society. I think I am getting off the subject...As for creationism Darwin and Astronomy ring the bell to me. Good points/debate Scott.

Scott said...

Adolfo, I know where you are coming from. I was once like you. I think you are what most would call an "agnostic." You're not sure on whether you believe in God or not, but you don't attach yourself to any particular religion.

I am Christian. But I don't know everything. The more I learn about Christ, the more I become attached to His teaching.

But I do not believe (shocker here) that other religions are doomed to Hell/Sheol/whatever because they are not Christian. I believe there are many paths to righteousness, including Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.

As the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church put it, (paraphrasing), We do not understand the mysteries of God, and defining God in terms of only one faith is putting God into an awfully small box.

I continue to believe that most religion is a man-made organization (and thus, often deeply flawed). I believe in faith outside of religion. I believe that religion has often been the source of much sorrow, bloodshed, and division in the world. More wars have been fought over fundamental religious issues than any other reason. Period.

That said, we are very involved in our local church because this particular church is a wonderful place full of friendship and faith. Becky and the boys sing in the choir. I teach Sunday school. We attend every week. But there are things I do not agree with, and we are always happy to leave those lying at the doorstep.

gaz said...

scott m8, i'm completely with you in what you are saying about the 'old' testament writings and taking the bible literally. but one of the greatest dangers facing the church is that too much of it is taken as allegorical and not enough of it is taken as fact. jesus used these all over the place (i would imagine much to the annoyance fo the disciples!)
everything you mentioned in your list were old testament
'teachings'. this was how mankind was supposed to live before the time of jesus christ. the faith that people lived by then was a very different thing before jesus and his teachings changed the way that we have a relationship with our creator. if you open your bible and at the very first verse are saying "i don't think it really means that" then you call into question everything else in the bible, including whether jesus was indeed the son of god.
i believe creation, however, is not a law - i believe it is the biblical account of how the universe was created. it was written that way in order to show us just what an amazing and wonderful god we have. and if he didn't really do that then... why believe in him?
not something to be interpreted - it's a historical account of the beginning of the universe as we know it, as dictated by god. it's not just another story as some believe the bible to be full of. take these examples:
daniel and the lions (or maybe they were goats because that's a bit far fetched),
moses and the parting of the red sea (maybe they mean creek because that's a bit far fetched),
jesus and the resurrection (maybe he was just unconcious because that's a bit far fetched),
and finally god created the world in 6 days (maybe they mean millions of years because that's a bit far fetched).
no. all of these are written as fact.

adolfo, hi. i believe christianity is neither a religion nor an institution. that is - it's not about performing any old testament rituals, or performing any deeds to try and 'earn' a place with the father. christianity is a relationship between oneself and the creator of the universe. jesus said "non shall come to heaven except through me. he was a dissident who showed the world that you can follow all the teachings of the bible and it matters not one jot if you don't believe that he came as the ultimate scrifice to save us all.
george. man has always thought he knows better that god and all down history we have done a great job of messing up our world - it was man's thinking and lack of trust in what god says, that caused the fubar in the garden of eden. believing everything a 'book' says isn't faith - faith is trusting god to show us what's relevant to our lives here and now, and how our lives can be lived to the full. this is what i believe.
i love this kind of discussion ;-)
i just wish we could have it face to face.

Scott said...

This is great discussion, and way more than I ever dreamed of starting.

Gaz, I really respect your opinion, and I totally know where you're coming from, but for me personally, I don't need to believe in every miracle to believe in God and Jesus. I honestly do not know if Jesus really rose from the dead. But I choose to follow Him. But I believe God can take many forms simultaneously, and that I am not wise enough to know it all.

So, why do it? Why follow Him? What the hell is the point if I don't believe in every aspect? Why?

Because it's the right thing to do. I don't even know if I will get to heaven or if there is such a place. But I choose to live my life as close to perfect as I ever will achieve, and the very best example I can think of is to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

Is that Good enough? I don't know, but it's a good start I suppose.

gaz said...

amen brother

Adolfo said...

Hi Gaz, I (and all here I can tell) respect everyone's point of view which makes a great and healthy discussion. There is something you said that caught me attention "jesus said "non shall come to heaven except through me..."
My question to this is who is who to tell the people "if you do not come to my school you will not reach heaven" that is my interpretation.
PLEASE, PLEASE explain this to me, that I am really puzzled. How come a loving, a repeat A LOVING God will select certain people and not to all, why the condition "except through me". Gandhi was not a jesus believer, does he have a place in heaven? People that believe in Goddesses and/or other higher grounds do they have place in heaven? Soo the game is it all depends on what institution you choose to go to heaven? Isn't cruel to exclude the rest? Is it fair? Is it loving? I am agnostic (well said Scott)I do believe there might be something beyond us. I am not certain if there is heaven, but I am certain that as long as do good things to myself AND to the people around me, good things will come.

I do not want you to feel offended, remember this is only a discussion. I do believe that the bible was written from a great persuasive philosopher combining moral and feelings, and succeeded.

I found very interesting that Scott said about follow Him..."because it is the right thing to do"... "we are very involved in our local church because this particular church is a wonderful place full of friendship and faith. Becky and the boys sing in the choir. I teach Sunday school"

Convinced with the existence of God or not, we all want to do better and to help others, and to me that's what should be applauded in this life and rewarded maybe by God, Goddess or whoever/whatever you choose to believe (in heaven or not). Maslow's hierarchy of human needs puts the sense of belonging/love in the middle of all our needs. We all have the need feel affiliated, and whatever one chooses, it is ok. Don't you think?

As George says "This doesn't mean you are any less of a follower of a faith, just someone who thinks!" Again, do not take things personally, and I do not mean because you have strong believe in Christianity you do not think. You are hearing from a person(me) that is not attached to any religion attachment who respects everyone's faith.
"But there are things I do not agree with, and we are always happy to leave those lying at the doorstep." See that's to me a good example of toleration to find harmony with all without giving your back or sacrificing your faith/believes and being part of a whole. Very smart- Bravo Guys.
Peace again :-)

Chuck said...

Here comes Chuck, to piss everyone off. Sam Harris, in an interview:

Well, I think religious moderation is a politically correct discourse about all religions truly being benign in their essence and just being hijacked by people who are psychologically unstable or political megalomaniacs. This is a false view. And it's giving cover to religious extremists. This respect for faith, this taboo against criticizing faith, prevents us from saying the necessary things that we must say against religious fundamentalism.

Pretty much sums it up for me. I don't believe in anything but the scientific method and see no reason why I should pretend otherwise, or pretend that I "respect" arguments based on superstition. Religious moderation is neither true to faith nor to reason, and you can't have both.

Barry said...

The scientific process with observations of the natural world is the only basis we have to rationally determine how life began and the diversity of life came to be that we see today.
The theory of evolution continues to be validated time and time again with ever more complex scientific observations (for example, genome analysis and the DNA mutation rate further validating the fossil record and radioisotope dating).
The supernatural by definition cannot be observed and thus no tools exist to confirm or deny the beliefs surrounding the supernatural. It is taken on faith that it is so.

Your faith may tell you that the earth is 5000 years old and it should be fine with society to let you believe that. However, those beliefs don't change the facts that are determined by the observations of the natural world.

Scott said...

At my core, I believe in God. If I were to take Chuck's point of view, then what is the point of everything? I mean, we could have simply randomly evolved out of nothing, but if that life had not been created, the universe would be sterile inert rocks orbiting each other with no life to perceive it. That blows my mind.

I have no trouble believing in evolution and that it was God who directed it.

Barry said...

I have no trouble believing in evolution and that it was God who directed it.

That argument is fine as long as its recognized that there can be no debate on its correctness given that there are no human experiments capable of explaining it.

That being said, because there are no natural explanations to intelligent design, it should be left out of schools and kept in religious teachings.

Scott said...

That being said, because there are no natural explanations to intelligent design, it should be left out of schools and kept in religious teachings.

I agree 100%.

Chuck said...

I no more believe that the universe is only what I can observe with my senses (rocks banging together in a void) than I believe that it is ruled by a vain, cruel Santa Claus. I actually enjoy thinking of the implications of the multiple-worlds theory and transcendental levels of reality. I read about string theory and carry opinions on which varieties are more plausible. I think the full nature of being cannot be known, as new qualities, dimensions and forces will constantly be uncovered.

But those are not testable hypotheses and thus aren't something on which I would bet my life (or more to the point, someone else's life). I'll bet my life on Newtonian mechanics (every time I take a step), evolution (when I finish a course of antibiotics), and even quantum mechanics, because they are testable. They are also temporary, sometimes contradictory, and give way to new understanding as new data is presented. Doubt, experimentation, and verification are their strength.

Faith is not a framework on which we can interoperate as a pluralistic society. It's just not feasible - I won't submit to a bunch of fantastic mumbo-jumbo (UFO abductions, virgin birth, spoon bending, invisible pink unicorns, or jealous Hebrew deities) and nobody else should be force to live their lives by my own weird fallacies, or spoon-fed them as the one-and-only truth. I consider that child abuse: though I can't reasonably keep people from doing it, I can refuse to pay for it with my tax dollars.

Barry said...

The good thing about science is that when the testable evidence contradicts an established theory, those theories are thrown out.

Chuck your examples are excellent, though I wouldn't be so fast to bet your life on Newtonian mechanics. It is now accepted that the laws expressed by Newton are only approximations of the laws of motion; a real good approx for activities on Earth for particles bigger than an atom. Testing contradictions drove Einstein and other scientists to better explain the laws of motion. It was not until Einstein's relativity theory (tested) and quantum theory (many aspects tested) that these were better explained. There are still accepted holes in the complete understanding of physical behaviors (physics); relativity explains motion at the massive level and quantum at the minuscule level. String theory (some hypothesis of which have been tested) is one theory that attempts to explain both the massive and minuscule with one set of laws.

The beauty of science is that accepted explanations will change if the evidence proves otherwise.

gaz said...

this whole debate depends on which angle you are coming at it from. what your foundation is. people who want to believe in science (human knowledge and understanding) will stand on the ground i guess, those who want to believe in evolution will stand on a jelly (the ideas presented by many men which change each time they 'discover' something new), jews will stand on the torah (old testament laws) and christians will stand on the example set by and teachings of christ.
we each believe something. even if you say you don't - actually you do! your faith is that there isn't something, you can't prove it.
so do we believe something because of the evidence for it, or do we let the evidence fit with what we want to believe?

biblical scholars have said that there is no way (without outside non-scriptural influence) that the bible indicates or suggests that there is billions of years of history. in fact it directly contradicts god's word.
the bible tells us that there was no death, bloodshed, disease or suffering before sin. god instituted death because of sin - this is the foundation of the gospel. if he did not institute it then ultimately christ's life, death and resurrection would be pointless - what does that say about salvation? you may as well throw away your bibles now folks. you cannot allow a fossil record (invented by a fallible human) of millions of years of death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin interfere with the word of god. it's simply not scriptural.
read the 1st chapter of genesis and put aside all the outside influences that give us ideas of what the word 'day' might mean. just read the words of the passage. it says that god created the universe, the earth, the sun, moon and stars, plants and animals, and the first two people in six ordinary days. you have to admit that there is no way you can get the idea of millions of years from this passage. sadly, many christian leaders teach (based on outside influences) that these days must have been long periods of time, even millions of years. again, it's not scriptural.
here's more evidence.
"let the fight begin!" (ding ding)
evolution v genesis round 1:
sun before earth - earth before sun
dry land before sea - sea before dry land
atmosphere before sea - sea before atmosphere
sun before light on earth - light on earth before sun
stars before earth - earth before stars
earth at same time as planets - earth before other planets
sea creatures before land plants - land plants before sea creatures
land animals before tree - trees before land animals
death before man - man before death
cancer before man (found in dinosaurs) - man before cancer
... any takers?

Adolfo said...

Ok I thought I was done. Chuck made a good point. Believing vs Living it. We all can believe whatever we choose to, whatever faith and/or superstitious that there is, but live in it and follow every single step of the way- just 'cause- that's where I have troubled with religions. Again all the irony and the fights between one religion vs another.

Just the simple idea of guiltiness being seeded to you (He died and sacrified Himself FOR YOU; therefore you owe Him. Uhmm... Also and again the whole fight about to 'accept' and equalize gender and sexual preference. From the beginning, where is His sense of love coming from? Is that what some call compassion? This appear to be 'newly' added to some institutions- God did not think of minorities? how kind... See to me a great philosopher wrote the bible from his points of view, and hey! we are humans, and we have flaws.

I am not sure if I buy the "we are 'directed' by God" I tend to think that we as a society are evolving and so our faith. I see the bible as a psychological tool with a set of rules(morals) to guide you how to live your life. As I said before, we need guidance. We like and we have the need to do the right thing at all time. The issue is that what is right for oneself has different meaning to the others.

I was not growing up with the sense of guiltiness from religion believes.

I welcome all spiritual believes- only if- they do not mess around with gender and sexual preferences. By welcome I mean respect. Again I choose not live in a religious world though. I might change, I might stick to my current ideology. I might evolve in the spiritual ground. Time and personal needs will eventually tell.

Politics and religion points of views will never mean the same to everyone. We have our particular way of seeing it because we have different experiences, and we are all right, isn't? lol.

We keep evolving every single day finding the truth of our existence either through religion or scientific believes. One is tangible and what is not. Religion leaders are nuts with the Scientific ones and viceverse. what's new...
I lean toward the tangible one. What is good to you and choose to believe it should be fine if that fulfill your personal needs as long as you do not harm others.

The key to me is to be aware.

"Do good and you shall receive the same"- By Adolfo Diaz A. I am so deep, I know I know... LOL :-)
Life is too short.
I like what you said Scott (again) "...But there are things I do not agree with, and we are always happy to leave those lying at the doorstep."- AWARENESS!

Live and let live.

Peace. -and Done!

Scott said...


You have all the diplomatic grace of the Khmer Rouge. :-)


Chuck said...

My personal perspective is somewhat informed by the fact that religious faith dictates the death penalty for me in six nations. Faith is dangerous stuff; it's not just about leprechauns, unicorns, and the Easter Bunny. Adherence to faith dictates crushing people to death, stoning them, and giving them 7,000 lashes. So I don't consider faith a whimsical and harmless intellectual exercise, because it is a lethal weapon directed specifically against me, particularly when it involves the "literal word of God."

Scott said...


Well said. You bring us back full circle. As I said in the very first post, I still maintain that taking the Bible literally breeds fundamentalism which breeds intolerance which breeds violence and war.

Literalism and fundamentalism are not compatible with tolerant harmonic humanism.

I will close my thoughts with a rebuttal of Gaz's point that I was using Old Testament references in my original post. Yes, I was, but his original point was on the creation story, which was also an Old Testament reference.

So my point remains, that even we Christians have "cafeteria shopped" sections of the Bible which we choose to believe, and sections we quietly ignore or reject. This is directly at odds with literalism.

As it should be.

gaz said...

scott. great discussion. while i've been typing in response to a few things people have asked, you have closed the discussion (i think) so i'll post this and if you want to delete it go ahead. it is your blog after all :-)
chuck - faith ... is a lethal weapon directed specifically against me, particularly when it involves the "literal word of God."
so many other faiths are hung up on the punishment side of religion and refuse to accept that when jesus died – that all changed. people in the old times (as many do today) were getting it soo wrong he sent jesus. and jesus didn’t teach us to punish each other, he taught us to love each other. that is where christianity (in the sense of being a follower of christ) is different to other faiths. jesus said 'love one another just as the lord god loved you' and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’

adolfo - How come a loving, a repeat A LOVING God will select certain people.
this is a common misunderstanding. god does not select certain people. he sent his son jesus christ to die for us all so we could join him in heaven for eternity – there is not one person through the entire history of the earth who god has excluded from this. it is mankind who chooses to ignore this invitation. everyone is welcome. but. god is sinless and perfect and to be with him he requires that we ‘try’ and live the way that he intended us to live, by following his rules rather than the rules of man. there are 10 of them! and they are so hard to keep.

adolfo - "Where do we draw the line, and who gets to draw it?..."
god has already drawn the line. but people don’t like where he put it so they keep moving it!
he has told us what is wrong yet we all do some of them. some lie some steal some are in adulterous relationships, some worship other gods, etc. it is man who has built a hierarchy of ‘wrongness’ – god does not distinguish between them. god and only god is fit to act as judge, jury, and executioner. ephesians 5 says “be imitators of god, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as christ loved us..."

adolfo - Gandhi was not a jesus believer, does he have a place in heaven? People that believe in Goddesses and/or other higher grounds do they have place in heaven? Soo the game is it all depends on what institution you choose to go to heaven?
only god knows what is in people’s hearts. that is not a question that i or any christian can answer. i believe in jesus being the one true way. the bible teaches us that performing deeds will not earn us a place with him in eternity. neither is following the old laws on their own. it is quite simply about accepting what he did for us. i can testify that my faith is real not simply because it’s what i want to believe, but because of the things that i have seen and experienced – miracles, healing, answered prayer, guidance in life changing situations and most of all – his grace. it is only when a person makes that jump that the rest of this jigsaw of life fits into place.

the biggest mistake people can make is reading the bible from beginning to end. the old testament is for all intents and purposes a history lesson leading up to the birth of jesus. all that stuff has to preceed in order for his life and death to have meaning. start with one of the gospels of matthew mark luke or john to learn about the life of jesus.
if the bible is so lacking in truth just read the first chapter of romans and it pretty much sums up this entire discussion. written 2000 years ago but relevant today.
this is where my faith lies.
if there is no creator then why do good. if there are no laws but our own, randomly formed from chemicals and atoms and not instilled in us by an almighty creator then how can you trust your own opinion to be the right one?

i can’t remember who said it here but someone mentioned a jealous god. yes, god is jealous.
think of it this way. you are god. you create a universe that will continue to be discovered for thousands of years and amaze those who live there. then you create humans so that you can love them and they can love you and there is this amazing relationship between the physical and the spiritual. but you don’t want them to love you because they have to, you want them to love you because they want to so you give them a mind and free will. but one day that all goes tits up. man starts to question you and your truth and turns from you because he wants to do things his own way. making up stories about how we got here and what this means and that means, believing in what he can ‘see’ even though he is still 'seeing' the same stuff he saw before. he takes you out of the equation and because of that he can no longer be with you in eternity. would you not want what’s best for your creation? would you let your children (if you have any) go off to live with someone else who you know does not have their best interest at heart. would you sit back and do nothing or try to persuade them that they are being misled and lied to? would you be willing to die to save them from their fate?

gaz said...

that's it i'm done. promise! :-)

Scott said...

no problem. I thought the debate was winding down. Feel free to comment more!

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