One of the many points of Christian doctrine that is ridiculed by atheists (not yourself in particular) is the account of creation. To many atheists, Christians are fools for believing the world was created in only 6 days.
But why do atheists believe that the account of creation is to be taken literally? Or the entire bible for that matter? That seems pretty foolish, even from a Christian perspective. It's clear that different books of the bible follow different literary styles (Psalms for example, is more poetic and metaphorical, while John serves as an eyewitness account). The bible is full of metaphors to illustrate certain points. For example, a set of verses in Ezekiel says that the prophet Ezekiel prophecized a mass of bones and flesh rising from the ground to form a vast army. Essentially an army of zombies.
Now, taken alone, one might think, Ezekiel raised an army of zombies. But put into context, this is just one in a set of metaphors in the book; the meaning being breathing life into the spiritually dead.
I know by now this is farily long winded, but the point is; even Christians recognize (or should recognize) that the whole of the Bible is not meant to be taken literally.
Take this view to Genesis, and suddenly the account of Creation isn't so absurd. Take the 7 days as a metaphor and the Christian account of creation can be compatable with the scientific account of creation.
I'd like your thoughts.
1) 48% of Americans agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth*. 47% of evangelical protestants believe in the literal truth of the bible and only 24% accept evolution as the best explanation of human origins**.
2) As the statistics have shown, millions of Christians believe that NOT taking the Genesis myth literally IS the foolish thing to do. Atheists are not the ones pushing for a literal interpretation of the bible. Saying or insinuating such a thing is false
3) Why would anyone give importance to the bible in regards to scientific questions? Be it in a literal or symbolic way? Why?
4) Funny there were no metaphor proponents stating evolution could be found in Genesis before Darwin discovered evolution. What does that tell you? The Genesis account IS absurd. Only by eisegesis can one actually find evolution (or science for that matter) in Genesis (or the bible). Only by a creative and convoluted mental gymnastics can one harmonize the creation myth with scientific fact.
5) The problem with labeling something as “symbolic” is that it can mean whatever the proponent of the interpretation wants it to be as long as that person is creative enough.
6) Only religions have accounts of “creation”. In science there is no such thing as “creation” since there is no evidence of a creator to begin with.
7) If you read Ezekiel 37:1-14 (one of my favorite bible stories when I used to be a believer) you will find that the prophet was in the middle of a god induced vision. Visions in the bible (as well as dreams and parables) are symbolic by definition. Notice how at the end of the vision god himself gives the proper interpretation (37:11) needed to understand it. With Genesis we do not see such a thing. It is obvious the writers intended the Genesis story to be taken literally.If not the whole plan of salvation (Jesus dying on the cross as payment for sin) makes no sense. That would be another interesting post in itself…
See Christopher Hitchens here for an insightful take on the results of trying to marry evolution and bible theology.
8) In summary, there is no reason why the Genesis myth should be considered superior or relevant in regard to origin questions. Same with the Koran, the Popol Vuh or any other myths that came to be at the dawn of humanity. At the time where a wheel and fire where the greatest technological achievements.
Taking ancient ignorance and labeling it as “symbolic” so we can insert own modern concepts into them in an effort to make them relevant is not only unwarranted but extremely silly. It serves no real purpose and it just distracts us from the actual work of finding real answers for the workings of the universe. Work that has only been, and continues to be, addressed by science.
Sorry for being long winded myself but it was a great question.
Thank you so much for writing.