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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Vatican Astronomer: Six-day creationism is "pagan superstition"

Guy Consolmagno, one of the Vatican astronomers who takes issue with the Catholic Church's recent clarification that it is opposed to Darwinism, recently told The Scotsman:

Consolmagno stated that the Christian God is a supernatural god. In the past, the belief in God being supernatural led the clergy to become involved in science to find natural explanations for things like thunder and lightning. Pagans often attribute thunder and lightning to vengeful gods.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god," he said. "And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do." (May 6, 2006)

Now, I'm hardly a fan of young earth (YEC or six-day) creationism myself, though I covered it charitably in By Design or by Chance?">. But there are two major things wrong with Brother Consolmagno's claims:

1. It's just nonsense to say that YEC is a form of "pagan" superstition. I studied its history for By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004). YEC got started in about 1960 in church basements. However misguided one may think it to be, it is an authentic product of American evangelical Protestant Christianity. But Consolmagno is so sure of the sympathy of his audience that he can proclaim any fine-sounding nonsense, knowing that no one will check him out on the facts.

2. Consolmagno's actual position leaves me, for one, wondering how close his position is to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It seems clear from his comments above that he thinks that God, being supernatural, does not act in nature. Now he is entitled to his opinion, of course, but it is worth mentioning that he serves a church which requires that a person have performed an authenticated miracle or two in order to be declared a saint.

Paganism and creationism: Six-day creationism is a form of fundamentalism (literal interpretation of the Bible), which originated with Christianity and other "religions of the Book" and has no pagan roots whatever. Nor could it have such roots.

The pagans' only book is nature itself (the "book of creation," as it was formerly called). However, once an actual book is accepted as a divine revelation (Torah, Bible, Koran), it can be quoted with authority. But such books only came into existence with monotheistic religions.

The fact that Consolmagno can get away with such misrepresentations shows how eager many in the science community are to hastily shelve the discussion of intelligent design, citing any old nonsense that sounds pleasant to digest.

For anyone who wants to know facts in this area, there are actually "pagans" (sometimes called "heathens") in North America. To my knowledge, they are not particularly friendly to creationism (young earth or ancient earth) or to any type of intelligent design. (Scroll down or search on the term "intelligent design.")

My sense, incidentally, is that they are ignorant of the nature of the issues; they clearly do not understand that materialism is as much their enemy as it is the enemy of the monotheistic religions. They want to be traditional Greek or African-type pagans, but they risk being exploited by modern materialists, flogging up materialism as if it were paganism/heathenism.

Basically, as I see it, the pagans are trapped. They cannot go home again to Diana or Thor or Babalu Aia. The last deities of the great pantheons of old were creatures like Psyche (soul) and Baldur (a Christ figure), who foreshadowed the end of the pagan way of thinking altogether. That way had its achievements, yes, in great literature, art, architecture, and seminal learning - but it has long passsed its best before date, and the arrow of time flies on and on.

The modern pagan (heathen) movement, incidentally, dates back to the 1950s , not to mediaeval or prehistoric times, as the pagans would like to imagine. Thus, modern paganism took root at the same approximate time as young earth (six-day) creationism, but through an entirely different path, among different people, with different sources of credibility.

At the very same time, among the highbrows, people like Aldous Huxley and Sir John Eccles were speaking out against materialism, in favor of perennial philosophy , but more on that later. There is a whole history of early revolts against materialism that begs to be told.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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