The Cruelty of Young-Earth Creationism

The Cruelty of Young-Earth Creationism May 6, 2018

Fred Clark wrote recently:

Young-earth creationism is a cruelly efficient machine for manufacturing spiritual crisis. It has created more atheists than all of Richard Dawkins’ books put together. It exchanges the truth of God for a lie — a lie that’s spectacularly indefensible because none of the people caught up in that lie lives on a young Earth. They live, instead, on this one — this ancient Earth that confronts its inhabitants with its vast and incomprehensible oldness at every turn.

Click through to read the rest of his post. I consider myself fortunate not to have grown up with young-earth creationist beliefs – had I done so, it would surely have been much more difficult to shed them. As it was, even though I found my way to antievolutionism in my teens, all it took was a clear presentation of evidence that young-earth creationism was not merely false but deceitful, offered in a manner that did not pretend that I needed to abandon my Christian faith in order to let go of young-earth creationism.

Of related interest, Matthew McClure created a tract – in the style of the infamous Chick Tracts – warning about the dangers of young-earth creationism from the perspective of Christian faith. I think this may be my favorite part, illustrating the evolution of young-earth creationist ideas:

HT Michael Roberts

I just realized that I posted my round-up of the highlights of my extensive blogging about young-earth creationism almost ten years ago! I won’t try to do another round-up now, since it is much easier than it used to be to find relevant materials on this blog, whether using the search bar on the Patheos site or simply Googling. But let me include here some links to past posts about young-earth creationism that I think are specifically relevant here, namely posts that address the deceitful character of young-earth creationism and why, far from being a natural expression of Christian faith, is in fact diametrically opposed to it:

Literalists Have a Choice

Christianity or Young-Earth Creationism? Time to Choose

Is the Young-Earth Creationist Idea of God Compatible with Christianity?

Young-Earth Creationists Undermine Confidence in the Bible

Ken Ham is a Con Artist (see also Why Is Ken Ham Believed?)

Ken Ham Reads the Bible Like an Atheist (see too Ken Ham Continues Winning Souls for Atheism)

Ken Ham Thinks He Is God

Beware of False Teachers – and Be Aware You Might Be One!

Young-Earth Creationism is a Cult

Young-Earth Creationists Substitute Words of Men in Place of the Word of God

Genesis 1-3 on How to Interpret Genesis 1-3

Young-Earth Creationism vs. the Plain Meaning of the Creation Stories

How Young-Earth Creationism Works

Young-Earth Creationists Believe Supernovas are Beautiful Lies told by God (see also Young-Earth Creationists Make God Out to Be a Liar)

Young-Earth Creationism: Sola Scriptura Abused

Creationist Quote-Mining

Outgrowing and Outlearning Young-Earth Creationism

The Invisible Preface to Genesis

Maybe God Put Contradictions In The Bible To Weed Out Dishonest Christians

How Young-Earth Creationism Denies the Creator

Psalm 148:4 Disproves Young-Earth Creationism

Ken Ham Finally Confesses His Heresy

Do Young-Earth Creationists Worship the Devil? (See also Calling YEC Demonic as well as Antievolutionism is a Tool of Satan

How Much of the Bible do Young-Earth Creationists Reject?


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  • The Mouse Avenger

    Thanks ever so much for sharing this with us! 🙂 And I greatly enjoyed reading the comic, & am currently checking out the Old Earth website as we speak! 😀 Very fascinating, so far, & a website I would recommend to all Christians! ^_^

  • David Evans

    Thank you for those links. I was particularly pleased with the sermon from Spurgeon, whom I had not heard of. I have that bookmarked for those ( they are legion) who say that all old-Earth believers are atheists.

    One comment on the “supernovas are beautiful lies” link. YECs don’t all think that God created the light in transit. Some think, following the “Starlight and Time” theories of Russell Humphreys, that there is an immense gravitational field which causes time to run much more slowly on Earth than in distant regions of space. So the light was actually emitted by the supernova and got here in what for us was less than 6,000 years, but in the reference frame of the supernova was a lot longer.

    I have argued that this theory is internally inconsistent and also doesn’t fit the observational data, but they don’t want to know.

    • rtgmath

      Russell Humphreys is a flake. I read his “paper” attempting to prove that the speed of light had decreased over time to its present, constant value. “Internally inconsistent” would have been far too nice to say about it. Humphreys has a Ph.D. He knows better. He is a full-out liar and deceiver, thinking that his deceptions are good to promote faith. It is an evil position to take, but he is there. I do not for one minute think he actually believes what he is feeding to others.

      • David Evans

        Thank you for the confirmation. Yes, I was being too nice. It’s a failing of mine.

  • John MacDonald

    Wow, those are a lot of links! I’m glad I never became an academic. I probably would have gone blind, like the poet Homer, from the immense reading and writing workload. It must be mentally exhausting!

  • I’ve said this before, but think this idea that “YEC creates atheists” may be true but wildly overstated. I grew up in a conservative church, so I’ve known quite a lot of people who have rejected the YEC view of the universe. Some, like myself, are atheists; but most are still Christians, albeit Christians with more intelligent views of science and less fundamentalistic views of scripture.

    The rejection of idiotic YEC notions of both science and biblical literacy leads to more rational positions – whether those positions are atheistic, Christian, or other.

  • Brandon Roberts

    the bible never even supports young earth creationsim the facts show it’s impossible

  • I am one of those who was taught YEC in fundamentalist Christian school and eventually became an agnostic atheist. But YEC was just one of many reasons why. A handful of my former schoolmates became atheists, many are still fundamentalist Christians who believe in YEC, and others are progressive Christians.

    I can tell you that attending a secular university after having attended a YEC Christian school was challenging – I was embarrassed and ashamed of my lack of knowledge of evolution. I avoided all biological science courses. I was too immature to realize that I coukd have asked any professor for guidance and they woukd gladly have helped me, but the shame was too great. Still I rarely tell people about my YEC education – I was married a decade before telling my husband. He was stunned that I overcame it.

    I still see former classmates posting on social media about going to Ark Encounter or homeschooling their kids on this myth, and it makes me sad for the disadvantage they are giving their kids.

    Looking forward to reading your links.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    I know some “Fundies” mostly Roman Catholic, a few who have Masters’ Degrees along with many who have Bachelors’ Degrees. These people are academically astute, but when they enter a church they use what I call the “Brain Rack” located above the coat rack. They virtually “hang up their brains” when they enter church and retrieve them when they leave. It doth boggle my mind how they can do that.
    I recommend reading the works of John Shelby Spong. His first book, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” turned me from thinking that I was alone in my thinking and that I was a “heathen bound for Hell.” into feeling as if I really am a person of worth.
    Dr. Spong was a prolific writer and lecturer from his fifties up into his mid 80s. Sadly, now in his late 80s has suffered a stroke.

    • james warren

      They want to worship Christ, not follow Jesus.

    • Realist1234

      Spong rejects, amongst many things, the physical resurrection of Jesus, thus denying one of the key truths of Christianity. Thanks but no thanks.

  • rtgmath

    Yup. Young earth creationism and its deliberate distortions of science brought to a head my first real Crisis of Faith. I am still not over it. Or them. I have had many such crises since.

    The problem is that those steeped in the literalist way of viewing Scripture have a hard time seeing Scripture any other way. Eventually it becomes easier to just reject faith than to try to constantly have to reconcile / rethink everything. When you realize that what you have been fed are lies, and that there is no way to separate “truth” from the lies, unbelief becomes preferable.

    And it wouldn’t have come to this if the lies hadn’t gained such prominence in Christian thought to begin with. They not only gained prominence, but a de facto place in the gospel. Some groups outright declare that if you don’t believe in a literal, six-day creation and a young earth, you cannot be saved.

    So here I am. At least half of my thinking is atheist because of this heresy.

    And, by the way, many of the same errors in YEC are found in Old Earth Creationism and so-called “Intelligent Design.” They don’t work, either. The disillusioned young-earth creationist who goes to these positions in hope of salvaging faith will soon find, upon investigation, that they are anti-science and pro-lies as well. Thus the conversion of a naive Christian to a wary skeptic and atheist are all but assured.

  • james warren

    Let’s call out fundamentalism for what it really is: a fear of the modern world.

    Whenever we take the holy and sacred metaphors of Christianity in a literal way, we end up forfeiting their great claim and hope.

  • Ashley haworth-roberts

    Geochristian Kevin Nelstead (not a YEC) has flagged this Patheos article by McGrath (flagging Clark) and the earlier Nelle Smith Religion Despatches piece (flagged on Patheos by Libby Anne earlier this week) on Facebook:
    (Hope that makes sense.)

    • Why would he flag it? What did he find so objectionable that he felt it violated Facebook’s terms of service?

  • Ivlia Blackburn

    Where precisely does it say in the Bible that God didn’t create evolution, that the 7 days if God occurred over a period of 168 modern human hours. I’ve read and reread Genesis and I can’t find this written anywhere. Yes, man was formed in the image of God but just look st the huge difference between people and it is obvious that God is allowing for change and evolution even today so why not in the past. Nowhere does it state that one of Gid’s days was a modern 24 hours, this is a very modern definition and merely goes to prove that, rather than believing in the Biblical version of creation they are trying to rewrite it to fit in with 20th/21St century interpretation.

    • Nick G

      Even if you interpret “day” as “indefinite period of time”, the creation accounts (there are two) of Genesis 1-2 are grossly incompatible with scientific findings. There is no honest way to reconcile the two.

  • Troll elsewhere heretic

    What kind of field of strawmen is this?!?

  • Ashley haworth-roberts

    Proven liar Sorensen is accusing you of ‘misrepresentation’:

  • Realist1234

    Although I certainly reject the idea that the earth is young, I am still not wholly convinced that evolution is a sufficient explanation for the development of all the different kinds of life on this planet.

    • Nick G

      What qualifications do you have in evolutionary biology, paleontology, genetics, biogeography, or related fields?

      • Realist1234

        I didnt claim to have qualifications in those subjects. I am a lay person with a degree in physics and maths, but at least some of those who have cast doubt on evolutionary theory over the past few decades are highly qualified in the biological and chemistry fields. So it’s not as if it is only unqualified people who have doubts.

        I certainly accept that micro evolution occurs within a species (hence Darwin’s finches or the peppered moth) but beyond that I am not convinced, at least not completely. The basic problem with it from a scientific point of view is that we can only directly observe such small changes within a species.

        Btw I dont understand the first couple of chapters of Genesis as literal, more a polemic against other Near Eastern creation stories.

        • TinnyWhistler

          As someone with a physics and math background, this is why I don’t get into genetics arguments with people, but try to remember how annoying it is when people claim “It just can’t happen” when looking at geological, astronomical, and other data that’s more familiar to me.

          I know biology is a blind spot of mine, so I know I’m not qualified to make judgments on what doesn’t seem reasonable. I know I’ve certainly gotten into enough arguments with people who have similar blind spots related to physics and will argue around and around that it just doesn’t seem reasonable to them.

          • Realist1234

            I dont disagree but I did say it is some people highly educated in the biological and chemical sciences who have cast doubt.

            I know what you mean about physics – quantum mechanics anyone? !

          • TinnyWhistler

            *shrug* Most of the names people have given me of scientists who are ID-level of critical of evolution either don’t have a bio background or haven’t actually published much in reputable journals.

            There are lots of people who publish crap in journals that accept crap and I know I don’t know enough to know who’s a crackpot and who’s not, so I’m willing to admit I’m willing to go along with the scientific consensus.

            Quantum’s a fun one, though my personal favorite is when someone calls dark matter the ether of modern physics and says it’s just not there. Ok, buddy, have fun coming up with an alternative to general relativity.

          • Realist1234

            ‘ though my personal favorite is when someone calls dark matter the ether of modern physics and says it’s just not there’

            – no, it’s the aether from Thor: the Dark World – nasty stuff. Makes sense to me lol. Now its sequel – that’s what I call crap. Even with his haircut.

          • TinnyWhistler

            Sorry, we can no longer hold a civil conversation if you’re going to hate on Ragnarok. Begone, heathen!

          • Realist1234

            A camp Jeff Goldblum. Enough said.

  • Rev. Kent A. Meyer, Ph.D.

    Thanks for this essay and book list! Through high school and college, I constantly dealt with Fundamentalist students who insisted that believing Creationism was necessary for being Christian. As I learn more about YEC’s, I am left with a question: Just how do they justify lying in the name of God? Consider the Proctor & Gamble Satanism scare of the 1980’s. Or a handout claiming to train police to recognize satanic cults that showed the old peace symbol (based on semaphore signals), labeled it “The Cross of Nero”, and declared it a satanic symbol (I have yet to find any evidence for this, unless a satanic group made it up themselves). Or the old forgery about Darwin’s “death-bed confession” that still circulates. How can anyone who claims to follow Jesus Christ intentionally pass on falsehoods and self-serving rumors? How can they lie in the Name of God?

  • Charles Munroe

    Several years ago I attended an atheist meeting to determine why people reject God. Eventually our conversation turned to creationism. I stated that it appeared they the atheists were concentrating on eliminating creationism. They responded that although they were against creationism they -Didn’t want it to disappear as it is the best means of bringing people to disbelief.
    This reinforces professor McGrath’s contention that creationism enables atheism.