Christianity vs. Creationism vs. Evolution – A Real Discussion

christianity-scienceI’m sure by now most of you have heard about the debate Bill Nye had with Ken Ham pertaining to which theory is more credible, evolution or creationism.  Though it’s a bit long, I’d highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.  While it’s unlikely either man convinced anyone to change their minds, it was a great example of someone using proven scientific research against someone who essentially said, “I have the Bible, that’s my proof.”

Oh, that and, “Well, you weren’t there to see that bedrock created – so how do you know how old it is?”

But this debate did lead me to having debates with other people about this issue.

As most people know, I’m a Christian.  That being said, I don’t put much stock in the Bible.  While I see it as a great tool at times, and I do believe some truth comes from within it, I just can’t say, “This book is 100% factually accurate” considering how many times it’s been translated (or probably rewritten) over centuries.

Bill Nye actually used the same example I’ve used often, the childhood game of “telephone.”  You know, where you take something, whisper it in someone’s ear, then it goes around the room until it gets to the last person.  It’s at that point you see how different the final message was from the original as it got distorted, with each person telling it slightly differently than the person who told it to them.

That’s kind of how I view the Bible.  In a lot of the text I don’t see divine knowledge, I see human nature.  Homosexuality and women’s rights are great examples.

Being that the Bible was undoubtedly translated over time by men, it’s not at all shocking that women are clearly depicted as secondary to men and homosexuality is “icky and gross.”  If you take out religion, you still see these traits within many men.  I’ve met men who don’t support homosexuality because they think it’s “gross.”  They’re not religious, they just don’t like it.

And I don’t think I have to convince many people of the fact that for centuries (even in the United States) women have been treated as lesser than men.  That’s also not a religious thing as you see this in many other cultures, most of which aren’t Christian based.

So when it comes to the Bible, I just see a whole lot of the ignorance of men instead of the “hand of God.”  Again, not that I discount everything, but I sure wouldn’t take it at its literal word.

Which brings me to my point: Christianity vs. Creationism vs. Evolution.

As a Christian, I believe in evolution.  It sounds like an oxymoron to say that, but it’s true.  Though I’m still not sure what I believe about our exact origins, or how we became to be who we are today, I think the evidence is pretty clear that we’ve evolved over time.

When people talk about the creation of the Earth from a creationist perspective, they speak in literal terms of 6,000 years and God creating the planet in 6, 24 hour days.

Seriously?  God had a watch?

Who’s to say a “day” meant 24 hours?  Maybe a “day” was 800 million years.  Maybe a “day” was a billion years.  Maybe God had a plan for human existence, but chose to develop our specifics over millions of years through evolution.  Why would any of that seem far-fetched?

We assume that God is all-seeing and all-knowing, yet we see the horrific things that happen every day on Earth.  Why does God allow for that?  If God meant for everything to be clean, clear, precise and perfect from the get-go, why is everything so messed up and confusing now?  Maybe God’s plan was to set the seeds for human existence, knowing that it would evolve and grow into what we are today.

Maybe God wants us to evolve into the beings we’re supposed to be instead of simply making us that way.

Honestly, I have no idea.  If I did, I’d be quite the famous person.  These are just ideas I bring up during these kinds of debates.  As a Christian, I cannot and will not ignore science.  But also as a Christian who believes in science, it’s a much more complex issue than those who simply believe in one or the other.

Creationists simply believe literally what the Bible tells them.  I see these people more like a cult than a religion.  You really do have to be borderline (if not completely) insane to see all the evidence we have on this planet and honestly believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

And Bill Nye’s debate with Ken Ham only enforced my belief of that.  Ham is seen as an “expert” in creationism, yet he produced not one solid fact to support anything he said.  Like I’ve said before, his “proof” literally consisted of one thing, “Well, the Bible tells me…”

Yet, he can’t prove who or exactly when the original Bible was written.

So he dismisses all of the scientific evidence which contradicts his creationist theory because, as he often said, “You weren’t there, so how do you know?”  Yet he wasn’t there when the Bible was written so how can he know?

It’s like Bill Nye said to him several times, science (based on theory) can predict future events – that’s what proves its validity.  Creationism can’t replicate or accurately predict anything.

But as a Christian, I believe you can believe in God and believe in science.

After all, no matter what you believe in – the same question still can’t be answered or proven: How exactly did we all get here?

If you believe in God, well, who or what created God?  Then who created that which created God?  If you believe in the Big Bang Theory, well, what created that?  Something had to exist before that, right?  Who or what made that?  If the universe is expanding, where’s it expanding to?  What’s on the other side of the edge of the universe?

There’s seemingly endless questions we can ask that nobody really has a concrete answer to.  Theories, yes – definitive answers, no.  It’s absolutely fascinating to me.

Of course I didn’t get as deep into this discussion as I possibly could.  Many books could be wrote discussing this in great detail (and many books already have been written discussing it as well).

But when someone tells me you can’t be a Christian and believe in science, I say that’s nonsense.

What if God created science, or science created God?

There are so many questions that are so vast most of our minds can’t even comprehend the scope of them, let alone answer them.

Though I think it’s safe to say one thing is for certain – the Earth isn’t 6,000 years old.  And it’s a bit terrifying that tens of millions of people actually believe that it is.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Sandy Greer

    Creationism should not be taught in public schools, funded by our tax dollars.

    Save it for Sunday school. IF their church believes that way (most don’t)

    • Guest

      Hi Sandy – my guess is that mine is a minority position among secularists; I don’t have a problem with christian creation stories (myths, choose your nomenclature) being taught in school, but in *social studies* as part of a unit on comparative religion. It’s a fact that many people believe there’s a divine origin to the universe; it’s not a demonstrated fact that that this belief is true. My problem isn’t with christian creation stories being taught in schools, it’s *where creationists want them taught*: in science classes.

      • Sandy Greer

        I’m one who believes in ‘divine origin’. I call myself Christian, because I was raised that way. But don’t go to church, and believe ALL religions have something of worth…if we but open our minds.

        I guess I’m more Spiritual, than anything else.

        I believe in God, because I believe in Wonder. I see the stars in the sky, and the fact that we are here at all, in the vastness of the universe…

        For myself, I am content not to know it all.

      • Guest

        I believe in wonder because I experience it 😉 The thing is, 99.9999% of atheists are content to not know it all, too (I’m sure you know this) and we’re not opposed to religious belief. Well, I suppose some of us are, but they’re in that teensy fraction of 1% according to the statistic I just pulled out of my back pocket. Hehe. The danger is in assuming your (not you, Sandy, individually) untested, and un*testable* ideas get to be right by dint of general agreement or tradition, or etc.

        I look at the universe and see a mind-bogglingly complex system that fills me with awe at its complexity. Scientifically literate christians would likely call that sense of awe god. That’s okay. I don’t think it is, but it doesn’t bother me that they do. It occurs to me that biblical literalists, including creationists, seem to want to make an end-run around faith – if they can propose as evidence things that we can’t explain any other way, well then it *must* be God, and there’s no more need to take anything on faith.

        Doesn’t that rather shoot in the foot one of religion’s core values, if so, though?

      • Sandy Greer

        >I look at the universe and see a mind-bogglingly complex system that fills me with awe at its complexity. Scientifically literate christians would likely call that sense of awe god.

        ^^^You just described me. Tho I’m not sure how ‘scientifically literate’ I am. (I believe/accept Science, but tend to the Artsy) 😉

        But yes. Faith is key. Why I don’t try to ‘prove’ God to others. And don’t need ‘proof’ for myself.

        In fact, if we need ‘proof’…then God is no longer necessary. Seems to me.

        And, from what I can gather, God (IF there is one) would rather have us accept Him on faith…than ‘proof’.

      • Guest

        A big part of my problem with some christianities is an over-reliance on a particularly weak argument for faith: as though faith is something that you can become convinced to have, something you can get yourself talked into.

        If I’m reading old christian mystics correctly (always a dicey proposition, hehe) faith experiences *couldn’t* be argued their way into.

      • Sandy Greer

        I understand, and agree, absolutely.

        One either has Faith, or one doesn’t.

        Like attraction between two people. It has to come naturally.

        I believe there are many ways to God (or the Creator) My way is one. So is yours.

        And yours is no less worthy than mine. Even acknowledging you’re Atheist. Yours is no less worthy than mine.

        I’ve gotta go now. This is the day I get my info together for my taxes. But I hope to see you again, wchanley. You and your brilliant, thoughtful, brain.

      • Sunnysmom

        I agree Sandy. I consider myself spiritual and not necessarily Christian and there are components of many “religions” that speak to me. I love not knowing it all. I love that I think the end of my life will just be the beginning of some new great journey, somewhere, somehow…or not :-). But it doesn’t change the way I live this life now. Where we came from and how this all ends means less to me than what I’m doing today to make someone else’s journey better, to make my journey better.

      • Doninc La Rosa

        Sorry to hear God can not teach you any think . . there is really no such thing as spiritual people with out true religion , only those who believe in there own opinions to tickle there fancy.

      • surfjac

        I’ve always said that if my child’s teacher was going to teach creationism or intelligent design, ask which version?..from which religion or culture? Will there be field trips and/or experiments to prove any aspect of these psuedo-sciences?

      • Guest

        That’s why I don’t have a problem with creation stories being taught in a unit on comparative religion, in social studies; don’t teach christian beliefs to the exclusion of the world’s other major religions, don’t teach it as science. It’s an aspect of human culture, and it’s relevant to learn about those cultures, I think, but the creationists’ problem is that they’re trying to present “intelligent design” as an alternative to science when it isn’t.

      • surfjac

        That is the point though. Teaching this as a “comparative study” would be fine in a college or university where the students would have a choice but not in high school when there’s so much else to learn about the world they live in and must move into once gone from high school.

      • Guest

        There are plenty of ways I can imagine that social studies would need to be modified to be made grade- or age-appropriate, but that’s not especially relevant to the discussion at hand, in my view.

        Ultimately, I’m forced to wonder at this point, how prevalent this whole idea actually is: how many high school or middle-school kids are being taught so-called “intelligent design” or other forms of creationism in their school science classes?

        I’m aware that Kansas school boards have played games with high school science texts; I’m willing to go out on a limb, though, and claim that Kansas may be a particular case. (I could be wrong.)

      • Sandy Greer

        Links are unwieldy here, and don’t always post well.

        But I Googled “Map where Creationism is taught in Public Schools”

        It’s more prevalent that any would like to think. Mostly Louisiana and Tennessee, with many in Indiana, Ohio, and Florida. Others scattered, other states.

        Oddly enough, Kansas didn’t show any.

        And, agreeing with surfjac, in that I don’t hear it being taught the way you’d like, wchanley, as a ‘comparative’ study, in Social Studies.

        My understanding is it’s being taught as “This is the way it is”. In grammar schools.

        And that students are being graded on their understanding of The Lord.

      • Guest

        Oh, well, crud. Stupid set of assumptions on my part, then. Sigh.

        The issue of social studies is a tangential point; it’s not the core of my position, just a way – all other things being equal – where I could see it might be appropriate.

        But it looks like all other things *aren’t* equal. Bleh.

        I was thinking of Kansas specifically for the 2005 school board case that gave us the “teach the controversy” fluff.

      • meatwad_SSuppet

        Exactly, and with books that are not afraid to call ridiculous “ridiculous” in the text. This being said, all religious stories or cults having about equal time and with no ‘un-touchables’ to pander to their hidden embarrassments. If it is a death cult, call it that. Be honest about them.

  • Carol Lynn

    Day 1: The heavens, the earth, light and darkness.
    Day 2: Heaven
    Day 3: Dry land, the seas, and vegetation.
    Day 4: The sun, the moon and the stars

    “Who’s to say a “day” meant 24 hours? Maybe a “day” was 800 million years. Maybe a “day” was a billion years” –

    Sure. Why not? For your next rationalization, tell me how ‘light’ enough to allow plants to grow existed for a billion years without the sun. (Hint. The people who wrote the Bible got it wrong. Get over it. Your rationalization does not actually help.)

    • Guest

      I dunno that he’s attempting to rationalize a literal reading of the genesis story’s creation order, though; yes, as an atheist, I discard genesis completely, on the facts it gets wrong, and I can’t see that starting with a rationalization of genesis as symbolism is likely to get anywhere, but that’s easy for me to say: I’m not a christian, and I’m skeptical on the existence of gods in general.

      But while I can see that christians have rather put themselves over a barrel with regard to genesis in particular – it’s awfully difficult for *me* to suss any useful truth out of it – that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Maybe Allen Clifton can see some, though I agree starting with the proposition that a “day might mean a billion years” seems like a poor place to start.

      Maybe modern christians can regard the whole thing as poetry – how often is the sea (say) regarded anthropomorphically (I lie down next to her…) without it needing to say anything literal? I’m not saying there are *good* abstract truths to be found in Genesis (I don’t think there are any that can’t be found in various other parts of the text that don’t require reading it with boulder-sized grains of salt), but maybe I’m wrong; maybe there are and I’m just missing the (abstract, symbolic) point.

      • Carol Lynn

        Cherry picked thoroughly enough, the Bible does have good parts. Allan Clifton certainly cherry-picks with the best of them. So why not, if some theist is cherry-picking anyway, just admit that there are places where their book reflects the knowledge of the people who wrote it and that part is just wrong by what we know know? Why MUST a theist grasp and twist and wriggle for a metaphor to relate Biblical statements to current knowledge or practices every time? Clifton says that science has it right when it comes to things like the age of the earth, so why not go with that across the board and stop torturing the old texts to make every bit of them fit new paradigms?

        To me it feels like saying: “Newton was right about calculus, so he must also have been right when he wrote about alchemy. If we read his alchemical texts the right way, any properly thinking mathematical person can see that they are all just metaphors for calculus.” That’s obvious nonsense when applied to other books and other writers, but theists treat the Bible books just like that. It’s a puzzlement.

      • Guest

        “Why MUST a theist grasp and twist and wriggle for a metaphor to relate Biblical statements to current knowledge or practices every time? ”

        Well, naturally I don’t think they *must*, but they – or very many of them, anyway – seem to want to (or need to) anyway. I’m not saying *I* have good explanations for whatever truth value there may be in Genesis (again, I seriously question the notion that there is any); I’m simply saying that I can see a way in which Clifton may have been trying to make a point about not reading the bible literally; it doesn’t behoove us secularists/atheists (you’re only included in that if you want to be) if we then attack that claim with yet more literal reading of the Bible. Makes sense? Likely not. Hehe. Show me where I’ve run off the rails, and I’ll try for a better explanation, maybe.

        “…so why not go with that across the board and stop torturing the old texts to make every bit of them fit new paradigms?”

        I can’t speak for christians, naturally, but what if we made a similar claim about science? (Yes, I know, science is falsifiable and doesn’t rest on absolute truth claims, so this comparison is wobbly, to be sure, but it’s the best I’ve got at the moment. Forgive me. I’m procrastinating on psych homework and using these sorts of discussions to force me to think. Hehe.)

        Anyway, tortured comparison it may be, but what if we said, “Hey, scientists: why bother learning copernicus if we know he got x, y and z wrong anyway? We have a new paradigm now…”

        We need to understand the foundations that are still useful, right? Maybe Genesis is that. I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong. But if so many christians – fundamentalists and progressives alike – need to keep it around, eh. It’s their Bible, not mine.

        Science builds on prior knowledge. The stuff that doesn’t make sense gets tossed, sure, but that’s *science’s* domain. Doesn’t it become an apples-to-oranges comparison to expect religion to do the same thing? Regardless of whether or not I think that makes *rational sense* to do (I do), I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect religion to do it.

        “To me it feels like saying: “Newton was right about calculus, so he must also have been right when he wrote about alchemy.”

        I’m not sure that analogy holds; if science is to calculus, sure, I can see that religion is to alchemy in that case… but…

        We’re not talking about deductive reasoning, here; we’re talking about culture and tradition. It’s necessarily more complicated and messy. EDIT: It occurs to me that the entire concept of the fall, and the necessity of redemption hinges on Genesis, doesn’t it? If Christians toss THAT, there’s not much reason left over to be a Christian, is there?

        Progressive christians will have to speak for themselves, here, but I suspect it comes down to whether or not your faith position is that the Bible we ended up with after the Council of Nicea – meant to be taken literally or not – was what God intended.

      • Sandy Greer

        You have a brilliant mind, wchanley.

        I especially loved your arguments in your 2nd paragraph (which DOES make sense to me) and your Copernicus (foundations)

        I wish I could vote ‘up’ more than once.

      • Guest

        Thanks! 🙂 There are formal problems with Clifton’s argument that I’ll really run off the rails with, but the core of it comes down to taking his initial premise at face value: don’t take the bible literally. But, but but… it doesn’t make sense to then think that the rest of the Genesis creation story holds up…

        Sure doesn’t, but that wasn’t part of the initial premise; Clifton shoots his own argument in its foot by entertaining the “we don’t know what a day to God is” meme, but that doesn’t mean the initial premise is rendered invalid because he does.

      • Carol Lynn

        I think you’ve completely misunderstood what I’m saying. I don’t think there should be a ‘more literal’ reading of the Bible. I just think theists should be a bit more discriminating with their metaphors. They can metaphor the imperfect nature of the universe and the Fall and Adam and Eve and keep the basic bits of their creation mythology and yet they dig in their heels and insist that every single line of the creation myth be congruent to a point in a more current scientific explanation.

        If a theist is going to claim that “well… a day doesn’t necessarily mean a literal day, it could be a billion years.” they should realize that does not actually make it a better explanation. It just opens up another layer of wrongness in the Biblical account that needs to be explained in yet another set of rationalizations. It looks like ‘turtles all the way down’ to me. Rather than going down a rabbit hole of rationalizations and strained metaphors reconciling the details, IMO, a modern, progressive Christian should just look for the big picture. Surely, modern, progressive, science-admiring Christians don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. If that part of Genesis, which is the most necessary bit, can be read as a metaphor, why is it so darned necessary to theists to have the ‘days of creation’ in the account line up with current science?

      • Guest

        “I think you’ve completely misunderstood what I’m saying.”

        Always possible. Hehe. That’s why I wondered aloud if I’d missed your point somewhere in my last reply. Looks like I did. For whatever it’s worth, I can see that I may have been barking up the wrong tree since you more-or-less started with one of the creation orders in Genesis. If that’s not essential to your point, my mistake, looks like, but it’s not really the crux of what I was saying either.

        “I just think theists should be a bit more discriminating with their metaphors.”

        I get that, but its not as if any single theist is in a position to dictate what is, or isn’t canon; sure, *I* get to decide for myself, but again, easy for me to do: I’m not a Christian. Am I making that part of my point clearly?

        “They can metaphor the imperfect nature of the universe and the Fall and Adam and Eve and keep the basic bits of their creation mythology…”

        But how, precisely, for them to *keep those bits* moving forward is precisely what you and I are discussing, right? Your contention is that the writers of Genesis got a whole passel of stuff just plain wrong, and that rationalizing it makes no sense.

        From the standpoint of evaluating some things as fact, some things and metaphor, and (probably) some things as just plain hooey, I completely agree. But that’s not the only way I’m trying to look at this.

        This is what I meant by “regardless of how reasonable I may think it is to do, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect religion to do it,” if I’m understanding your point correctly. (I may still be missing it, I’ll allow):

        It’s easy for me to decide that factual errors in Genesis don’t refer to anything metaphoric and that the Genesis writers simply got it wrong, but I’m not a Christian. As I said, I think a flaw in Clifton’s approach is that he’s not providing really any way to gauge how he may be reading things like Genesis and what may or may not be metaphoric, but the more I think about it, that may be an unrealistic standard for any individual who’s still a believer.

        They can define their own personal christianities inside their heads, sure, but again, this *isn’t* a simple matter of deductive reasoning – there’s 2,000 years of culture and tradition and if people didn’t need to hang on to their faiths this would all be a much simpler discussion. I agreed with you that where Allen Clifton started wasn’t likely to get anywhere back in my first reply – we’re in agreement that trying to rationalize just what a “day” means in the Creation story isn’t likely to get anywhere useful. If it needs to be said we’re in agreement that either one of the creation orders in Genesis 1 & 2 are simply factually inaccurate from any general, basic understanding of science, today.

        But does that mean those bits are dismissible? For me, sure. Maybe for you, too. For Clifton, though?

        Why is the onus on him to change the canon of his faith to suit me? I say it isn’t. *I* get to discard the bits I think are wrong. I’m not so sure he does.

        I think you’re trying to call for a standard of rational thinking that while it may make sense to another atheist, is unrealistic to expect *of a religious tradition.* I fully understand your point that trying to rationalize every single jot and tittle of a myth is likely to lead to talking in circles, but it’s a *myth*. If it was based on evidence we could debate, it wouldn’t be a myth. We look at the Demeter & Persephone myths, centuries removed from their context, and decide “oh, they were just making up stories to explain seasonal differences,” but that’s hardly the end of it. There’s at least some evidence of mystery traditions in the Demeter cults that were related to the Persephone myths, too. They were doing more than just trying to rationalize the change of seasons, for which we now have evidence-based explanations. If we read the Demeter & Persephone myths thinking that their sole context was a fairy story told to greek children as a way to explain the change of seasons, as if that’s the whole enchilada, we’re likely missing lots.

        What you’re essentially asking, if I’m understanding your point, is that if he doesn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve in the Garden, then Clifton ought to simply toss the “days in Genesis”, or the order of creation as though there’s no *need to even consider them.* I think that’s an unrealistically large chunk of tradition to discard (which is, in my view, why these stories have stuck around in this particular faith as long as they have).

        I started out saying I *personally* have a hard time finding much that’s meaningful in *any* of Genesis. My hope was that a believer might jump in and show me what I’m missing. Hasn’t happened yet; hopefully it still might.

        If you were asking *me* if I thought that was a useful way forward, I’d agree, but you’re not. Sure, Christians certainly *could* do as you suggest, and I’d even agree with you that it makes more sense to do it – but how realistic is it to expect it to happen? Religions don’t evolve fast enough for me to see an awful lot of real change within the space of my lifetime. Them’s just the breaks, looks like.

        I think you may be missing what I was trying to say about the Fall – while “Adam and Eve” aren’t literal, and the majority of Christians may not think that we started from God’s own mudman, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find *any* who’d say that *that’s* the takeaway from Genesis. If it’s the Fall, then that is almost certainly *not* metaphoric, because if the Fall *is* a metaphor, there’s no actual reality for sin, or redemption. That’s the ballgame.

        If God didn’t make man “uncorrupted by sin” by some measure at some magic point in the past and we didn’t choose to disobey that means we’re *flawed by design* and God’s a capricious asshole. That too is the ballgame, as far as I can tell. If a literal fall-from-grace is necessary, by what basis do I include or exclude creation stories as useful? (This is the bit Clifton punts on with an “I don’t know.” That’s okay – it’s not an easy question.)

      • Carol Lynn

        Oh, I don’t expect them to change to accommodate me. I’d like some of these progressive, non-fundamentalist Christians to try and just explain to me why some bits of their book that seem equally ignorable to me must be twisted and rationalized when they, as much as I do, find other bits to be understood to be completely metaphorical and the bad science there totally ignorable. What metric are these progressive, non-fundamentalist Christians using when they decide that the message of Biblical creation is better? more workable? believable? with a bad ‘scientific’ explanation wedged into it and another story, such as Jonah’s whale can have all the unscientific bits simply ignored and be focused only on the metaphorical truth it contains?

        Sure, it can be handwaived as “tradition” and “culture” but that “a creation day could be millions or billions of years” is culturally and traditionally new and already pretty pervasive. Even ‘progressive’ Christians who are not Biblical literalists say that – see the OP – with what seems like a sigh of relief for the accuracy of their text even though current scientific understanding of the process does not correspond to what the creation story says and what they are saying does not help explain the contradictions between their creation story and current scientific understanding.

        Why is a billion years of plants, and light, with no sun better in their minds than a literal day without a sun as an explanation? It seems to me that asserting “god has spoken to me in my heart (or whatever they find acceptable for the process) and the creation account can now be seen as all metaphor” would be a better strategy for these progressive, non-fundamentalist Christians to use to make the Bible acceptable to those who can’t manage to believe the Bible as a literal account of reality. And yet, all I hear from them when the creation story is challenged is the “well, a day could be seen as a much longer span than a literal day” rationalization, which, in my mind at least, makes the progressive Christians look as uncaring-about-science-based-explanations as any Biblical literalist fundamentalist who insists ‘a day’ means a literal 24 hour day.

        I’m not expecting them to focus their energies converting me or people like me but I keep scratching my head over why aren’t the science-believing, progressive Christians themselves treating the whole Biblical creation account as all a metaphor to assuage their own cognitive dissonance about it rather than wedging another layer or two of bad science into it? Why is the “a day could be billions of years” rationalization pretty near always trotted out, even by progressive Christians, as if some additional misunderstood science could make their text more acceptable even to them, when the same progressive, science-supporting Christians don’t feel the need to make the same kind of badly thought out ‘scientific rationalizations’ about, oh, Jonah’s whale experience or Ezekiel and the sun standing still?

      • Guest

        We’re in general agreement, on lots, I think, but something that just occurred to me…

        ‘Why is the “a day could be billions of years” rationalization pretty near always trotted out, even by progressive Christians…”

        Because on the seventh “day” (by whatever reckoning) God rested? There are whole swaths of christianity that have squabbled mightily over which day is the Sabbath, and why. Seventh-Day Adventists consider Sunday worship to be – quite literally, not metaphorically – the mark of the beast.

        I don’t think claiming tradition is handwaving anything away, or, if it is to get around the “six days” of Genesis, I don’t think it’s quite as casually dismissing things as I’m reading in your post, but I could once again be misreading you. I think the traditions *matter*. They don’t matter to *me*, but surely it makes at least some sense that they must matter to christians, right? I’m not claiming that J. Random Progressive Christian has a firm theological ground on which to rest, but obviously there’s *something* that keeps it around.

        I’m not saying I know what that *is*, mind. Hehe. I could easily guess it’s connected to “remember the sabbath, keep it holy” in Exodus – even if christians aren’t literally supposing that the creation order in Genesis 1 happened in order, or the second creation order in Genesis 2 happened in *that* order, you’re right: there does seem to be a need to rationalize the day. The day isn’t just a stand in for passage of (some indeterminate) amount of time; it’s intimately connected to rituals *as commanded by God* if I understand the theology correctly (I probably don’t, though).

        You have a fair point that layering on additional bad science isn’t making anything any better with respect to science, but I’m not sure making Genesis coherent with cosmology is the point. (This is also why I thought it was a bad starting point for Clifton to dredge the day = something else meme, back in my original reply).

      • Sandy Greer

        >I started out saying I *personally* have a hard time finding much that’s meaningful in *any* of Genesis. My hope was that a believer might jump in and show me what I’m missing. Hasn’t happened yet; hopefully it still might.

        First, congrats on getting me to come back to a thread a day later. This is a ‘first’.

        I’m a ‘believer’ in God, as said before. AND Christian (believe the Sacrifice) Progressive in Politics; non-Fundamentalist (don’t go to church) Profess Spiritualism (believe ALL faiths Worthy)

        It’s not for me to show what you’re ‘missing’ in Genesis. I can’t ‘make’ you believe, remember? 😉

        But. My understanding of the Bible is that the New Testament (the ‘Christian’ part) OVERLAID the Old Testament; the LOVE of God for this World overlaid the Wrath of God depicted in the Old Testament (the stonings for adultery, etc)

        I said before there are things I am content to not know. That includes discrepancies in the Bible, which for me, IS allegorical/metaphorical…in many parts.

        I believe in God. But I ALSO believe I am not capable of ‘understanding/knowing’ God.

        ^^^Similar to how a child does not understand/know a parent.

        Ever been surprised to learn your parents had a life before your existence? 😉

        Anyway. Suits me.

      • Guest

        Hi Sandy (I was hoping you might chime in here, actually, so thanks for that). I specifically *want* you to show me what I’m missing. Carol Lynn and I can bounce ideas around all day long, but if my guess is correct, she’s as much a nonbeliever as I am. It would be helpful (at least to me) to hear from someone who actually does derive meaning from chunks of Genesis, even if they don’t accept the whole thing.

        I’m not asking you to make me believe – if you find stuff that’s good and useful in Genesis, I’d like to know why *you* believe.

        I’m totally not asking for a seminary-worthy answer; I think Ms. Lynn and I are just ground down to “Why in the world are christians – even progressive ones – so hung up on an apparent need to keep the “six days” of the creation story, to the degree that even Allen Clifton, who appears to accept the model of the world that’s established by science, still needs to lard more unworkable metaphor into the story, solely for the sake of keeping the days around?”

        (That’s my roundabout summation; if I’m misrepresenting anybody, holler.)

        Here’s my problem: Genesis has (in no particular order) Lot offering up his own daughters to the Sodomites to gang rape instead of the angels of the lord to whom he’d offered his hospitality, those same daughters having incestuous sex with dad after Lot’s wife (who doesn’t even get a *name* in the christian canon, if I recall correctly) is turned to the pillar of salt – without, apparently, damaging Lot’s righteousness, the story of Noah and the flood, with all of its crunchy unbelievable goodness, the various issues with the creation myth Ms. Lynn and I have been kicking around, Hagar committing adultery, apparently with God’s sanction, God’s commandment to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac – stayed at the last minute with a “just kidding” from God…

        …and so on, and so on. If *I* were writing a Bible, I’d chuck the origin myth – and the rest of Genesis – and start with Proverbs. I understand the theology of the New Covenant, and not to put you on the spot here, but you’re almost certainly aware that many Christians will gleefully ignore that when it suits them. Chunks of Leviticus, or rather one verse, gets to stay in the new covenant because Paul had issues with sex in general, and gay sex in particular (if modern translations of “arsenokoitai” aren’t just homophobic bullshit from modern translators, which is a whole OTHER kettle of equines…)

        I’m throwing a whole lot at you. Apologies. Let’s start somewhere.

        Genesis: keep it? Toss it? What’s in it that’s meaningful to you? Or do you generally ignore it (if you do, I would too, honestly).

      • Sandy Greer

        I liked your Copernicus yesterday. So would keep/use Genesis (to the best of my ability to understand God, which is limited) as a foundation.

        Agree, there’s a lot of ‘distaste’ in the Old Testament. It is what it is.

        WRT Isaac: I said before God wants us to CHOOSE Him, willingly. To come with clear hearts.

        ^^^We ALL want to be loved that way. Freely.

        I know some ‘profess’ to be Christian whot ‘gleefully’ persecute others. Not to get too Political, but it’s how I view The Right: ‘Begruding’ the less fortunate.

        ^^^But *I* submit (even knowing it’s not my place to judge) they are not true Christians. WWJD is the Christian way.

        And, in the Political threads, I constantly say:
        It’s the ‘begrudging’ turns folks away from the GOP/conservatives/TeaPugs. It’s the ‘begrudging’ will be their undoing.

        Both here, and later.

        ^^^Why I said before, there are many paths to God. Even for Atheists. Christianity is not the only one. Not the only ‘right’ path.

        I don’t engage Carol Lynn directly, because she ‘generalizes’ about us ‘believers’. She ‘gets’ to. But it leaves somebody like me out in the cold.

        Now I’ve gotta get on with my day. I’m already late. 😉

      • Guest

        Right, I guessed that there were foundations that were meaningful, and I’m not suggesting that you should toss *anything*; I’ve been the one saying “hang on a second, it’s not QUITE that simple when it comes to religious tradition.”

        I don’t want to pick nits, but I don’t understand how the Isaac/Abraham story communicates that we come to God willingly rather than just being made to glorify him (am I summarizing your position correctly)? To *me* that reads like the story of Job: it makes the Old Testament God pretty darn capricious, in my view. I’m not saying mine is the only possible reading of it. I wonder how you’re seeing that in the (demanded, but stayed, at the last minute) sacrifice of Isaac. No (human) parent who played those games would be someone I’d consider worthy of *keeping* their right to parent, if we’re meant to consider God a parent figure.

      • Sandy Greer

        I knew I shouldn’t have checked my email for Disqus when I got out of the shower, LOL

        Isaac. God asked Abraham to ‘sacrifice’ Isaac, then ‘capriciously’ spared him at the last minute. It was a ‘test’. Did Abraham love God more than his son (born late in life)?

        Abraham CHOSE God. Even at the cost of his son, Abraham chose God.

        God gave us Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb.

        God wants us to CHOOSE God. But willingly, freely. Turning away from all that might tempt us otherwise.

        We don’t want lovers we have to lock in our basements to keep them. We want to be CHOSEN, freely.

        There’s lots I don’t understand, but I know that much.

        Why we have Free Will. And Evil is ‘allowed’ to exist. That there be CHOICE.

        Remember, too, this is the Old Testament. Which is overlaid by the New: The Love of God for this World, and the Sacrificial Lamb.

        It’s easy for me; I start from a position of ‘acceptance’. Like when you love somebody: You love even their ‘imperfections’. Or, at least, ‘accept’ them.

        It’s difficult for a non-believer to overlook ‘capriciousness’.

        Like people. If we like them, we ‘accept’ them. If not, not.

        Maybe it’s just I don’t lose sight of the forest, amongst all those trees (imperfections/capricious moments)

      • Guest

        “Abraham CHOSE God. Even at the cost of his son, Abraham chose God.”

        That’s why I’m an atheist on the existence of the Old Testament God. Hehe. 😉 This God isn’t worthy of worship. (I know you likely disagree. That’s okay.)

        “God wants us to CHOOSE God. But willingly, freely.”

        *nods*, I get that part of the theology.

        “Turning away from all that might tempt us otherwise.”

        By expecting us to sacrifice our *children* if asked? That’s not love, Sandy. It’s just not.

        “Remember, too, this is the Old Testament. Which is overlaid by the New: The Love of God for this World, and the Sacrificial Lamb.”

        I have *zero* problem believing that you love wastefully – to steal from Bishop Spong – but you are very much an exception. (And a God who’d kill his own son – let’s leave trinitarian theology to one side, for a moment, if that’s okay, yeah? – to make up for the free will he engineered into his humans on purpose just takes me back to the same capricious prick of the old testament; there are parts of christ’s teaching I can relate to, but the god of the bible? Nah. Don’t buy it.)

        “It’s difficult for a non-believer to overlook ‘capriciousness’.”

        …capriciousness made me a non-believer, ultimately.

        “Like people. If we like them, we ‘accept’ them. If not, not.”

        There are any number of people I don’t particularly *like* that I nevertheless acknowledge as fellow humans, deserving of some basic dignity and respect, though. I’m fairly confident you do, too.

        I read the Isaac and Abraham myth and I see a God that demands loyalty, and will brook no dissent, regardless of what’s asked – and I see an awful lot of modern christians who think this way.

        It’s a tough one for me to suss *any* good out of. I’m probably missing the forest for the trees in your view, but when so many of the trees are rotted out husks, it’s hard to think of the forest as a forest anymore.

        Anyway, I have English homework to get done before Math destroys my brain tomorrow (joy). I know I’m distracting you from the rest of your night. Get back to real life and I’ll hopefully catch you again in a day or two 🙂

      • Sandy Greer

        Hm.

        I had a husband come back from Vietnam (I’m THAT old) And he said he never asked his men to do anything that he himself wouldn’t. Like charge up a hill into withering fire, for instance.

        God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

        God gave us the Sacrificial Lamb in Jesus Christ.

        Not sure what you mean by loving ‘wastefully’. Is there such a thing, as ‘wasted’ love?

        But do agree I’m ‘exceptional’, LOL Always have been, always will be: ‘Exceptional’. A square peg, on a playing field full of round holes. I kinda, sorta…LIKE it that way. 😉

        >There are any number of people I don’t particularly *like* that I nevertheless acknowledge as fellow humans, deserving of some basic dignity and respect, though. I’m fairly confident you do, too.

        ^^^Not what I meant.

        1) What I like, I am less apt to criticize.

        2) What I DON’T like, I am more likely to find fault with.

        ^^^Seek, and ye shall find.

      • Guest

        But God both is – and isn’t – sacrificing himself. It’s consequential that christ is in some senses, like us. He’s god, but he’s not a hindu avatar … he’s meant to provide us with an example, right?

        But the whole construct of “sin” is ginned up to make god *perfect*, forever separated from us, by our imperfections (that he engineered into us on purpose, but we’ll come back to that), and requiring intermediation between the divine and the created… but the intermediary he demands is burnt or blood sacrifice? The crucifixion makes a sort of sense if the previous nine or ten centuries of your tradition says your deity demands a blood or a burnt offering to keep his wrath at bay … don’t appease the sky god and he just might decide to kill everyone and start over.

        Here’s the problem: rather than simply creating messy, imperfect beings who can choose to love, and loving us as we are – as he made us – we need a *sacrifice* to intermediate between us and god? Because our nature is to “sin?” I reject that premise as insanity. That God does not deserve to be worshiped.

        That nature is *by design*.

        None of this makes the God of the New Testament actually any different from the God of the Old.

        “1) What I like, I am less apt to criticize.”

        I understand your point, now, and fair enough, but for whatever it’s worth, I don’t “like” atheism per se; I just don’t have any good evidence that leads me to conclude that theistic belief makes any sense.

        Loving wastefully comes from John Shelby Spong – Christ’s example was to love without regard for whoever loved him back (says Spong, if my paraphrase is accurate).

      • Sandy Greer

        >we need a *sacrifice* to intermediate between us and god?

        I don’t see it this way. Don’t see Jesus as an ‘intermediary’, but rather, a ‘path’. Don’t see Jesus intervening & pleading with God on my behalf. But I am given the choice to ‘follow’ His path as best I understand it. In that sense, he is an ‘example’, as you said.

        A child needs certain things. Parents provide. To the extent they can, parents provide even ‘extras’ (beyond the necessities) The child doesn’t NEED those ‘extras’, but parents will, to the extent they can, ‘sacrifice’ to provide their child ‘extras’.

        As for whether one ‘deserves’ to be worshipped, and/or loved:

        Sometimes we choose to love people our friends/families disapprove of. Do we turn away from them, because our friends/families find them ‘undeserving’ of our love?

        If we lack Courage to go our own way, we might.

        But, for many of us, it matters not what others think of whom we love.

        Bottom line, I’m not here to ‘justify’ God to you, or anyone else. I explain as best I can why it’s right for ME.

        But we all choose our own path in life.

        None of us really know, anyway. Not until we die.

      • Guest

        Hi Sandy,

        I think you’re using “intercessor” where I was using “intermediary.” I don’t think they’re interchangeable. You said you believed in the salvific power of christ’s sacrifice, am I correct there?

        If so, the root of my problem with christian theology is that any god that demands such sacrifice is a hideously poor object of veneration. I don’t think that such a being actually exists, because it’s so clearly reflective of the violent cultures that spawn these myths. Makes more sense?

        Sure, children need care, but here again, I think the christian god specifically is a hideously bad example as a parent, *if he’s anything remotely like the biblical description*, either old testament or new. Do you have kids? Would you demand that one of them kill their own children to prove their loyalty to you? If you did, would it make sense if I came along later and said, “holy rum balls, that Sandy lady’s out of her freaking gourd! I’m not emulating THAT example…”

        I think I understand what you’re saying about loving folks that other folks think don’t deserve it, but where’s the evidence of the christian god doing this? From everything I can tell, people behave more compassionately – generally speaking – than the god they believe loves them.

        I know you’re not here to justify god to me; related to our earlier discussion, around Genesis, though, it doesn’t make sense (to me) that what folks tease out of it as meaningful is anywhere to be found in the text. I’m not suggesting you should agree with me. I’m just saying it doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • Sandy Greer

        Two misunderstandings:

        1) WRT children/care:

        I meant Christ was an EXTRA. We didn’t NEED the Sacrifice. It was given as an extra, as a parent might give a child a ‘better’ pair of shoes than is necessary.

        But the Sacrifice illustrates God didn’t demand of Abraham that which He was not willing to give.

        2) WRT loving:

        Not what I meant at all. I don’t know how to say it any other way, so I’ll just be blunt. Your not finding God ‘worthy’ IN NO WAY diminishes what I feel.
        ~~~
        You don’t need to justify your disbelief. Your reasons are your own, and good enough for me.

      • Guest

        Well, crud. Looks like this has turned into you feeling like I’m demanding that you account for what I think is wrong with christianity; I’m not, but if you feel that way, I’ll just go ahead and leave it.

        I’ve not once suggested that you ought to agree with me, for whatever it’s worth.

      • Sandy Greer

        I’m just frustrated, because I’m inadequate to explain God, and the Bible; the Old Testament in particular.

        I toyed with something:

        A couple marries. Has serious problems. Separates; later reconciles. All is forgiven, to the best of their abilities. Goes on to a long, happy life together.

        ^^^The Old/New Testaments? The ‘foundation’? A fine house, built upon a foundation that was crumbling, and even perhaps, held a ‘sacrifice’ at its 4 corners, as some olden cultures were wont to do?

        And, I’ve always been outta my freakin’ gourd. 😉 It’s the only way I know how to be, LOL

        You be sure to have a good day.

      • Guest

        You and I don’t seem to be talking about the same things; that’s part of the problem. It seems to me that you’re so concerned with atheists telling you you’re wrong that you may not be hearing what I’m actually asking.

        I’m not suggesting that your belief is something you need to justify *to me*. I’m saying (and have said several times) that I don’t see how you’ve arrived at your belief from the text you’re using as its foundation. You and I *really* don’t see the same things in that text, and it appears that the only way Christians arrive at the conclusions they do is largely by ignoring most of the text.

        You’re responding to questions I’m not actually asking, from the looks of it. I don’t question your *belief* in a loving God. I have no trouble believing that you believe that.

        I question how in the world christians arrive that that conclusion *from the bible*, and the simple fact is that if we agree on what common ideas mean, there’s no reasonable way to arrive at the conclusions you have. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person to believe in something that sounds good to you; it means that a myth whose central theme is a *demanded blood sacrifice* (foreshadowed in Genesis, carried out in the Gospels) is not a story about love, presuming we both agree on what the word “love” means. Maybe we don’t. Wouldn’t be the first time a given Christian and I have fundamentally disagreed about the idea.

      • Sandy Greer

        >there’s no reasonable way to arrive at the conclusions you have.

        My ‘conclusions’ seem unreasonable to you. Good thing I don’t require your approval for what I think/believe, or ‘conclude’. It’s good enough for me.

        Just as I said your reasons for disbelief are good enough for me…so long as they are good enough for you.

        I’ve already said The Wrath of God depicted in the Old Testament (prior to Christianity) is overshadowed by the Love of God for this World, as illustrated by the Sacrificial Lamb of the New Testament (the birth of Christianity) The Old Testament is put away, and now the New reigns.

        Where once we stoned people, and slew them with swords…we are now told we must love even our enemies.

        It’s true we (most of us) fall FAR short of that ideal.

        I’ve done the best I could to explain what I see. I know I’m not very good at it, and it seems unreasonable to you. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m not a Biblical scholar, don’t even attend church (organized religion) I can’t ‘make’ you see thru my eyes, nor would I even want to.

        I just don’t see what more I can say, except that I bear you no ill will, and wish you a good journey in this life.

      • Guest

        Oh, good god. Seriously? Get over yourself. That you think I’m demanding anything of you is your problem. What in the world justifies that whine?

        I suppose I should thank you for not stoning me, eh?

        *eyeroll*

      • Sandy Greer

        Oh, the irony!

        1) I carry on a convo for 3 days with somebody I think has a brilliant mind; said so from the get-go

        2) wchanley converses 3 days with one he says ‘whines’

        But, way to go: Shut down a convo with an insult, when what is said is not pleasing, or said in a way not easily grasped.

        Insults probably work as well IRL as online, in shutting people out.

        >That you think I’m demanding anything of you is your problem.

        ^^^I never said that. That is your assumption, and assumptions are often wrong. Probably why the adage:

        To assume makes an ass of u & me.

        Here’s a clue. I never, EVER, waste my time with people who ‘demand’ of me. Or that I need to insult. That would be quite foolish of me, wouldn’t it?

      • Guest

        So you can lay claim to feeling frustrated and nobody else gets to be without you pretending you’re insulted? I wasn’t debating you, Ms. Greer. That’s part of your problem, as I said; you’re making assumptions about what you assume is my aim.

        You keep claiming you don’t have to justify anything. You’ve circled back to this claim what, four times now, as if I’ve ever once asked you to. You have a need to justify your book; I was asking questions, which at this point was clearly a complete waste of time. You were talking in circles, and now you’re taking your ball and running away. Shoo. Off you go. Your claim, your problem, Ms. Greer, not mine.

        Here’s a clue: I told you yesterday when it was clear you were only interested in playing games that I’d leave it, but you opted to complain about your personal frustration and remind me (once again) that you have no “need” to “justify” anything.

        Of course not.

  • buttercatz99

    Clearly there is no god, there is no higher deity. You are responsible for yourselves and death is final.

  • Scott Murkin

    Of course you can believe in both–through massive intellectual dishonesty
    and compartmentalizing. The scientific method is predicated on the
    unspoken assumption that “God did it” isn’t one of the possible answers.
    If “God did it” IS one of the possible answers, the scientific method
    is bound to fail. If “God did it” is NOT one of the possible answers,
    then Christianity would appear to be meaningless. They are essentially
    irreconcilable.

    • Guest

      I suppose I can see some ways it *could* work, but you’d need to be forever moving your goalposts, or you’d need God to be utterly non-intervening.

      For whatever it’s worth, I don’t believe in science, and certainly not in the way religious people believe in the tenets of their faiths. Science isn’t a proposition of belief. It’s a way to ask questions about the world and a systematic way of arriving at reasonable answers to those questions. To say I believed in science would be akin to saying I “believe” in learning to paint. It doesn’t rest on whatever I may believe.

    • PoppaDavid

      It is possible to define god into existence. If god is defined as the ultimate being, “no greater being can be conceived”, then there isn’t a god. On the contrary, if god is defined as the supreme being, “the greatest being in the cosmos”, then god must exist. Depending upon the attributes chosen, there will always be a being who has the highest point score on the attribute judging, the current reigning “supreme being”. This doesn’t mean that it is possible to identify the being, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the supreme being has any of the attributes of the ultimate being.

      • Guest

        If your definition of God is the greatest being *in* the universe by some measure, there must be a god? Like, if I’m objectively provable as the fastest runner in the Universe, I’m God of Running until someone faster comes along?

        We already use the word “God of x” in this colloquial fashion. It doesn’t literally mean God of anything, and not remotely like anything that theists mean when they say “God.” If all I need to “prove” the existence of God is to contort the meaning of the term beyond any reasonable comprehension by the folks who use it, you can “prove” anything by that reasoning. I name the chair I’m sitting on “unicorn.” Have I proved that unicorns exist?

        If I decide a rock is something else entirely – compressed unicorn horn, say – does that mean my self-imposed definition for “rock” gets to trump evidence to the contrary? If I have no evidence whatsoever that it actually *is* CUH, does the fact that I define it so make it so?

        Using your stated claim, if I decide I’m the greatest thinker in the universe, what, precisely, is my reasonable basis for comparison, even if I’m objectively provable as the greatest thinker *on earth*, by whatever measure?

        I think you may not be defaulting to “God is magic” (then again, you may) but I honestly can’t see how “the greatest x ever ever ever in the universe” could a) ever be objectively measured or b) why it would make him, her, it or they “god” even if it could be done. It may make him/her/it/them extremely talented at doing x, I’ll grant.

        But you’re going to need to specifically define what seems to me to be your extremely peculiar definition of god if you want anyone else to use it the way you seem to be doing here.

      • PoppaDavid

        People have been defining “god” for thousands of years. If someone chose to use speed as the measure of god, e.g. Mercury, then yes you could be a god. Of course, the fact that the fastest being must exist doesn’t mean that anyone could actually identify the fastest being. It certainly doesn’t mean that you qualify for that title.

        Because people choose to use different criteria for defining their god, and since their criteria usually revolve around their preferred point of view, we end up having multiple competing gods. Recorded history tells us of the religious wars that come from arguments over these gods.

        By contrast with the “supreme being”, I would offer that the “ultimate being” would include the whole of existence, and the whole of non-existence. Since all of existence includes each of us, that god would know what we are thinking because we do. That god would be interested in our benefit, because we are. And that god would help us when we make the effort. Of course, that god would not do any more than we can do on our own, and there would be no advantage in giving that god homage.

      • Guest

        “People have been defining “god” for thousands of years.”

        True, but that doesn’t mean any of them were actually defining anything actually existing. Again, just because I say a thing is true doesn’t make a it true. Even if I get lots of people to agree with me, for thousands of years, none of that counts as evidence I’m right.

        “If someone chose to use speed as the measure of god, e.g. Mercury, then yes you could be a god.”

        Are you claiming that the Greek pantheon actually exists?

        “the fact that the fastest being must exist…”

        That is an assumption without a shred of supporting evidence. By what reckoning? And by what reckoning does “the fastest existing being” mean that being is even remotely like a supernatural being? All I need to do to define a magical, intercessory being into existence is think really hard? A thing is not factual because it’s an idea that sounds good to you; you need supporting evidence for that, so that you can demonstrate *why* you claim a thing as fact, so that whether or not anybody else agrees with you, they too can look at your evidence and evaluate it.

        Consider: I observe a cheetah chasing dinner. I record his speed as 56 mph. As far as I know that’s the fastest cheetah on earth. Does that mean I’m right? He’s the fastest cheetah *I’ve* ever seen. As long as I lay claim to having seen the fastest cheetah on earth, do I need any evidence that I’m right, or is my claim by itself sufficient?

        Even if I’m right, what happens when somebody else comes along and records a new cheetah running at 56.5 mph? What if somebody, somewhere else finds the fastest cheetah on record in his area only ran 54 mph? Do any of our individual claims establish those claims as “fact?”

        “Because people choose to use different criteria for defining their god…”

        People choose to believe in all sorts of things, for all sorts of reasons, but that they choose to do it is *only* evidence that they choose to do this. It’s not proof of anything else.

      • PoppaDavid

        Does a “fastest” being exist? Sure. If there are multiple being who share an attribute like speed in differing degrees, then some will be faster and some slower. That’s why Olympic events have winners. And, as you suggested, they can lose their title when a faster being comes along.

        Did you notice that I have used lower case for “god”? Basically, the bar for supreme beings is absolutely arbitrary. If there is a being who meets some arbitrary definition of god that simply means they meet that one definition. Elvis could be a god for some people. He still died.

        Too many people believe that because a being meets one criteria for being a god, that somehow translates into them possessing the whole laundry list of qualities people WANT in their god. E.g. just because a being is the fastest being that doesn’t mean they have omniscience.

        I haven’t seen any reasonable proof that any being has ever possessed the attributes associated with a omnipresent, omniscient, all powerful god.

      • Guest

        *I’m* not the one equating the colloquial “god” with the “laundry list” of qualities of a supernatural being. You are.

        You’re conflating “really good at something” with “magical being who grants wishes,” as far as I can tell, when you claim this:

        “That god would be interested in our benefit, because we are.”

        If I’m the fastest runner on earth, heck, it’s reasonable to assume I’m Mercury, remember? That was *your* claim, not mine. (It strikes me you’re simply unfamiliar with the myths, which is fine, but it doesn’t go to your argument if you think *all* the greeks meant was “mercury was super fast fast.”)

        Why in the world should anyone else use your peculiar use of the term “god” simply because you have?

        Ultimately, look: you want to use the colloquial “rock god” to refer to Eric Clapton because you think he’s awesome? Feel free. But that doesn’t turn him into a being who’s interested in my benefit, because I am.

        You’re not “defining god into existence” in any discussion with theists. This is just muddying the waters, and at this point, I think you know that.

        “I haven’t seen any reasonable proof that any being has ever possessed the attributes associated with a omnipresent, omniscient, all powerful god.”

        Of course you haven’t. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for such a proof. So why bother with “defining god into existence” in this context at all?

      • PoppaDavid

        This thread started with the statement that belief in god and belief in science were incompatible. I was providing the perspective that it is possible to define a god that doesn’t interfere with accepting the scientific method.

        If someone wants to do that, that god will require different attributes than a god defined by a non-scientist. It is a mistake to presume that attributes attributed to one of those gods apply to any other god.

        For example, if you are the fastest human, you could be defined as a god of speed. You would not become Mercury (the Roman god) because Mercury had other attributes besides speed.

        If I say that the whole of existence was an ultimate god, that would mean that you were part of it. If you care for your interests, then some part of that god would get credit for concern for your interests. Unless you have magical powers, the god won’t have magical powers. So, while this god contains everything in nature, it doesn’t have any powers beyond nature. Which makes it both ultimate and useless.

        Which is pretty much the point. We can have the scientific method, and we can add a belief in god, but a god that allows the scientific method doesn’t get involved in changing things in response to prayer.

      • Guest

        What you’re doing has nothing to do with *science*. You’re not making observations of the world as it is, and making testable predictions based on those observations. You’re saying “it’s possible to define god into existence, provided my personal, idiosyncratic definition of god has literally nothing to do with what theists mean when they use the term.” While you may think that’s compatible science, it isn’t. It would be like me claiming “a belief in unicorns is compatible with science provided you understand that what I mean when I say “unicorn” is what everyone else means when they say “horse.”

        While I may think I get to call all horses unicorns, that doesn’t mean anybody else ought to, and if I run around claiming unicorns exist, based on my idiosyncratic definition of the word, that doesn’t mean anybody else has any obligation to agree with me that my redefinition of the term ought to mean anything.

      • PoppaDavid

        As an atheist you get to identify what “atheist” means. If you want to tell me what theists mean by “god”, realize as I do, that you are talking as an outsider with an “axe to grind”. You wish to define god in such a manner that will support your dismissal of god, and any alternate definition that weakens your position is rejected. Okay.

        There is a wide variety of definitions for god.

        You act as if the god of the Old Testament is the same as the god of the New Testament, as the god of Muslims, as the god of Reform Jews, as the god of Gnostics, is the god of any other monotheists. And you don’t even consider the concept of god for Deism, Native American, Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Wicca, etc. And you don’t touch historic gods of Egyptians, Greeks, Canaanites, Romans, Chinese, etc.

        And you have rejected pantheism.

        Religion is not science. That is why “creation science” is bunk. However, if someone wishes to define god in a manner that does not conflict with science, they may claim to believe in both.

      • Guest

        What axe do you think I’m grinding? You may assume I’m here with an anti-religious agenda, but that doesn’t mean your assumption is correct; it may mean you’ve got a vested interest of thinking of me in a particular way.

        “As an atheist you get to identify what “atheist” means.”

        No, I don’t – I mean, I may claim that atheists believe that belief in Buddhism is “compatible with atheism” as long as it’s not about the Old Testament God. I may *claim* this, but there’s no reason for *any other atheist* to agree with me if I stretch the term well beyond its usual definition. Do I get to define what “science” means to suit me? What if I claim that science is pseudoscience, in order for my belief in god to be compatible with my definition of “science?” I’m saying that we have to be able to agree that words actually mean something if we’re going to meaningfully communicate ideas, and that contorting those meanings so as to be consistent with something else isn’t doing anything meaningful. It’s not about whatever claimed qualities a supernatural being, or a mystical reality may *have*. It’s that there’s no *evidence* for supernatural beings, or mystical realities.

        It looks like you’re making a flawed assumption, in several places, that my sole understanding of religion is a fire breathing form of christianity, and that I’m making a claim that if THAT isn’t true, none of the rest of them are true, either. That’s not what I’m saying.

        I’m saying all of your examples of religious belief hinge on something for which there is no verifiable evidence. Eventually, I have to take somebody’s word for it that some supernatural or mystical something exists, be it god, or nirvana, or kami, or spirits, and so on, and so on, and so on. That I may have such a belief is neither here, nor there. That I may try to reconcile such a belief *with science* requires that I eliminate the supernatural or mystical elements – and I’m not left with any necessity for the god, the spirit, the kami, or nirvana to actually exist, save for perhaps an emotional attachment to the word “god.” That attachment is benign, in and of itself, but trying to shoehorn a “scientifically coherent god” into the regular, conventional use of the term is meaningless – if I’m understanding Scott Murkin’s original post that you replied to originally, claiming one could “define” a scientifically coherent god “into existence,” that very meaninglessness is the point.

        At this point, with various obfuscations from you, we may not even agree on what the words “define”, “into” and “existence” mean. I suppose if you have your own idiosyncratic definitions for those terms, along with idiosyncratic defenitions for god, then, sure, you can “define” any god you like “into existence.” What does that mean, in that case? Nothing at all.

        “You act as if the god of the Old Testament is the same as the god of the New Testament…”

        No, I’m really not, not in the way you seem to think. You’re missing my point. I’m not claiming that a supposedly vengeful supernatural being possesses the same qualities as a supposedly loving one even though the textual claims about them may be wildly different. I’m not talking about the qualities of the Old Testament God vs. the New. I’m claiming they’re the same in one very specific way, in that in both cases theistic believers believe a supernatural being exists (regardless of claimed qualities) *without independently verifiable evidence* for the existence of supernatural beings. Is it fair to assume that Iron-Age Judaism literally believed in the Old Testament God? Is it also fair to say that Christians at the Second Council of Nicea believed in the New Testament God? If both of those are fair claims, my claim doesn’t have anything to do with the *qualities of those Gods,* and instead hinges on the claimed belief in a being for which there is no evidence.

        This doesn’t mean the *ideas ABOUT God* are the same in Westboro Baptist and a liberal Episcopal church. It means both Fred Phelps followers *and* liberal episcopalians both believe that a supernatural being exists. Regardless of *how they may define God* they’re still choosing to believe in something without evidence. Defining a supernatural being in some way doesn’t *define an objectively existing thing*. It simply means “some collection of people believe God has the qualities A, B and C, and some other collection of people believe God has the qualities D, E and F.” In neither case are those persons “defining” a God “into existence.”

        “And you don’t even consider the concept of god for Deism, Native American, Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Wicca, etc…”

        …because my claim doesn’t rest on whatever qualities a claimed supernatural being may have; again, you’re running off on *your* tangent of “qualities of god define a god into existence.” No, they don’t. Claimed qualities of a god *may define some of the parameters of belief.* They do not *define God into existence.* The reason so many of us secularists, or atheists, etc. have a worldview that rests on science is because science isn’t about what someone *believes*. It’s about what we can *demonstrate with evidence.*

        Taoism doesn’t rest on the existence of a supernatural being, so much as an undefinable mystical reality – the Tao – which, if my back of the napkin surmise of Taoism is correct can be intuited, but not shown. It’s still fundamentally belief in the absence of evidence (the Tao cannot be shown; similarly, Nirvana cannot be demonstrated; both have to be taken on faith, ultimately) it may be that this becomes an apples-to-oranges comparison for Taoists. If that’s anybody reading, and I get something wrong, say so.

        “And you have rejected pantheism…”

        …because there’s no evidence for it. Yes, it’s true that many human cultures in various times have *believed* that the divine is an immanent, animating force in the material world; that *belief* doesn’t mean they’re *defining* anything real. It only means they believe it.

        “if someone wishes to define god in a manner that does not conflict with science, they may claim to believe in both.”

        They may well claim it, but that doesn’t mean such a claim *means anything.* I may claim that I get to define horses in such a way that they are consistent with unicorns, but that doesn’t mean I’ve therefore defined unicorns into existence, so long as my claims about unicorns sound like the conventional description of horses.

        If the conventional understanding of “unicorn” is, looks like a horse, has a single horn, has magical properties, and I come along and say, sure: unicorns exist, the horse-like part is all just fine, but get rid of the horn, the magical properties, and anything that makes them distinct from horses… boom! I get to claim unicorns exist!

        Really? Hogwash.

        If I claim I believe in both horses *and* unicorns, because horses have two legs, a mane, a tail and a particular set of characteristics, and unicorns have no qualities that conflict with horses, what does it *mean* for me to say both horses and unicorns exist? Absolutely nothing.

        If I say “a scientifically coherent God exists!” it’s true that I’ve said such a thing. It’s not true that such a being exists. It may be true that I believe such a being exists, if I’m willing to play the sorts of games you’re suggesting, here, but that doesn’t mean such a being exists. It means I’ve got an irrational need to believe in something for which there’s no good evidence.

        I’m not saying folks can’t come up with their own idiosyncratic definitions of God, much as you may have; again, you’re completely missing my point. I’m saying if you come up with your own, idiosyncratic definition of a non-supernatural, non-interventionist, completely-material-universe-consistent idiosyncratic definition for “god”, you’re certainly free to *do* that, but you’re *not* talking about anything remotely like theists (of various stripes, not just fundamentalist christians) *mean* when they say “god.” Trying to have any useful conversation with you (were I a believer) would be equivalent to me using “agnostic” to mean “atheist” and expecting *every other atheist* to accept that my personal, idiosyncratic definition gets to trump the regular, widely used one. If you end up “defining” a god that doesn’t look remotely like any of the ideas about god that *any other theists have* (i.e. there’s no point in praying to this science-compatible god, since he or she can’t magically intercede, or *any other example* you may care to use) why bother calling my belief a belief in god?

        If I decide I’m going to found the Church of PoppaDavid, am I saying anything *useful* if I claim I believe PoppaDavid is God, in a way that’s consistent with science, but PoppaDavid cannot hear my prayers, show me a way out of samsara, isn’t the source of the magical energy that powers my spells, isn’t the Sky Father or Earth Mother, isn’t the kami that’s found in rocks, trees, streams or holy places… etc. etc. etc. I mean, sure, I can claim I believe in the PoppaDavid God, but I’m not saying anything *remotely* meaningful, am I?

        God, for purposes here, may be very loosely defined as “the supernatural and/or the mystical.” Every single one of your examples above rests on some kind of supernatural or mystical claim. Pantheism says nature is divine, so it’s not “supernatural” by literal definition, but it’s still asserting a divine reality without any objective evidence for that reality – if there are any pantheists reading, is it fair to say that your religion is accurately mystical? There’s still a divine ground out of which the observable reality emerges, right?

        I’m not talking about any of the various claimed qualities *of* the supernatural. I’m simply saying that the starting point for every religious system that every human culture has ever produced rests on *some kind of idea* that a supernatural and mystical (or at least mystical) reality of some sort exists. Even if that supernatural reality doesn’t rest on the existence of a *being* as in Taoism, or Buddhism’s dharmakaya or nirvana (Buddhists: I know that defining the dharmakaya as a mystical reality may not be important in your school of buddhism, especially if you’re non-mahayana, but there’s still the end goal of nirvana, beyond existence/non-existence, and this material reality, right?) there’s still principally some claim in a belief – without evidence – that there’s something more than this material universe.

        If I come along and say I’m creating my own, non-supernatural religion, sure, I can do that, I suppose. If I say it has no supernatural qualities at all, so as to be wholly consistent with science, and then I say “we accept the existence of a non-supernatural God but we don’t worship or venerate our God, and we don’t bother praying to our God, either, since She’s powerless to do anything to intercede in our lives, and She’s not a Buddha, since there’s no reality other than this one that She points a way out of, and She’s not a pantheistic, immanent Divine (because there’s no scientific evidence for any of that)…” all I’ve done is glommed an exceedingly strange, meaningless redefinition of the word “God” on top of humanism. In order to come up with this version of God, I have to eliminate any need for God to exist *at all*. I can get every truth this idea of “God” supposedly represents from plain old science, instead. (Here, you may try and claim “Well, science is your God, then…” which I suppose is yours to do, but that doesn’t mean “science” is equivalent to “God.” Different things mean something different.)

        What’s the meaningful reason for doing trying to come up with this God? So I can use the word “God” too? Why?

      • PoppaDavid

        God exists for people, because god fills a function in the human mind. If the world were just and fair people would not turn to a divine equalizer.

        You say, “I’m saying all of your examples of religious belief hinge on something for which there is no verifiable evidence.” Certainly. Faith implies that someone believes in something even though they cannot produce the evidence.

        Science is not immune to faith.

        In 1979 physicists wanted to explain why some particles have mass and others do not, so they defined a new particle, the Higgs boson. Over thirty years without evidence, but they still believe.

        Astrophysicists have examined the universe and calculated the normal matter that is in evidence. They then defined Dark Matter as the materials that do not present direct evidence and said that there is 5x the Dark Matter as the evidence. And then in 1998, they defined Dark Energy as an unknown energy in the universe. 4.9% of the universe is normal mater, 26.8% is dark matter, and 68.3% is dark energy. 95% of the universe is made up of stuff for which there is no direct evidence, but they still believe.

        Science believes that interstellar objects have a red shift because the universe is expanding, not because they are moving apart. The expansion allows recession at greater than the speed of light. The photons of light are stretched which gives the red shift, but other particles remain their same size and the stellar objects do not stretch with the expansion of space-time. Faith.

        ULAS J2230+0641 is considered to be the oldest object in the universe, formed less than 800 million years after the Big Bang. It is believed to be a thousand times brighter than our galaxy with a size just a few times the size of our solar system. It is believed to have a super massive black hole that was formed before the universe reached a stage to form any massive objects. The evidence is the 7 red shift, from that they presume the distance, and from the presumed distance they presume the energy output. That is faith in the theory that all red shift is based upon expansion.

        In Quantum Theory, Schroedenger defined a system where there are multiple distinct states for matter existing simultaneously, and that physical reality is not determined until some measurement takes place. Not that we don’t know the reality without the measurement, he said that there was no reality until the measurement. That pretty hard core “faith”.

      • Guest

        Lest we end up with accusations of cherry picking your claims of faith, I guess it’s necessary to address the others:

        “The expansion allows recession at greater than the speed of light…”

        If your claim of faith here is that relativity prevents objects from moving faster than the speed of light, but we’re observing objects moving faster than light, that is a true claim from relativity, but that’s not actually what the claim in question is saying. It’s saying that spacetime *might be moving faster than light*. Not that galaxies themselves are.

        Imagine a sheet of rubber. Drop a marble onto that sheet. That’s spacetime curvature in the presence of mass. Now drop another marble.

        Now stretch the space on the sheet *between* the marbles faster than the motion of the marbles themselves, and from the perspective of an inhabitant of one, the apparent motion of the other is that the marble itself is receding, apparently faster than my other evidence suggests marbles should be able to move.

        Not a faith-based claim. An evidence-based one. Special relativity doesn’t assert that “nothing can move faster than light” although that’s a popular (and poor) understanding of the claim. It says that particles with mass that are already slower than light cannot be accelerated beyond the velocity of light because as the particle approaches light, its mass gets closer and closer to infinite. It makes no claim, in itself, what the velocity of spacetime *might* be, because in the early 20th century, when Einstein was working, we didn’t have powerful enough observational tools to make any predictions what that velocity might be.

      • PoppaDavid

        The evidence is the red shift. Everything else is hypothesis as to an explanation. Frequency and wavelength are related by c = Frequency * wavelength.

        The theory is that the Big Bang caused space to expand. As space expands, everything in it moves further apart including the ends of a meter stick. We may presume that an Angstrom expands, otherwise we could directly measure universal expansion using physical meter sticks.

        If a quasar emits light at 6563 Anstroms billions of years ago, the universe will have expanded significantly and the current Angstrom will have expanded as well. If the wavelength retains its original length as the universe expands it would measure less than 6563 A when it reaches earth. Which is a higher frequency. If the light expands with the universe then it would remain at 6563 A.

        Instead, the theory says that the wavelength of light expands with the expanding universe, while the yardstick doesn’t. So, as space expands the 6563 A light stretches to 8647 A and the frequency drops.

        There is also the issue of energy.

        In the theory if space expands to double, the frequency is half. The relationship between frequency and energy is E = hN. So if frequency drops by half, the energy of the light also drops by half. Light is both a particle and a wave, and the energy is quantized. What interaction(s) removed energy from the particle? Where did it go?

      • Guest

        “That is faith in the theory that all red shift is based upon expansion.”

        No, red shift is a phenomenon that’s testable. We don’t have to take it on faith that red shift occurs. we can – and have – tested it experimentally.

        Once again, if somebody comes along with a better explanation for the observable evidence that better explains red shift that *doesn’t* imply expansion, then that’s where science will go.

      • PoppaDavid

        Just for accuracy. Red shift is an observed phenomena. Expansion of the space-time as a result of the Big Bang is a theory to explain the red shift. Faith is when someone believes that the red shift of quasars is strictly due to expansion.

        Relativity describes the actions of materials as they fall into a black hole. The description says that an outside observer will not see the material actually cross the event horizon. Rather it will red shift and fade from view.

        A local black hole could be highly red shifted. When the first quasar was identified in 1963 the red shift was tied to distance. The possibility of it being a red shifted black hole was never considered. The name “black hole” was not created until 1964, and the properties came later. Now the two are combined but the red shift is still credited to distance rather than the black hole.

      • leon ruiz

        You mention all the religions above but only one of them can be true because they condradict each other and claim to be exclusive,

      • PoppaDavid

        If they do claim to be exclusive then not more than one could be “true”. That doesn’t mean that any of them are true.

  • Warner

    I am a christian also that believe in evolution, and am endlessly facisnted by science. there is a model of thinking about the formation and evolution of life on earth that says that there have been six great shifts before the appreance of modern man, with basically biologically impacted cataclysems being the shifting point between each era. some choose to believe that it means that on some level, the biblical story of genisis is a metaphor, and they find solace and faith in that interpretation. Literalisem gets you nowhere. literalist only pick about 2% of the bible that fits their egos and agenda, and ignore the rest, which ironicly tends to condem them for hell for people those 2% passages.

    • Guest

      Fair enough, I guess, but what happens to this use of Genesis if it turns out there are more (or fewer) than six? This is the start of the formal problem I have with Clifton’s argument – he’s not laying any ground for what to include, and what to exclude from the text. Or, I guess more precisely, which parts are metaphoric, which parts are clearly just in error (presumably there’s no symbolic truth to be found in the Genesis writers’ assertion that the earth is a flat plane surrounded by water on all sides *and above*), and which parts really are necessary (presumably here the necessity of salvation, etc.) Just making a claim that the text shouldn’t be read literally is a starting point, kind of, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Presumably, he’d be able to call Matthew’s account of demon possession epilepsy or something similar, but the problem here is that cosmology is an awful lot harder to shoehorn into metaphor.

  • surfjac

    God created man because Man created God.

  • Gabriel Gentile

    If I know anything about human nature… NOBODY left this “debate” with any different of a mindset than they went into it. Everyone’s mind has been made up at this point. Those who get it, get it. Those who don’t never will, and we’re better off just leaving them to squalor in their own willful ignorance and interacting with these people as little as humanly possible as we wait for them to die off as the sick and stupid are doomed to… Just like the theory of evolution says.

  • Dan Mack

    Hi, Allen! I salute you, sir, for your open-mindedness and genuine intellectual curiosity! If more Christians would “reform” to interpret the bible allegorically, a host of problems would be solved and virtually no tension (except some smaller, low-stakes debates) between Christians and secularists. Alas, we don’t get to do that, but you can continue doing your part – lead by the great example you’ve set above, as Christ would have done!

  • white trash religious teaparty

    I love how “Christians” ( SEE: pentacostal/Baptists et al) TRY to tell us that OUR CONSTITUTION needs to be ( in parts the religious don’t like) re-written; that WRITING which is far far more modern and far more consistent in WHO 9number of writers) wrote it than the atavistic BIBLE,,,,,,, yet when anyone ( secular heathens!!!) ask about the fallacies and poor or outdated conclusions in that HOLY BOOK,,,,,,the CHRISTIANS start screaming religious intolerance.
    Hmmmmmm,,,,,,,bible says woman married as a NON virgin must be stoned/put 2 death,,,,, bible has many instances of men having many wives and also those wives subject to the sex of OTHER men ( ok back then ) when OK’ed by those “MEN IN CHARGE”…… “thou shalt not kill” oooops: tons of holy wars and tortures and slaying kids and elderly and women,,,,,
    MAD magazine makes more sense than these silly books on VOODOO

  • Topher

    The Hebrew word used in Genesis is “Yom”. It means any amount of time. Could be 2 hours. It could be billions of years. Our 24 day came from the Egyptians and the day starting at midnight cam from Babylon (if I recall correctly). Both civilizations came after the supposed origin of Genesis.

  • MrDanner

    This might have been asked already, but I haven’t read the hundreds of comments here.

    If the Bible is not to be taken literally, that everything in there is 100% true, then how does one pick and choose what *is* true? Obviously, you’d read it and say, “well, this part is true” and then the next part might not be true (or literal). I’m not trying to push one side or the other, but I actually want to know how one chooses what’s literal and what’s not when reading the Bible.

    It seems that if each individual can pick and choose what’s literal and what’s not, then each person would have their own unique definition of the Bible, which would then make the entire book invalid.

    And this question is for those that believe there is at least some validity to the Bible, so please don’t start screaming about how the whole book is bunk.

  • debbie moore

    “Many books could be wrote”? That’s where you lost me.

  • Isabelle

    I have to admit that this debate creationism vs evolution is really strange for me …. In France, us Protestants, don’t even question the evolution. Seriously? It is like still believing that the Earth is the center of the world or that the Earth
    was flat.
    I can’t get over it, really. I’m a christian AND believe in science.