When I was an agnostic and didn’t identity as either a theist or an atheist, it was because I found it overwhelmingly arrogant of people, comparatively infinitesimal specks in this universe, to say that we know where the universe came from or where it is going. How could anyone know how old the earth is? How could anyone know what happens to us after we die? How can anyone be certain of whether or not there is a god? While I do have the humility to say that we can’t be completely sure on topics like this, I have gained the curiosity to understand that it is worth our time to try to find out and determine what it is that we believe given the information that we have.
For example, right now I do not believe that there is a god, but I do believe that the universe is almost 14 billion years old, the earth is about 4 billion years old, the universe came from the big bang, life on earth is evolving, and so on and so forth…things that your typical atheist generally believes. NOTE: all that can be said for all atheists is that they do not believe in God, but they can differ on any of these topics; however, it is popular for atheists to also agree on the rest of these statements.
I’m pretty confident in these statements. I’m pretty confident that the Bible is scientifically, geologically, and historically inaccurate. And I’m pretty confident that there is no god.
But I’m not sure. Because I’m not a scientist. In fact, I’m really bad at science. My specialties lie in art, music, and writing, but I’m hopeless when it comes to biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, algebra, or pretty much any other mathematical or scientific subject. I love and appreciate how science works and how it allows us to learn about the world around us, but when it comes to doing things like physics homework, not only am I a miserable failure at it, but I abhor it.
I know, I know: how dare I show any kind of uncertainty of my beliefs!? How dare I not be a scientific expert!? What kind of atheist am I!? I might as well be converting to Christianity right here right now.
I’m not saying that all atheists have to be scientists, but it seems as though we are generally expected to be fully capable of refuting scientific claims made in favor of biblical accuracy. If a young-earth creationist said to me, “Archaeological and geological studies are continuing to show that the Genesis flood is absolutely historically accurate,” I would say, “That’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s so much evidence that disproves it.” If they would go on to say “Oh yeah? What evidence do you know of?” I would probably start calling in backup like my friends Mason and Limey who are experts in arguing against creationism, because I myself couldn’t hold up in an argument. Not that I love arguing, but I want to be able to know that my beliefs are solid enough to hold up against those of young-earth creationists. I know that denying evolution is ignorant and ridiculous, but I don’t have the scientific training to tell you why, and that’s frustrating.
If you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen that last week, I posted a photo of a young-earth, anti-evolution library I found in my church.
On that shelf are 89 books discussing either why evolution is false, why natural science fails without a supernatural deity, why Genesis is accurate, why the young earth idea is correct, why scientific dating methods are inaccurate, etc, etc. Of course I look at that collection of books and I say, “Wow, that’s a lot of BS for one little bookshelf.” But this really annoying voice in my head just loves to play Devil’s Advocate (or Christian’s advocate?) and say “how can all of those books be incorrect!? I bet if you read them all you wouldn’t be able to refute every single thing that they said.” I do hope to read some of them; I already have Francis Collins’ The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, and The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Refuting Dawkins on Evolution caught my eye, since it is a response to Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.
Speaking of Dawkins, I was interested to see that they do have The God Delusion in their selection. 89 books for Christianity and one against it. Even though the scale does tip in favor of creationism just a bit, I respect that they at least have a representative from the other side. What worries me, though (because something always does, as you now know), is that whoever put that there probably read it, and their faith was so unshaken that they weren’t afraid to present it to their fellow Christians. I want to read Dawkins, Hitchens, and Krauss to become a more informed atheist, but if Christians can read their books and remain confident Christians, then how persuasive can they be?
Of course, I plan to make it through The Language of God and stay the (mostly) confident atheist that I am. Knowing how your beliefs hold up against those of the other side is an important part of understanding why you believe what you do. Hopefully after getting into those books and into my upcoming apologetics class come this fall semester, I’ll realize that it really was just a load of BS and that I have nothing to worry about, but it’s hard not to be a bit uneasy.
If you’re also scientifically challenged (whether you’re an atheist, a Christian, or something else), let me know in the comments how you deal with science-based arguments or debates. As always, I would love any book recommendations that support naturalistic beliefs without being overly technical.
Also: after writing this post, I came back one day and found some anti-evolution pamphlets on this bookshelf. Since they were free, I took them home, read through them, and shared my response on here. I also uploaded them so you can follow along with the madness! Read here and here.