The Magic of Genesis: Problems With Creation

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Looking back on things, I realize that I never fully appreciated the implications of believing in a divine creation. Some of the flaws were open and obvious. Even if one dismisses them as part of fable or moral fiction, this still doesn’t justify adherence to any deity, let alone the one in Genesis.

Let’s start with the obvious flaws.

As an explanation how everyone got here, Genesis is pretty vague. Things are created in stages. Dark, light, heavens, earth, and so on. Humanity was created male and female in Chapter 1, while Adam and Eve were created in Chapter 2. It’s not clear what is where and when. And really, I never caught that day and night were created before the Sun and the Moon.

It should have been obvious that the Genesis myth isn’t supposed to be taken literally by anyone with a post-20th Century understanding of the world. However, this hasn’t stopped plenty of Christians from teaching otherwise. At least one of those points – Adam and Eve – has been used to justify discrimination against homosexual couples. So, it’s hard to ignore the relevant harm of convincing people that Genesis creation really happened.

But what about treating it as allegory?

There are people who do argue for a more allegorical approach to the Genesis creation myth. Loopholes abound, trying to explain away a creation tale that can’t stand up to what humanity knows about the universe today. Here’s an article claiming Moses wrote Genesis (despite allegedly going onto a mountain and talking it over with Yahweh), so it has to be interpreted in a way that Moses intended. Here’s an article that says Genesis isn’t to be taken literally (but that the story is still legitimate in some way). And here’s yet another viewpoint which sidesteps the issue of taking Genesis literally by blaming the people who do take it literally. Finally, here’s William Lane Craig’s take on the matter in the form of a response to a question by one of his readers.

Even if one takes a kind view of these options, it still looks self-serving. No, Genesis didn’t literally happen, but it describes something that could have happened. Or maybe it’s just an epic preamble, as stories back then were wont to have. Or, it’s possible that the myth should be taken seriously as pointing to a deeper truth.

The first option appeals to the gaps in human understanding. The second ought to dismiss Genesis creation as an artistic flourish. The third can be a bit tricky. While one might try to find valid meaning from a story, this doesn’t require the supernatural to make it happen.

None of this justifies attaching a supernatural reality to a natural reality.

This is the most pushback I seem to get on the topic from supporters of Christianity. Even if I accept that a person could teach Genesis as a metaphor for the order of the universe, this doesn’t mean someone should accept a deity ordered it. No deity has to be involved in common observation of the cosmos.

None of this changes if someone believed in a literal Genesis or an allegorical one. Wisdom, good ideas, or just feeling good aren’t the sole demesne of magical beings that talk things into existence. People are capable of finding these things on their own without divine assistance.