Despite straying from a traditional Christian upbringing, I still enjoy commenting on religion. Because, no matter what you say, there’s no chance of ever offending someone. (Ha! Get it?)
(It’s funny because it’s not true)
I enjoy discussing religion because it fascinates me. In it’s purest form, it has been the guiding force of civilizations since the dawn of mankind. I respect faith in the sense that it is necessary for a functioning society. As well as the fact that many Americans take it for granted. It’s easy to become a non-believer in the U.S. due to the fact there are far less daily existential threats (disease, famine, war, etc.). But in places like the Middle East, Africa, and Texas, I believe people truly need spirituality as a crutch. That’s what faith is for. And that’s fine. But it’s not fine when religious beliefs nullify logic. It’s not fine when conclusions are made based on blind faith. Not when it infringes on the beliefs of others. Especially not in American politics.
In a recent Pew Research poll titled “Public Views on Human Evolution”, 64% of white American evangelical Protestants believe in creationism (the belief that “God” created man). Now, you’re probably asking, how is that related to policymakers in D.C.? Here’s another poll by the Pew Research Center, illustrating The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress. 57% of the House identifies as protestant, as well as 52% of the Senate. How does that relate to Republicans? According to the first poll, 48% of Republicans deny evolution (a 9% increase over 4 years) (astonishing). The majority of protestants in both the House and Senate are Republican. So, basically, there’s a chance that the majority of policymakers in D.C. believe science is a lie.
In America, policy decisions on a federal level are normally unaffected by the religious beliefs of policy makers. However, state and local governments are more vulnerable. In November 2013, the Texas Board of Education delayed approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory. (For the record, a “theory” is defined as a collection of facts intended to explain something) (but that’s beside the point). According to the New York Times, Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer and financial adviser, was a member of the review panel chosen to evaluate the textbook. He raised concerns, citing “[the book] gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” If you told me that same quote was from someone referring to the Bible, I would have believed it.
It sounds alarmist but it’s unnerving when the majority religion in Congress is also (overwhelming) the majority religion of evolution-deniers. Now, I doubt that the majority of Protestants in the House and Senate are creationists. Where they fall on the spectrum of conservative evangelical and mainline Protestant is unclear. But their faith (regardless of denomination) is still relevant.
My generalization is that Protestants likely vote for fellow Protestants to represent them in congress. These congressmen and congresswomen probably have similar beliefs if they were able to convince their constituents to elect them in the first place. So, where do their beliefs align? The thought of someone in a position of power who denies evolution is concerning. Because to deny the theory of evolution is to deny truth. Denying truth is to embrace blind faith. And blind faith, as we know, can be dangerous.
The majority of my childhood was spent in Catholic school. I’ve not only read the “The Bible” but I’ve studied it. I’ve also studied “The Origin of Species”. One is a book of parables that can be loosely applied to someone’s life in order to better themselves. The other is a foundation of a theory supported by indisputable facts. That’s the difference between a creationist and myself: objectivity. I’ve seen both sides. As much as religion fascinates me, it equally frightens me. Because despite being responsible for so much good in the world, religion is equally responsible for so much evil. As long as organized religion exists, extremism will exist, and there will never be world peace. To believe otherwise is to assume the sentimentality of a child.
But is that not why people choose to have faith? To be childlike? To be a child is to shed responsibility. To have faith in god is to shed the burden of choice. When you have faith, you don’t need to make choices. Choices are made for you by others. There’s no reason to think critically. There’s no reason to question your existence. There’s no reason to do anything besides kneel when you’re told and stand when you’re told. Our childhood is easy in the sense that it is absent of free will. Life is simpler when our choices are predetermined.
We choose to believe in creationism for the same purpose. Because it’s easier to believe there is someone watching over us–someone who created us–a parent or guardian. It’s more comforting to believe that than to believe we’re responsible for every choice in our lives–while at the same time–our life is ultimately random. It’s easier to believe that than to believe we’re alone in the universe (and descended from apes). It’s easier because having faith in a greater purpose is inherently human. It is instinctual. Religion is instinct.
“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”
UPDATE: Texas charter schools teaching creationism (Slate)