Former Christian Fundamentalist: How Science Made Me Lose My Religion

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Ed Suominen was raised in a small sect of Lutheran Christianity called  Laestadianism. Of the 32,000 denominations into which Christianity has fractured, his is one of the more conservative. Members believe in the literal truth of the Bible, including the creation story. They eschew sins like drinking, dancing, watching television, wearing earrings, and playing school sports. They marry only within their own sect and believe God alone should decide how many children they have. Suominen followed the rules; he met and married the right kind of girl, and together they have 11 children. 


But Suominen is also an engineer, trained at the University of Washington. He has been a patent agent and an inventor, and eventually his work with electrical and digital systems led him to notice something his church hadn’t taught him about: the power of natural selection. He was trying to optimize a design, when he  came across a useful software tool: 

“You set up an artificial chromosome with each digital 'gene' determining a parameter for some widget you want to design. Then you created a population of individual widgets by running simulations with different sets of randomly chosen parameters, and had the widgets 'mate' with each other. You repeated this process over many successive generations, throwing in some mutations along the way. Those widgets that worked best in your simulation had the best shot at having 'children' in the next generation.”

It was the beginning of the end. After discovering the practical value of evolutionary computation, Suominen began reading about evolutionary biology. The Genesis story fell apart and frayed the fabric of his Christian belief.

Outsiders sometimes scratch their heads about the dogged insistence of creationists that Adam and Eve actually existed 6,000 years ago in a perfect garden without predators or pain, until they took Satan’s bait and bit into a world-changing apple. How is it, 100 years after Darwin, that we are still fighting about what will be taught in biology classes? Why, in their determination to refute evolution, do some Christians seem intent on taking down the whole scientific enterprise? 

Written By: Valerie Tarico
continue to source article at alternet.org

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  1. In reply to a sentence in the article:

    Outsiders sometimes scratch their heads about the dogged insistence of creationists that Adam and Eve actually existed 6,000 years ago.

    Make that 5,774 years ago, as of this week. At least, according to orthodox Jews.

  2. After discovering the practical value of evolutionary computation…

    That’s the thing with science: it works. How can those who oppose science ignore the fact that it informs our daily lives? It’s not just some ideas on paper that they don’t understand, it’s a method that actually works in giving us answers and solutions.

  3. 32,000 Christian denominations!!! Mind boggling. If that doesn’t plant a tiny seed of doubt about its “GODLY” origins…

    No wonder many fundamentalists are not keen on their progeny going in for a tertiary education.They are discovering the truth and discovering that the said truth is not to be found in the scriptures.This is heartening news.The foundations of religion are crumbling slowly and one can look forward to the entire rotten edifice collapsing.

    • In reply to #4 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      32,000 Christian denominations!!! Mind boggling.

      When you combine one of organised religion’s basic principles “we’re a special group, and you’re not” with the typical bigotry of fundamentalists, I don’t find thousands of factions to be at all surprising. Nothing reinforces the idea of “we’re special” quite like a ridiculous set of membership requirements and claiming the “mainstream” beliefs of your religion aren’t good enough to make good on the rewards it pretends to offer

  4. “sins like … watching television, … and playing school sports”

    Wow, they must be committing blasphemy just by being awake!

    That’s not just “more conservative”, that’s the most conservative, reality hating, piece if batshit insanity disguised as a religion I’ve ever heard of.

    That’s so restrictive and self defeating its amazing they still exist

    • In reply to #5 by N_Ellis:

      Wow, they must be committing blasphemy just by being awake!

      Funny!

      That’s so restrictive and self defeating its amazing they still exist

      Inbreeding may yet do them in! Science always wins….

    • In reply to #5 by N_Ellis:

      “sins like … watching television, … and playing school sports”

      Wow, they must be committing blasphemy just by being awake!

      That’s not just “more conservative”, that’s the most conservative, reality hating, piece if batshit insanity disguised as a religion I’ve ever heard of.

      That’s so restric…

      Obviously it gives one much more time for producing children. 11? I bet his church was happy with that!

  5. If you come from a sect like this one then you are bound to kick and scream against it. These sects play on the guilty side of your mind. A sin like “watching television” should wake up the danger signs in a person’s mind. If it was a “sin” then the whole world are in pay of the devil. As for producing lots of children all the church wants is more members. I often wonder how many people still believe is this rubbish. Religion is taking humans backwards.

  6. It’s amazing how “Truth will set us free.” Little did they know that they were referring to the “competition.”
    When you acknowledge a fact, all else falls away if you are open and honest. Kudos to this man for being as such.

    Yesterday, I watched a PBS show about the history of the US National Parks. At one point in the show, it was discussed how the parks were centered around the tourist’s experience. Wild animals were fed garbage in order to attract a scene for visitors. Animals were corralled and hunted to near extinction. I cannot tell you how shocking I found many of the tourist photos with animals to be. It was blatant bad behavior on the part of humans typically acting in a stupid and disrespectful manner. Finally, one man NPS biologist/zoologist named George Melendez Wright aware of the widespread abuses of animal habitats, pushes the service to reform its wildlife policies. He paid for a study with his own money, surveyed parks across the country, and was eventually able to convince others to make significant changes which has literally saved many species from harm and extinction. Science-centered policies today are a result of his efforts.

    So when I hear one story of a person bucking the system and status quo searching for truth, there is no telling where it may lead. This PBS show gave me hope for the future. Perhaps one day, someone (or many) with enough money and influence will save us from our environmentally damaging ways by encouraging policies that are science-centered. This can only be done if enough people are will to leave backward ideas behind.

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