The Atheism of Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalisms like Answers in Genesis are at root atheistic because they reduce all discourse– all ways of speaking and knowing– to the scientific. Instead of approaching the world with God as the location of all coherence, they approach the world with the particular way that Western, post-Enlightenment humans understand the physical world– science– as the location of all coherence. God is then forced to fit into that schema: the Creation story in Genesis has to be “scientific,” in order to be true.

The first move out of this impoverished misapprehension is to recognize multiple ways of making meaning. The way the words of a poem “mean” something, for example, is different than the way the words of your owner’s manual for the microwave oven “mean” something– and the way the words of your marriage vow (“I do”) “mean” something, is even different still. It’s a mistake to read an instruction manual as poetry; it’s a mistake to read poetry as a promise; and it’s a mistake to read Genesis as science.

God is surely no worse off for that– and we’re better off, because we can then find a faith for the twenty-first century, that is intellectually honest.

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