Cathedrals to Atheism

It has been said that natural history museums are “cathedrals to atheism;” a concerning nickname for those of us with deeply-rooted faith, to be sure. Recent personal experiences have revealed where this idea came from, and I have to admit it makes sense, especially as it pertains to origins.

I recently returned from a cross-country trip during which I visited three different museums: world-famous Field Museum in Chicago, University of Wyoming’s Geological Museum in Laramie and National Historic Site Fossil Butte in western Wyoming. All displayed fossils with one common theme: “Isn’t evolution amazing?”

The Field Museum in Chicago spent millions of dollars and many hours on their hugely impressive displays of fossil remains, charts, pictures and even interactive stations loudly featuring evolutionary concepts. 

The eras of earth’s history are lavishly shown from one room to another, covering what many mainstream scientists believe to be many millions of years. And the star of this show is, of course, the Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue. Seeing this almost perfectly preserved dinosaur is why many come. I’m one that paid admission to see her, too.

When I see parents pointing to these displays and teaching their kids the evolutionary gospel of origins, I feel two deeply distressing things. First, I am saddened by the lack of recognition given to our Creator. Instead of reveling in the wonder of His creative acts, nature is given the credit for creating, organizing and improving itself. No mention is made of how it does this, but this theory is portrayed as scientific fact. In all of this, I feel God is dishonored, and I was tempted to say something publicly there. But it was, after all, a “cathedral.”

Second, I am frustrated by how deeply rooted these beliefs are. It can be disheartening to think of trying to counteract such a predominant theory with what we believe to be the truth. How can we ever hope to present the concept of creation with sufficient power and efficacy to change people’s thinking? It truly is like rowing upstream in a raging river.

God has used my own convictions and background to lead me to a ministry on origins, but sometimes I really feel insufficient to do much good — especially in museums. But while I disagree with the prevailing narrative at these museums, I also believe they present awesome opportunities for dialogue. 

The University of Wyoming’s small geological museum showed how “birds are the descendants of dinosaurs.” You know, lizard skin grew fuzz which became feathers and so on. No mention how fuzz can become feathers, which are follicles that grow from beneath the skin. There was a volunteer student dinosaur fan there who was helpful and friendly, and I learned things from him. He had faith, even if it wasn’t the same as mine. 

The National Historic Site of Fossil Butte, a bit off the path in western Wyoming, had some world-class fossilized aquatic animals and flora. Mostly, they had beautifully preserved fish. Gaitano was the ranger in charge, a graduate student studying paleontology. A likable young man, he was deeply dedicated to the discoveries of the fossils at that site and what they represented.

His was a zeal worthy of a better cause. I did tell him I was a creationist and that we had recently dug at the DinoDig site in northeastern Wyoming for Southwestern Adventist University. Though I did not challenge his beliefs directly, the conversation and exchanging of ideas was important nonetheless.

Although, I can’t help but ask myself: What were millions of fish doing in Wyoming? A great prehistoric lake, is what scientists say. But they often make no mention as to how those millions were preserved, since fish fossils are not being formed today. 

On that same DinoDig trip, we passed a mine where bentonite is being mined. Bentonite is a clay made with volcanic ash and seawater. Think about that: The dinosaur bones we were digging up in Wyoming were part of a mass water-buried grave. I wholeheartedly believe the Genesis flood is why we even have any fossils to begin with!

Ah, but how to get this word out to the world? As seventh-day people, we have a unique message to share — and I believe we must use a loud voice in these last days. My little voice alone won’t accomplish nearly enough to shake the evolution-believing world; nor will yours or anybody’s on its own.

Moving forward, what we need is the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of Truth — to shed brilliant light to penetrate the deep recesses of these “cathedrals” built to a different god. We need to keep praying for opportunities to direct those searching for truth toward meaningful dialogue about the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom: our Creator.


Stan Hudson

North Pacific Union Conference creation ministries director