A number of religions, including Christianity, state that God made the world. I, as an atheist, accept the evidence of science, that the world, indeed the universe, was formed by natural processes. Given this, how can I claim that there’s no conflict between religion and atheism?

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Well, first of all, let’s dismiss the obvious nonsense. A number of religious interpretations claim that God made the world, which means, they say, the big bang and so on are wrong. They present no evidence otherwise, except their belief. Since God made the world, and since the world includes the big bang, it follows that God made the big bang, and thus by ignoring the big bang they are denying works of God. Thus, by their own belief, their interpretation of the bible is wrong. By denying the evidence of science, they are denying God, so must be wrong. Their understanding needs fixing. It’s that simple.

Indeed, the only thing you can be confident about any literal interpretation of a religious text that claims God made the world is that the literal interpretation is wrong. Basically, religious fundamentalism is nonsense on stilts, because it requires believers to deny those works of God they find inconvenient.

But what about those interpretations that accept that religious texts are works of literature? In this respect, they’re fine. They say God is a poet, a writer, he inspires poetry, he inspires literature, he inspires the use of allegory, he inspires the use of all the tools of literature. If something in a religious appears to contradict reality, it doesn’t: the text is simply using literary effect.

For me, as an atheist, the world God made is the world of our perception. When we look on reality, we look through the eyes of our understanding. That is shaped by the world we live in, our culture, our understanding, our upbringing. And that is shaped by our culture, the ways we do things, which are themselves shaped by our collective religion, our society’s way of understanding. God shapes our understanding of the world. And, God, being the collective best of our culture, gives us good tools to survive, to understand.

When I read the poetry of JH Prynne, my understand of language was shaken. I realised, whilst the heat of the poetry was still in my head, that what people tended to say were the easier things to say in the language used. To put a nasty spin on it, it’s laziness of thought. In the same place with the same people, change the language and you change the words, you change the flow, you change the conversation. Your language, your culture, changes the way you think, changes what you understand, what you see.