The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

The Hypocrisy of the Creationist “Teach All Views” Argument

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 27, 2011

In my time tracking & critiquing the creationist movement, I have spent much time and many electrons typing articles pointing out the flaws in their various arguments.  I will continue to do so, but every now and then something seems to come along which puts it into perspective.  For example, I recently saw the following headline about a pastor who was fired from his church for not teaching “the correct” view on the afterlife…

Pastor loses job after questioning hell’s existence

Image: Rev. Chad Holtz poses for a photo in Durham, N.C. Holtz

Sara D. Davis  /  AP file — Chad Holtz was fired from his position as pastor of a church in Henderson, N.C., after posting on his Facebook page a defense of a forthcoming book by megachurch pastor Rob Bell, in which Bell challenges millions of Christians’ understanding of the afterlife.

DURHAM, N.C. — When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

“I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don’t think that means an eternity of torment,” Holtz said. “But I can understand why people in my church aren’t ready to leave that behind. It’s something I’m still grappling with myself.”

The debate over Bell’s new book “Love Wins” has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube. …

So what?  What if some church decides to can their pastor because they don’t like the religious message he’s sending?  I normally might not care myself, except I’m going to guess that the reason why Mr. Holtz is now unemployed is because he was the pastor of a more traditional, conservative congregation which wasn’t receptive to his more moderate view on the afterlife.

In addition, couple this with the fact that many of the more conservative Christian churches in the United States also seem to be rather supportive of the teaching of creationism in public science classes.  How many times have we been subjected to the “teach all views” or “teach the controversy” argument espoused by creationists as they try to wedge their non-scientific, purely religious ideas into the science curriculum?

And therein lies the problem.  You see, the inherent hypocrisy of the creationist movement favored by these conservative, more fundamentalist Christian churches is laid bare when they attempt to make the “teach all views” argument.  After all, look what has happened to Mr. Holtz and those like him who try to teach a different view of heaven & hell in church: they get fired.  In another ironic example, think about how intelligent design proponent William Dembski got himself into trouble when he openly questioned his institution’s account of Noah’s Flood.  Why?  What’s wrong with “teaching all views” in church or at a religious institution?

Of course, I am being quite sarcastic, but I’m doing so to make a particular point.  I don’t honestly care one way or the other if Mr. Holtz’s church or Dembski’s religious school threatens to fire them or actually fires them.  It is the prerogative of those institutions to act in a manner in accordance with their particular religious faith.  On the questions of religious faith, the nature of heaven & hell, and the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, I am perfectly content to let the theologians in their various seminaries continually run in circles, threatening each other with eternal damnation because someone else believes something different than they do.  In fact, I’m quite amused by the show they put on in the process :)

And while the theologians like to have their (in my view) useless arguments, in the real world it is the prerogative of the scientific community to dictate what is & isn’t science by virtue of the scientific process which has steadily evolved over the last 400 years or so.  Thus, professional scientists rightly have the knowledge & power to dictate the proper and established science that should be taught in public school science classes.  They also have the know-how to point at pseudoscientific notions such as creationism and label them as not suitable for the science curriculum.

So, the next time you hear a creationist say “we should teach all views in the science classroom”, accept their argument.  But only so long as they’re willing to “teach all views” or “teach the controversy” in their church first.

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3 Responses to “The Hypocrisy of the Creationist “Teach All Views” Argument”

  1. Craig said

    I think your argument misses two facts: that attendance and membership in churches are purely optional and that churches are all privately funded. Attendance to public schools, on the other hand is mandatory, and all funding comes from tax dollars. To keep it short, you’re not comparing apples to apples here.

    • Joi Ellis said

      Actually, no, for many of us, church attendance is/was not optional because we are forced to attend them by faithful parents, and churches do get indirect taxpayer funding…churches don’t pay the taxes that support services they demand, meaning their neighbors (us taxpayers) pay higher property taxes to cover the fire and police protection churches receive for free.

      Both of your arguments are wrong.

  2. [...] of that particular wording is to give the impression of being completely open-ended (the so-called “teach all views” argument), but note the key word: may.  That’s not a “shall” and that makes a huge [...]

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