Why Kurt Wise Was the Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

I was recently asked why it was Kurt Wise who was the final straw in my deconversion from Christianity. Here I will attempt to explain.

I had watched a video (but it’s a blog post of his that I’ll link to) in which Richard Dawkins remarked on Kurt Wise, a Harvard educated geologist.

At the link, Dr. Dawkins says the following:

He achieved the first part of his goal, but became increasingly uneasy as his scientific learning conflicted with his religious faith. When he could bear the strain no longer, he clinched the matter with a Bible and a pair of scissors. He went right through from Genesis 1 to Revelations 22, literally cutting out every verse that would have to go if the scientific worldview were true. At the end of this exercise, there was so little left of his Bible that

[now quoting Wise]. . . try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture. Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution. With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science.

[the brackets were mine]

 Some Personal Background and Christian Train of Thought

At the point I heard this, I was teetering on the edge of Christianity. I had been a staunch Fundamentalist. Due to the abuse I experienced, I exited Fundamentalism, though not yet all of Christianity.  After that, I freed myself to think critically of… well… everything really. I began reading. I watched debates. I searched. I was doubting Christianity now, based on evidence that I had not seen or read while in the church. It was at this point that I heard Dr. Dawkins speaking on this.

I’m very familiar with the thinking that Dr. Wise illustrated in his above statement (granted the exact details of his thinking and mine likely differed on some slight points).  We were always taught that the Bible is the ultimate authority.  I have always had a healthy respect for logic and evidence, but I also had a very UNhealthy fear of the alleged consequences of disbelief. To trust science when it was at odds with the Bible was to “deny Christ.” In the church, you’re not even allowed to deny Christ to save your children if they are about to be slaughtered in front of you unless you do.

We were told that “Satan goes out to steal, kill and destroy.”  He uses many tools to instill doubt in us and “lead us astray” from God and from truth.  The word “science” was often put in quotes and accompanied by a Bible verse in which Paul is talking about “science so-called.” In short, we were to systematically deny anything–anything at all– that contradicted scripture on the grounds that the contradiction renders it (that is, the statement or evidence in question) a lie and a tool of the devil. If science contradicts the Bible, then obviously science is wrong, because the Bible says something different. God wrote the Bible and God knows what’s really true.

And you better not doubt. Doubt is sin.  Jesus suffered for that sin! Unless you’re doubting because you’re not truly a Christian. Are you REALLY a Christian? Do you want to end up in Hell?  You need to “decide this day which god you will serve.” Will you serve science and self? Or will you serve God?  That’s how the manipulation went anyway.

Back to Science and Kurt Wise

Many Christian circles subscribe to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. These churches promote these materials to their congregations and to their communities. The emphasis is supposedly on scientific evidence. While they filter the evidence through a tight Biblical filter, they do still promote the IDEA of facts and evidence, and the IDEA of following the evidence to the truth.  (And the truth will set you free, amen?)  The evidence for God was touted as undeniable and overwhelming at AiG. We could believe the Bible, and science proved it.  Didn’t it?

Evidently not, for Dr. Kurt Wise. His statements fly in the face of the whole purpose of Creation Science. He not only shows that the evidence does NOT back the Bible, but he demonstrates that truth/evidence is not what being a Christian is all about. If/since science does not stand in support of the Bible, then what even IS the purpose for the use of science in Creation Science?

His experience and education make him a rare treasure to Christianity. People love having him, because HE KNOWS STUFF. Well, that and the name Harvard; we can’t deny that a geologist from Harvard lends Creationism some credibility for many people (he might as well be, say, a biologist from Oxford. Fancy stuff there). He knows the science and can articulate it. On the one hand, Christians point toward science and evidence, as well they should.  On the other hand, they demonstrate (usually unwittingly) that it is merely a manipulative tool to be used insofar as they are able to shoehorn it into the Biblical narrative.

As I said before, I have a great respect for logic and evidence and always have. To see that it does not support the Bible after all (and Kurt Wise would know) was the tipping point. Kurt Wise demonstrating that truth/evidence must be discarded in order to believe the Bible was evidence that truth and Christianity were fundamentally opposed to one another, and this was the final straw for me.

His conversion story, rather than being a “witness” for Christianity, should instead stand as an ominous warning to others of what a person must sacrifice in order to believe.

That, I hope, is an adequate explanation for why Kurt Wise was my straw that broke the camel’s back where Christianity is concerned. I needed far more than Twitter’s 140-character limit to respond properly.

Out of a Cage

I still can’t get over the feeling of freedom that I now have where science and discovery is concerned.

When I was still in the church I was always fascinated by science, but there was a mental cage. I was always obligated to “bring all thoughts captive to Christ.” Any thought, scientific or otherwise, that opposes scripture is to be dismissed as wrong because, obviously, God knows what really happened. [sarcasm]

A photo from NASA. Were YOU there? Well God was.

 

When a person believes this way, they are instantly at odds with the scientific community. When you’re at odds with most of those in science, there can be very little comaraderie with someone in a conversation about, say, biology (unless that person is a fellow 6-day Creationist).  Even if the subject of evolution doesn’t immediately come up, the Fundy often feels obligated to be that “ambassador for Christ” and to therefore take a stand for God in the areas that are seen to challenge God the most (like science).

Eventually something will come up in a conversation that tips the other person off that something is *not quite right,* and the debate begins.  When you’re a fundy who is very interested in science, very often your efforts are put to use in defending the Bible. Considering the glaring holes here, this exhausting task often saps the Christian’s energy for ACTUAL discovery.  For all intents and purposes, the Fundy does very little discovering and does more studying on being a Creationism advocate.

You can perhaps imagine my relief upon deconversion.  I don’t have to bring my thoughts captive to any being in the sky. I don’t have to try to rationalize irrational beliefs. I don’t have to dress up bad evidence.  I can look at the wonder of the universe and not feel obligated to think about God and to thank him for it.  I can study biology without ignoring the evidence of evolution.   I can allow my kids to watch Cosmos without feeling guilty for dishonoring a god and without feeling obligated to qualify or refute practically every statement in the show that would go against some Bible teaching or another.

I’m free to think, free to explore, free to discover.

It’s good to be free.