Living as I do here in the Bible Belt, religion is a big topic. One could even say that for the majority, it is the most important thing going on here. This is true even among those who don't attend church on a regular basis. Around these parts it is generally considered bad form not to at least give lip service to the God of the Bible.
Also, religious fundamentalism thrives here. By that I mean that most Bible believers are really Bible believers, who think the sixty-six books collected between leather covers which they call The Holy Bible represents God's actual revelation to humankind - to be understood literally (unless it is apparent figurative speech is being used) and taken to be the great repository of the world's truth.
One of my good friends at work is a more progressive type of Christian. He at least entertains the idea that the Bible is not infallible. He is drawn to me because while I hold a certain respect for the Bible and its place in history, I am not bound to a theory about divine inspiration.
The other day he came to me and asked if I believe the story of Noah as contained in the Bible. I told him that over long years of contemplation I had arrived at the conclusion that the first eleven chapters of Genesis contained religious myth rather than literal history. (Not to mention the fact that I do find credible the theory that that material shows distinct traces of being merged traditions.)
Within fifteen minutes my friend returned to my work area to let me know that one of his fundamentalist coworkers wanted to debate me about the historicity of Noah and the great flood. That fundamentalist's big point, I was told, is that Jesus referenced Noah, therefore it must have happened as the Bible says.
I politely declined the opportunity to take part in such a debate. I told my friend it would be akin to arguing with his coworker about which of us has the better mother. In other words, the debate wouldn't be so much about Noah and the flood, but rather about the issue of biblical inspiration and whether Jesus is God. Those issues are highly personal and self-validating. Without a willingness or ability to at least allow that the alternative might be true (and if a fundamentalist Christian did that he would not be a real Christian) there could be no legitimate way to argue the point. All we would be doing is airing our opinions.
Of course I would be happy, I told my friend, to discuss my reasons for thinking along the lines I do. But my friend's coworker was a no-show during our lunch break. Just as well, as I doubt much would have been accomplished.
I know very well the arguments of the Creation Scientists, having read many of their books back when I was trying to hold on to my dwindling faith. I have tried to entertain their thoughts with an open mind. I concluded I would have to grant too many assumptions to take their ideas seriously. My problem with that is I would be conceding too much for one reason only: to keep intact the plausibility of a literal reading of the Bible.
On the other hand, I'm not convinced my would-be debate opponent has given the "secular science" evidence a fair study. I'm fairly certain he, too, would feel as if he were conceding too much by allowing that the Bible version (read: God's version) of Genesis might be wrong. And there the matter stands.
My position is more accommodating: I believe myth can be true in a different way than scientific knowledge generally is. But it was a long journey indeed from my Christian fundamentalism to my present way of thinking.
Do I think I have finally arrived at The Truth now? No way, man! I'm only seeking a way to make sense of life in the Cosmos. No need to debate anything, nor to needlessly exclude people from my circle of fellowship.