A recent conversation on Google+ got me to thinking about a dialogue between Christians and Atheists. The OP was wondering if the 7-day creation myth could be reconciled with science, would it make a difference to me.
I had a couple of responses to that and most of them ended with “nope”.
First, the only way to ‘reconcile’ the Biblical creation myth with science is to remove it. There is no part of either creation myth in the Bible that can, in any way, be considered an accurate description of reality. It’s a myth, a fictional story, and that’s all it ever can be. If one chooses to believe in that myth over reality, then there can be no dialogue. If one chooses to ignore one’s holy book (on that point), but continues to hold to other impossible issues (Jesus rising from the dead, for example), then one could be accused of cherry-picking or hypocrisy.
Second, the issue with religion isn’t that atheists don’t want to talk about it. I’ve had a number of relatively pleasant conversations with Christians about science and/or the Bible. The issue is that the Christians, ultimately, have a goal. That goal is to make sure that everyone is believing in the same delusion that they are. That’s the whole point of evangelism. To bring the Word of God to the sinners or kill them.
Yes, I exaggerate slightly here. But I can be forgiven my exaggeration because that’s what we see on the news. These are the Christians that are speaking out, not the quiet people who just want to go to church.
Third, my issue with religion is not only that it ignores science and forces belief over the scientific method, but there are so many other issues involved with it. The person who started the discussion didn’t seem to realize that Jesus advocated for slavery.
Finally, my issue is with the OPs assumptions about atheism, starting with atheism equals science. For the hundred billionth time, atheism is only a lack of belief in gods. The fact that being an atheist and the ability to use science reasoning and critical thinking are highly correlated does not mean that they are the same.
So, can atheists and Christians have a dialogue?
Sure, why not. But it will likely end up in two people talking past each other. They don’t use the same definitions. They don’t have a common understanding about (almost) anything. It’s like a tiger shark and a flea arguing about Top Chef. It might be interesting for a while, but it’s ultimately useless.
The atheist will require evidence and the Christian can’t understand why the Bible and personal experience aren’t sufficient. The Christian wants to spread the word of a life changing experience and the atheist can’t understand how a myth can be life altering. (That’s a good question really. Have you ever read or watched something fictional that still had a major impact on your life?)
Here’s my take on this. I really enjoyed a particular science fiction series (up until the final chapters of the final book, but I digress). Within this book, everyone on Earth finally came to the conclusion that religion was harmful. A pact was formed called The White Covenant. There were only two rules and it was quite simple. The religious cannot evangelize and everyone follows the same laws.
I think that’s a pretty good starting point. If someone wants to worship God, Allah, Thor, Cthullu, the FSM, Hecate, Satan, or Christina Applegate, I surely don’t care. But that doesn’t mean that person should be allowed to attack people who don’t follow his beliefs. He should be allowed to claim religious exemption for anything because of his beliefs. And, for sure, he should not be allowed to commit (otherwise) illegal acts because of his beliefs.
Further, I don’t think that myths have any place in determining policy… in any environment; business, government, hospital, or home.