Creationism chases people out of church

Ken Ham is slowly killing the American church,” writes Joel Watch at Unsettled Christianity.

Kurt Willems agrees, posting a video at his Pangea blog in which he says “Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists.”

I’d qualify Willems’ statement a bit. Preaching against evolution in evangelical churches doesn’t create atheists — it creates not-evangelicals. They were told that if evolution were true, then their faith would be a lie. And then they learned that evolution is true. Some of them may go on to become atheists. Others may go on to become Episcopalians. But some just stagger on for years with little identity other than not-evangelical.

But the basic point both Watch and Willems are making is an important one. The creationism of Ken Ham and Al Mohler is not true and therefore belief in it is not sustainable. I’ve made this argument quite a bit, as in “The Bible vs. The Facts?” where I wrote:

When Christian teachers like Mohler insist that the non-negotiable tenets of the faith include beliefs that can be and have been proven false, they set their followers up for inexorable crisis and calamity. It turns Christians into ex-Christians with industrial efficiency.

Or see “Hold on to the good” or “The walls came tumbling down.”

I’ve written about this a lot because I’ve met so many people over the years whose Christian faith was chained to some idea of young-earth creationism that dragged it down like a millstone.

And yet the more people are driven from the church by the unsustainable, unbelievable lies of creationists, the more desperately the creationists cling to those lies and insist on their centrality to the faith.

Roger Olson recently posted an essay from Michael Clawson that I think offers some insight into why the collapse of creationism is making its proponents ever-more vehement. In “Young, Restless and Fundamentalist: Neo-fundamentalism Among American Evangelicals,” Clawson argues that the anti-science defensiveness of late 20th-century “neo-fundamentalists” echoes the laager mentality of their early 20th-century ancestors:

Some conservative evangelicals are reacting to the contemporary influences of postmodernity in much the same way that the original fundamentalists did towards the influences of modernity a century ago — namely through hostility towards the broader culture, retrenchment around certain theological doctrines, and conflict with, or separatism from others within a more broadly defined evangelicalism.

… The driving force behind neo-fundamentalism, as with historic fundamentalism, is a “remnant mentality.” Neo-fundamentalists believe they alone are remaining true to the fullness of the gospel and orthodox faith while the rest of the evangelical church is in grave, near-apocalyptic danger of theological drift, moral laxity, and compromise with a postmodern culture – a culture which they see as being characterized by a skepticism towards Enlightenment conceptions of “absolute truth,” a pluralistic blending of diverse beliefs, values, and cultures, and a suspicion of hierarchies and traditional sources of authority. Because of this hostility toward postmodern ways of thinking, neo-fundamentalists have little tolerance for diversity of opinions among evangelicals on any issues they perceive as essential doctrines – which are most of them – as opposed to the broader evangelical movement which historically has allowed for a much wider range of disagreement on disputable matters. Neo-fundamentalists thus respond to the challenges of a postmodern culture by narrowing the boundaries of what they consider genuinely evangelical and orthodox Christianity, and rejecting those who maintain a more open stance.

Clawson’s description of this “neo-fundamentalism” is particularly interested in light of the fatal flaw that Watch, Willems and I all identify in the links above. Creationism, like all forms of this neo-fundamentalism, is championed as a militant defense of the church against the world. Yet in practice, creationism drives people out of the church.

It has the opposite effect from the one these neo-fundies are hoping for.

Clawson mentions John Piper, Al Mohler and Mark Driscoll as prominent examples of this neo-fundie “remnant mentality.” For an illustration of this, check out the poster promoting Mark Driscoll’s latest book, highlighted by Hemant Mehta and vorjack of Unreasonable Faith.

The poster emphasizes hierarchical gender relationships, suggesting that this is an essential belief if the church is to survive in the big scary postmodern world. It concludes by saying:

My grandchildren will worship the same God as me, because my children will worship the same God as me.

Vorjack’s cheerfully atheist response:

My grandfather was raised Southern Baptist.

My father was raised Southern Baptist.

… Hi.

It’s not just that the neo-fundie project doesn’t work, but that it’s counter-productive — that it accelerates the problem it imagines it is addressing. By emphasizing untenable doctrines like creationism or the divine right of husbands, and by insisting that these are central, requisite beliefs, the neo-fundies are chasing people out of the church.

See also:

  • hapax

    @FangsFirst:disqus
     – the wonderful thing about the internet is finding out you are not alone.

    I have *exactly* the same response to Dexter-the-books (well, audiobooks — have you tried those?  Nick Landrum captures the voice perfectly) and Dexter-the-television-program as you;  including the “talking them up to everyone until the show came out.”)

    No opinion on The Walking Dead because I don’t do zombies, but hapaxson shares your opinions.

  • hapax

    That experience eventually led to a realization that unless I had a
    strong enough faith to let God out of the box I was trying to keep him
    in, then it wasn’t faith at all but an attempt to control an idol I had
    made.

    hapaxspouse calls that kind of false faith “Schroedinger’s God” — people who keep God in a box of literalism that they refuse to open and examine, because they’re secretly terrified that they’ll find out that their God is dead.

  • Diez

    The poetic justice in all this is that YEC is essentially being consumed by the very thing it seeks to deny.  Natural selection isn’t just for animals, you know.  It also applies to ideas.  Those that are useful (in any way) are preserved and passed on.  Those that aren’t eventually fizzle and die.  And it looks like the one use YEC had (drawing battle lines to muster the church) is rapidly vanishing.

    Here’s hoping it goes the way of the dodo sooner rather than later.

  • Ken

    the nicening and prettifying of a bunch of things (I don’t like to spoil either for anyone, which makes explaining myself difficult…)
    <BLOCKQUOTE

    That's what rot13 is for.  Was it any of these:

    Qrkgre vf trarenyyl avpre – n punatr lbh pna npghnyyl frr orgjrra gur cvybg (abj frevrf bar rcvfbqr bar) naq gur erfg bs frevrf bar.

    Qrkgre'f xvyyf ner dhvpxre – gur obbx unf cebgenpgrq gbegher zheqref.

    Nfgbe naq Pbql qba'g unir gurve bja cnffratref.

    Znal punenpgref unir unq qvssrerag sngrf (YnThregn, Qbnxrf, Oevna, Evgn).

    Gurl qebccrq gur ohfvarff nobhg gur qnex cnffratref orvat napvrag tbqf/cnenfvgrf/jungriref.

    V guvax fbzr bs gurfr (yvarf 1, 2, 3) ner whfg orpnhfr gur bevtvany jbhyqa'g fryy ba gryrivfvba.  Gur ynfg bar V guvax vf na vzcebirzrag, naq fvapr Yvaqfnl unfa'g er-hfrq vg erpragyl, ur znl nterr.

    V'z nyfb ernyyl tynq gung frnfba fvk svanyyl pnhtug hc jvgu gur obbxf va univat Qroen xabj nobhg Qrkgre.

  • Ken

    Well, that’s a mess, isn’t it?  The blockquote ends after the first paragraph.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always viewed science and religion as largely being
    non-overlapping magisteria where, except for a few physicists dealing
    with the first moments of the universe, the science and the faith have
    very little to do with each other in any practical sense and could quite
    comfortably coexist (occasionally with a little cognitive dissonance
    but hey what would humanity be without the ability to self-delude).

    I dunno, I liked kinda what you said earlier more. Religion is part of the reason why I tend to ask why, poke things, pull things apart. The first commandment isn’t “Blindly love thy God, and make sure you don’t think about love when poking the universe,” but “Love thy God with all thy… mind.” I think that’s what a lot of our earliest scientists had in mind. (And why it’s so infuriating to realize that the Church was, in many ways, as eager to close its eyes and indulge willful ignorance as it is now.)

  • A Prof

    Ken Ham is also taking aim at colleges too with the same Louisville Slugger nuance. See “Already Compromised,” his 2011 that “surveys” Christian colleges and determines which ones do and don’t fit the ideological bill.

  • a Prof

    * his 2011 book

  • Anonymous

    Not really those that are useful in any way–those that enable the entity to reproduce. And by that account, YECism is far from counted out. It’s associated with groups that have high birthrates and because it’s simplistic, it can be presented in a fairly straightforward fashion to politicians. And it’s associated as well with people who will yell at politicians.

    The fact that this silly idea has as many adherents as it does is evidence that it’s pretty fit to reproduce. It’s only running into trouble because of the ecosystem that was already in place before it became popular. But that ecosystem came into being under different circumstances and has been under attack from a variety of directions for a while.

    I am not sure I go for the analogy of ideas with genes (or animals). But if we allow the analogy, it’s far from clear that YEC is unfitted for survival in the culture. Look how the teaching of science has already been dumbed down.

  • FangsFirst

    – the wonderful thing about the internet is finding out you are not alone.

    I sincerely appreciate the sentiment…and the agreement!
    I haven’t tried the audiobooks–and kinda fell out since Borders went away, as I already failed to notice until we got shipments in that new books were out. Or sometimes even once it was on the shelf. That was kind of embarrassing, since everyone knew I’d picked up the first two as publisher promos when I started there early on, because the titles and concept appealed to me.

    Is Landrum very deadpan? I never imagine voices for anyone, but I tend to at least *think* Dexter would be very deadpan…

    most of my friends and friends of friends and people who’ve read the books of The Walking Dead tend to agree with me on that one.

  • FangsFirst

    Qrkgre vf trarenyyl avpre – n punatr lbh pna npghnyyl frr orgjrra
    gur cvybg (abj frevrf bar rcvfbqr bar) naq gur erfg bs frevrf bar.
    Qrkgre’f xvyyf ner dhvpxre – gur obbx unf cebgenpgrq gbegher zheqref.
    Nfgbe naq Pbql qba’g unir gurve bja cnffratref.
    Znal punenpgref unir unq qvssrerag sngrf (YnThregn, Qbnxrf, Oevna, Evgn).

    Gurl qebccrq gur ohfvarff nobhg gur qnex cnffratref orvat napvrag tbqf/cnenfvgrf/jungriref.

    V
    guvax fbzr bs gurfr (yvarf 1, 2, 3) ner whfg orpnhfr gur bevtvany
    jbhyqa’g fryy ba gryrivfvba.  Gur ynfg bar V guvax vf na vzcebirzrag,
    naq fvapr Yvaqfnl unfa’g er-hfrq vg erpragyl, ur znl nterr.

    V’z nyfb ernyyl tynq gung frnfba fvk svanyyl pnhtug hc jvgu gur obbxf va univat Qroen xabj nobhg Qrkgre.

    Yeah, that about covers it. And I think the reason you give for 1-3 is dead on, and the thing that disappointed me most about the show, as it’s on Showtime and they have been trying to catch up to HBO in willingness to do anything–often exceeding by forgetting plot and the like in the process. and I think #4 was for the same reason, which also disappointed me.

    I am kinda all right with the change for number five as well, which is why I think books 3&4 kinda suffered (though, creatively, I liked the *idea*–it just seemed a little “wait, what?” in the context of what came before).

  • Anonymous

    The biology nun

    I’m sorry, I know it’s childish, but I just love that phrase.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    And what’s so wrong with active sentences that all of them have to be passive?

    The format may be passive, but all those “by me”s make it sound possessive, which I suspect is the intention – “I’m not just going to do these things, I’m going to own them.”

  • Dan Audy

    Not really those that are useful in any way–those that enable the
    entity to reproduce. And by that account, YECism is far from counted
    out. It’s associated with groups that have high birthrates and because
    it’s simplistic, it can be presented in a fairly straightforward fashion
    to politicians. And it’s associated as well with people who will yell
    at politicians.

    The possibility that authoritarian leanings and high birthrates were genetically influenced and linked bothered me very badly for quite a while (OCD, insomnia, and mild paranoia are a bad, bad combo).  If that were the case than it would be favoured and become more widespread and more awful and and and and.  Eventually I realised that (a) I sounded like the bigoted people (American/European Caucasians and Isreali Jews) worrying about how the other was going to demographically take over the country, (b) Authoritarian’s really are on the decline in the moral arc of history no matter how hard it is to recognize it at this precise moment, and (c) even if it were true the only possible solution would be eugenics on a massive scale which is morally abhorrent and something that only an authoritarian would want to do in the first place.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Gurl qebccrq gur ohfvarff nobhg gur qnex cnffratref orvat napvrag tbqf/cnenfvgrf/jungriref.

    That’s the point where I stopped reading the books. (I do think the early seasons of the show did a good job capuring Dexter’s snarky outsider view of “normal” humanity, but it’s fallen down in the later seaspns and I didn’t even watch the last few eps.) Ironically I’m in an online RPG crossover game playing a Dexter-analogue where such things are also canon, and decided against using it (before the book came out) because it frrzrq gbb zhpu bs n pbc-bhg rkphfr sbe uvf orunivbe; V gubhtug n abezny ohg qnzntrq uhzna jbhyq or zber vagrerfgvat gb cynl.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not really the same thing.  There’s a world of difference between “I should be the only person of importance in your life” and “these people are assholes and you would probably be better off not being around them.”

  • FangsFirst

    I appreciate an objective viewpoint on that. My friends all admit their bias toward me and therapists are naturally there to not tear me down, so it’s hard to find a source of information on it that doesn’t feel like it’s just there to not make me feel bad.

    It’s all way more complicated, as other friends of hers have called me a stalker and one of her coworkers threatened to speak to my mother (!) when my parents visited once,¹ all (ALL!) of her exes have been controlling and abusive (some in ways no one could debate, though they were, as sociopaths are, very good at hiding it from everyone but her) (which is the why I got very entangled in that conversation here, and ran away), and her coworkers (and some friends) took it upon themselves to
    periodically borrow (or outright steal) her phone and harass me with
    accusations of stalking and the like. Online harassment, too.² I’ve kind of led to her friends circle being pared a LOT. That’s most of why it makes me neurotic. It wasn’t two people…it was a lot of people. Not that I feel any sorrow, regret, guilt or remorse over the gropers. At all. They can…well. Nevermind.

    ¹That person ended up face first into a wall. Yeah. That was her, not me. She’s a little protective…and a fifth degree black belt…
    One wonders how their priorities are so backward that they go after the person she will harm people to protect, and ignore the people who harmed her. Who were often friends of theirs.

    ²Incidentally, none of them had met or spoken to me before. At all.

  • Anonymous

    I’m of the opinion that if you build up YEC so much to the point that it is the linchpin of your religious belief (even more that Jesus, it seems to me), and it can be flatly shown that you’re flat-out lying about evolution, then it makes me wonder what else you happen to be lying about. That’s addressed to people like Al Mohler, who have to know that they’re sitting there and baldly lying day in and day out about a lot of things. I don’t know how he (and Ken Ham and Mark Driscoll, for example) live with themselves.

  • hf

    the following doctrines have exactly the same evidentiary basis and plausibility as young earth creationism

    Technically no. (Though the other objections I’ve seen make no sense, not if “evidence” means some fact that increases or decreases the credibility of a theory.) The usual meaning of “young earth creationism” includes the usual meaning of “Yahweh”. And neither follows logically from the other — not unless we take a logically contradictory version of the second, and strictly speaking we don’t have to. So the compound claim has less probability or plausibility.

    Despite the fact that if the Garden of Eden existed it would have had to exist in some definite place, the claim that it existed in Jackson County, Missouri technically has less probability. It’s like the difference between saying someone will win the lottery, and saying I will win the lottery.

    That said, if we tried to read the Bible literally, we’d have to say it implies a large probability for YEC. Because the God it describes would have gotten bored or annoyed and trashed the whole Universe in a lot less than the 100,000 years (minimum) of humanity’s existence.

  • Anonymous

    It was the little old lady I knew from the bell choir coming up to me at a restaurant where I was waiting for friends to show up telling me that I was going to hell for reading Harry Potter.  I now find Carlin’s philosophy much more relevant.  Darwin’s too.

  • FangsFirst

    so, brightside, my friend responded on the Mark Driscoll front, after I said “That horrible misogynist?”:

    I was never into his
    preaching enough to want to read any of his books. And it’s been 5 years
    since I was there. I have to say I’m totally shocked. I probably saw
    him preach 20 times, and he never said anything inappropriate. Very strange. Very sad for me to hear this. Much appreciated, my friend.

    So, she definitely agrees that he’s a jackwagon, at least. hooray!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The fact that his church has 7k+ members is seriously disturbing.

    A friend of the family mentioned to me that apparently Driscoll’s congregation mainly consists of young people with low self-esteem who treat going to church as a meet-market.  They are there to meet someone who will tell them what to do and reassure them that they are good. 

    These are people who will respond to intimidation. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The possibility that authoritarian leanings and high birthrates were genetically influenced and linked bothered me very badly for quite a while (OCD, insomnia, and mild paranoia are a bad, bad combo).

    I think that this might be a good time to draw a distinction between genetic propogation and memetic propogation (in the classical sense of the term “meme”.)

    The Wikipedia article on the subject of memes.

    To quote their section on religion as a meme:

    In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.

    Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.

  • Anonymous

    Mother of Christ, between this and all your other horror stories, what shitpit do you live in?  And do you need evac?

  • The Lodger

    “Biology Nun” is going to be the name of my next band.

  • FangsFirst

    what shitpit do you live in?

    As far as I can tell, I fell into the far worse shitpit she has been stuck in.

    I can’t really get into the totality of it, but she thinks she’s miserably uninteresting and stupid and ugly and worthless.
    Things she hates me for sharing only because she’s afraid it sounds like bragging:
    She used to dance trained ballet, figure skate until her feet bled, speaks Scots Gaelic, French, English, Japanese, Korean, Romanian, Spanish, and is working on Chinese,¹ is, as mentioned, a fifth-degree black belt, used to be a print model (too short for stage modeling), has had short stories published in major magazines and other publications, used to compete in beauty pageants, and is working her way with no loans through secondary education (a BS in biogenetics, with a second major in Chinese, as well as a pre-existing Associates in advanced maths) with no real help from anyone else. She was working two full time jobs (one teaching taekwondo to small children via a program she created at an existing dojang, the other was the restaurant) and going to school 23 hours a week when I met her. Oh, and tutoring (which is how I met her–she came into my bookstore and started flirting with me one day…). And doing a lot of chores and errands for her family, like a lot of the basic childcare for her younger brothers.

    She’s lost the only family member that showed unconditional love. She’s lost friends to everything awful you can imagine. She’s been through absolute hell herself.

    But, again, this woman thinks she is uninteresting, stupid, ugly, lazy and worthless. Such attitudes leave one willing to accept or forgive awful behaviours up to a point. And, of course, everything is her fault anyway.

    I’m not a white knight. I’m not telling you this to prove I’m awesome for sticking with her. I’m not. I do it wrong a lot of the time. But she’s the world to me, and when she can squeak out words for such feelings, that’s what she says I am to her.

    It’s not easy to just find out that the most beautiful and wonderful person in the world still had to and has to deal with these things. Nor is it any easier when being around someone she loves is impossible without constant triggers, simply because relationships and men in them putting hands on her has awful associations and there’s now someone whose hand she wants to hold, or that she wants to hug.

    A large part of my hanging around here is that she decided to deal with all of that, and was told the best way to do so was away from me. I haven’t spoken to her for over six months, since she spent a night trying to be sure I knew she loved me and that maybe being with me could make up for finding out she can’t have children, which she wanted more than anything in the world, so she could give them the life she never had–not that she’ll admit it’s because she didn’t have it. She couldn’t hurt the people in her life by suggesting they weren’t enough. Even when they weren’t just not enough, but horrendous. But she can’t have that until she can figure out how to not be scared around me.

    She’s stronger and better than me, and I have no illusions about it. But it makes me want to be worthy of that.

    So…no evac for me, unless it’s plus one.

  • Shallot

    Um.  I haven’t participated so far in the conversation, so this feels really forward and eavesdroppy… but that’s a terrible situation.  Internet hugs, if you want them.

    You implied she’s getting help; I hope they work together well and make lots of progress.

  • FangsFirst

    Not at all (my inability to appropriately discern what to share and not is probably resultant from the AS, and so I also have trouble finding things eavesdroppy or forward). I appreciate the sentiment, honestly, thank you.

    She’s getting some kind of help…she was advised to take time away from me by another survivor. She’s still in contact with my best friend and my mother (who knitted her a prayer shawl last Christmas, so they’re close in their way), so I do occasionally hear bits and pieces secondhand. None of them talks much.

    Still…last I heard she’s (of course) beating herself up for not getting over this quicker. Of course, she called me once and questioned why she was not over watching a friend of hers bleed to death in her arms. I mean, it had been three years! Surely that’s enough time to get over THAT…or at least, she thought so. Sigh.

  • FangsFirst

    Not at all (my inability to appropriately discern what to share and not is probably resultant from the AS, and so I also have trouble finding things eavesdroppy or forward). I appreciate the sentiment, honestly, thank you.

    She’s getting some kind of help…she was advised to take time away from me by another survivor. She’s still in contact with my best friend and my mother (who knitted her a prayer shawl last Christmas, so they’re close in their way), so I do occasionally hear bits and pieces secondhand. None of them talks much.

    Still…last I heard she’s (of course) beating herself up for not getting over this quicker. Of course, she called me once and questioned why she was not over watching a friend of hers bleed to death in her arms. I mean, it had been three years! Surely that’s enough time to get over THAT…or at least, she thought so. Sigh.

  • Just a thought…

    This is a very western conversation.  I completed part of my studies for my M.Div. in Asia – they have a totally different set of theological issues and had little patience for Western (read American) students who tried to force the conversation of creationism vs. evolution.  The answer to how believers work out this answer just wasn’t important.  Same thing with issues of infallibility and inerrancy.  It shows just how ethnocentric we are that regardless of where we fall on this issue – we think it’s a question that is important to people every where.