Andrew Sullivan has been running a few posts on ‘Why Atheists Need to Come Out.’ Here’s my whimsical reformulation of a recent item in the thread:
I’m enjoying the discussion about creationists and rationality. Unlike some of your other creationist readers, I’m not particularly offended that we’re often seen as stupid. It’s fairly obvious that the reason we’re viewed that way by atheists is that they haven’t had much real-life contact with rational, logical creationists. It reminds me very much of how conservatives who haven’t interacted with a real gay person often call that community immoral. It’s simply fear of the unknown. My own experience speaks to this.
I grew up a in the Bay Area, surrounded by a liberal, secular peer group. In my elementary school, creationism (and Christianity more generally) was literally unthinkable – it didn’t even occur to me that people could believe in Jesus. In high school, I met my first creationist, and he was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He was super nerdy like me, and we bonded over our similarities. The fact that someone could be so smart and also reject evolution was somewhat shocking to me at the time.
As I slowly converted to evangelical Christianity during college, I would always think back to him as my model of a truly good creationist.
My own view of rationality slowly evolved away from needing evolution towards a more fluid explanation. We are social animals in a harsh world. To survive, we needed meaning and hope. We need something that allows us to work together against the elements – a moral code. God is needed. I do hope that, eventually, this will become the prevailing view.
In order for this to happen, we need more people like my high school friend. We need more creationists who are soft-spoken and genuinely good, loving, intelligent people who can demonstrate by example that creationists aren’t frightening anarchists. Conversion doesn’t happen in debates or through legislation – evangelicals have known this for a long time. Conversion occurs through many personal interactions over years.
I dislike the approach of the Ken Hams not because I disagree with their views, but because their methods push people away from creationism. It’s insanely counterproductive. Who wants to be friends with the self-righteous bully? As much as I love Ham’s passion, clear-mindedness, and brutally logical arguments, I think my high school friend was a much better advocate for creationism. In the same way that the gay community slowly won the argument by being out and showing that they’re just like the rest of us, we creationists need to be out and demonstrate kindness, love and intelligence to our neighbors.
By the way, the fact that I’m not completely out tears me apart. My mother is a very devout secularist with an anxiety disorder. I fear that telling her about my true beliefs would cause her enormous emotional strife. She might truly believe I’m a complete idiot. Who could put that sort of burden on his mother? I hope that, eventually, our society will evolve to a more accepting view of creationists, so that people like me won’t have to be in the closet.