Around 150 years ago, Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution to explain how living things came to be so complex and diverse. After the evidence for evolution piled up, Christians were left with a hard choice. Accept that the god of the Bible did not create us, or reject evolution outright.
However, there are those who cannot pick a side, and have come to believe Yahweh 'created' humans and other animals by guiding evolution.
The first important thing to understand is that evolution is blind. There is no guiding force. It can all be explained by random mutations and natural selection. To use one example, let's imagine a species of butterfly. After living in their habitat for several years without much trouble, a disease suddenly takes hold and kills most of them off. But a few survive - their genes are different. The random mutation in their DNA makes them immune to the disease, random mutation that makes every animal of a species slightly different from the others. They end up being the only ones left who can repopulate the species. Some time later, the butterflies are back to their usual numbers, but with one difference. They are ALL immune to the disease. The random mutation was passed on to them all, instead of being watered down in the gene pool as it would have been normally if the disease hadn't killed most of them. In other words, these butterflies evolved, and it all happened naturally. No god required.
Much of the time, species do not survive drastic change. In fact, evolution is so blind that 99% of all animals that have ever been on the Earth are now extinct. There certainly doesn't seem to be a holy force behind it at all, and if there is, one can only wonder about its effectiveness.
But what about humans? Did God focus on just our species? According to the Bible, and every Christian I know, Jesus died for our sins. More accurately, he died for our inherited sins. So let's have a look at this 'original sin'.
We all know the story. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman on Earth, sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, after which they doomed all mankind.
Here are the events in slightly more detail:
God created Adam, and saw that this man was alone and needed a helper. After bringing all the animals to Adam for naming and to check for compatability, God took one of Adam's ribs and created the first woman with it - Eve.
A serpent tempted Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge, which God had forbidden. Adam ate from it too, and they realised they were naked. God cursed the snake and made it crawl on its belly. He also dramatically cut the average lifespan of humans and caused all women to have pain in childbirth.
First, to address those who believe this really happened. There are so many questions that arise if one sees this story as a real historical event. If Adam and Eve were here 6,000 years ago (which they had to be if you follow the genealogical line from Adam to Jesus), then they weren't the first humans. We were on the scene much earlier than that. There was no first couple. If it was a representative group, we're still not all descendants of this group. Humans had spread far and wide.
If woman was already around, then what is the point of the story of man being lonely, and God making him a woman from his rib?
Adam is supposed to be the one who named the animals. Are we really supposed to believe that no one had named them until 6,000 years ago? In fact, according to Genesis 2:19, he named all the animals. How many would that be? The following information is taken from one internet site-
The animal kingdom is divided into about 30 phyla. The nine largest phyla contain the majority of species.
Indeed, one phyla, the arthropods, which includes insects and spiders, constitutes about 75 percent of all known animal species. More than 900,000 arthropods have been described, and according to some estimates there may be more than five million more.
The number of known species for all animals other than arthropods is about 250,000.
The largest group (formally "class") within the phyla of arthropods and the most diverse class in all kingdoms, is insects. Over 750,000 have been described. Some suppose that there are perhaps as many as three million different species of insects in the world.
The most diverse family of insect is beetles, with over 375,000 types identified.
Other large families of insects include butterflies and moths (more than 100,000 species), bees and wasps (more than 20,000 species), and ants (about 10,000 species).
With over 30,000 known species, spiders, which are not insects, constitute one of the large families of other kinds of arthropods.
Only two other phyla within the animal kingdom, the roundworms and the mollusks, are known to contain more than 100,000 species. All other phyla generally have far less.
The dominant phyla on the planet, the vertebrates, consists of less than 50,000 known species. The number of fish species is estimated to be more than 20,000, bird species number approximately 8,700, reptiles about 6,000, mammals about 4,500, and amphibians about 2,500.
Within mammals, the rodents are the most varied order, with 34 families and more than 1,700 species.
Other sites give similar numbers. How did Adam keep track? Did he write it down? Did he pass on the names of all the animals to his children orally? If he did neither of these things, there would be no need to name them in the first place.
How would he even remember? If Adam used to be perfect, let's say he was able to memorize them all. But what about his imperfect children? If somebody wrote all the names down and included detailed descriptions of the animals, sadly that book/scroll/tablets has never been verified as actually existing.
The animals would have been renamed in any case, unless Adam knew what a hammer head was (in naming the hammerhead shark) or knew that 'saurus' was Greek for 'lizard' when naming the dinosaurs. If he was around at the time of the dinosaurs, as many Christians believe.
For more information on how animals get their names, look up this site:
God 'cursed' the snake and made it crawl on its belly. What was it doing just before 6,000 years ago? Flying?
Adam and Eve didn't realise they were naked. In a world full of clothed people, they didn't realise they were naked?
Did people between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago really live such long lifespans? 895 years, 777 years, 969 years, etc. Doubtful. Before the 'original sin', was everyone living such long lifespans? Not according to every human fossil we've found. In fact, we've never lived as long as we do in the current age, thanks to modern advances in food production, medicines and other factors.
Were people without pain in childbirth until 6,000 years ago?
If we are paying for the sins of Adam because we are his descendants- does this mean most of the planet doesn't have to worry because it's more likely we're the descendants of other people from that time?
Maybe Adam and Eve were around much earlier than that. It has been suggested that the genealogical line from the Gospels may skip generations in order to shorten the account. In Matthew, the word 'father' is used. Could this really mean 'great great great (add however many 'greats' you think would be appropriate) grandfather'? Could the word 'son' in the family line of Luke 3 stand for 'great great great (again, add however many 'greats' you like) grandson'? If so, it becomes pointless to include any of the names. With all the gaps in the family line, it may aswell not be in there at all as it is no longer reliable for showing how Jesus was related to David or Abraham or Adam.
The fact it is in there shows that the writers wanted to show the link- and they thought the line was a short one. Only 4,000 years long.
More questions come up. Why does the Bible use the word 'son' or 'father' in this instance, yet uses words such as 'grandson' or 'grandfather' elsewhere in the Bible? Why does Matthew 1:17 say 'there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.'? No mention of skipping generations there. It seems to be giving precise details of the family line that support a 4,000 year timespan. Precise details can also be found right back to Adam. Genesis 5:3-32 has the family line, complete with the number of years that passed before each had a child, from Adam to Noah's sons Shem, Ham and Japheth. Genesis 11:10-26 continues the line from Shem to Abram (Abraham). The writers go out of their way to show exactly how much time passes, and anyone who disagrees has much to explain.
But even if we go out of our way to give the benefit of the doubt and accept that the original sinners were earlier humans, it needs to be understood that there were never two original humans. That isn't how evolution works. Determining exactly when our species became 'human' is difficult enough. We are constantly evolving. It would be like saying your grandparents were a different species to your parents.
Perhaps God chose one couple from all the humans to test. If God was testing this one couple and they failed his test (which he would have known they would, seeing as this is God!) why put hardships on the rest of the humans around at the time who didn't fail him? Christians say God wants people to be good, yet in this case, even if they were, their efforts were in vain because God tested the ones he knew would fail. The logic also goes against the story of Soddon and Gomorrah, where God says if even ten people can be found worthy, he won't take drastic action.
Even if it's said all humans were tested at the same time, did they all give birth to Cain, Abel and Seth? Are those characters and all who follow just made up?
People around the world had their own religions and fictional gods, until one day the one true god gave them a soul, made himself known and tested everyone - but they all failed. All the Hindus of the time saw that Yahweh was real, not Krishna, but then after the test they all suddenly forgot and only a small group of humans in the middle east kept the story alive. Perhaps this is how it happened?
Obviously most of us are not 'Adam and Eve's' descendants, and their sins haven't been passed on to us. Therefore Jesus can't have died for all our sins. The sacrifice for all humanity is meaningless.
What was the whole point of Jesus coming to Earth and dying on a cross?
Moses (or whoever used that name) wrote the Genesis account around 3,500 years ago. How the story reached him by word of mouth over many thousands of years (from the early human sinners) is impressive. But what is even more impressive is that early humans hadn't even developed language! If God revealed the story to Moses, why did he wait so long before doing so? On that point, why lie about the family line going from the first humans onwards?
If the Genesis account is not to be taken literally, this should be enough to make us question a lot of what we believe. I don't know how many seem to ignore the repurcussions if this story is not a historical one.
A non literal reading means we can accept the scientific view that there's always been pain in human childbirth. So what does this mean? Doesn't it mean that if God exists, He designed a world in which that pain was just a part of it, and it has nothing to do with when sin entered the world? Same with miscarriages, mothers dying during childbirth, babies being born deformed, etc. That was the plan right from the start - to make us suffer, even when we hadn't sinned!
Also, what in the world is Genesis 3:16 talking about then? If the mention of pain in childbirth is not to be taken literally, what is really being said? What's it code for?
Accepting science again, we learn that humans were not living such long lifespans before the 'original sin'. So again, that's how God set it up. We were never meant to live very long, and it wasn't a punishment for sinning, because it was this way before sin entered the world. Also, looking at Genesis 5:3-32, Genesis 11:10-26 and the family line found in the Gospels with all the specific years mentioned, what is that code for? If it doesn't mean what it's saying, exactly what does it mean?
Hurricanes, tsunamis, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions and all other natural disasters become just that - natural. Occuring before the 'original sin', they have nothing to do with man's fall. It shows that these things were just how God set things up. For us to suffer occasionally on an unstable planet. We could have been perfect and it would have still been like this.
The Bible is becoming more and more a book of things that never actually happened, and people still think it was inspired by God. Creation story - never happened. Garden of Eden story - never happened. Nativety scene - never happened. Man living in a whale - never happened. Talking donkey - never happened. Hair with magical strength-giving powers - never happened. It's a book of fairy tales, and even if the author is God, it's STILL a book of fairy tales.
The Bible is symbolic, metaphorical, and so on, claim some who still cling to these beliefs. Jesus' death has meaning that we will understand one day, they say. If a person can make much of their book a mystery yet still state that it has something to do with a god, that kind of thinking can be applied to any book.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears may aswell be a metaphor from God we don't understand yet. The Book of the Dead's mysterious writings may aswell be metaphors from Osiris or Ra. We may aswell all believe in Allah or Atum if all that's needed is a story of creation that has nothing to do with reality, mixed in with more cryptic stories. Should we be giving 'The Holy Bible' a new name now - 'The Holy Metaphor'?
I know the following story seems too much like a fairy tale, but it isn't to be taken literally. There is no real conflict between this and the scientific explanation of how Earth came to be.
Before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion.
From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu's navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu's servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord's command.
Vishnu spoke to his servant: 'It is time to begin.' Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: 'Create the world.'
A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished. Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean. Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies.
The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds to fly in the air and many fish to swim in the sea. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move.
The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma's creation.
Lord Vishnu simply told humans the story of creation in a way they would understand. It wasn't meant to be scientific or literal. What's important is getting close to Vishnu and Brahma. Anyone who gets caught up in these details is missing the point of what it means to be Hindu.