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The Universe: Is It 13.7 Billion Years Old or 6 Thousand Years Old? April 18, 2012

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Popular Culture, Religion & Theology.

There is a class of believers, usually self-proclaimed Christians, who insist that God wrote the Bible, either causing the Bible to pop into existence through a Bronze Age miracle that no one in the Bronze Age noticed; or, if the believer is slightly more sophisticated, guiding the hands of human scribes and “inspiring” them to create a divinely perfect human artifact.

To these believers, their translation of the Bible into English is as perfect and “inerrant” (incapable of mistakes) as God is; but their imputing divine perfection into the Bible does not, they say, mean they think that what is divinely perfect merits worship. Despite their protestations to the contrary, I call this sort of believers bibliolaters — idolaters of the Bible. They don’t worship the 1611 King James translation of the Bible itself (they say); but they do appear to me to worship their image of the Bible as divinely and eternally perfect.

In bibliolaters’ primitive, literal-minded way of looking at the Bible, it becomes important that this ancient collection of sacred writings be as factual as an encyclopedia and as precise as a science textbook. If the Bible says that hares and rabbits chew their cuds like cows, that insects creep on four legs, that stars fall from the sky like meteorites, that pi equals exactly three, and that you can see the entire Earth from the top of a mountain in Galilee, well, that’s the Eternal Truth, and anything you think is a mistake (like those four-legged insects) proves how wrong you are. A collection of documents whose creation began in the Stone Age and was largely completed during the Bronze Age is divinely perfect for all humans in all eras and all locations and all cultures, world without end until the Second Coming, amen. The 1611 King James translation is so perfect that the Bible’s original languages, original audiences, history, cultural milieu, world-view, and evolution may not be studied or even thought about; that’s blasphemy.

Almost four hundred years ago, James Ussher, Roman Catholic archbishop of Armagh (Ireland), published a theory of biblical creation that coincided closely with the ideas of many theologians of the 17th century. Today this pre-Enlightenment theory is taken for granted as fact by fundamentalists, while competing chron­ologies, like those of the Venerable Bede and Joseph Scaliger, have been almost forgotten.

According to Ussher’s chronology, the Universe was created on October 23, 4004 BCE, at 9:00 in the morning. Creationists, pro­po­nents of intelligent design, and the GOP members of the legislature of the state of Tennessee are satisfied that this is fact, and the millions of pieces of evidence of the fact of evolution and thousands of advances of modern technology based on that evidence are divine fakery.

(Evolution is an indisputable fact. It is as indisputable as gravity — another scientific theory. It is Darwin’s theory of natural selection that bibliolaters can’t stand, since natural selection appears to obviate the necessity for a divine Creator to create and sustain the constant flow of change that is easily observable by anyone but a fundamentalist. Nevertheless, for purposes of this discussion I will say “evolution” instead of “Darwin’s theory of natural selection.” It’s the bibliolaters’ word of execration.)

Fundamentalists appear to think that God is stupid, incompetent, malevolent, or all the above. Here is THEIR reasoning:

  • God created the Universe on October 23, 4004 BCE.
  • In the process of creating the Universe, God faked a moun­tain of false evidence of the truth of evolution, including:
    • millions of fossils;
    • zillions of chemical and anatomical similarities of related organisms (e.g., horses and zebras);
    • thousands of fossils of “transitional” organisms (e.g., archeopteryxes (proto-birds) and ambulocetuses (walking whales));
    • the geographical distribution of hundreds of related species (e.g., seals and sea lions);
    • the numerous evolutionary changes in numerous species recorded by numerous scientists over the centuries; and
    • sciences such as geology, embryology, molecular biology, gene sequencing, modern medicine, archeology, physics, and astrophysics.

    This evidence is so overwhelming that millions of rational people believe it, and assuming the species survives, billions of rational people will believe it. Thousands of scientific advances based on evolution have transformed our world and made possible your reading of these words. In short, this evidence is so divinely perfect one is forced to conclude that if God went to that much trouble to fool rational people into believing it, that’s what God WANTS us to believe!!

  • In approximately 925 BCE, a writer whom today’s scholars call the Yahwist inscribed probably much more ancient myths on tanned animal skins, known as “parchment,” including the second creation myth (Genesis 2:4b-3:24). The first creation myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), inscribed by the Priestly source, dates from 500 BCE, immediately after the Babylonian exile. Or, of course, if bibliolaters are correct, both myths were inscribed by God Godself some time or other in the Bronze Age. (Important note: Myths are NOT fiction!!)
  • In 1650 CE, James Ussher published his chronology of the Bible, considered by today’s fundamentalists to be as infallible as their interpretation of the 1611 King James translation of the Bible.

To put this more simply: (A) God created the Universe in 4004 BCE; (B) at the same time (October 23, 4004 BCE), God faked and planted millions of pieces of evidence that the Universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old, evidence that is so divinely perfect that all 21st-century technology is based on its factuality; and (C) between 1000 and 500 BCE, God wrote or “inspired” the writing of a human artifact that proves that all this divinely perfect “evidence” was divinely faked.

Why would God go to all the trouble of forging evidence that on the one hand is so divinely perfect it has deceived millions, and on the other hand is so incompetently imperfect that no believer is deceived? If God intends all believers in evolution to scream in Hell for all eternity, isn’t God’s divine forgery of evidence proof of God’s divine malevolence, equivalent to “Here, eat this poison that looks, smells, and tastes exactly like chocolate cake”?

Isn’t faking evidence proof of the faker’s dishonesty?

Fundamentalist theology proves that one way or the other, God is dishonest, malevolent, and incompetent. Either God wants most of us to scream in Hell for all eternity for believing in DNA and the Internet, or God is deliberately lying today to those who believe in literal Genesis. In EITHER case, God is dishonest, lying either to believers or to non-believers. In EITHER case, God is fundamentally malevolent, wanting either non-believers or believers to scream in Hell in consequence of the divine lie.

In EITHER case, God is incompetent, either at faking evidence or at writing holy scripture.