Although creationism is viewed as primarily an American phenomenon, there are surprisingly active creationist networks in Europe, and not all are U.S. imports, writes Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman (both at Ghent University, Belgium), Hans Henrik Hjermitslev (University College South Denmark) and Peter C. Kjærgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark) in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (December).
In contrast with research on U.S. creationism, historical studies of European creationism are largely missing, making it difficult to trace the genealogy of local creationist trends. Instances of contemporary creationism in Europe several decades ago failed to attract scholarly or media attention. They affected public debates only recently, with an October 2007 resolution by the Council of Europe warning against “the dangers of creationism for education” as well as isolated cases of schools reportedly teaching creationism.
The article reveals that not only evangelical types of creationism are found in Europe: there are also instances of Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and even Vedic forms of creationism. Acceptance of biological evolution is much higher in all European countries (and Japan) than in the United States, with the exception of (partly European) Turkey, where belief in evolution is significantly lower than in the United States. But often overlooked is the fact that in most European countries, at least 20 percent of the population rejects evolutionist teachings.
Organized creationism is relatively recent in Europe; in Scandinavia, it did not emerge before the 1980s. While the authors admit that a number of recent developments in the field of creationism in Europe started as the result of proselytization by large U.S. young-earth organizations, there have also been local efforts and, moreover, U.S. creationism is adopted without significant local adjustments. One example of an adaptation to local and social environments is in Turkey, where Christian references were removed in translated American creationist literature. If such teachings are associated with American origins, creationism can only be perceived of as an alien belief phenomenon with limited influence.
In Turkey, the military rulers of the 1980s had contracted with U.S. young-earth creationists for educational material and had purged biology textbooks. The materials were revised in the 1990s under a social-democratic government, with creationist views as an alternative theory. Author Adnan Oktar (more widely known under his pen name of Harun Yahya), “has managed to reframe the Protestant creationist content as an attractively modern version of Islamic creationism.”
His organization, the Scientific Research Foundation, has translated creationist materials into many European and non-European languages. These are widely found in Muslim bookshops across Europe and attract many young Muslims living in European cities. In more secularized countries, such as Belgium or Denmark, both local and imported creationism finds little resonance. While a percentage of teachers with creationist beliefs work in countries where religion is stronger, practically none teach in places such as France or Estonia. Generally, it is difficult for creationists in Europe to promote their views through media or in public schools.
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