Why Creationism Really Matters to Fundamentalists
Fundamentalist Christians in this country are locked in battle to remake this great country into a "Christian Nation." This has been an especially fierce battle since President Bush took office, and religious conservatives effectively gained total control of our entire government. What they want is to restructure our culture into one that obeys and abides by all the laws as set out by modern (conservative) Christian theologians. Probably the single largest barrier to this goal is science. While science says nothing at all concerning theology or even morality, what it does do is present facts and the reality of physical world we live in. It is this aspect of science that is the biggest threat to the faith required for fundamental Christianity. The reason is simple, faith tells the believer that the world should behave in one way (according to the tenets of the Bible), yet fact and reality prove the world actually operates quite differently. The only possible course of action for those of faith is to reject reality, and replace it with the faith threatened. This means that science must be thrown out. Since not all science can simply be thrown out by these believers, they focus on the most "offensive"; i.e. the most destructive to their faith. In a nutshell this is simply evolution, as it threatens the foundation of their faith, creationism; the direct link of Creator God to his creation.
The problem, though, is that for both sides, this is not the actual war, it is merely the only battle being continually fought. The war, ironically enough, is one that science says nothing about, theology. And more importantly, the root of theology, good and evil. Thus, science has never been able to win the battle, because it is not fighting the same war. Science is fighting the war on fact and reality, and fundamentalist Christianity is fighting the war of good versus evil. It just so happens that the two wars merge on the battlefield of evolution.
If science is not fighting (and can not fight) the war the fundamentalist Christians are, then how can the battle of evolution possibly be won? It cannot. That is why the reality of what we see today exists: stalemate at best. That is why the focus needs to change, but to do that, we must leave behind science, and enter philosophy. Fortunately we can still use all the most powerful tools of science; rational thought, fact gathering, observation, and testing hypotheses.
Next, then, is determining where this new battlefield is, and how to present our side. So let's take a look at why evolution is so strongly singled out, if the war the fundamentalist Christians are fighting is really "good v. evil". Then we can plan a new approach.
So, if creationism is not actually a battle over science, then what is it? If we look at the points that are made by the creationists, we begin to understand what they are truly concerned about. This was most recently pointed out in a posthumous article by creationist Henry Morris, "Insufficient Design". In this, Morris explains that creationism as told in Genesis explains why there is sin and death in the world.
That is it, the plain and simple reason why creationism is so crucial to fundamental Christianity, because it is the only way to explain why evil exists in the world and why organisms die. It also fixes the problem of a sadistic creator, placing the blame for sin and death on the creation (man) and not the creator for making man that way.
The logic of their argument is straightforward: God exists -> God created -> The account of creation is recorded in the Bible -> The Bible is the word of God -> The word of God (and thus God) is good -> Goodness proves God exists. Christian theology requires that there be a reason for Jesus and that reason is God's response to original sin. So, in the logic of fundamentalists, evolution is an attack on creation, which is an attack on original sin and thus an attack on Jesus.
What we are left with when this is boiled down are two possible statements:
1) Original sin occurred bringing death and sin into the world (imperfection), as recounted in the Bible.
2) Death and sin were observed in the world and was explained away later by the concept of original sin.
It is easy to see why the first statement is so important to fundamentalists, and why evolution is such a threat. It states that sin came first and death was the result. But evolution says simply that death came long before there were even humans to sin. Then if original sin is not the cause of death, that breaks the circle of logic which is the foundation of the Bible, and the sole reason for the act of redemption of Jesus, atonement for original sin.
In my next post, I will examine these two statements and how the facts behind them can be used to push back on creationists so that evolution can once again be separated from faith and religion.