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Literal interpretation of the Bible

One of the many lies told by creationists is that the theory of evolution is some sort of deliberate attempt to undermine the Bible by positing that the creation myths in Genesis are not true stories. In reality evolution says nothing about religion except indirectly, in that a scientific explanation of how things are will always be more attractive to people who can think than will superstition and legend. When creationists claim that acceptance of evolution necessarily leads to total rejection of Christian teachings they are merely exhibiting their own lack of faith. Their insistence on the literal truth of the Bible invites ridicule of their religion, and, by extension, rejection of the worthwhile teachings and principles of Christianity. Creationists like to demonise Charles Darwin as if all this heresy started with him, but the following words were written some years before the publication of The Origin of Species. The author is considered by many to be somewhat of an authority on religious belief.

St Augustine – Botticelli : Fresco in Ognissanti's Church, FirenzeUsually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although "they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

(from translation by John Hammond Taylor)


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