I was trawling through a conversation on why does science fiction invent new religions when the comment of one disgruntled participant grabbed me:

Unfortunately, on io9 about 95% of all religious conversation is “religion is creationists, the only smart people are atheists”. It rubs me the wrong way.

Such simplistic polarisations rub me the wrong way too, but I find myself now pausing and asking, how representative are creationists of religion? I mean globally? I mean, beyond the American bible belt? What about in Australia? What about in Europe? What about in Asian and Africa and beyond? Does anyone have any statistics?

I seem to recall past surveys in Australia indicating a 70-80% belief in God but only a 30-40% belief in hell, which suggests more than half of religious Australians, perhaps considerably more, could perhaps object to a “religion is creationists” stereotype. It would be interesting to dig deeper don’t you think?

12 thoughts on “How representative are creationists of religion?

  1. I would also add that there’s creationists and creationists even within that particular dimension. There are some well-educated, erudite people who hold a creationist viewpoint. They are aware of the problems their viewpoint has, and they reasonably and fairly come up with solutions that work (at least for them). Such people may well be scientists in the field. They often (but not always) hold “old Earth” creationist ideas, sometimes preferring to call it Intelligent design theory (though that too is starting to be tarred with the brush of creationism).
    And then there are people who say “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” No real consideration of the facts, no engagement with mainstream science.
    Sadly it is these that come more to mind for many of the people in the world who don’t believe in God, and it is understandable why they reject God if this is what they think of when they imagine Him.


  2. I should clarify that I’m referring to young earth creationists in particular, which is whom Atheists most often seem to be referring to. I not sure how many of them really realize there’s an old earth creationist alternative, let alone theist evolutionist alternative.


  3. The problem with ID, Johno, is that its proponents are trying to present it as if it’s a scientific theory rather than as the philosophical argument it really is. So far, there is no aspect of ID that is scientifically testable.
    Of course, I’ll note that if we’re specifically talking about young earth creationism, then it can’t be all that representative of religion. After all, I don’t know many Hindus or Buddhists who are young earth creationists. 😉


  4. I personally think this world is still a work in progress.
    Yep. I believe God created by starting it up somewhere, sometime.
    Guess you either do believe it – that God had some hand in it – or you don’t.
    I personally don’t subscribe to the “in 6 x 24hrs” or 6 x 8 hr working days ( I suppose according to some sort of theological/trade unionist/angelic/Holy Spirit work-place agreement set in divinized corporate industrial laws) idea.
    Don’t believe/or not believe in a `big bang’ theory either.
    To me its enough to say, “Yep. I believe God created and is Creator”. But on the fine scientific detail, I just don’t know.
    Maybe a lot of other people think that way.
    Point is, arguing about that stuff when we weren’t actually there – especially dogmatically – is fairly pointless. To me, its an issue of faith, not proven fact either way.
    Christians, Muslims and Jews and a whole host of other similarly rooted faiths all tend to believe that God is the original Creator of the world. But that’s a matter of faith ultimately.
    I am biased by my faith in that I think Jesus the Son of God had something to do with it along the lines of what is said in John1:1-18.
    I accept the fact that others may disagree with that.
    Nevertheless I think studying the science of it all is highly worthwhile to create respect for this amazingly complex creation (or whatever depending upon your view) we inhabit together with all the other living systems and bits in it.
    Having said that, I personally am not an ardent student of science. I relate more to the topic in thinking about its “artistic possibilities” and its potentially rich “meaning-making” philosophically as we ponder life’s `big’ and `smaller’ questions along the limited allotment of time we have participating in this world we live in now.
    To me, attributing the world we live in to a Creator or not has certain ethical implications for us. Maybe I’ll blog something about that at a later time.
    Not my favourite topic though.


  5. Jarod, yes, that’s part of my complaint. There’s these sweeping statements about “religion” in the singular, statements which are invariably incompatable with Hinduism and Buddism (and indeed, some variants of Christianity). When I highlight this inevitably someone will suggest that pantheistic traditions be excluded from the definition of religion. Oh, so if the evidence does not match your theory, hide the evidence? Oh yeah, real scientific that is!
    And I am totally with you on ID. My objection is not to six day creation beliefs per se, it’s to the pseudo-science that it’s proposents call science. I will repent if anyone can show me one new technology, just one, that has come from this so-called science.


  6. Hey Andrew, you’re obviously posting at the same time as me! For the record, I interpret Genesis 1 as a polemic against polytheistic imperialism, as a culture jamming inversion of Mesopotamian mythology by a rag tag bunch of exiles. It was not written to answer “how” questions, it was written to answer “who” questions. Who created? Many generations of gods? Or one God? Who is created in the image of the chief god? Only the chief? Or everyone, including women? To seek science in it is to miss its intent.


  7. Just thinking, if Eve (a female) was born our of Adam (a male)does that constitute as the 1st virgin (well it sort of is) birth?….
    Just a hairy-tic ribbing ya all a bit.


  8. I googled this issue recently and only found 4 denominations which have “6 day/young earth creation” as a doctrine. The largest denomination by far of these is the SDA’s, whose views on the Saturday sabbath of rest heavily rely on literal 6-day creationism.
    To call “young earth creationism” a mainstream Christian view is ridiculous. Even the Catholic church accepts evolution as God’s chosen method of creation.
    I suspect part of the problem (if I can steal one of your lines from a little while back) is that most of the noise comes from the shallow end of the pool… this creates the unfortunate impression the Christian faith is intrinsically anti-intellectual.


  9. Janet. It still makes wonder…actually bewilders me how, even within our own background tradition of the C’s of Ch/Baptist, and given that many Christians in that are very highly educated, that fundamentalism – e.g. literal interpretation of the Scripture such as the creation stories of Gen 1-3 still is common as a phenomenon.
    I have often met very highly educated teachers,doctors, lawyers, computer programmers and other professionals within churches who, though great critical thinkers within their profession and fairly successful, almost seem to have switched off their intellectual and critical faculties when they read the bible. When it comes to interpreting and critiquing texts like Gen 1-3 I have frequently met such who held very literalist views of scripture and especially regarded a 6 day creationist view as sacrosanct and any other view utterly heretical. I just don’t understand that! Especially from such otherwisely intelligent people!


  10. Early indoctrination from Creation Science writings/videos? One of the bones I have to pick with the non-denominational Christian school movement is they often adopt Creation Science as policy… urgh.


  11. Janet, very interesting observation about denominational doctrine. Just thinking about my own clan, the Baptists. You’re right, altough there are many six day creationists within our denomination, six day creationism is not listed as a Baptist distinctive or essential Christian doctrine.


  12. Andrew, well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I refuse to conceed the literalist high ground to fundamentalist Christians. There is much in the New Testament that they refuse to obey literally.


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