Is there any legitimacy to the claim that EC leads to atheism?

Take 2 on posting this

I watched some recent episodes on Rhett and Link’s Youtube podcast channel Earbiscuits. All four videos in their faith “deconstruction” are helpful to get all the background info. It has the story of them growing up in a North Carolina Baptist YEC church. They grew up in evangelical fundamentalism with much of the standard beliefs and culture that entails. Rhett and Link were heavily involved in CRU (Campus Crusades), mission trips, etc. Rhett’s video describes their move to California and ongoing doubts regarding Christianity. I would summarize it as believing in EC, receiving inaccurate information from friends and family about evolution as he understood it, and pondering the literal Adam/Eve creation story to see if it makes sense figuratively as so much is connected to that story. It seems to me he took the same level of scrutiny to the more central Christian teachings of historical evidence for Jesus and the Resurrection, accuracy of the Bible, and eventually reaching the conclusion that Jesus existed as a person but essentially that Christianity is built on a house of cards.

On a personal note, I watched these maybe a week ago and was already in a rabbit hole of atheist videos online encountering arguments I hadn’t heard before. Watching Rhett’s story was very painful as that’s kind of what I’ve always been taught. I come from a very similar background in so many words believing that YEC was for “faithful” Christians and everybody who said otherwise was seriously confused at best. There was no one answer or apologetic video that got me out of this spiral than perhaps the obvious revelation that doubt itself isn’t a terrible thing. It’s somewhat neutral. I think that hiding your head in the sand to science might work for some, but it’s very dangerous when you realize the cognative dissonance. Certainty itself is an idol. I want to keep an open mind, but at what point are you so “open” agnosticism is the only “answer?”

So, here’s the actual question: Is there any legitimacy to the claim that EC leads to atheism? One perspective is that such an accusation even if true has nothing to do with whether God used evolution or not. In my limited research of atheist videos, science led them away from God in their own words. If God created science, why does it betray us? In talking with a Muslim in the ID community I met online, I received a thoughtful reply “Anything and everything could lead people away from God, so science isn’t unique or special in that regard. Art, philosophy, work, relationships, etc. (anything you can think of) could also lead people away from God. But on the other hand, all those things could also lead people towards God. There is potential for good and bad in everything we pursue.”

So, I am looking into what Biologos has to say and there is certainly a wide variety of opinions on here. The simple answer is that of course God could have used evolution as He is all powerful. Getting into questions of why God does one thing over another misses the point of Job though. I just got through an article on here from a very honest individual wrestling with all the theological implications EC implies. I largely agree with how significant they are and because change scares me I might be ok with never reading another article about evolution, but that sounds like a cult-member being taught to block “outsider” info. Honestly, an eternal conscious hell is so much more a stumbling block (as it seems to be a core doctrine these days) than whether God used evolution or not. For that reason, I’ve been looking into annihilationism. Maybe that makes me theologically liberal now, but putting yourself in the narrowest possible box of Christianity isn’t helpful. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

I’ve found a couple articles on Biologos that talk about how science relates to faith, but not quite the answer I’m looking for. There very well may be a post on this forum that has similar thoughts. We’ll see how this goes, but I am interested in hearing your responses (hopefully without the theological debate).

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Here’s the link to the main podcast episode I was referencing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qbna6t1bzw

My dear friend,

First, I should warn you to be careful with those atheist rabbit holes. It’s important to engage non-believers and to understand their positions. But make sure you’re getting plenty of Scripture and wholesome, edifying and encouraging Christian exposure too.

Now I need you to clarify to make sure that a misunderstanding doesn’t arise from a typo. Are you asking if Young Earth Creationism (YEC) leads to atheism or if Evolutionary Creation (EC) leads to atheism? I ask because you mentioned that these two were YEC but then later talk about them believing in EC leading them to atheism? You also mention that they received inaccurate information from friends and family about evolution, and pondering the literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve creation story. Please clarify.

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You bring up a lot of good questions. I would agree with your friend that anything can be a stepstone either to or away from God, and evolution is in that bag. Like you imply though, that doesn’t mean it is not factual.
I think we see a lot of people in transition come through here, and to me at least, EC serves as a safety net to some of those who are falling away from God for whatever reason, but often the cause is the betrayal and loss felt when their childhood faith is found to be based on untruth. To be able to help some reintegrate their faith and find a firm foundation for reconstruction is part of why I am here, along with finding a sense of community of like minded believers (and a scattering of non-believers as well.)

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Perhaps a better way of phrasing it might be “is there a correlation between believing evolutionary creation and walking away from Christianity?” Yeah, these two guys were YEC and I guess you could argue both sides of your question. From my point of view and especially my parents’, evolution is the first step of an almost inevitable domino effect that ends in atheism. A more nuanced view after watching all 4 of their videos and a lot of talking with others is that that “certainty” as I’m realizing isn’t so justified among fundamentalists with my background because the second one part of their worldview comes down, why not all of it? In Rhett’s own words, “What else have I been misled about?” I was merely trying to summarize the videos from their own perspective and those were the major points I remember on their journey to atheism.

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Welcome to the forum, Jared. (It looks like some odd formatting got copied with your post, so I deleted that, FYI.)
I would agree with what I assume Joshua is getting at, that your question seems to be more about YEC. It seems to me that, despite the dire warnings of the “dangers” of EC, most of the doubts and dangers to faith come more from the idea that YEC is the only possible way to be a legitimate Christian. Many who are reacting to that turn to EC, which I think may be part of the reason why EC can become the target of others’ ire.

I like what your friend said about how many things could lead to or from God. Especially when we see all the diverse ways people in Bible stories came to Jesus – a star, an angel, a friend, a determination for healing, etc. I agree that since God created science, it does not have to lead us away from him – as many say, “All truth is God’s truth.” That’s why I think hard-core YEC viewpoints can produce so much harm to faith.

On another note, I have also adopted more of an annihilationist perspective after coming to EC, which isn’t necessarily “liberal” depending on the denomination.

I’d encourage you to give a look at the Common Questions page if you haven’t already. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I read about Rhett and Link recently and had been wondering whether anyone on this forum followed them.

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Do you mean believing in EC or YEC here?

Preach.

I have also paid attention to a number of deconversion stories of late, some public, and some personal to friends and acquaintances of mine. I think the more accurate claim is that many forms of Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism lead to cognitive dissonance, which sets people on a journey for relief. Some of those journeys pass through EC on their way to atheism, to be sure. But I don’t think there is anything inherent in EC that is definitely for all people some kind of slippery slope to atheism. People are prone to pendulum swings. I think some forms of atheism (as you find on YouTube), for some people, offer a similar kind of “fundamentalism” to conservative evangelicalism. It has nice black and white answers that appeal to their ingrained ways of thinking. But, I’ve been hanging out comfortably here with the EC crowd for over a decade and still love Jesus. Some people like @Sy_Garte find their way to EC from atheism, so that makes the claim that EC leads to atheism suspect.

It seems to me that fundamentally untenable views about what the Bible is and does are usually what people push people over the edge. If you never have to deconstruct those untenable views, you might not have the same struggles adopting a less fragile construct of how Christians get authoritative truth out of inspired Scripture.

Is it really science betraying them, or their very human propensity to seek ultimate answers in it?

For me personally, the most helpful investigations have been into hermeneutics and exploring how we read the Bible and what we expect out of it. If you start with science and evidence and whatnot and are trying to integrate it into interpretations that read the Bible wrong, you are going to run into problems. Once you have a good grasp on interpreting the Bible in its cultural context and some of the issues inherent with communicating truth in human language and then translating that language across time, place, and culture, you can hold some things more loosely, and it makes the task of the Bible reconciling with science easier.

This CQ is a good place to start: https://biologos.org/common-questions/how-should-we-interpret-the-bible/

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@DennisVenema posted this blog post on FB the other day.

I think it raises (again) the major points of contention that you hear in exvangelical deconversion stories lately. It’s worth discussing and paying attention to, IMO.

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YEC represents a version of Xtianity which is detached from reality and therefore vulnerable to a “waking up” to reality and thus making people throw Christianity out with the bathwater.

As someone who came to Christianity from a scientific worldview, it is an absurd idea that an accommodation with science is necessarily going to lead one away from Christianity. That is only going to happen if you have equated Christianity with things which are incompatible with science. If you stop equating Christianity to such things then that solves the problem right there.

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My cousin went the opposite route. My parents grew up in the conservative holiness movement and I did as well at least until I went to Bible college. Because we are both Arminian, he expressed doubts over whether salvation was ultimately “up to” him and found comfort in KJV-onlyism and the sort of fundamental baptist beliefs (the P from TULIP). So I see some people react the opposite way of craving even more certainty perhaps in Reformed theology as well. One thing I struggle with is that most people I might ask would say doubt is from Satan. Also, plain observation says that atheists searched for truth relentlessly to end up where they are. To say, they were “suppressing” truth is a theological idea that may very well be true but it’s hard to square with reality.

Friend,

Thank you for answering. So, these two gentlemen were YEC, and it seems that they could not break out of the mold that faithful, Bible-believing Christians could have any position other than YEC. But because they also believed science, they came to a point of crisis in their faith. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see through the false dichotomy that our society often espouses (faith vs. science), and ultimately “chose science over faith”.

Let me start by telling you this–Jesus loves you. Whatever doubts you may be experiencing, whatever confusion there may be, He loves you. He has died for you. God, the creator of this vast universe, died for you. There is nothing more beautiful than this. Never lose sight of it.

Now then–your Muslim friend is right. Anything can take someone away from God. YEC can leave science-loving Christians confused and skeptical, and this can be a turning point for them when it comes to leaving the faith. Likewise, EC can lead to questions that Christians are ultimately unable to resolve, and thus they walk away from the faith. Personally, I am skeptical that these two gentleman left the faith simply for intellectual reasons, though. I think that’s true of just about anyone who leaves the faith, if you’ll pardon what might come off as an assumptive generalization. The intellectual reasons may have played a significant role, but leaving the faith is a very complex and complicated process that often takes time. We don’t necessarily know all of the factors that made them leave the faith.

Evolution is NOT the first step in an inevitable domino effect that ends in atheism. It simply isn’t. I have seen this argument, too. I once held the position of YEC, and this was a common warning. I remember seeing a picture of a man walking down stairs, denying various theological positions until, finally, he was an atheist. The thought terrified me. Denying the Jesus I love? I imagine you have a lot of questions and you might even be scared. If you are scared, please don’t be. There is nothing to fear about God’s creation, and there is nothing to fear about science. Science is nothing more than the study of God’s creation. In fact, we can only conduct science because God made a universe that follows consistent and reliable laws, patterns, and so on.

The fact is, evolution does not necessitate: 1) the denial of the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of Scripture; 2) the denial of the existence of Adam; 3) the denial of the existence of miracles. YECs will tell you that it does, but this is because they insist that their interpretation of Scripture is the only faithful one, that their hermeneutic is the only one that is true to the Bible. But that’s as false as a Dispensationalist saying that Dispensationalism is the only hermeneutic that’s faithful to Scripture.

The Theory of Evolution is nothing more than a rigorous, scientific observation of how God created. The problem is that some materialists/naturalists (atheist is too broad) smuggle in their philosophical position along with the science. This might leave Christians wondering, and the problem is exacerbated, oftentimes, by dogmatic YECs who insist that their way is the only way and that anything other than their way is a denial of Scriptural truths and will lead to apostasy.

If you’re having trouble, consider John Walton’s books on Genesis, like The Lost World of Adam and Eve, and so on. I think you will find those books helpful. And understand this–YEC has not been the position of every Christian throughout the ages. Origen, Augustine, and B.B. Warfield are all examples.

A note about hell: Christian Conditionalism and/or Annihilationism is a completely acceptable doctrine in the vein of Evangelicalism. It’s not liberal at all. Just look at John Stott. So don’t be down on yourself about that.

I hope that all of this helps you. I will say a prayer for you, that God will guide and comfort you.

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I never really thought about it from the other perspective. If you endure a few articles on Answers in Genesis, the “science” I thought was so evident is just a bunch of presuppositionalism and Scripture verses. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Bible but even before I was thinking about evolution I always had issues with “inerrancy” as it’s described by so many evangelicals. Think about it like any other religion. We have the truth and everybody else who is led astray just couldn’t trust God and have enough faith. It might be a crude summary, but I think that’s accurate from my background if I would have pursued it years ago.

All of our faith traditions have gaps and areas of weakness and I think its pretty normal to seek out things that fill those gaps or address those areas of weakness when you leave home. Because like you say, you crave what you didn’t have. I grew up low church Baptist where Bible preaching was definitely much more important than spiritual experiences, and when I went to college I really got a lot out of attending a charismatic Anglican church for four years.

We had a good thread on that a few weeks back, if you’re interested.

I agree. I don’t think where people end up is a reflection of their sincerity, character, or how hard they have pursued truth.

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I came to Christianity from the scientific worldview via a number of stepping tones. Existentialism is one of them and I suppose the writings of Scott Peck (like “The Road Less Traveled”) is another. It was his observation as a clinical psychiatrist that people tended to have breakthroughs when they tried a significant shift in their worldview like either from the religious to atheist or the reverse from atheism to religious. It seems that sometimes we just need to make a break from all those presuppositions and reconstruct our thinking from the bottom up. And there is a spiritual (or at least psychological) as well as intellectual value in skepticism (just as there is in faith), for I remind you that a fair portion of the Bible consists of criticism of religion and the considerable spiritual danger in some of the things that people have bought into EVEN within the Judeo-Christian framework! So this is not just about one religion being the truth over others but about the numerous pitfalls that lie await in whatever religion you happen to be a part of.

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I don’t have anything to add to the excellent responses you’ve got to your main question, but I did want to jump in on this:

I agree. While annihilation/conditional immortality deals with one half of the problem (the punishment out of proportion) it doesn’t fully deal with the other half (the unfairness of earth’s circumstances giving unequal chances to avoid this fate).

On the second, I’d highly recommend looking into the early Christian tradition of Jesus’ descent to the dead. In brief, all will someday see Jesus as he truly is, even the dead, so all are confronted with a real opportunity to respond. (1 Peter provides some biblical backing to this tradition, particularly in 2:12, 3:18–20 and 4:5–6.) Hebrews states that it’s appointed for all to die and face judgement, and if we allow that to be a true judgement rather than skipping to punishment for a judgement that has already been made, then what awaits after death starts to look a whole lot less unfair.

For me, C.S. Lewis’ writings were the gateway into rediscovering this early Christian belief that has been all but lost among modern Protestants (although it still hides in the Apostle’s Creed – “he descended to the dead”). Perhaps in our culture, for 3rd- or 4th-generation Christians, it doesn’t really matter if we don’t have an answer for how Jesus is good news for those who never hear. But among early Christians who felt a deeper tie to family (which is also the case in many places today), Jesus had to also be good news for the grandparents who died before the good news arrived.

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Thank you for the kind words, Joshua. I’ve watched a couple apologists reaction videos to Rhett and Link’s story. The apologists tend to hammer down that evolution is a side issue and I can kind of agree with that. It bothers me that my own mother who is in her mid 50s didn’t know some Christians believed in evolutionary creation until a week ago. And this is someone with two masters degrees (albeit in completely unrelated fields). I think the focus of Rhett’s video was this sentence tumbling through my mind frequently now: “If I don’t have to believe this, why would I? If I don’t have to believe that everyone on earth who doesn’t come to believe in the exact right understanding of God goes to hell for eternity, why in the hell would I believe that?” In college, I read a book called “What about those who have never heard?” I can’t remember the term, but I still believe God will judge people based on what they know and while I wish I knew what that meant, I have a measure of comfort that God is still good. Not sure if Rhett ever looked into annihalationism, but it’s seems more Biblically sound to me so far than universalism although that’s very much a matter of interpretation.

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Interesting read from the atheist perspective. It’s the same language of doubt vs certainty, but as Joshua mentioned, leaving a religion is a very complicated process. Rhett said this process was over a decade long. More specifically than understanding this doubt/certainty dichotomy was just “tearing” apart my beliefs. In other words, if I look at all of atheism, there are some things they don’t have the answers to and don’t claim to while Christianity offers those. I would love a miracle or to hear God’s voice, but I think I’m waking up to the fact that I’ll have doubts until the day I die.

Jared,

You are welcome, brother.

Honestly, I don’t think that switching from Christianity to atheism because of hell is a very good trade off. Consider the untold amount of injustice and suffering–and for what? In the end, nothing. Nothing. I have heard it said that childhood leukemia is a good reason not to believe in a loving God. I think it’s the opposite–the presence of such a thing is a very good reason to believe. With God, there is purpose in suffering, and ultimate justice, and love. Without Him–you still suffer, but there is no purpose behind it, and there’s no ultimate justice, either. As for love–well, a Godless universe certainly doesn’t care about much of anything, let alone love us humans.

You might want to look into Molinism. That might help you. Personally, I believe that people who have never heard, for example, will have the Gospel preached to them when they die. Or perhaps God, in His mercy, will save them based on what they can know. I’m not certain, but I think there is mercy extended to those who have not heard. Consider, for example, what Paul says in Romans 4:15 and Romans 5:13. I don’t think the same can be said of those who have heard and rejected the Gospel message, however.

I think Marshall also offered a helpful comment above. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Don’t be afraid to wrestle. But take heart, and have faith. We know He is love, because He died for us while we were yet His enemies. If you have seen God’s good character demonstrated in what you know you can understand, trust His character when there is something that you don’t understand, or that doesn’t sit well with you.

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I’ve seen stories from both sides. An atheist became a Christian through philosophy and ultimately a change in behavior. A Muslim man named Nabeel Qureshi has a fascinating testimony of growing up in Islam and having Jesus revealed to him in a dream. So while it is intellectually concerning that so many atheists reach their conclusions through reasoning and education, there is no middle ground. Lukewarm water is worse than hot or cold. One cannot be 50% Christian and 50% atheist. So while people can argue that atheists only look to disprove every argument, the Christian doubting can come to a place where we decide living as a Christian is better than to not. I can’t have cartesian certainty about God. Even through a miracle, I could still doubt. There is a small chance of us being in the Matrix right now so it doesn’t make a difference. There’s also a chance God has given humans an innate longing for the divine through our consciences and emotions.

I think sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater, letting the pendulum swing from one end to the other. That’s not EC’s fault.

When I lost my faith, it started out with realizing YEC wasn’t true, and that led me to question everything else I’d been taught - basically, it caused trust issues. And since I didn’t talk to anyone about it, I ended up in some wrong places, and after several months, documentary hypothesis type stuff pushed me over the edge, and I was an atheist. When I later talked things out with an elder at my church, I was able to get back my faith and much of my understanding of doctrine. I have a few differences than I did before, but I’ve reevaluated everything and continue to study it all. I’m firmly in the EC camp, but I’m theologically pretty conservative as I was before. Funny thing is, EC didn’t ever cause me to doubt God’s existence prior to falling away. But Genesis 1-11 and how to fit it with science was a big deal when trying to get my faith back. I had to see that there were some possible legitimate interpretations, even if I didn’t know which one was necessarily correct (I don’t think we can know that).

I had a million things to deal with besides Genesis, since I had gone down the atheist rabbit hole about a month after losing my faith - the point at which I gave up trying to see God and embraced atheism. Now I regret doing that, because that stuff still clouds my mind. I have to deal with each thing bit by bit. Thankfully, I’ve had a ton of support from the elders at my church, and I can discuss anything with them, even things we disagree on (they’re all YEC).

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