Shuck and Jive

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fantasy-Based Religion or Meet the Flintstones

Fantasy-based religion is neither religion nor is it science. Yet it tries to speak the language of both. In this post and the next I will write about the dangers of fantasy-based religion in regards to our past and to our future.

Rather than look to what we observe and know through the scientific method, fantasy-based religion begins with a belief about a book. Notice I didn't say belief in a book or belief in the truths contained in a book, but belief
about a book. Since I am writing from a Christian perspective that book is the Bible. Fantasy-based religion believes about the Bible that it is the inerrant Word of God. As such, it is without error in matters of faith, history, and science. This makes for problems in interpreting our past and our future.

Our past. From science we know that the Universe evolved over billions of years and that life evolved on Earth since the past four billion years. Homo sapiens are related to all other life-forms. The scientific theory of evolution is not simply a theory, but a scientific theory that has been accepted and modified. It will continue to be modified. That is what science is. It is open-ended. It does not try to prove anything. It tries to disprove things. That is how our knowledge builds.

We have many religious texts from antiquity. One of them is the Bible. Prior to modern science, folks thought the Bible gave an accurate history of the origins of Earth, its life, and its human-life. This early story is beautifully told in Genesis 1-11. With the advent of modern science, this story became no longer credible as history or science. It is still a beautiful story, but a story nonetheless. Religion has adapted to science, for the most part. Religious people did not lose their faith in God. They realized that God was much larger and much more mysterious. The story took on new meaning. The story told us not about the origins of the universe but about the people who told the story and about the God in whom they believed.

Enter fantasy-based religion. Threatened by science and by religious people who didn't read Genesis 1-11 as science or history, fantasy-based religion decided to react. Rather than read the narratives of Genesis 1-11 as myths or legends, they had developed a belief
about the Bible as scientifically and historically accurate. This is what they thought Word of God meant. Since these narratives are the Word of God, they must be true scientifically and historically.

Something had to give. For them, it must be science. The scientific understanding of the cosmos and the development of human life must be wrong. It must be made to fit their
belief about the Bible.

Meet the Flintstones. The Creation Museum just opened this past week. Here is a paragraph from their web page:

The Creation Museum will be upfront that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice, and in every area it touches upon.

We’ll begin the Museum experience by showing that “facts” don’t speak for themselves (click here for a proposed drawing of this exhibit). There aren’t separate sets of “evidences” for evolution and creation—we all deal with the same evidence (we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study. We’ll then explore why the Bible—the “history book of the universe”—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things.

After that, we'll take guests on a journey through a visual presentation of the history of the world, based on the “7 C’s of History”: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation. Throughout this family-friendly experience, guests will learn how to answer the attacks on the Bible’s authority in geology, biology, anthropology, cosmology, etc., and they will discover how science actually confirms biblical history.

Here is a fun page that will tell you all about dinosaurs.

What'll it be this year kids? The Creation Museum or the Flintstone Theme Park? Yabba Dabba Doo! The Flintstone Theme Park will at least be more honest. It is a fantasy!

So what is the problem with the Creation Museum? Sure they are filled with nonsense. What's it hurt? We can all believe what we want, right? Yes. Everyone has the right to their own opinion. But no one has the right to their own facts. The creation theme park (and creationism in general) is a distortion of both science and religion. Ignorance eventually hurts us all.


  1. Not only does the Creation Museum and other attempts at the dumbing down of science hurt our children by making them scientifically illiterate, and not only does it dumb down religion by confusing the separate roles of religious inquiry and scientific inquiry, but it also only serves to reinforce the stereotype that many non-believers have about Christianity that it is a religion of ignorance. I have complained recently about the way the news media, and many authors (like the recent spate of militant atheists like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens) continue to paint religion with a broad brush as if all people of faith subscribed to this kind of ignorant position with respect to science.

    It is so hard to convince the world that Christianity can be a logical, rational faith that is consistent with scientific knowledge; and things like the Creation Museum and the endless war against evolution by the Religious Right only serve to reinforce this negative stereotype.

  2. With respect to the opening comment about the inerrant Word of God premise, I'm particularly struck by rationalizations given by Biblicists (literalists) for mythic accretions - stopping the sun, water springing forth from rocks, making animals talk, and so forth. My all time favorite annoyance is the old saw, "With God, anything is possible." Yes, I suppose God could make geese fly out of my ears, but I wouldn't bet on it. Is such an irrational understanding the only possible justification for hope? If so, then all we'll have to do is sit on our duffs and see how well the Almighty works out this global warming thing.

    My runner up is the irritating rejoinder, especially for contradictory Biblical passages, "Well, God's reasoning is not man's reasoning." What on earth does that possibly mean? The example I use has to do with common sense notions of justice - a serial killer will go to heaven with an 11th hour conversion just because he believes the right things, whereas a man like Ghandi who spends a lifetime as an activist working for social justice and freeing the oppressed gets a one way ticket to damantion because he is the wrong religion. What kind for rational common sense idea of justice is that? What sort of charicature idea of a god would allow for an infantile conclusion?

    This is Faily tale religion at its worst. Frankly, the distortions that result from such a literalist construction of sacred Scripture are as mind-numbingly ludicrous as they are ultimately self-defeating. If Christianity is to survive it has to be more than a comic-book religion.

  3. Thanks Seeker and Rick,

    You both said it better than I did.