Why We Deconstruct: Evolution, COVID, & Climate Change

January 10th, 2024 / 1 Comment

Tripp Fuller and I are writing a project we’re calling God After Deconstruction. We’re doing an online class starting soon on the subject, and we encourage you to sign up for it. We’re also organizing in-person God After Deconstruction conferences, the first of which is February 9-10 at Drew University in New Jersey. The second in-person conference is April 12-13 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Denver.

Here’s an excerpt from a chapter in the book we’re writing with the same name. This chapter addresses scientific reasons people deconstruct from conservative and fundamentalist religion.


Janet Kellogg Ray is one of the more insightful and accessible writers on issues of science and faith. She grew up in a conservative church that, as she puts it, felt “comfortable standing against the entire scientific community when it comes to evolution.”[1] To her community, evolution was synonymous with atheism. Kellogg Ray liked science, however, and graduated with a degree in biology from a Christian college, although her professors “conveniently ignored the topic of evolution.”[2]

Kellogg Ray eventually admitted that rejecting the evidence for an ancient earth was intellectually dishonest. Evolution makes far better sense of dinosaurs and various fossils. Besides, deniers of evolution cannot make sense of contemporary biology, including how it informs medicine and other scientific domains. So she began to integrate her Christian faith with contemporary science.

In her book, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark?, Kellogg Ray addresses the young-earth creationism of her youth and today. At the heart of young-earth arguments is not the claim that evolution lacks evidence, although sometimes that rhetoric appears. The heart is a particular, literal reading of the Bible, especially Genesis. Young-earthers argue that rejecting all the Bible says about biology and cosmology puts one on a slippery slope to rejecting all it says about God and morality.

The most influential young-earth organization, Answers in Genesis, claims the Bible can only be authoritative for those who reject evolution and science that opposes biblical cosmologies. The group claims educational institutions with a correct reading of scripture will oppose evolution. “If they are willing to take a stand on a literal Genesis, that’s a great sign they hold firmly to biblical authority… If the school refuses to take a position or, worse, takes the position of evolution and/or millions of years, you can see that they allow other things, such as secular scientists’ interpretations, to be the authority over God’s Word — and that’s dangerous.”[3]

To keep the faithful from being duped by the evidence, fundamentalists say scientists can’t be trusted. “For decades,” says Kellogg Ray, “evangelicals have been told that scientists are hiding or ignoring evidence for special creation, a young earth, and a global flood.”[4] This deception leads unsuspecting people to embrace atheism. Kellogg Ray says it’s “quite the opposite—the denial of evolution and other aspects of science is shipwrecking faith.”[5]

COVID and Climate Change
While evolution has long been the center of science and religion debates, two new issues have surfaced as primary. There’s a strong correlation between evangelicals who deny evolution and those who deny climate change. And a high percentage of evangelicals who deny evolution also reject vaccination and masks in response to COVID.

Polls show that white evangelicals who reject evolution are the least likely of all religious groups to be vaccinated for COVID. They are also the least likely to consider the health of their community in making a decision about vaccinations. Evolution-denying evangelicals are least likely to take the pandemic seriously.[6]

At the height of the pandemic and before the vaccine was available, many white evangelicals demanded to gather for church services. Few who met wore masks.[7] More than a million Americans died because of Covid, and health officials say most deaths were caused by the failure of some to be vaccinated. Evangelicals were also among the loudest voices against mask-wearing and public safety. Their members leveled ugly criticisms of pandemic experts like Anthony Fauci.[8]

Two-thirds of white evangelicals deny that human activity leads to global warming; they are the largest religious group that denies climate change. A similar percentage of white Catholics think similarly.[9]

There’s an important connection between denying evolution and rejecting climate science. “Evangelicals have been told that secular scientists’ interpretations of climate data cannot be trusted because they are made with the assumption of a billions-of-years-old earth,” explains Kellogg Ray. “If the earth is only six-to-ten thousand years old, how can scientists possibly know what the climate was like fifty thousand years ago?”[10]

To put it another way, a literal reading of Genesis and distrust of contemporary science jeopardize efforts to combat climate change and fight infectious diseases. This fundamentalist thinking kills countless creatures — human and nonhuman. So it’s little wonder why conscientious people are deconstructing traditional religion.

[1] Janet Kellogg Ray, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? The Bible and Modern Science and the Trouble of Making It All Fit (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021),4.

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Ken Ham, “Choosing the Right Christian College,” Answers in Genesis, October 2, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/huk4aj6e

[4] Janet Kellogg Ray, The God of Monkey Science: People of Faith in a Modern Scientific World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2023), 8.

[5] Ibid., 176.

[6] Yonat Shimron, “Black Protestants Aren’t Least Likely to Get a Vaccine; White Evangelicals Are,” Religion News Service, March 5, 2021, https://religionnews.com/2021/03/05/black-protestants-arent-least-likely-to-get-a-vaccine-white-evangelicals-are/

[7] Kellogg Ray, The God of Monkey Science, 2.

[8] Ibid., 61.

[9] Ibid., 144.

[10] Ibid., 140.

Add comment



I would suggest there is a strong correlation between scriptural literalists and science denial/mistrust that informs literalists’ thinking toward evolution, climate and COVID. That said, COVID seems to include a broader audience doubting the science. They may trust science in general but they did not trust Fauci, HHS, the FDA, WHO, etc. They looked to other sources for data and reached their judgments accordingly. It seemed the distrust had as much to do with skepticism and loss of faith in institutions as it was in the science presented by the institutions. Where the first group assumes the science is an attempt to under mine faith (as in evolution), there were/are numerous concerns I’ve heard from the second…the science is biased, the vaccine is ineffective-harmful and the data is wrong, the approach is over reach. The first group is absolutely certain they know the answers and know who or what to trust (the Bible and likely their pastor). The second group seems more likely to not feel they have all the answers and not know who to trust at this point. Trust in institutions continues to erode, often rightly so. Whether it’s the church or WHO, they are no longer afforded blanket sway. As with spiritual reconstruction efforts, there’s work to do to build trustworthy, accountable organizations and wise thought leadership to help fill the void.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Type in all 5 of the digits below to leave a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.