I was first published in the Star when I wrote a ‘Letter to the editor’ in which I shared another letter I wrote to the Mayor of Port Saint Joe asking him to show his support for marriage equality; not surprisingly I never heard back from Mayor Magidson on that matter. After which I was given the opportunity to write a weekly op-ed, my first being on the removal of the nativity scene on the lawn of City Hall in Chipley. I’ve decided to revisit the topic of religious overreach in a series I will call ‘The threat of Fundamentalism’. I’m going to go out on a limb and risk some blowback by sharing what I believe to be an unpopular opinion around these parts: That the biggest threat to individual liberty and this nation as a whole is religious fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism to be exact.
Fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous; I believe few Americans would argue the oppression that is taking place in the Middle East under the theocratic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Eqypt or Iran. We have sat back and watched the suppression of women’s rights, the acceptance of genocide and terrorism across the globe all in the name of Allah; and now I see a much more subversive but very calculated form of terrorism taking place on my own soil, by my fellow Americans, all in the name of Jesus Christ.
A couple of weeks ago I watched the much anticipated debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the evolution vs. creationism debate. For those of you who are not familiar with Ken Ham he is a young earth creationist who believes the Bible, the book of Genesis specifically, is the literal infallible truth of God; he is also the founder of the Creationist Museum in Kentucky.
As I listened to Ken Ham’s rational for believing such lunacy as the earth is only 6,000 years old and the great flood literally took place only 4,000 years ago I found myself awe struck at how powerful the movement had become; here we are, in 2014, arguing a “truth” that even Pat Robertson himself calls crazy, now that is saying something.
The fundamentalist battles against the reliable and factually based theories that make up evolution as a valid origin of man are understandable. If I was devoutly religious I too would have a difficult time reconciling my belief in the God of Christianity, but I wouldn’t condone reshaping the facts to fit my narrative. My issue isn’t with the Christian’s who are happy to allow anyone to worship God as they so choose, and who are confident enough in their faith to leave a relationship with God outside of the classroom. What I take issue with are those that wish to legitimize their fanciful, and let’s face it, absurd notions of origin by creating a pseudoscience and then ask the rest of us to allow them to teach such nonsense alongside genuine science.
Men like Ken Ham, and evangelical Christians all over the country, have unjustly turned Charles Darwin into some type of menace, an anti-Christ if you will, simply for bringing to light several mechanisms at play within the beautiful scheme of nature. They have oversimplified his findings to “I ain’t come from no monkey!” To them teaching evolution is a direct threat to their core system of beliefs, that man is made in the image of God so he can’t possibly be reduced to the likes of an animal. Oh how our interpretations of God are encased in such ego.
What upsets me the most about the teaching of creationism is its absolutes; there is no “wiggle room” in fundamental Christianity. A very telling moment happened during the Ham/Nye debate, when the moderator asked both men what, if anything, would change their minds Bill Nye answered simply, “Evidence. Show me evidence of the great flood. If you can do that you would change the world.” And Ham’s response, “No one is going to convince me that the word of God is untrue.” That worries me, an unwavering confidence even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary. Under different circumstances that confidence may be admirable, but when telling the youth of our country to stop asking questions and just settle for what this one book says is, as a patriot, unacceptable.
For the religious out there, let’s look at it from a different perspective: If this were Tom Cruise asking for the public schools to teach Scientology’s origin of man alongside evolution how would you feel? Sounds ludicrous, right? Well, that is how I feel when my children are threatened with the possibility of being taught that Noah was a real man who stuffed every species of animal onto one boat 4,000 years ago. When you support teaching creationism in the school you are denying mine, and my children, the freedom to find God on our terms. Darwin belongs in the classroom. Noah belongs in Sunday school.
If you can’t fit the theory of evolution into the framework built by your religious convictions then that is your journey to undertake, but don’t make the future of this country give up wondering and asking questions simply because you think you have it all figured out. I will close with a quote from Darwin himself: “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist, in the sense of denying the existence of God. I feel very deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might just as well speculate on the mind of Newton.”
Loren Siprell is a resident of Port St. Joe