But members of the United Church of Hayward on Mission Boulevard say religion and science don't conflict when it comes to our origins. That was the theme of Sunday morning's service, in celebration of Charles Darwin's 197th birthday.
"That's something most Christians struggle with as we all develop our own personal relationship with God," said church member Roger McCluney, who lives in Hayward. "The Bible is 2,000 years old and we still can't get it right because we are always interpreting it."
Sunday's service was in participation with a nationwide campaign called "Evolution Sunday," led by Michael Zimmerman, a dean of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Zimmerman claims on his Web site that more than 400 congregations have joined the campaign to "celebrate both the wisdom of scripture as well as the intelligence of science."
On Sunday, Rev. Kathryn Schreiber delivered a 15-minute sermon that summarized Darwin's full life, both as a scientist and as a husband and father.
"My hope and prayer today as we celebrate the 197th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, is that we commit ourselves, as progressive Christians, to the ongoing work of evolving theology," said Schreiber. "It saddens me that the theologians of Darwin's era, and some in our own time, are not prepared to humble themselves."
Schreiber described Darwin as a moralist who was deeply troubled by the slave trade and the notion that humans were superior to animals.
"(Darwin) had strong moral beliefs and taught his children the equality and value of all persons, as well as compassion toward the feelings of animals," she said.
Darwin was a father of 10, three of whom died at a young age.
"His wife was deeply worried about his soul," said Schreiber. "Religion offered many views on childhood death, none of which soothed Charles."
John Hazatone, the liturgist, read from the book of Genesis, where it tells of God created the world in six days. Hazatone said there are parallels between Darwin's evolution theory and the Bible, that it took time for species to form.
"When I think of the beginning or end of the universe, I think of the other side of that and ask, what was there before the beginning?" said Hazatone. "Then that gets to the faith of it that there is something bigger and beyond the genetics and what we comprehend."
The service ended with members praying for scientists, some of whom grapple with their own religious convictions.
"I have a friend who is a scientist who is struggling with his faith and I'm going to send this sermon to him," said Schreiber.
Jackie Wasserman of Hayward said religion should not discount science and vice versa.
"We should be open to everything," said Wasserman. "They can both be right. They have the same patterns. The Bible was written by man. God didn't write it himself. We're taking this from people's interpretations."
Sunday's churchgoers said they are alienated by churches that assert Darwin's theories as anti-religious.
"One thing I like about this congregation is that it's more open to tolerance," said McCluney. "Some churches have a strict dogma you have to follow if you want to be in the life everlasting."
McCluney added that the debate often puts ministers and priests in precarious situations.
"When I was a kid, I put ministers up on a pedestal," he said. "I've come to realize that they are just like ourselves. They are people with struggles who try to help others with their own struggles."