A believer in creationism did not at all appreciate my post True or False: Dinosaurs Lived with People, and wrote me to tell me why. Here’s her letter (which of course I share with her permission):
Okay, so I’ve been annoyed by this for a while, but your post really brought it to a head. I realize that your post is discussing institutionalized Creationism, as opposed to individual beliefs, but I’ve seen this image too often recently touted as proof that everyone who believes in Creation is a total nincompoop. It’s frustrating to me to feel like this place that proclaims to be open and welcoming is not willing to welcome me. There are certainly discussions to be had as to what should and should not be taught in public schools (though I think we can agree that while we might not like it, the First Amendment guarantees the private sector the right to teach whatever they like, and we should not step in to tell them what to teach any more than they should have the right to impose their beliefs onto us), and concerns can be raised about not teaching socially acceptable views and theories, to place a post like this with a simple, silly poll making fun of it doesn’t open discussion or encourage thoughtful views.
I believe in Creation. I did the research 10+ years ago, when I was in my teens, and after several months of looking seriously at both sides, I came down onto the side of Creation. I’m well aware that this makes me look like a conspiracy theorist in the eyes of the world, but honestly? I’m okay with that. I don’t believe in Creation (or any other part of the Bible, for that matter) to make myself look better, to prove anything to the world, or to generally please anyone but myself.
What being a Creationist does not make me:
-It does not make me stupid, though if you want to believe that, I can’t stop you.
-It does not make me anti-gay.
-It does not make me pro-life.
-It does not make me anti-women.
-It does not make me a child abuser.
In fact, surprisingly enough, believing that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh doesn’t mean anything other than that I believe that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.
I am not going to justify Creationism to you. I don’t have to. Quoting facts and figures at you won’t change your mind any more than quoting facts and figures at me will change my mind. It’s a belief, neither one of us will be able to adequately prove to the other that we are right, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t believe that a loving God who sent his Son to die for us is going to quibble too hard on the details. I’m pretty sure that whether I believe in Creation, Evolution, or something in between, Jesus’s coming made it irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. So no, I’m not going to get into a debate about which side is more right, because ultimately all that will prove is who is the better speaker and has better access to their materials at the time.
Here’s the thing: To come to the conclusion I did, I did a lot of research. I won’t deny that my beliefs as a Christian affected my research, and I in fact started my research within a Creation Bible Study. However, I began the research because I had just gotten into my first hardcore biology class, and I was beginning to doubt things I’d been taught all my life. I was also having my first real crisis of faith, and somehow in my mind that became tangled up with Creation and “if I can’t trust the beginning of this book, how can I believe in the rest of it!?”
So I set out to be as objective about it as I could. I’m not going to promise that as a 17-year-old I was the most objective, nor that as a person getting my Creationism info from fundies that I was working with the best materials. But I did have access to both sides, I attempted to give both sides equal weight when researching them, and ultimately, I found more proof that satisfied me on the side of Creation. And then I stopped researching it, and lost most of my links and lists of materials. Why? Because I wasn’t doing this to convert the world to Creationism, I was doing this to satisfy my own questions. Ten or twelve years ago, I debated it with several of my friends who knew I was doing the research, partially because it solidified things in my head, and partially because I was a stupid teenager who thought that if I just debated hard enough, I’d prove to them that they were wrong and I was right. It really never worked. And now, I care more about showing God’s love to my friends than I do about ‘being right’.
That being said. I am pro-LGBT rights. I have been since long before I solidified my religious beliefs regarding homosexuality. I believe first and foremost that my belief in a thing should not affect politics, that the separation of church and state is important (and Biblical! God left us to our own rulers the moment the Israelites demanded a king instead of a judge with God as our King, in I Samuel 8. In Matthew 22:15-22 Jesus reiterates that difference, telling the people to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s), and that the worst way to show God’s love to anyone is to alienate and dehumanize them. So even before I had come to the conclusion that the God does not actually condemn homosexuality, I had come to the conclusion that my beliefs shouldn’t affect other people’s rights.
I am pro-abortion. This one took a lot longer, and was a harder conclusion to come to, but ultimately (again, after a lot of research) I found that life-before-birth theories just are not supported Biblically, nor are they supported scientifically. It was hard because I’d learned all my life that abortion = murder, and so I had a lot of emotions attached to the idea of being pro-life. But ultimately, while those emotions are enough that I personally may never be able to have an abortion, I can’t deny other women the right to have one based solely on my emotions. Because it’s neither Biblically supported nor scientifically supported, it can’t be murder. And if it’s not murder, then it’s not ‘wrong.’I am a staunch feminist. Nuff said.
I get really sick of the child abuse accusations. Yes, when I have kids I will teach them what I believe about Creation. I believe that as a parent, it will be my duty to present to them what I believe. And also what Daddy believes. And what our parents believe. And as they get older, to provide the materials for them to learn about and research things for themselves. This isn’t just about Creation, but about every aspect of the Bible, religion, politics, culture, and social attitudes. As a parent, I will send my child to school to learn what the government deems necessary for them to be a productive member of society, and then supplement that at home with what I personally feel is necessary for them to grow up to be good people. If my children choose to believe in Young Earth Creation, good for them. In all likelihood that will not actually affect their ability to interact in society in any way, other than when dealing with biased people who assume that anyone who doesn’t believe like them is wrong and stupid and abusive.
If my children choose to believe in Evolution, that is also okay. I have no plans to substitute out my children’s science books. I will simply provide them with alternatives and encourage them to think critically about what they are being taught. I will do the same thing for their Sunday School classes, their History classes, and the things they watch on TV. I don’t want my children to blindly believe everything they see, hear, or read. And if that means providing opposing views and being open to discussion (which I would like to think is obvious, but hey), then so be it. I don’t think we should teach this in public schools, though. I think that is part of the parents’ job, to provide supplemental and opposing arguments based on the family’s personal belief system. Whether or not Creation should be taught in private schools is a matter for debate, and something I have not done enough research on to feel confident in forming an opinion on at the moment.
I am very very tired of people who claim to be open-minded and accepting constantly telling me that I’m stupid for this one belief that doesn’t actually affect them at all. I’m tired of being told that believing in Creation means that I have to believe in other things. I’m tired of “Creationism” being code for “politically high-handed fundies” when in fact believing in Creation over Evolution only means that I believe in Creation, instead of Evolution. I’m tired of jokes from otherwise open-minded people that make me feel like an outsider. I’m tired of being told by other liberal Christians that believing in Creation means I’ve gone to the dark side, and being told by conservative Christians that believing in LGBT rights means I’ve gone to the dark side. Why does a belief in something that doesn’t actually hurt or affect anyone else stigmatize me so much?
This is, in fact, one of the biggest reasons that I have considered seriously leaving the church forever. I am not a fundamentalist. I try to find churches that are open-minded and welcoming to all. I try to find online groups that are open-minded and welcoming to all. And when I find one that claims to be exactly that, I continue to be confronted with people who, without realizing it, find it a great joke to make fun of my beliefs. And when I ask them to please stop, I am attacked. I am not going to criticize you for believing in Evolution (or however else you believe the world came into being). That is your business, and ultimately, it doesn’t affect me at all.
I realize that your readers didn’t hit all of these points. But these are all things I’ve seen attached to that image since it first hit the internet, and seeing it on your blog in this way upset me because of all of the people, friends and strangers, Christian or not, who feel like they can make broad generalized statements about everyone who believes in Creation. If you can explain to me how believing in Creation actively goes against another person’s rights, harms them, or otherwise affects anyone other than me any more than any other religious belief, I am willing to listen. And I accept that it is your right, on your blog, to make fun of whoever you want to for whatever reason you want. But as someone who lurks here and has enjoyed the open-mindedness expressed in this place, I felt the need to speak up with my point of view.
At first I wasn’t going to publish this letter, because this pro-gay supporter of women’s right to choose abortion is so atypical of creationists that presenting her as representative of the group overall doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I liked what she had to say, because it so highlights how everybody shapes whatever they believe into something that is so unique to themselves. I have this private, personal theory that ultimately there are as many different kinds of Christians (and Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and all the rest) as there are people in the world. And this letter really brought that home.
Also—just for the record, or whatever—I don’t have a problem with creationists. I have a problem with creationism being taught to children as exclusively true. That “school” test is a travesty. I don’t care what people believe. But I sure care what they teach their children.
(And like so many other Christians, I do not in the slightest find the theory of evolution incompatible with God. If I were God, that’s how I would have structured the universe. It’s perfect. I think God’s whole thing is to never too revealingly tip his cards, and in that regard you cannot beat evolution.)