Don’t Believe the Stories June 2, 2011

Don’t Believe the Stories

This is why pastors keep telling their congregations stories about Biblical characters…

It works, too. Ken Ham, the man behind the Creation Museum, really believes that a literal “Adam” and “Eve” existed. (If you go to his museum, you can see their statues… near the dinosaurs…)

In fact, he’s pissed off that some Christian academics are even questioning what the Book of Genesis says in the cover story of June’s Christianity Today magazine:

… the secular world will not and cannot accept even the possibility of a young earth, because then they could not even postulate the idea of evolution. They require an incomprehensible amount of time to propose evolutionary beliefs. That is why the secular world use terms like “anti-science,” “anti-intellectual,” and “anti-academic” for those who reject billions of years and accept a young universe. And sadly, that is why so many Christian academics give in to the secular world — they want to be seen as academically respectable in the eyes of the world.

Well, to be fair, even people like Francis Collins gets shit from other scientists for accepting evolution while holding Evangelical Christian beliefs…

But the point is clear: This is what happens when the stories are so powerful, that you believe they must be true. You look the other way when the evidence shows you’re wrong. If you don’t, your whole belief system will crumble.

(via Indexed)

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  • I’m not so sure that the power of the stories is what makes them so appealing. I believe it is a combination of ego (a god made the universe for little old me) and simplicity, or ease of understanding. To the uneducated, creationism is a much more intuitive and easier concept to understand (and then explain to others) than evolution.
    Evolution is not such an easy concept for many to grasp. In fact, many (perhaps even most) of those who support and espouse evolution are not able to accurately describe what evolution is.

  • They just don’t get it.

    the secular world will not and cannot accept even the possibility of a young earth, because then they could not even postulate the idea of evolution. They require an incomprehensible amount of time to propose evolutionary beliefs.

    An old Earth has nothing to do with evolution. If something came along that completely negated evolution instead for some kind of accelerated form of evolution – I know, a crazy thought but hang with me here – then the young earth would still be out of the window. We didn’t come along and say “this evolution thing is awesome, but if only we could prove the Earth was billions of years old.”

    It just so happens that the Earth is old enough to support evolution over its timeframe. If geology said the Earth was really young, then evolution wouldn’t fit. But, geology, dendrochronology, ice core data, and freakin’ archeology and anthropology all say the Earth is older than 6000 years.

  • Steve

    Never mind that humans are actually very young. We’ve only existed for a couple hundred thousand years in anything like the modern form.

    Life has existed for several billion years. If you somehow discarded all that came before, you could still have a relatively young Earth.

  • JD

    Ham is good at believing what he wants, never mind that that the second chapter of Genesis contradicts the first on the order of things created. The specific example I have in mind, in the first chapter: god created plants before man. In chapter two, god created man before plants. I need to see how he explains that away, especially given certain creeds of holy inspiration of the bible and its inerrancy.

  • Peter Mahoney

    It is VERY important for christianity whether Adam/Eve were real/true people. IF Adam/Eve were JUST fictional, THEN there is NO basis for humans having ORIGINAL SIN, and then there was NO reason why Jesus had to die in atonement for humans’ original sin.

    Most christians who consider Adam/Eve to just be a biblical fairy tale have not thought it through. Without Adam/Eve, the need for Jesus/salvation unravels.

  • Wow, that’s some weapon-grade projection. And the secular world did consider a young earth, but rejected it ages ago already.

  • Trace

    Mr. Ham seems to see “liberals” everywhere. Oh my.

  • Steve

    @Peter Mahoney
    Jesus could simply have died for mankind’s actual sins. We are screwed up enough as it is and do tons of bad things that need atonement – if one buys into that kind of thing.

    As a kid that’s basically how I understood it. And although I’m an atheist now, if I try to see things in from a religious POV it still makes sense to me.

    That also solves the sheer insanity of a god sacrificing himself to appease himself for something he caused in the first place.

  • joe-bob

    I just love the magazine cover, “some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman.”

    It’s such a great bit of understatement. I could easily see that as a sarcastic quip in a comedy routine. It has the ring of the Mr. Magoo type missunderstanding of the world. The only thing that keeps me from laughing is that I know they meant it literally.

  • Amy C

    Is that Ken Ham gracing the cover? It resembles him, add a few botox injections.

  • @The Godless Monster, explaining evolution in simple terms is actually fairly easy.

    Evolution is made up of two “Big Ideas”:
    1. Descent with modifications. The offspring of an organism may be subtly different that it’s parents.
    2. Natural selection. More organisms are “made” (born, hatched, spored, etc) than can survive. Those that survive are generally better suited to the environment.

    It really is easy. You rarely hear of cretinists explaining what their idea means. They’d rather spend their time slating questions in evolution or pointing out the things that scientists do not know that explaining how the idea of creationism might work.

    For the uninitiated creationism is also made up of two “big ideas”:

    1. Dembski’s Probability and Design Inference: This is basically the watchmaker argument coupled with a bit of math. An argument from ignorance and an argument from incredulity. Something like complex life may well be improbably (Richard Dawkins wrote a book about that) but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.

    2. Irreducible complexity. This is the idea that certain things cannot have evolved because they evolution builds on simpler form i.e. a flexible spine forms from the stiff spine of ancestors and ears contain bones that were once jaw bones in our ancestors. The example often used is a mousetrap that must have five working parts to function (the base, hammer, spring, catch, or holding bar) and cannot be simpler. Queue lots of people pointing out much simple mousetraps.

    It should be pointed out that the two “big ideas” of evolution have been observed and proven while the “big ideas” of creationism have been disproved time and time again.

    That’s what happens when you gets your mythology mixed up with your facts I suppose.

  • Stephan

    I love how the image on the magazine shows a not-fully-human Adam, thus accepting evolution by default. Even IF they did find THAT Adam, evolution still stands.

  • Oh Noes! Adam is a darkie! how did this happen since JC was obviously a blonde, blue eyed Aryan??!?! The American Christians will be very upset by this rendition of their founding father..

  • Revyloution

    Who cares about more evolution deniers. We won that fight, now we’re just waiting for them all to die.

    What I want to know is, how did Ayn Rand save a Bishop? I wonder if I can get a copy at the library, because I sure as hell ain’t paying for one.

  • ACN

    It borders on gross negligence and incompetence to print anything that comes out of Ken Ham’s mouth without someone around to obliterate every odious lie as it arises.

    That is an interesting point to bring up. Particularly so because it is a heresy that the church has worked hard to squelch periodically. In the Western tradition, what you describe is the heresy called “pelagianism”. Pelagius thought that Adam’s crime was to be a bad example for humanity, but that humans remained able to choose a life of perfect morality if they desired. If I remember correctly, he even argued that there were humans who HAD lived perfect lives since then. Then job of Jesus was to provide atonement for those who faltered from this perfect morality, and to be a good example to counter Adam’s bad example.

    Augustine did not agree with this view. His claim was that the crime of Adam fundamentally changed human nature so that humans were now incapable of living a sinless life. From his ideas the protestant church extracted the doctrines of “total depravity”/”augustinianism” as it relates to Adam’s original sin.

    Wikipedia has a good article about it here.

    Anyway, the point is that for the western churches to throw out the doctrine of original sin as you describe, would require them to embrace a heresy that they have actively opposed for the past 1500 years or so. For an equal amount of effort, I’d rather just come at it from the “all of this is ridiculous” angle.

  • @hoverfrog,
    Not sure what you were getting at with the explanations, but I’ve already got an understanding of evolution and creationism, thanks. I’m writing a book on it.
    If you lived in the U.S., I’d ask you to to step outside right now and buttonhole the next 100 passersby and ask them to define evolution. I’d bet the bank that 95-99 out of 100 couldn’t replicate the definitions you gave me.

  • Rich Wilson

    When people rhetorically ask “if we evolved from monkeys, then why do we still have monkeys” or how did something like an eye just pop into existence (no, that one isn’t Banana Man, it is worth clicking on) it means that although the concepts might be simple, people don’t really understand them. Probably because for some strange reason <frustration>THEY DIDN’T LEARN THEM IN SCHOOL!</frustration>

  • Steve

    Interesting. Hadn’t seen that before.

    Though it seems the heresy was really the idea that salvation could be attained through actions alone, without requiring god’s intervention. I think that’s pretty horrible considering the implications, but I kind of see why they suppressed it- it takes their god out of the picture.

    I absolutely don’t see why god couldn’t actively bless someone for a life well lived. It would be Christianity a lot nicer in my eyes. There is the doctrine of semi-pelagianism which goes into that direction.

    I was raised mildly Roman Catholic. The concept of original sin wasn’t really brought up in church. Of course I learned the story of the Garden Eden, but it was never really connected to the theology that Augustine developed. But it was constantly said that Jesus died for our sins. Plural. So as a kid I simply assumed they meant our real actions, instead of this absurd idea that we are magically sinful and depraved because of some stuff that allegedly happened eons ago.

  • @ The Godless Monster.

    Sorry if I came across as lecturing. I happen to believe that you can’t ever overstate something that seems to be so fundamentally misunderstood as evolution. At least in the US.

    I am shocked how evolution seems to not be taught over there. In the UK it is simply a part of the secondary school science curriculum and is no more mysterious and controversial than the structure of a cell or the fact that our bones aren’t made from lego.

    Unlike Revyloution I do not think that you have won this particular battle. It may be the case that the creationists can’t teach their crap in schools but they have largely blocked the teaching of evolution as well. It may be missed from biology lessons entirely and I’ve even heard that some text books cut evolution out. If they don’t then they won’t sell. I’m sure we’ve all seen stories (I know that Hemant has relayed a few) of colleges having to teach basic biology to undergraduates or denying students a place on a course because of their lack of education in the area. I find that quite sad.

    In the UK I’d be concerned if a 13 year old couldn’t give a reasonable description of evolution. My concern is that we don’t have a first amendment protection to prevent the nutters from preaching their lies to our children. Luckily religion isn’t very fashionable and very few people pay much attention to it at all.

  • TangoHotel

    Steve – Even as a “mild” Roman Catholic, you must have been exposed to many baptisms (besides your own). What do you think the doctrinal rationale was for that procedure? It was to “wash away” the inherent sins of mankind, not to prevent the baptizee from sinning in the future. The concept of original sin is deeply rooted in Catholic belief.

  • Tom

    “They require an incomprehensible amount of time to propose evolutionary beliefs.”

    Really? Is anyone else tired of hearing things like this? I don’t think that even 13.75 billion years is incomprehensible let alone 4.54 billion years.

  • Carl Sagan – Cosmos edited for rednecks

  • T-Rex

    @ Jeff P,

    I love that one. “Gaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwd”!

  • Stogoe

    @TangoHotel, in the Protestant church I grew up in I seem to remember baptism was treated as branding an infant as belonging to God’s Cattle Herd.

  • MV


    You have an interesting definition of winning. Pew research notes that in 2006 only 26% of the US actually accepted in evolution. Other polls put this number lower.

    In 2005, 64% supported teaching creationism alongside evolution in the classroom.

    If that is winning, I don’t want to know what losing is like. Especially considering how much reality one has to deny in order not to accept it.

  • When I was a Christian I absolutely believed in a literal Adam and Eve. A professor at my Bible college, who was a Jesuit, mentioned he did not believe in A&E. I remember wondering if the school knew what he thought.

    It was one of the first blows to my faith. It opened a crack for logical thinking. I realized Genesis was ridiculous and soon the rest followed.

  • Andy Mulhearn

    I admire you guys, I can’t read more than the first paragraph written by chumps like that before my eyes glaze over and I start losing the will to live!

    Oh, and freudian slip by my iPad which changed chumps into chimps above. How apposite.

  • From his ideas the protestant church extracted the doctrines of “total depravity”/”augustinianism” as it relates to Adam’s original sin.

    yes, sort of. but don’t forget Jerome, and some other early xtian “fathers.” there was plenty of early xtian hatred of sex and women to go around, in terms of influential theologians. i’ve read so many of these types (in div school), it makes me want to puke to recall their collective misogyny, homophobia/closet case nature, and hatred of pleasure. xtian theology is filled with this far worse than the other monotheisms, imho.

    if you think about it, in a somewhat cynical but historically accurate sort of way, it’s pretty clear why A&E are so important and their ‘sin’ is so monumental in the faith. everyone has sexual desire, if not sexual action. the vast majority of sexually adult humans masturbate, feel lust, copulate, etc. if i’m forming a religious cult and i want economic and political power, what better way than to announce that this near universal human characteristic has to be “fixed” with my new religion? and a check/shekel/talent/mina/lira you give me, of course, so i can continue to teach you about all the ways you’re sick, wrong, and unclean.

    it’s the ultimate of scams that play on insecurity. everyone feels some kind of sexual insecurity, or can be made to with cute stories that titillate, and shame/blame at the same time. we’re primates and we respond to that kind of selective social pressures. if you ask me, psychology is the “new” religion in this sense; it’s only a cult figure or two away from running the same scam on people who don’t always feel good about themselves (which is most of everyone, at least some of the time).

  • oh, and as a scholar of West Semitic languages and religions, i am compelled to say that the BuyBull is also totally cribbed. look up and read a book called “the context of scripture” some time. it demonstrates, line by line, where the authors of the BuyBull stole their material- which is to say, from pagan religions and non-monotheistic religious cultures. there isn’t a story in the BuyBull that someone writing and being religious in a different tradition didn’t write first. Sargon of Akkad—> Moses in the basket story; Dumuzi dying for someone else’s sins and rising again–> Jeebus; Horus and Isis–>Jeebus and one of the Marys; An and Ti merge to create the world from nothing–>gawd doing the ‘tohu and bohu’ making the universe from nothing, etc. most of the mythology in the BuyBull is thousands of years older, or centuries older, than the authors claim.

  • Chris the religous infedel

    In all actuality i believe in both creation and evolotion. I am no scientist but the Chances of of ONE planet being perfectly positioned and 1 living orginism that came from NOTHING seems less likely than being created. No non living thing can creat or birth a living being. Before you say im defending one side, I believe that we as humans evolved far from our original form over the many years of existance. Stories changed, people (or whatever we were) questioned and poof, multi regional and multi religeous humans were out looking for answeres. We dont live long enough for someone to beable to give any honest and true answer even with all the research capabilites we have or will ever create.

  • Steve

    Evolution is NOT about the origin of life. That’s a whole other topic. If you’re interested in how living organisms may have developed from non-living organic molecules look up “abiogenesis”.

    And since we are here to discuss it, the chance of our planet developing life is 1. You’re also making a big assumption about our uniqueness. We are discovering more and more exo-planets every week

  • Chris the religous infedel

    like i said im no scientist so i dont claim anything as a fact or that i know everything .

    but 1) i never said that evolution did or did not explain the origin nor have i heard of “abiogensis”. if it does explaing non living things giving birth to living things then that sounds pretty cool and interesting. But something living has to come from somewhere.
    2) I have never once in my life made any assumption of being uniuqe in any way, as species or individual. If things were left to chance then OBVIOUSLY there will be others somewhere. If it was created by god
    do you think We would be his one and only living things in ALL of his creation. That is laughable even to the most radical believers. But i do believe that like many things we evolved to our eviorment and they evolved to theres, whats toxic to us may be thier very air that they need for survival and so forth. Witch from last i heard is more open than most scientist are. We evolved needing water and oxygen as a carbon based life form, what if they are nitrogen based, or oxygen based, hell even gold based life forms. the planets are uncaountable and so are the possablilities.

    Please dont tell me what im assuming or not, For a christian im very open minded and love learning things. Im even trying to start up on getting a degree on demonology and learn the dark side of the bible as well as read into things like the dead sea scrolls.

  • Excuse me, but what good is a degree in “Demonology”, when demons aren’t REAL?

  • Baconsbud

    Chris I guess you haven’t read the stories where they have already found over 50 planets that are in the sweet spot of their sun. You might want to stop reading about demons and start reading news about scientific advances. I’m no scientist but I can read and understand most of the articles they publish. You might find some really interesting information by putting the bible down and reading science journals.

  • ACN

    Please dont tell me what im assuming or not, For a christian im very open minded and love learning things. Im even trying to start up on getting a degree on demonology and learn the dark side of the bible as well as read into things like the dead sea scrolls.


  • ACN

    but don’t forget Jerome, and some other early xtian “fathers.” there was plenty of early xtian hatred of sex and women to go around

    My impression is that you couldn’t shake a stick in the greater mediterranean region at that period without hiting a misogynistic early church father.

  • Lars

    Well, to be fair, even people like Francis Collins gets shit from other scientists for accepting evolution while holding Evangelical Christian beliefs

    I thought Collins was a Catholic, and not “Evangelical Christian”. Was I wrong in my definition of ‘Evangelical Christian’?

  • Rich Wilson

    According to wikipedia:

    [Francis Collins] eventually came to a conclusion, and finally became an evangelical Christian during a hike on a fall afternoon.

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