My rather sudden declaration of unbelief ten days ago caught some friends and family off guard. I went from believer to atheist in a single day and in a single post on my blog. Today I think that perhaps I may have overstated my position. What follows is a tentative reevaluation of my thinking on the subject.
All of this was triggered by my realization that I could not reconcile my knowledge of paleontology with the Young Earth Creationism taught by the more fundamentalist Christian denominations, including the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In my frustration over my inability to accommodate my understanding of science with my understanding of Christianity I wound up rejecting the entire Old Testament and this resulted in my declaring that I simply did not believe in the God described in the Bible at all since it seemed clear that the Bible was not an inspired document after all.
I now think I may have overstepped the actual logical consequences of the conclusions I came to in my long study of the several creationist schools of thought. What I actually concluded in my studies was that mankind is descended from previous forms of life, common descent is a demonstrated fact and not simply some unfounded hypothesis. The difficulty enters in when we encounter the characters of Adam and Eve in the Bible. They are the ancestors of all living humans we are told, yet genetics seems to indicate there was never a time when the human race numbered fewer than several thousand individuals.
If Adam and Eve are not actual historical individuals then the whole story of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden becomes problematic. What can the Fall mean if there was no actual single man and woman to actually commit the sin? If there is no Original Sin by Adam then there is no reason for the atonement of Jesus through His perfect life, death and resurrection. Without Adam and Eve the whole thing unravels, the Apostle Paul explains the mission of Jesus in reference to Adam's fall in Romans 5:12-21. Clearly it is essential to the story making any sort of sense at all.
In my frustration at not being able to get to a historical Adam I failed to properly search for alternatives to the basic fundamentalist viewpoints on this subject. Perhaps there is a way to have Adam and Eve as the founding couple within the framework of evolution. I did encounter the idea that Adam and Eve were hominids who were given the Imago Dei at some point in history, the image of God was breathed into them and since then this has spread to all humans somehow. I initially rejected this as not really compatible with the literal Bible story. But now I think this may be a plausible solution and so I have decided to start over again in my search for a way to harmonize these things. I have been reading some Catholic web sites this morning on the subject of evolution and it is encouraging so far. It is interesting enough that I have decided to once again try to learn more about Catholic teachings in general.
I know this will not make my family and friends much happier than my declaration that I was going to be an atheist but it's where my path seems to be leading me this morning. This whole reevaluation was triggered by a phone call from my mom actually. When she was talking to me about these things and telling me she was praying for me I suddenly said, in my mind, "Good! I need that." That was an odd thing for an "atheist" to say! Then the thought came that "I ought to keep my mind open on these things", and that was out of left field because I had decided I was done with this! Then I thought, "well this is all just me wanting to please my mom, I'll get over it soon enough." But when I got home from my walk I started reading online about the views of the Roman Catholics on evolution and suddenly felt drawn to continue my inquiry.
So that is where I'm at right now. I'm confused and dismayed. God won't leave me alone it seems. I rather suspect He's really out there, in here, all around etc. And that He's not going to let me go wrong in the end. I don't suppose the particular denomination matters either, though for the moment I'm eliminating any that hold to an overly literalistic interpretation of the Bible, and insist on Young Earth Creationism, because too much of that fails to make sense. But a more metaphorical take could very well work for me, and if it ends up with Jesus Christ as Savior I don't see how folks could much object to that. Of course they probably will anyway, I always seem to upset people. I'm Aspie, I always say what is on my mind, even when it would be better to shut up. That's probably not going to change. :-)