Dinosaurs are perhaps the most dangerous and implacable enemy that Theists have ever faced. Which is ironic given the fact that (non-avian) Dinosaurs have been extinct for almost 60,000,000 years.
I love Dinosaurs - I find them to be one of the most incredible groups of organisms to ever walk this planet. Their size, their ferocious appearance and their incredible collective longevity literally dwarfs our own. But while I love Dinosaurs today, as a child, I loved Dinosaurs. I was obsessed with Dinosaurs. I drew Dinosaurs. I made models of Dinosaurs. I read about them constantly. I could tell you how long a Diplodocus was from snout to tail. I could tell you how much an Ankylosaur weighed. I could even tell you which time period most of them lived in.
So it was unsurprising that my first ever conflict with the Church arose out of my love of Dinosaurs. During Sunday School, the teacher walked up to the blackboard and drew a circle on it, then scribbled in some hasty continents. "How old is the Earth?" He asked. Even at the age of six I was something of a know it all. "Four Billion Years Old," was my immediate reply.
"No. The Earth is 6000 years old."
This answer was puzzling to me. Mainly because it was completely wrong and I knew it. It was the first time in my life that I had been really conscious of an adult's ignorance. Was it really possible that he didn't know about Dinosaurs? Impossible. Everyone knows about Dinosaurs. I knew I had to educate this poor man who didn't know about the Dinosaurs. "No. Dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago and the Earth is billions of years older than that."
"No. Those are just lies spread by Evolutionists. The world is 6000 years old."
At this point I was well and truly confused. This old man really didn't seem to know about Dinosaurs. How could this be? How was such a thing possible? Clearly he needed to be educated about the awesomeness of Dinosaurs. "No. Dinosaurs lived hundreds of millions of years ago. We have fossils of their bones. It takes millions of years for a bone to fossilize so we know how old they are. We even find fossils of swimming dinosaurs like Icthyosaurs in the mountains which shows how much the Earth has changed."
"No. Those bones are in the mountains because of the Flood. And bones do not take millions of years to fossilize. The world is 6000 years old."
"No. The world is billions of years old. I can show you."
And so began an increasingly heated and fruitless discussion between an old Young Earth Creationist and a six year old kid. The discussion eventually devolved from education to him yelling at me to be quiet and stop being disruptive. But I couldn't stop. It was the first time in my life that I had ever encountered an adult who maintained a position that I knew was completely factually wrong. It was the first time in my life that book knowledge had ever been openly attacked. Whenever I had a question about something, my parents pointed me to the Encyclopedia. They told me to look it up. They told me to read about it. This man was clearly confused - he was arguing with books? What kind of an idiot argues with the Encyclopedia?
The argument only ended when my parents were summoned. When the situation was explained, my parents, to their eternal credit, sided with me and told the Sunday School teacher that he was not to teach me that the world was 6000 years old when it clearly wasn't.
Dinosaurs are dangerous. They are dangerous because it is impossible to doubt their existence - their remains are literally everywhere. They are dangerous because their remains are so old and so ancient that they give the lie to our incredibly narcissistic and self-important vision of the Universe - the idea that we are somehow central, somehow privileged, somehow indispensable. Their reign of hundreds of millions of years makes our 5000 years of civilization look like nothing more than a footnote in the history of the planet. Their existence offers concrete physical proof of our smallness as a species in both space and time.
Dinosaurs are dangerous because they are awesome! And because their existence challenges the most fundamental underpinnings of theology. More importantly, Dinosaurs vividly illustrate the fact that life existed long before we did.
And most importantly, when presented with a contradiction between the Bible and Dinosaurs, I chose Dinosaurs. I chose Dinosaurs because of the evidence. Because when presented with a choice between theology and empirical evidence, I chose evidence. Dinosaurs were my gateway drug to Atheism. And while I was still six or seven years away from reaching the conclusion that God either didn't care about us or didn't exist, the Dinosaurs had shared an important secret with me - that the Bible can be wrong.