Why Religious People—Especially "Scientific Creationists"—Should Adopt Theological Atheism
By Joyce Arthur, November 2003
Read the logical/philosophical definition for theological atheism.
Every practicing believer needs to know what God wants—it's the most fundamental question to be answered if the believer wants to live as God wishes.
According to theological atheism, God doesn't want us to believe in him. He created the world—and us—in a way that deliberately excludes any proof that he had a hand in it. For example, he used evolution as a tool to make himself undetectable. Now that we have attained enough wisdom and knowledge, God wants to retreat from the limelight we've forced him into during most of our ignorant past. It would be wrong, presumptuous, and illogical to continue active belief in him. We should respect God's wishes and act like he doesn't exist. We should become theological atheists.
Theological atheism is ideal for those who want to believe in God, but who have difficulty with the religious baggage associated with it, like having to go to church, pray, obey the Bible, and generally please God. All of that is unnecessary. Theological atheism leaves you free to live your own life on your own terms, without guilt—but also without the bleakness many people associate with rejection of God and all things spiritual. As a theological atheist, you can have it all—the comfort of secretly knowing that God exists, belief in an afterlife if you want, and the confidence that you're doing exactly what God wants by living without him.
All religious people can adopt theological atheism—from "deists" who believe in an impersonal creative force that set off the Big Bang 15 billion years ago but has done nothing since—to Catholics who accept the findings of science but also believe God interacts with the world—to scientific creationists who claim that God made the world in six days about 10,000 years ago.
Ironically, the most extreme believers, scientific creationists, are especially justified in adopting theological atheism. We might label them "fundamentalist atheists" as a sub-category of theological atheists (we can also have "deist atheists" and "Catholic atheists" etc.)
Scientific creationists use the tools of science to try and show that the Biblical Genesis story is factual. Although they generally believe in a young earth (only 10,000 years old), they also respect scientific evidence that the earth is much older. To explain the contradiction, they've invented an "Appearance of Age" hypothesis. That is, God purposely created the universe and the earth as if they evolved over billions of years. For example, God created Adam and Eve fully grown but complete with misleading belly buttons, and he created light already enroute to us to make it look like it's been traveling for 15 billion years.
Let's allow a scientific creationist, Don Stewart, to explain this for us:
This theory recognizes that God created Adam with the appearance of age. When Adam was thirty seconds old he looked like a full-grown adult. He did not have to grow up or learn a language—he was created fully mature.
If God made the remainder of the universe along this same line, then the actual age would not be the same as the age that things appear to be. Trees would have been created fully mature, animals did not have to grow up, and the stars were already shining in the sky. If this is the case, then the universe could look millions or billions of years old but actually be relatively young. Therefore, there is no conflict between the Bible and science because God made the universe to look old when He created it a relatively short time ago.
(Ironically, under this theory it doesn't matter whether God actually created the universe 15 billion years ago, ten thousand years ago, or one second ago. The past and all evidence for it are created all at once, so God could have done it any time.)
Stewart goes on to say that this does not make God a "deceiver", because "there is no deception on God's part if He created everything fully mature and then revealed that fact to humanity." What Stewart means is that God revealed the old earth through scientific evidence, a clear admittance by creationists that there is no evidence for a young earth or a sudden creation of life.
Stewart fails to mention that humanity only found out about our old, evolving earth about 200 years ago. Up until then, we had to take God's Biblical word for it that the earth was created all at once not too long ago. But if God created an appearance of age, why didn't he just say so in Genesis? It wasn't even God who finally told us about the old earth. We had to find out the hard way all by ourselves, with our scientific methods and tools. Why didn't God want us to find out about the old earth and the evolution of life? Perhaps he preferred to bask in the glory of being the master creator of everything in one fell swoop. Maybe God doesn't really like science, because it makes people question his word, his abilities, his very existence.
But this line of reasoning makes God seem not only deceptive, but selfish and egotistical. Surely that can't reflect the real God, who in reality is good, wise, and all-knowing. God has always known we were going to figure things out—it was part of his grand plan. He made us naturally curious so we would develop the scientific method and use it to find out the truth. Remember that God purposely planted evidence showing that everything evolved slowly by natural processes, without his intervention. He must have wisely decided we should discover this evidence for ourselves, when we were ready to understand and accept it. Now that we've reached this state, God no longer expects us to believe everything happened by sudden divine fiat 10,000 years ago, a second ago, or even 15 billion years ago.
God was never a deceiver because he's a perfect moral being—even humble. He just prefers to be invisible, and evolution was his way of achieving that. He himself had to slowly evolve towards invisibility, in step with our own ability to comprehend his true nature. Now that we know better, we should respect what God wants—ignore his existence and live without him. We should adopt theological atheism.
(Copyright © Joyce Arthur 2003)