After Bill “The Science Guy” Nye’s debate with Ken “The Bible is All the Science I Need” Ham, Sean McElwee wrote a piece for the Salon that, while also taking a cheap shot at so-called “New Atheists”, made the claim that Young Earth Creationism is not a religious belief.
In a much-hyped event live-streamed last night, “Science Guy” Bill Nye set out to defend evolution in a debate with Ken Ham, the CEO of Kentucky’s Creation Museum. But there was a fundamental problem: Ham’s young-earth creationism is not a religious belief, and it certainly is not scientific. To put it bluntly, it is quackery.
While I have no argument with McElwee that YEC is quackery, claiming that it is not a religious belief is laughable. I honestly do not even believe McElwee believes it, but it fits his pro-religion stance better if he can claim it is not a religious belief.
This is a common tactic of religious apologists. Anything good and moral is due to religious beliefs, anything bad or immoral is due to either a persons base instincts or incorrect interpretations of religious doctrine. Helping the homeless? Religion. Suicide bombings? Incorrect interpretation. Feeding the hungry? Religion. Hating homosexuals? Misreadings of the Bible. You can only follow this path so far. You can argue that you can be a practicing Christian while accepting homosexuals as moral members of society. You can not argue that Leviticus 20:13* is neutral on the issue.
I would challenge those with this opinion to produce a believer in YEC who does not believe for a religious reason, but in all actuality, it doesn’t matter if they can or not. The only reason the vast majority of YEC’s believe in it is due to their religious beliefs. Michael Luciano takes on McElwee’s argument, also at the Salon:
While creationism is certainly quackery, I take issue with the idea that it is not a religious belief. Creationism is a religious belief by definition. It is the idea that god created the universe and animals in their current form less than 10,000 years ago. This may not be McElwee’s belief, but it is certainly the belief of Ham and millions of other Christians. If McElwee truly believes that young earth creationism is not a religious belief, I challenge him to produce a scientist who rejects the creation account in Genesis, but is nonetheless a young earth creationist.
The accomodationist tendency to insist that manifestations of religion that they dislike aren’t actually religious in nature is both wrong and dangerous. Accomodationists want us to believe that religious people who are morally upstanding are that way because of their religion. Yet at the same time, they take great pains to explain that those religious people who do harm actually do so for reasons other than their faith, or because they fundamentally misinterpret the underpinnings of their religion.
The only thing being misinterpreted here is the essential nature of religion. Humans can be irrational enough without adding highly subjective doctrines and moral codes into the mix. As the physicist Steven Weinberg once said of religion, “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
You can’t religion when you like the result, and deny it when you don’t. When you take religion, you have to take the condemnation of non-believers into the lake of fire along with the blessed are the meek’s.
*The text of Leviticus 20:13, NIV:
13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”