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.
13 thoughts on “The Magic of Genesis: My Old Beliefs”
Re “1. Galaxies as we know them weren’t discovered until a few hundred years ago.” Actually less than 100 years ago (in the 1920’s).
Your creationism “picture” of reality wasn’t complete because there was no intention of making it complete (and never has been). They told only the stories need to deliver the message (. . . and do you know what the moral of the story is, boys and girls?). Christianity is the source fo the disease (Original Sin) and the cure (salvation) and it just needs to establish a few facts (creation, original sin, Jesus resurrection) and they are good to go. Of course, none of these make any sense or are supportable, but the stories are good enough to be impressed upon young minds.
Do not blame yourself for believing them. You were propagandized with the support of your family.
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Original sin story myth is there because there needs to be an explanation or illustration that there is a need for redemption and salvation through Christ as remedy for a God-man separation. God must be able to express His love, mercy and forgiveness due to a separation . If there’s no separation there’s no need for Christ. Adam and Eve story of origin of original sin is merely a poetic way of postulating that man is separated from God both by plan and by man’s choice (they kicked God out of the garden not vice versa) and in my own thinking I need no story or myth to qualify that I am incomplete without Christ. This makes sense and is supportable to me. So I don’t interpret iriginal sin as Calvin and others portray it. It’s original separation which is inherent in the God-man relationship. I am separated not of sin. Besides I didn’t eat any of that damn apple and reject that I am a co-conspiritor in their foolishness.
Way back whenever, I always took the Adam and Eve story to be a fable or a “Just So” story, rather than actual history. I was actually a pretty devout believer back then, which suggests that Christianity doesn’t actually need the Adam & Eve bit.
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You were not alone in believing genesis true. And you are among the few people who having been brought up believing genesis true, alter their beliefs. The world is full of genesis believers
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Genesis Creation ? All ancient cultures had a creation story. I think the ancients, Hebrews and other cultures, were just too knowledgeable of mathematics and astronomy and universal processes to believe Genesis Creation in their own time. The Hebrew experience with God as it is written needs a starting point that’s all. Even today’s Jewish scholars understand the earth and universe are billions of years old and scientific theories of evolution are legitimate. All that has nothing to do with the story of the Hebrew people and their relationship with God. Besides, we know the universe is expanding and note the blooming of new galaxies so creation is not an event but an ongoing process. I think Abraham was a true historical person kind of a George Washington for that culture. Besides , Paul needs an Abraham as he tries to teach the Jews that they need no longer follow the Law but there was a new Covenant – a Covenant of Faith. Before Moses there was no Law only a Covenant of Faith which Abraham had with God as did his subsequent descendants. So this new Covenant of Faith was not something new or contradictary or blasphemous but a return to the original Covenant of Faith alone held with Abraham. A person can lead a Christian lifestyle whether he believes in Genesis Creation or scientific evolution. Faith and science are on two different planes and they do not intersect. So an attempt to disprove faith and religious traditions with science is just as foolish as trying to disprove science with Biblical text. An acceptance of science in no way caused me any disillusionment with the Bible and my faith’s validity.
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Faith and science intersect when faith makes claims regarding the natural world. Thousands of churches across the world make the claim that the Genesis creation myth literally happened. Furthermore, they don’t allow for people picking and choosing to follow their deity’s law.
Your view of biblical metaphor has its own problems. Which stories are literal and which aren’t? How is one supposed to tell the difference? What’s the purpose of writing something down if it is to be selectively listened to and enforced? Why even bother including the OT if these are just stories that could be re-written to better effect?
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Re OT we have to try to discern what is folklore, what is actual history, and what is didactic like the Job story. I don’t believe Job and God conversed. The lesson is the soverignty of God and that it is human folly to expect chocolate chip cookies all the time in life. Much of American history is full of mythology and enhancements that are completely unfounded and even silly. No proof George Washington cut down a cherry tree and no proof he never told a lie . But that does not discredit our recorded history as fact. So why wou;ld one dismiss the entire Bible due to the inclusion of myth ? Myths are teaching tools and can be appreciated as such decoupled from facts. Other parts are song and poetry other parts Benjamin Franklin type wisdom. The names of geographic places, wars and battles, kings and such like David I can accept as history as all can be cross referenced with other sources of the time. OT has been a valuable and useful tool for archaeologists, historians and social anthropologists in study of ancient history and in that sense Adam and Eve irrelevant. The most important parts of the OT for Christians is the prophesies re the Messiah that would later come. Jesus and Paul both repeatedly say “for it is written” to legitimize their claims. “Faith and science intersect when faith makes claims regarding the natural world.” My point was that if people do make an intersect their entire thinking is non foundational and truly apples and oranges. Yes, thousands of churches do claim Genesis Creation true . “Because the Bible says so” is no defence or offence re science but only in matters of faith, faith meaning religious precepts not faith in Genesis Creation. That is their choice. But we know the earth is not a mere 6,000 years old . It is the Jewish experience which is 6,000 years old and recorded in OT. That record is not a history of origen the planet and if present day Jews understand it that way and accept science it seems a rational person could understand that. After all the Jews wrote the OT. It’s their Bible. So who do these flat earth Christians think they are telling us and the Jews what the Jewish Bible means re Creation? A brontosaurus and a man walking the same forest ? Quite a silly notion. We should refrain from picking and choosing the protocols of Christian living because we are not to adapt the NT to satisfy a self designed faith like cafeteria Catholics who support abortion. It is us who must adapt to the teaching of Christ. “Stories that could be written for better effect ? Well that might be true but these are the stories they used and have been passed on and handed down. “Selectively listened to and enforced” ? I don’t follow the Mosaic Law as recorded. It is the law they followed in that time. It is not upon which I base my faith as Paul also tells us not to do. So I’m not really picking and choosing when I eat a good Bar-B-Q pork sandwich and am not violating God’s covenant. .
Myths are teaching tools and can be appreciated as such decoupled from facts. — True enough, but how many believers accept this about the bible as a whole?
What makes your selection of literal and figurative interpretation more valid than a Westboro Baptist’s? Or a cafeteria Catholic’s for that matter?
I get that you feel your interpretation of Paul in the NT has some bearing on this discussion, but it really doesn’t. All a literalist Christian needs to claim is some other interpretation of the NT to undermine your own. That’s what millions of them do, every day. Your experience might be different, but it doesn’t wipe away theirs, either.
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I’m possibly going out on a limb here and someone might end up sawing it off, but to some extent doesn’t it all hinge on the authority that some believers attribute to the Bible? If you subscribe to the notion that the Bible is literally the Word of God, accurately describes history, and is without error then you need to perform some amazing feats of intellectual gymnastics to make it a coherent document. It also means that any interpretation other than your own is wrong.
However, if you don’t start from that premise, then the basis on which you approach the Bible is entirely different. It would appear that Carl D’Agostino places greater trust in the historical accuracy of the NT than in the OT, but many Christians do not. This makes room for multiple interpretations, none any more true that any other as there’s no absolute objective “Truth” to reference. This was the background that I grew up in.
Sure, I heard many Bible stories, but i also heard and loved stories from a very different culture with it’s own mythology including creation stories, the relationship between man and the gods and the nature of good and evil. I also heard stories of an egotistical frog who had a mole and rat as friends and stole motor vehicles, a toy bear that had a passion for honey and composing poetry, a selfish giant, a little angel whose halo kept falling off, wicked step parents, a kingdom where everyone fell asleep for a century, and many, many more.
I do feel for those who were required to believe any of the above stories to be factually true, and this includes the Bible. While I was never in that position, as an undiagnosed autistic I was feed many lies about my worth as a human being by both my peers and those in authority. Coming to terms with firstly learning to accept the lies as “Truth” and then later to discover their falsity is indeed difficult to process.
I do commend you for the process you are going through. My experience is vastly different from yours and so it’s inevitable that I won’t always agree with your conclusions. I find religion beneficial to myself, but I don’t see it as a necessary ingredient for everyone, and in fact for many who are leaving a faith tradition, it’s probably the best move they can make.
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Just in case it makes any difference to you, I think the fact you’re “analyzing” your old beliefs and recognizing their weaknesses is VERY healthy! 👏👏👏
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SIRIUS BIZINUS “All a literalist Christian needs to claim is some other interpretation of the NT to undermine your own. That’s what millions of them do, every day. Your experience might be different, but it doesn’t wipe away theirs, either.”
Yes this is true and I have engaged in civil conversation with such believers but it would be foolish of me to try to convinve them to change their views. But my responses are meant to address your personal experience and to express the hope that the lies(misconceptions) you addressed here should not make you dismissive of Christianity as a whole and dismiss it as a meaningful part of your life. In my opinion the Catlicks have invented all kinds of non scriptural beliefs and I follow Protestant thinking in my case but their inventions or the views of other Protestants do not make me dismiss the faith or lose my faith or feel cheated. Hopefully one can experience the personal Jesus (perhaps God reveals himself to different people in different ways) and not be side tracked by the theological intellectualism or non intellectual or to be respectful – alternative views – notions of literalists. It is unfortunate that the preposterous ideas of some literalists would cause a person’s Christian faith to collapse or be abandoned. The teachings of Jesus remain true and hopeful despite all the accountrements men have attached to his teachings upon which we debate. Then of course there is that leap of faith thing that “modern” Christians have made joining others over the last 2,000 years who have also made the leap despite apprehensions or doubt.
I recall discussing these matters with you several years ago but I recall your visits to my cartoon blog and so return a vist here. I have withdrawn from most religion blogs and political blogs and facebook junk and my mental health and serinity has improved a great deal.
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