As a child, I believed the creation myth in Genesis actually happened, in seven days. I believed the Garden of Eden was a real place. I believed a deity drowned most of humanity in a great flood. And, I believed Abraham was a real person who really did get his information from a real deity. Basically, if it happened in Genesis, I thought it had happened in real life. Right now, I just want to focus on the creation myth.
These views had to change over time.
Growing up, hearing about the universe and current theories of cosmology, I began to see that the biblical accounts of creation didn’t quite talk about the universe as I knew it. There wasn’t a “galaxy day” in Genesis 1. Galaxies as we know them weren’t discovered until a few hundred years ago. As a cosmogony – an explanation of the origin of the cosmos – Genesis left a bunch of stuff out.
I had to do some mental gymnastics in order to keep a belief that Genesis wasn’t wrong, but still account for the origin of stuff outside the text. Fortunately for my faith (and unfortunately for me), I saw the limited scope of Genesis as a god-sized gap for creating a universe. Maybe Genesis only discussed the creation of the Earth.
Evolution and natural history created a few more wrinkles. If the Earth was only a few thousand years old, how could rock formations be billions of years old? How could fossils exist in rock formations that were millions of years old? How could chemicals that take eons to come about in nature exist? The world was older than I originally thought it must be, but I had a belief system that said otherwise.
My response was to selectively distance myself from the accounts of Genesis in favor of a more metaphorical reading. I kept this much to myself, as I was aware of the dangers of picking and choosing what to believe. In essence, I told myself that I still believed in the letters of what was written. I just thought the ideas behind the words were different.
Eventually my belief in creation was a shrug.
Towards the end of my faith, I had discovered that I distanced myself in practical terms from believing in the 100% inerrancy of the Genesis myth. I never called it a myth. Instead, I thought that there was something wrong with my understanding. I still wanted to believe everything happened in Genesis just like it said, but there was something that I had to be missing.
This was intellectually sloppy, but it’ll be part of a pattern when I talk about other matters of my old faith. The only explanation I can give is that I somehow recognized the importance of divine creation on my overall views of religious belief itself. I had seen others make concessions for their faith and lose it to varying degrees. Such an outcome was something I couldn’t even contemplate. So, instead of recognizing that I had lost concrete belief in my faith’s creation myth, I had to tell myself to suspend belief against it until after I died.
Bottom line, if someone asked me if I believed the Earth was created, I’d say yes. I wouldn’t say I knew how, or why, or the manner of its creation. The best anyone could get from me was a shrug and a sheepish grin.
All told, my beliefs weren’t really complete.
It took leaving my faith behind to finally see how little I examined the idea of magical beings creating a cosmos. Biblical accounts are limited in their scope and understanding of the universe as most people know it today. To believe these accounts, one has to be willfully or selectively blind. Next time, I want to explore how limited my biblical creationist viewpoint really was.