A story about going from being creationst to the opposite
It must have been about ten years ago if I remember well. One of my friends used the word “creationist”. I did not know the word, although I understood it right away. I also knew I was one of those “creationists”. I am sure, my friend neither wanted to address me personally, nor put me in a box. Although I admit, I felt accused of being convinced about something very bad. After I thought a bit (or actually a lot) about the word “creationist” and I got proud of believing the fact that a divine entity, someone I called God, created the heavens and the earth. Of course, I knew that the word “heavens” is not sufficient at all. The universe is much bigger and more complex than clouds and a blue sky — even if those clouds and the sky were a home for some higher power. But the term “heavens and the earth” was something I have been taught since I was a very little boy, so I kept using it. Just like I believed in the fact that God was the responsible entity, the architecture of everything.
At that time, I was about 34 years old. 34 years I had been a Christian, and at that time, I would still have some Christian years in front of me. I thought I would die as a Christian. Could I think different? I was less than one week old, when I was baptized. My mother was still in the hospital, so my dad brought me into the church, where some man in a black suit (I assume) put some water on my head, and said: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. And that should be the sign of a treaty between me and God, a treaty that should ensure me God would never let me go.
The first crack
Before I shook the term “creationist” off me (but after my friend introduced me to that word), I had a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness. He gave me flyer, which told me the world had existed in exactly 6039 years. I guess this flyer was not an official Jehova’s Witness publication, since Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to their website, do not believe the world is just a couple of thousand years old. But the man, who gave me the flyer, was highly convinced about the fact, that God created the heavens and the earth (at that time) 6039 years ago. And that was the subject of our discussion.
I told the man that I was convinced about the fact God (or, as that man called him: Jehovah), created everything, but that the bible does not tell how. According to the bible, God spoke, and it became. The bible (well, depending on which version of the bible you read) does not tell whether or which words God spoke, besides that he expressed his wishes (“Let there be light”), and/or if those words were accompanied by other actions. And that was the first crack in my belief. While discussing with this Jehovah’s Witness, I remembered the word “creationist”. I did not mention it to this man, but after he was gone, I began researching. I found out that I was not the only person in the world who had doubted the fact that things were created by just words. I also remembered a long forgotten discussion, I once had with my dad.
Many years ago, my dad made a spreadsheet, with the ages of all the men, mentioned in the bible, prior to the Flood — and later extended to all the men, mentioned in the bible, prior to the birth of Jesus. He concluded, that if Adam died 930 years old, got a son called Seth at an age of 130 years old, and Seth died 912 years old, the world must have been 1,042 years old when Seth died. I discussed this with my dad and said: If Adam had birthday (haha) 31st of December, and died December 30th, he actually became 931 years minus one day. If Seth was born the 30th of December, and died December 31st, he became 912 years and one day old. Then the world would 1,043 years old when Seth died, not 1,042. And that are only two men, we are looking at. What would happen, if the same occurred with, let’s say, 50 men? The world would suddenly become 25 years younger or older. So twenty five years is obviously not a problem to miscalculate. What about 100 years? 1,000 years? One million years?
A whole new world
I began thinking about that, after my discussion with the Jehovah’s Witness. And a simple search on Google taught me, that there is some movement, called Intelligent Design, also called neo-creationism. In 2013, I officially declared myself neo-creationist. Whomever wanted to hear it or not, I told them, that the world, the other planets, our galaxy and other galaxies (note: no longer “the heavens and the earth”) were created by “some very clever architect”, which I coincidentally call God. I tried to proof my (and other’s) theory by the fact, that the bible says, that to God, thousand years mean nothing, they are merely a day gone by (Psalms 90:4). So, that might also be the fact for a thousand times a thousand equals one million. And therefore, also a million times a million equals one billion years.
If the universe, and by that, life, could be so old, then many scientific theories could be true anyway. I mean, my dad’s calculation on the age of the earth could be wrong by at last 25 years, but if the earth is only a couple of thousand years old, dinosaurs would never have existed. That might be the reason, the Christian school I attended as a preteen almost expertly avoided the subject dinosaurs. In history lessons, the earliest period I was told about, was the time when mammoths lived in Europe. Another subject was also distinguished from the history books: Great Apes. The term Homo Sapiens is something I discovered much later — as a schoolboy I had to learn the creationist way. But now, where I finally found out, that dinosaurs actually could have existed, not only in Hollywood, but also in the real world, a whole new world opened in front of me: the world of science. That was a much bigger crack than the first one.
Before I continue, I need to go a bit back in my life. In 2002, I broke with my church. Not because I was in doubt of my religion, but only in doubt of the organizational structure. According to the church’s doctrine, I was attending (The Reformed (Liberated) Church in The Netherlands), the church believes in something called “Sola Scriptura” — Latin for “Only the Scriptures”. But when I did not comply to some rules in the church, I always got referred to something called The Three Forms of Unity. I found that those Three Forms not always were consistent with the bible. But when I pointed that out, I was treated like I was a huge sinner. That was the (short) reason why I decided to break with my church. I did not drop my conviction and beliefs. Not at that time.
Around my break with my church, my former boss gave me a book: Letters from a skeptic, written by Edward K. Boyd and Greg Boyd. Very interesting reading. Especially the chapter about internal and external sources, that proves a theory. As Edward Boyd writes, you cannot proof the bible by using the bible as its proof. To that, Greg Boyd responds, that there are many things that can be used as (good) indicators that the theory holds or not. Some of those things are internal, some are external. To proof the alleged fact that Jesus was an existing figure in the ancient Roman world, Greg Boyd points to secular work from other persons from the same ancient Roman world, such as Josephus, Pliny, Thallus and Suetonius. Those are external sources. Boyd claims, that if those men, whose credibility is very high, wrote about Jesus, then it cannot be a lie, if another non-eye witness as Luke writes about the same man, especially when another man (Matthew), who actually is an eye witness also writes the same (internal sources).
But the information from the external sources is very scarce. Luke, the non-eye witness, uses (according to Boyd) eye-witnesses. The Israelian-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman distinguishes between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self”. Many people are convinced about remembering something while they actually haven’t. That is why eye witnesses are so dangerous. I really remember putting my glasses on a shelf in the living room when I was 4 years old. When I could not find my glasses afterwards, my mother got mad at me. Her anger got worse, when my older brother found my glasses somewhere upstairs, on a place where we were not supposed to be. Although I don’t know why my brother could be there without retaliation, I still am not sure if I really put my glasses on the bookshelf or not. That’s why I don’t give a penny for the value of Luke’s and Matthew’s reproduction of the life of Jesus.
The scientific proof of a theory
Back to my story. Although I do not entirely agree with father and son Boyd, I do agree with a part of it: the external sources that proof/disproof a theory. The higher the credibility of a source, the more or less probable is the theory. And that is the problem with Intelligent Design: there is no external source with high credibility that proofs the theory, but there are lots of external sources with high credibility, that disproof the theory. Sure, there are Christian academies and colleges. But they are all internal sources. They “proof” their own theory from their own thoughts — perhaps from several individuals who believe the same. They point to each other and say: “like he said” or “like she said” or “like they said”. And that is why I began doubting the Intelligent Design theory — the theory wasn’t based on proof.
It started by reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Very paradoxically, the author, who died in 2012, was a convinced Christian. But he tells that the first of the seven habits is “being proactive”. The way I grew up, the way I was a Christian, was very reactive:
1. We accept we are sinners
2. We can confess our sins to God (with or without anyone else to hear) and mean it.
3. God forgives, not only once, even not only seven times, but infinitive (seventy times seven times)
So, I can sin whenever I want, I just can pray to God, that I regret, and God will forgive. The only thing is: you have to mean it. But if I really hate a certain habit, I can just pray, and the consequences will be gone. That means, you do not have any responsibility for your actions. That is reactive. So, when I finished reading The Seven Habits (which I really believe are good habits!), I decided that I cannot be religious and proactive at the same time. I have a responsibility for my actions, and I cannot have a deity to cover for me. And that is what Christianity is about.
Now that I quitted religion, I might decide what I believe. There is a very thin line between believe and religion. But do I believe the existence of God? Of a god? Of an architect? Of some divine power? Of nature forces? Actually: no. I believe, there is more between heaven and earth, or actually, more than I understand. But just because I don’t understand does not mean that it is mystic or divine. It only says something about my intelligence and knowledge.
I do understand it when people need a prayer. If somebody is having a hard time, it can be very relieving to pray. When my wife and I lost a child in a pregnancy, I prayed: “God, if you really exist, then help me”. That is the only time I prayed in the last six years.
I remember an episode when I still lived in The Netherlands. My wife, my girlfriend at that time, lives in Denmark. I was on my way from The Netherlands to Denmark, and we agreed I’d be there about eight in the evening. But something at work took more time than expected, and I left my work about four hours later than planned. At that time, I had two cell phones: a Dutch number with subscription, and a Danish prepaid number. Back in 2002, prepaid numbers could only be used in the country where they are registered. But I had forgotten to pay the bill for my Dutch phone. While driving in Germany, I could neither use my Dutch nor my Danish phone. So, I could not inform my girlfriend, that I would arrive around midnight instead of eight o’clock. In my naivety, I prayed to God: “Please tell my girlfriend that nothing happened to me, I am just delayed”. Then, I looked on my Danish phone which stood in my handless car set, and suddenly I saw “TDK Mobil” on the display: my phone found the Danish network “TDK Mobil”. That could not be possible: I was driving between Bremen and Hamburg, at least 150 km. from the Danish border. The Danish phone company does not have coverage there. And without coverage, the display would be empty.
I called my girlfriend, and she was very happy to hear my voice. I spoke to her about 90 seconds, and when I hung up, the text “TDK Mobil” disappeared, and did not return until I passed the Danish border.
I cannot explain it. But I am very, very sure, that there is a logical explanation. We are talking techniques her. And wherever there is technique, things go wrong. It happened right after I prayed. Coincidence? Perhaps. I do not know. Was it God? Was it a technical flaw? Was it both? Was it none of the above? You decide. I am happy with my beliefs. Or lack of it.