May 21, 2004


My girlfriend comes from a deeply religious background, and I mean deeply religious. I don't know what it is with me and dating women with deeply religious backgrounds, but it seems to be a trend. I think God may be sending these women my way because He know I need constant reminders that I'm kind of a loose cannon when it comes to religious belief.

Melissa's mother is so Protestant it should almost be illegal. If I had to imagine her having sex, I'm sure the scene would play out with her not enjoying herself in the least while doing her best to concentrate on the Bible on the shelf. She's a nice woman, overall, but she has no dreams or aspirations for herself. She's just living on autopilot, ignorant about so much stuff it's actually depressing.

Of course, Melissa's mom has a difficult time reconciling with the fact she married a man who, after three kids, decided he was, in fact, gay. It's fascinating to watch them together, really, during family gatherings. On the one hand, you have the mother, who lives life so tight and controlled and by the Bible, you'd think the mere suggestion of a naked person would make her head explode, while over there with old dad you have a guy who hosts pool parties on the weekends with many several men who get together to do things that would no doubt make Elton John blush.

Well, anyway, I'm getting off topic here.

Thanks to Melissa's ultra-Protestant mother, Mel was brought up in ultra-Protestant surrounding, right down to the ultra-Protestant school she went to that featured a class size of four, count them FOUR, students. Melissa endured this ultra-Protestant educational environment all the way up to her freshman year, at which point she was introduced to the reality of large public schools.

Now, I have no problem with teaching the Bible. I love the Bible. I have my own Bible. I spend a lot of time pondering religion and my place in it. It can be a mind-bending exercise to try and fit my knowledge of the world within the confines of my admittedly nebulous religious belief structure.

However, I do have a problem with teaching the Bible and only the Bible, which was what Melissa was taught during all of her most formative years. She's a smart girl. She attends interior design classes at the University of Minnesota and she routinely gets As and Bs. She took a logic class just last semester and breezed her way to a B. She's smart as a whip.

But, damnit, she can be so ignorant sometimes.

As a classic example, last weekend we were driving around Rochester, coming back from what has become a routine trip to Menards, and I started talking about evolution. The conversation started, I think, when I mentioned that the glaciers that dominated most of Minnesota during the last ice age missed much of Southeastern Minnesota, hence the hills and valleys. Then I mentioned that most of Minnesota, after the glaciers, was a lake that eventually gave way to the 10,000+ lakes of today. And then I went way far back and started talking about fossils. Yeah, I'm a boring fucker like that. Anyway, the talk about fossils eventually got me talking about evolution and how it's believed that all life started in the premordial soup of the ancient oceans.

"I don't believe that," said Mel, matter-of-factly.

"Oh, right. I suppose you believe in Creationism," I said.

"No, it's not that. Well, it's kinda that. I don't believe in strict Creationism. I mean, I believe that God created the world in seven days, but I think, to God, a day could be a million years or more," she explained, and I was surprised to hear her say it.

"Ah, The Scopes Monkey Trial reasoning," I said.


"Never mind."

"I think Creationism can fit pretty nicely alongside evolution," she said.

"I totally agree."

"But," she continued. "I don't believe that all life originated in the sea and I don't believe man evolved from monkies."

"Well, how do you explain why our cells have the same salt or saline content as the oceans?"


"fucking coincidence?"

"No, just coincidence."

"Argh! Okay, well, how do you explain pre-hominid fossilized skulls going back millions of years?" I asked, changing the subject.

"What's a pre-hominid?"

"Pre-human. How do you explain all the fossilized skulls and bones that clearly point to an evolutionary development to moden day human?"

"Oh. Well, they were monkies."


"Well, they weren't humans, right?"

"Well, no, they weren't, but they were becoming humans," I said, thinking I was pointing out the obvious.

"But, they weren't humans. We're humans. They weren't. That seems pretty simple."

"But they became humans!"

"No they didn't. I don't see any evidence for that. You're talking about monkey skulls that clearly didn't have the brain capacity we do."


"Well, isn't that just fucking convenient?"

"ARGH! Look, do you think human beings are going to look like we do in, say, eight million years? I mean, provided we don't eradicate ourselves tomorrow in a nuclear holocaust. Seriously, what do you think you'll be in eight million years?"

Looking disinterestedly out the window, she answered:

"A very incredibly dead interior designer."

Posted by Ryan at May 21, 2004 10:37 AM

Being a once-student of biological anthropology; I had that same argument more than once. Sigh.

The most frustrating part, for me, was that no matter who I was having the argument with, there was one common denominator: they always held that "Man didn't evolve from monkeys". one is saying that they did. Just that we both had common ancestors. Some of us evolved into monkeys and apes, some of us evolved into hominids.

You'd think they'd have found that easier to swallow.

Posted by: Redpanda at May 21, 2004 10:50 AM

Melissa's mom doesn't concentrate on the Bible during sex. She doesn't have to as she is reciting the books in her head "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc.
"Matthew, Mark, Luke, John" The thought of the Book of John elicits a moan from her b/c John is a really happening book of the Bible. The partner thinks she is excited b/c of the moan & everyone is happy.
And she knows that when she gets to Ephesians for the second time the episode is almost over.
This is how I believe most die-hard Christians procreate.

Posted by: Mandy at May 21, 2004 12:29 PM

Wow, Mandy. That was like some sort of sexual speed-through of the Bible. I feel almost divine now.

Posted by: Ryan at May 21, 2004 12:38 PM

I'd have a really hard time with that.

I often do. I went with The Girl to a service in her very very Southern Baptist home town and I was amazed— I mean, the guy actually took the time to preach against evolution. In 40 minutes he damned me and The Girl to hell at least five times without knowing it. Damned both my parents, all my friends. And then he went off on evolution. I was, to reiterate, amazed. I'd just kind of assumed that denial of evolution was one of those things some people fake, like, for the sake of argument. But this guy was dead serious.

Sometimes it's not hard for me to imagine why most of the rest of the world views us with fear and suspicion. We have nuclear weapons, and more than half our population doesn't believe in evolution. Not exactly what I look for in a neighbor.

Posted by: Joshua at May 21, 2004 01:00 PM

The thing is, Joshua, Melissa kinda believes in evolution as it applies to everything EXCEPT human beings. To her, it's perfectly understandable and reasonable to think that turtles took millions and millions of years to become turtles. Yet, in her mind, human beings were conjured specifically by God and plopped in the Garden of Eden, preformed and ready to go. The idea that humans are a result of evolution is the straw she just can't grasp. It's kinda fascinating to witness the mental disconnect required for such a leap of faith, but then I drop from fascinated to just plain irritated.

Posted by: Ryan at May 21, 2004 01:28 PM

Here is a theory of mine: Fundamentalism draws people who can't see the miracle of creation even though it is right in front of them. They lack the ability to step outside of themselves and perceive a reality without themselves and their faith at the center of it all. For any number of reasons, they can't find joy or faith in the miracle of creation, so they adhere to a strict interpretation of the words of someone who may or may not have experienced this joy 2000 years ago.

I am trying to say that people who have faith in some kind of bronze age mountain deity named "God" fundamentally lack real faith. They need levitation and large stones moving around by themselves to verify that yes indeed some supernatural trickery is going on, therefore there is a world beyond this one and therefore I can count on being happy there, cause I sure ain't happy here because I am so god-damned uptight.

Posted by: tim at May 21, 2004 03:03 PM

tim: of course, I think the thing to keep in mind when discussing all this is that you're still talking about Ryan's girlfriend.

Posted by: Joshua at May 21, 2004 03:29 PM

My wife and I are in the same boat as you and your girlfriend. We've just decided not to bother to disagree about it as it seldom affects our everyday life. :)

I agree that it's really man evolving from monkies that bothers them the most. And I don't even think it's the theological aspects that bothers them. It's a personal one, they just don't want to think that THEY personally evolved from hairy, sex-loving, primates.

I've reconciled myself that both evolution and the Bible can be right. It said that God created man in his own image. What's God's image? You know it's not talking about his physical image, else women get seriously left out of the picture.

But, if it was his spiritual image, can't it be that he imparted a soul (spirit) to the earth (base creature) to create mankind? And couldn't that have happened during that very last evolutionary step?

Posted by: bigdocmcd at May 21, 2004 03:30 PM

bigdocmd, I routinely think of myself as being a hairy, sex-loving primate, and it's probably not far off the mark.

Posted by: Ryan at May 21, 2004 03:36 PM

I think it has to do with the notion that humans are separate and 'above' nature because we have a divine purpose in life; namely to tell God how great he is throughout our lives and even after our deaths...(is it just me or does an eternity spent singing halleluiah sound awfully boring?) It's akin to the old belief about the Earth being the center of the universe with every other celestial body revolveing around us. Or the idea that there is no possibilty of any other form of intelligent life in the entire universe. Sheer human ego. Considering what an egomaniac the biblical God is, it's no small wonder I suppose.

Posted by: Paige at May 21, 2004 04:11 PM

I find a weird contradiction in creationism. You talk about cells and DNA and the infinite complexities of life, human and otherwise, and creationists go, "Yes, all that is God's miracle! Amazing, isn't it?"

So you ask, "Well, okay, but it's awfully complex. Why not just make us out of animated clay?"

And they go, "God moves in mysterious ways!"

So you go, "Okay, then maybe God made life to evolve, and it evolved into humans. So that's part of God's miracle too; talking monkeys."

And I'm not explaining this very well, but I think what I'm trying to get at is that they're willing to attribute all manner of weird complex things to God. Every time scientists make a new discovery, creationists are perfectly happy to incorporate it into "God's plan". But when it comes down to human evolution they suddenly get very literal-minded. Like, yes, God created electro-weak force, but evolving humans from apes would be crossing some kind of metaphysical line.

Posted by: Joshua at May 21, 2004 04:45 PM

Evolution fits well within creationism? WTF?

Seriously, these people who have deluded themselves into believing some week long creation of, well, everything are willfully ignorant of reality.

Although I did once meet a really hot girl who was a creationist and proud of it. At the time, I didn't care because she was smokin' (not smoking, mind you). But nowadays I can't help but look at someone who declares themself a creationist with a mixture of scorn and pity. Unless the person happens to be a really hot girl. Then I look at her with a mixture of lust and disgust.

Ooh, a new word, Ryan. Dislust - how you can be thoroughly disgusted with someone and yet you still want to jump their bones.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at May 21, 2004 06:01 PM

Your story reminds me of a friend of mine when returning from a long stay in America described his experience saying "it has all the problems and all the solutions".

As a non-American living beyond your borders I confirm that the Rest of the World is dumbstruck that lots of Americans still believe in creationism and struggle with the concept of evolution. I mean, what does this say about our time and where we are at as a species? It is terrifying. How the hell are we going to survive ourselves? The American Empire is the richest most powerful, most savvy empire ever. Of course you don't have a global monopoly on religious dogma and the human capacity for duh? is utterly widespread and seems inexhaustible. Its just that the contrast between cultivated scientific brilliance and serious lack of questioning of fundamental assumptions that you describe Ryan seems to reach a zenith in America, the most powerful nation ever, and that makes me really nervous.

For endless fuel for the evolution debate check out What is Enlightenment? magazine. Especially check out
Teillard de Chardin, a French Jesuit philosopher who called what is really the very recent discovery of evolution as significant to our future as the discovery of fire was to our past.

I believe there is an emerging realisation at the cutting edge where creationism and evolution merge into one thing but at a higher synthesis. WIE? are at the vangurad of this thinking as is integral philosopher Ken Wilber. The main theme is that because we have become conscious of the evolutionary thrust of the kosmos we have evolved as a species to the point where we are now in a partnership with the evolutionary thrust of the universe (god?) and are therefore obligated to consciously direct evolution for the sake of life itself. It is with us that the universe is becoming self-aware as us. We are co-creators with evolution which is a whole new way of looking at creationism - we are creating the future. We have become Gods! At least equal partners with God.

The evolutionary motive of the universe seems determined - from simple lone bacteria to infiniteley complex social beings such as ourselves - to create higher and higher expressions of harmony and integration. At this point in the evolution of everthing, this new thinking goes, that that can't continue without our conscious participation. Again check out the collective intelligence article at WIE? for what that might actually look like.

Posted by: Steve at May 22, 2004 09:38 PM

I mean no attack on Ryan's girlfriend. I must have thought I was posting on my own website, not talking about anyone's loved ones. I'm sure he wouldn't be hanging out with her if she couldn't experience joy or was otherwise uptight.

Posted by: tim at May 23, 2004 05:42 PM

That's how I was raised too. Imagine my shock when my homeschooling ended and I had to go to public high school and experienced 9th grade biology. I was like, "What the HEAVEN are these people talking about?!?"

Then Mom and Dad explained that my bio teacher and all my classmates were going to hell unless they recanted their belief in the E word (yes, my parents actually called it "the E word"). That was even more distressing in some ways.

By 10th or 11th grade we'd dialed down the E word rhetoric. I learned to emphasize that evolution was "just a theory", which seemed to reassure Mom and Dad. They learned to talk about the possibility of evolution after creation or whatever (I don't remember the specifics now, just that it got kinda messy). And I was so quiet and shy and intimidated in school that I never breathed a word about my beliefs.

Except for one conversation with the bio teacher after class, when I asked him if a lot of scientists believed in creationism rather than evolution. The look he gave me is still seared into my retinas.

Posted by: Layne at May 24, 2004 05:12 AM

I too was a biological anthropology student in university. I actually finished and got that degree, which makes me uniquely qualified for any job that has "Would you like fries with that?" in the normal conversation.

It always amused me to go to my first classes of the semester and there, among all of us crunchy granola tree-huggers, would be a Bible banger.

We'd run them out in short time.

Posted by: Helen at May 24, 2004 10:48 AM

Sorry, realized I came off as a sanctimonious bitch, which I don't really mind, but in this case, I wasn't one-the thumpers would attend the lectures planning to convert us heathens to being Creationists.

One even brought a flip chart.

How organized.

Posted by: Helen at May 24, 2004 12:36 PM

Helen. Heh. I actually took a History of the Bible studies class in college. It was taught by a very cranky Jewish guy. It was funny, because there were some people in there who obviously thought they were taking a religious class, when in fact it was taught in an incredibly secular way. The howls of protest from some of those students could have been heard in Montana. It wasn't for me, though. I dropped the class after a couple of weeks. That was one tough freakin' professor.

Posted by: Ryan at May 24, 2004 12:43 PM

first of all, i think it's great that you, and others, wrote "monkies". hahahah. i'm imagining very small monks. anyway....

"Evolution fits well within creationism?"

yes, it does, to me, if you think of it as: Evolution God's miracle.

i agree that some will agree that everything else evolved, but humans were put here as-is. other Creationists take the word more literally, meaning: God CREATED everything. and then it evolved.

that makes (more) sense to me.

Posted by: leblanc at May 24, 2004 03:05 PM

i don't know why that last comment had so many typos. I meant "Evolution IS God's miracle"....

Posted by: leblanc at May 24, 2004 03:08 PM

Good Point. Anyways, this was where i met her. You can join for free as well

Posted by: click here at March 12, 2005 03:39 AM
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