I have mentioned before that one of the driving forces behind my slow deconversion was the lack of archaeological and historical evidence to back up many of the Bible's more fantastical stories. This is not to say that I think every story is a falsehood or that the myths are not rooted in some historical fact, only that there is much more evidence that suggests they are nothing more than a compilation of myths for a small group of very real people to sound important.
When I was seventeen, I started writing a book. It was my first attempt at novel writing so it turned out to be a learning experience, but the research I did for the book proved to be instrumental in my personal growth. My book was supposed to be about a girl who had been genetically engineered by "Atlantians" (of a sort) who stumbled upon the fountain of youth. This longevity was soon seen as an abomination though and the girl was abandoned, forced to wander throughout the eons. A vampire without the blood sucking. Now, I was in full fundamentalist Christian mode at this point. I looked up when the Great Flood was supposed to have happened, figuring I would begin the story sometime after that. As you might suspect, I immediately ran into problems. The Great Flood, according to Creationists occured anywhere between 4500-3500 BC. depending on old they think the earth is. But that couldn't be right. I was running into all kinds of information about civilizations that were either thriving or just beginning in that time period. I asked my dad about this and suddenly the earth went from 6,000-7,000 years old to 10,000 years old. But this still didn't work as there hasn't been a civilization in history where the entire region/city was completely destroyed leaving no survivors, despite what the Bible claims. It wouldn't be possible for the flood to happen in 4500 BC and for Damascus to still be inhabited at the same time. Suddenly, at seventeen, I was learning about an entire world history that had been completely closed off to me by my Christian textbooks because they didn't fit the literal interpretations of the Bible. I had never been taught about "cavemen" because, according to the Bible, there were no cavemen. I stumbled upon Chinchorro mummies who would predate the flood by a few hundred years. Mummies that clearly had never been underwater. Of course, I know that creationists will just say that the dating is off. I was taught all my life that carbon dating was hideously flawed and couldn't accurately date anything. What I wasn't taught was how carbon dating actually works and that it is demonstratable. We know how quickly carbon breaks down in different elements and therefore we can accurately date something by looking at the carbon degredation in the soil surrounding the object. At least, that is the very simplified version. Stumbling upon this information was life changing. It was also when I realized how irrational my parents were about our religion. The evidence was clear. I could no longer believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly Genesis, because it simply did not line up with facts. I didn't let go of my beliefs at that point, but I solidly moved into the evolution by intelligent design camp. Baby steps.
Some interesting civilizations of note that I stumbled upon are listed below. Some of these civilizations are older than others, but on thing was very clear to me as I studied ancient history, there was no way 8 people would have been able to populate the earth so quickly and not so widely either:
Tell Hassuna - Bet you haven't heard of this one. A settlement found in the former Ninevah Province in now Iraq, pottery has been found at Tell Hassuna that dates anywhere between 5600-5350 BCE. It was believed to be an advanced village culture with houses with agriculture, primitive irrigation, and wood-fired pottery.
Samarra - The still standing city of Samarra in Iraq is believed to date back to about 5500 BCE, eventually collapsing in 3900 BCE before being reresurrected. It is now known for the large spiral tower at its center, but at one point it was an agricultural city with trading opportunities on the Tigris. It existed during what is considered the Ubaid period. (4000–3100 BCE)
Eridu - Considered to be one of if not the oldest city in the world, Eridu was part of conglomeration of Sumerian cities with temples, houses, and agriculture that eventually become one large city. Built around 5400 BC, this is one of the few cities existing at the time that actually mentions a great flood. Of course, we all know floods can happen anywhere and nowhere does it mention it covered mountains, but this is the city that young earth creationists like to point to. What they don't say is that Eridu was founded in 5400 BCE, but wasn't abandoned until 600 BCE. Although there was some sort of deluge in their records, it appears there were a great many survivors since life and the city continued on. Additionally by 2900 BCE (anywhere from 600-1600 years after the supposed Biblical events) there were at least 4000 people living in Eridu and an estimated 14 million people living on earth.
Uruk - A contemporary of Eridu, Uruk was an ancient Sumerian city near the Euphrates river. It was part of what is considered the Uruk period, a roughly 800 year period between 4000-3200 BCE that saw a huge shift from small agricultural villages to large urban settings. At its height in 2900 BCE, it had nearly 50,000-80,000 residents making it the world's largest city of the time period. Unlike Eridu, it does not have a flood story.
Ur - Biblical scholars will actually know the name of this city since it is mentioned in the Bible. The city itsels as old as Uruk or Eridu, but strategic as it was once near the mouth of the Euphrates. There is evidence of early settlements by 6500 BCE though. They did experience regular flooding, but they did live on the coast at the mouth of a river. Interesting point to note, the Torah referes to Ur as 'Ur of the Chaldees', but the Chaldeans didn't settle the area until 850 BCE and didn't rule there until 550 BCE. It is quite possible that the mentions of Ur and Abraham weren't created until this time, which would mean that this part of Genesis wasn't anywhere near a contemporary account. Either that or the people translating the stories added their own time period flare. Either way, the version we read now would probably date around this time period, which is problematic either way.
Damascus - The site of Damascus has been occupied for a very long time, possibly back to around 9000 BCE. Yeah, you read that right. It wasn't a city yet, but people were definitely living there. This one really threw seventeen-year-old me for a loop, because up until this point I had been told that the earth was no older than 7,000 years old yet here was a city with evidence of inhabitants that was 2,000 years older than that. This was also when my dad moved the bar on me, telling me the earth was 10,000 years old.
Byblos - This city earns the honor of being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with inhabitants slowly moving in between 8800 and 7000 BCE and an actual city by 5000 BCE. For the young young earth creationists this city presents a number of problems and the only way to avoid them is to deny how carbon dating works.
Argos, Balkh, the Pulli settlement, Gobelkli Tepi, Yumuktepe, Gozlukule, Merimde. These villages and cities show us that there were continuous large groups of people that lived during a time period that some young earth creationists don't even believe exist. I could not ignore these dates and history of these places. I couldn't ignore the fact that people lived and thrived in the middle of what was supposed to be a global flood that was supposed to have killed all but eight people. I read the story again and saw it for the myth it was and although my parents didn't realize it, this was the beginning of my questioning. Today I was reminded of all this when I ran across an acquaintances post who made the claim that all civilizations had a flood story therefore the Biblical flood must have happened. But I learned long ago that not all cities and civilzations have flood stories and the ones that do usually make sense since they were near large bodies of water as was the way you commonly decided where a city was built back then. (and the drying up of said bodies of water the reason for abandonment) I want to say these people are all fools for believing this, but the truth is, this information wasn't out there for me to see. It wasn't in my history books. I didn't learn it from my parents. No one mentioned it at church. And if I was a different kind of person, one who wasn't such a reader, or someone who isn't endlessly curious, I don't know if I would have learned it either.
So give your young earth creationist friends and family a bit of a break. Be understanding of where they are coming from. Know that much of what they think they know is created by the bubbles they live in and ignorance of science. Be patient with them. Don't badger them with a million facts, but ask them nicely what they think of Eridu and when they don't know what that is, tell them some interesting facts about it. Pique their interest. If they are the kind of person who likes to learn, perhaps it will lead them to a treasure trove of information. Plant the seed of doubt. It may take eighteen years to bloom, but for those that seek the truth, it will come eventually.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.