Since I am an atheist, the obvious answer to the question posed in the title is: No one. I just wanted to phrase the title to better fit with my other atheist pages.
Originally, I intended to separate these subjects, but I decided to at least summarize them together on this page, since that is the way religious people view their creation myths. If the topics grow out of proportion I guess that I’ll just split it up later. I am also still ambivalent as to how much I should go into details here. I really do want to explain as much as possible, but I am also afraid that too much text will scare off people from reading it. I guess, I’ll just wing it in trying to find a point of balance.
Different religions have different myths of creation, but the religions that I concentrate on basically have the same one. I am talking about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, also known as the Abrahamic religions since they share the same god – the god of Abraham. For you Christians out there, and for those of the rest of you that at least know a little something about the bible, you can simplify it a bit and say that what you read about god in the Old Testament (OT) is pretty much how Judaism and Islam look at god today. In other words, the Torah (from Judaism), the OT (Christianity) and the Quran (Islam) pretty much agree on god and the myth of creation (among other things).
By the way, the reason that I tend to list these three religions in that same order is of course that this is the order in which they where invented. I have no special preferences in that matter.
The creation myth of the Abrahamic religions
So, the creation myth in the Torah, the bible and the Quran is essentially the same, so I won’t bother with the differences. It goes something like this:
In the beginning there is nothing except for Yahweh, the Abrahamic god, who is floating around in nothingness. After eons of this, he finally gets tired and decides to create some stuff to play around with. So he went about it like this:
- Day one (though you might wonder how he defined “day” here since he hadn’t even created the sun and the earth yet): God separated light from the darkness.
- Day two: God created the sky and the oceans.
- Day three: God created the land, trees and grass.
- Day four: God created the sun, moon and stars. So this would actually be when “days” first started to exist.
- Day five: God created the sea animals and birds.
- Day six: God created the land animals and human beings.
- Day seven: God rested.
This story would have made sense to the bronze-age goat herders for which it was written. I can imagine how it might have felt when you were sitting frozen and alone in the desert night, looking up at the moon and the stars, imagining what it would have been like if you didn’t even had that light to go by. Scary thought. So the first thing for a god to create would have had to be light. And then it just seems natural that the rest should follow in that order.
The Big Bang – how the universe really began
Science tells us quite a different story compared to the Abrahamic creation myth. I should point out that not all atheists believe in the Big Bang theory, or in the theory of evolution by natural selection for that matter. But those that don’t are very few in numbers. It should also be mentioned that there are quite a few religious people today that believe in the scientific theories rather than their own creation myths. That may sound impossible, but there are ways to reconcile and combine faith in god with belief in the scientific principles if you really want to.
As science describes the beginning of our universe, there was first nothing. Then for some reason, there was an almost unimaginably powerful explosion at an incredibly small point in space. From this single point of origin, enough energy was expelled to form everything in the universe that we can now observe, as well as a whole lot of other stuff that we can _not_ observe (dark energy, dark matter, etc). This explosion occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago, and the universe is still expanding outwards from the point of origin. The best calculations today say that the universe will continue to expand forever, but some claim that there is more matter than we think in the universe, and that its combined mass will eventually slow down the expansion and make the universe start to contract again at some point.
What triggered that big explosion, and where all the energy came from, is not a part of the Big Bang theory. I mention this because many religious people seem to have a really hard time understanding this. They think that the Big Bang theory is the atheistic version of the creation story, and seem unable to comprehend that this is not the case.
What the Big Bang theory really is, is a model that describes and predicts how the universe expands outwards from the original point of origin. The questions about of what caused the explosion and what it was that exploded are of course very interesting indeed, but I repeat that they are not a part of the Big Bang theory.
It is generally accepted that before the Big Bang, nothing existed. All there was was a big empty nothing. That can be a bit hard to wrap your head around when you start to think about it. You might look up at the sky and say, “Well, it’s still pretty much empty – just some scattered stars out there with a whole lot of nothing in between” But actually, that is not quite true. Well, it depends on what you mean of course. To you and me there really is “nothing” between those stars, just empty space. But that empty space is actually full of stray atoms, dust, electromagnetic waves, etc. Before the Big Bang, there were not even that.
So what was it that exploded then if nothing existed before the explosion? That is a very good question, but not an easily answered one. Science talks about event horizons. A typical event horizon is the area around a black hole that act as the limit beyond which you cannot observe anything because the gravity pull of the black hole is so strong the even light cannot escape it. There are other types of event horizons, but the general meaning of them is that it is simply not possible to make any kind of observations beyond them.
In this sense, the Big Bang is also an event horizon. There is no way that we will ever be able to observe anything that happened before the explosion. All that science can do is to form hypothesis and try to validate these by observing what we _can_ see and predict and check if the fit this behavior.
Today, science have a couple of hypothesis (which are basically just ideas) about what happened before the explosion and where this incredible amount of energy came from. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to try to explain these hypothesis, but you can find loads of information about them on the Internet if you are interested.
So what does religious people say about this? Many use the god of the gaps argumentation and say that since science cannot explain how the explosion occurred, it is proof that god exists and that he caused the explosion. This is nonsense of course. I don’t know who picked the coffee beans that have now been brewed into the cup of coffee that I am drinking – that does not mean that it was an invisible magical sky-god that did it.
Earth and the Solar System
Evolution by Natural Selection – Where we came from