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The Relationship Between Evolution & Religion

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Very often, it seems as though evolution and religion must be locked in a desperate struggle of life and death - and for some religious beliefs, perhaps that impression is accurate. However, the fact that some religions and some religious dogmas are not entirely compatible with evolutionary biology does not mean that the same must be true for all religions or religion generally, nor does it mean that evolution and atheism somehow require each other. The subject is more complex than that.

1. Does Evolution Contradict Religion?

Evolution is a scientific subject, but sometimes it seems to be the subject of more non-scientific debate than genuine scientific discussion. The most fundamental debate over evolution is arguably whether evolutionary theory contradicts or is incompatible with religious beliefs. In an ideal world this question wouldn't be relevant - no one debates whether plate tectonics contradicts religion - but in America, this has become an important question. However, the question is also too broad.

2. Does Evolution Contradict Creationism?

Debates about evolution in America typically take the form of a contest or conflict between two competing ideas, evolutionary theory and creationism. Because of this, it is generally assumed that the two are incompatible and mutually exclusive - an impression which scientific creationists are often quick to instill and perpetuate. Despite how much attention is given to conflicts between evolution and creationism, not everyone treats them as mutually incompatible.

3. Does Evolution Contradict Christianity?

It seems like Christianity should be compatible with evolutionary theory — after all, many churches (including the Catholic Church) and many Christians accept evolution as scientifically accurate. In fact many of the scientists who study evolution label themselves as Christians. Fundamentalists who argue against such accommodation, though, insist that belief in evolution undermines the Christian faith. Do they have a point and if so, what in Christianity is contradicted by evolution?

4. Does Evolution Require Atheism?

One thing which seems to cause many people to be inclined to reject evolution is the idea, perpetuated by fundamentalists and creationists, that evolution and atheism are deeply intertwined. According to such critics, accepting evolution necessarily leads a person to being an atheist (along with associated things communism, immorality, etc.). Even some concern trolls who claim to want to defend science say atheists should be quiet lest they give the impression that evolution contradicts theism.

5. Is Evolution a Religion?

It has become common for critics of evolution to claim that it is a religion which is being improperly supported by the government when it is taught in schools. No other facet of science is singled out for this treatment, at least not yet, but it is part of a wider effort to undermine naturalistic science. An examination of the characteristics which best define religions, distinguishing them from other types of belief systems, reveals just how wrong such claims are: evolution is not a religion or a religious belief system because it does not possess the characteristics of religions.

6. Evolution and Jehovah's Witnesses

Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the book Life: How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? is the standard reference work on evolution and creationism for Jehovah's Witnesses and even enjoys some popularity among other religious conservatives. The inaccuracies and falsehoods in the book tells us something about both about the intellectual honesty of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as well the critical thinking skills of those who accept it.

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