Religion and Life – ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE AND LIFE

The Origins of the Universe and Life

 

Scientific Theories

 

Big Bang 

This scientific theory deals with the origin of the world. It proposes that about 14 billion years ago, a massive cosmic explosion occurred. This was the start of what we now call the universe. To begin with, basic particles were very hot and as they cooled they began to stick together to form stars and planets.

The evidence for this can be found in the Red Shift, which shows that the universe is expanding, and Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, which is the ‘afterglow’ of the Big Bang.

 

Evolution

This scientific theory helps explain the origins of humanity. It was put forward by Charles Darwin in his book The Origin of Species in 1859. He claimed that life evolved by natural selection through a process of survival of the fittest. Life began as simple bacteria and over millions of years has evolved into the complex animals and plants we see around us. This theory suggests that humans evolved from apes.

Evidence for this can be found in fossils and by observing the way organisms live today.

Link – Think carefully about whether these theories make it more difficult to believe in a creator God. Can a belief in scientific theories and God be combined?

 

Religious Theories

 

Christianity

Genesis 1 – Describes the creation of the universe over a six day period:

 

Day 1 – God creates light and separates light from dark

Day 2 – God separated sea and sky

Day 3 – God created dry land and plants

Day 4 – God created sun, moon and stars

Day 5 – God created birds and sea creatures

Day 6 – God created animals and humans (Humans are created “in the image of God”, told to “fill the earth and subdue it”.)

Day 7 – God rested

 

Interpretations of the Genesis story

Not all Christians interpret the Genesis story the same way:

 

Fundamentalist Christians – Take the story literally. The Bible is the exact word of God and cannot be questioned. Everything was created by God as we see it today.

 

Liberal Christians – Believe that the story in Genesis is a myth that conveys important messages or meaning. It should not be taken as factually true but rather as an allegory. The message given is that we are each created and loved by God and have been given a beautiful world to live in that we should take care of.

 

 

Genesis 2

Genesis 2 explores the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam is created from the dust of the Earth and given the opportunity to name all of the creatures that God has created. No creature is a match for Adam so God makes him fall into a deep sleep and takes one of his ribs to create Eve. ‘It is not good for man to be alone’. Humans are given ‘dominion’ over all creatures and viewed as the highpoint of God’s creation. Mankind are made in the ‘image and likeness of God’.

Not all Christians interpret this story the same way:

 

Fundamentalist Christians – Take the story literally. Adam and Eve were created as perfect human beings and placed in the Garden of Eden.

 

Liberal Christians – Believe that this story is a myth and simply has allegorical meaning. The message is clear, humans have been given a special place in creation by God. They are different to the other creatures a share a unique relationship with God.

 

Islam

While the Christian Bible contains stories describing the events of creation, as well as many other events, the Qur’an is written in a very different way.  This means that there is no one section of the Qur’an that contains a creation story.  Rather, the ideas about creation are spread across various chapters (suras) of the Qur’an.  The Hadith (the collections of sayings of Muhammad) also contains information about creation.

 

What does the Qur’an say about creation?

 

Your Lord is God; He who created the heavens and the earth in six days,

sura 7:54

 

A day with your Lord is like a thousand years of your count.

sura 22:47

 

Do the disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were one mass, and We tore them apart? And We made from water every living thing.

sura 21:30

 

 

The Arabic word for ‘days’ appears several times in the Qur’an at is used to refer to different times periods.  In one place it refers to 50,000 years, in another, a 1000.  The word is usually thought to mean a long period of time, rather than an exact length of time.

 

The Qur’an also contains information about the origins of human life:

 

Your Lord said to the angels, “I am creating a human being from clay, from moulded mud.”

“When I have formed him, and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down prostrating before him.”

sura 15:29

 

O people! Fear your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and created from it its mate, and propagated from them many men and women.

sura 4:1

 

While the name of the first man (Adam) is mentioned in the Qur’an, the name of woman is not, though other writings refer to her as Hawa (Eve).  The Qur’an suggests that both men and women were created from the same “single soul”, while the Hadith writings contain the idea that Eve was made from Adam’s side.

 

Exam Tip – Clearly there are a number of similarities between the two accounts. Make sure you know at least two ways the accounts are similar/different.

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