It’s generally accepted that in order to subscribe to atheism, you must believe in Evolution and renounce Creationism. Despite proclaiming myself to be an atheist, I don’t see the point.
At church on my birthday, which happened to fall on a Sunday this year, I listened to an excellent sermon by Robert Fergusson on “The Theology of Ignorance”. Simply put, he explained why the correct answer to the question of how the was Earth created, for practically every Christian, is “I don’t know.” The Bible does not provide any details about The Creation, which, as Fergusson explained, means that God did not intend for His people to know.
Yet there’s still such a strong compulsion for people to probe and ask questions about the Creation, why? Because it’s a compelling story. In their rabid adherence to logic and reason, what scientists (and militant atheists) fail to understand is the power of narrative. Regardless of race or religion, creed or culture, story-telling is deeply seated in our ancestry. We are wired to understand characters and plots, and forever seek to understand things within a coherent narrative framework. Books, movies, video games, TV – all are stories to some degree. Large portions of human endeavour can be interpreted as attempts at turning facts into stories to help others understand – the super-luminous Stephen Hawking couldn’t resist the urge, authoring a sci-fi trilogy for kids called George’s Secret Key to the Universe. Dawkins, even: “The Selfish Gene”, “The Blind Watchmaker”, “The Greatest Show On Earth”, etc.
The reason why Evolution is failing to oust Creation isn’t because people aren’t getting it into their minds, it’s because the lack of a compelling narrative means that Evolution is failing to capture peoples’ imaginations. Therefore, instead of arguing whether or not Creation has a place in high-school Science classes, we should be asking ourselves why the story of Evolution isn’t being taught to kids in pre-school.
As it is today, the story of Evolution lacks the core fundamentals of a good tale: relatable characters, and a compelling plot. In the quest to keep strict boundaries between fact from fiction, those responsible have stripped away any semblance of fun and excitement. The whole process is dryly told as how man came to be, from an unbroken chain of organisms originating from the first life form that appeared in the primordial soup.
Atheism doesn’t need any more scientists trying to save us from our unenlightenment. The time is ripe for authors, poets and musicians to take charge, and turn our history from boring lists of theories, formulas and equations into something that is inviting, interesting and entertaining.
A short addendum to the post, from an interview with Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy in The Weekend Australian Review – May 1-2:
There’s also something of his grandfather in Pullman’s love of telling stories. This, for him, is how we humans come to terms with the mysteries of life, death and existence. And it is not a trivial matter; he believes fiction ranks alongside the scientific method and the symphony orchestra as our greatest discoveries.
‘”People have a hunger for stories that explain things,” he says. “That is what myths are: stories that explain where the seasons come from or where sin originates. The story of God was a story that explained a great deal, but it has now become incredible, impossible to believe.”
This post is part of the series An Atheist In God’s Kingdom.