Curmudgeon’s Guide: Understanding Creationists

From time to time we offer advice for dealing with creationists (for example, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Opposing Creationism), and we thought it was a good idea to revisit the subject.

The first thing you must understand is that we are living in a crazy world. The most recent Gallup poll on the subject reports that: In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins. How did we get into this mess and what should a sane person do about it?

The situation is so bizarre and unbelievable that it may be best to approach it by analogy. Think of Bellevue, at one time the premier mental hospital in the US, and in popular lore its name was once synonymous with insane asylum. A century ago, imagine that they had an active Napoleon Ward where the most advanced and incurable cases of Napoleonic Delusion were kept. Each of the inmates insists that he — and he alone — is Napoleon Bonaparte. We visited the place once before (see Tales from the Napoleon Ward), but today we’re thinking of the old days, when there really were a bunch of “Napoleons” wandering around.

Now imagine a breakout. A hundred years ago, one of the Napoleons escapes into the general population and is never re-captured. He wanders around, giving rousing speeches, gathering recruits for his fantasy legions, and enthralls his followers with rhetoric about the great goals of his movement and the glories to be achieved upon his eventual triumph. The astute among you may notice that the Bellevue breakout coincides with the rise of the modern school of biblical inerrancy, but that’s just a Curmudgeonly coincidence.

The astonishing thing is that this delusional Napoleon is successful. Perhaps it’s not so astonishing — it’s almost inevitable, because there are always people wandering around looking for leaders to give meaning to their lives. Recruits rally to Napoleon’s banner. The movement grows. Before long there is a vast sub-population of mindless minions following the man they believe to be their Emperor, who will lead them to glorious victory. And of course, those who don’t join are regarded as the enemy.

As crazy as it seems, that is the situation in which we now find ourselves. Although the original escapee is undoubtedly dead by now, he has followers who carry on in his name. The Napoleonic movement (well, it’s actually the creationist movement, but we’ll keep mixing our metaphors) has been steadily growing for a century, and the dedication of its followers is not dimming. Although the numbers may have peaked, they are influential in politics and in popular culture. Their websites are numerous. They try to infiltrate everywhere and to influence everything, and they ceaselessly attempt to de-legitimize all institutions that don’t recognize their authority.

The movement has two types of leaders — the sincere and the cynical. The sincere types are true believers, while the cynics are shamelessly milking the movement for all the money they can bilk out of their followers. When dealing with the leadership, it doesn’t really matter which is which — they all preach the same message (albeit with trivial differences — young-Earth, old-Earth, etc.), and the fervor of their followers is the same. So it doesn’t really matter if a movement activist is truly crazed or merely crafty — the message is the same. That is why we’ve always said that there’s no point in debating with them — see Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism.

There’s no point in debating with their followers either. By definition, once such people are no longer of school age, they are hopelessly lost. Whether they’re merely ignorant, mentally deficient, or truly insane, it makes no difference — they’re not going to change. They’ve found happiness and a sense of purpose in the movement and they’ll never give it up, so there’s no sense in trying to reason with them. They don’t want to learn and they don’t think they need to. In their view of things, you are the one who needs help. You refuse to recognize the authority of your Emperor.

What should you do if you find yourself in an encounter with such a person? As we said in a recent post:

[O]ur advice is this: Terminate the encounter! Smile, mumble some excuse, turn around, and get out of there as fast as possible.

But what if you can’t immediately get away from the creationist? Then it’s a matter of survival. Don’t debate him; don’t disagree with him. That kind of response is potentially dangerous. Don’t try to change his mind — he has no mind. You’ll have to fake it until you can extricate yourself. Let the creationist speak. If he pauses, waiting for some response, say something safe like: “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah!” Then make your getaway as quickly as you can.

After that, come on over here and visit your Curmudgeon. It’s a crazy world out there, but here, at least, you’ll be among friends.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Curmudgeon’s Guide: Understanding Creationists

  1. Spellcheck: Although the numbers may have peeked,

  2. Thanks, TomS. Fixed.

  3. But, but, I like interacting with creationists. They are the perfect intellectual chew toy. It’s a simple pleasure I don’t want to give up.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    Debate with a creationist is mindless, but attending one of their presentations to the faithful is extremely educational. Recently I attended a lecture presentation by two YECs, targeted at an audience of true believers.

    The audience included many parents and their school age children. Lecturer #2 was quite adept at injecting bible verse quotations to prove, among other things, that dinosaurs and humans truly walked along the same rivers at the same time about 6,000 years ago.

    At one particularly important point he started out solo, singing the beginning of some christian warrior song, and got the kiddies to finish it as a choir while he silently beamed and grinned while making choir director gestures. I quickly recalled that the intro to his lecture mentioned that he had recently been at a public school 1st grade class with his dog and pony show.

    The lecture provided several opportunities to join in with the chorus for an “Amen!” or “Praise the lord”. It would take some practice to be able to do it in unison and not stand out from the crowd with an mis-timed response. Hard to practice that skill at home – maybe watching tel-evangelists would help if you decide to visit one of these events.

    The session ended with a series of bible quiz questions, rewarded with assorted rock samples and other creationist trinkets for the exploited blessed little kiddies.

  5. I was told once that you should never argue or discuss with a stupid person, anyone watching will soon not be able to tell the difference

  6. Would I partake in an argument with someone clinging to their guns and bibles? No, I adhere to the old adage about the folly of having a “battle of wits” with a conscientious objector.

    In any case, all of this points to the failure of education particularly in the sciences and mathematics. Rational and logical thought processes do not readily lend itself to an understanding of the universe populated by imaginary friends. In the future the brainwashing of children by religious cults needs to be outlawed.

  7. Curmudgeon: “By definition, once such people [followers of movement leaders] are no longer of school age, they are hopelessly lost.”

    Not true. A tiny minority do come to their senses. But much more importantly, please do not imply that all 46% that “hold ‘the’ creationist view” are such committed followers (plus the leaders). Only about half are. The rest are salvageable, and only choose the “creationist” answer because they haven’t given it 5 minutes’ thought. Many are “thinking souls, not cells,” and reacting on emotion when they reject the coldly worded “theistic evolution” answer in favor of the warm and fuzzy “humans created in their present form in the last 10,000 years option.” I can personally vouch that such people can and do come to their senses, when patiently explained how they have been misled.

    Let’s also not forget that 1/3 to 1/2 of the 54% that “hold the evolutionist view” also think it’s fair to “teach the controversy” in public school science class. Our job is not to “debate creationists” but to inform Americans.

  8. Ceteris Paribus: “Recently I attended a lecture presentation by two YECs, targeted at an audience of true believers.”

    If audience questions were allowed, I would ask the lecturers their opinion of:
    1. Why at least half of Biblical literalists are old earthers.
    2. Why Michael Behe, who accepts not just an old earth but ~4 billion years of common descent, is cited as the “anti-evolution savior” more often than YEC peddlers.

  9. tijawalters

    Curmudgeons are joined in marriage with the spirit of antichrist. They are therefore allergic to truth and light. They must live in their dark caves with their minds, hearts and eyes crusted with mud in order to maintain their inherently false belief system. A curmudgeon cannot allow exposure to the light and truth because then they would experience a loss of liberty. The idea of being a slave to Christ is anathema. They must ridicule those who have joined themselves to their Creator for all eternity thereby have resigned there free will to Almighty God. However, the curmudgeonly antichrist will retain his or her free will to maintain their self imposed miniscule and dark universe which is based on lies, self-deception, fear and timidity. May Jesus bless you.

  10. Goodbye, tijawalters.

  11. Don’t ya just love it when they curse you and then bless you? 🙂

  12. docbill1351

    Too true. I much prefer a grammatically incorrect but more encompassing inter-species curse like, “&*%$ you and the horse you rode in on.”

    From the heart and says it all.

  13. The worst thing about there being no afterlife is that people like tijawalters will never know they were wrong, and that they wasted so much of their life.