Is there an alternative to "the creation" (when referring to everything that is alive) that is less "religious"? After all, having a creation implies there is also a creator.
The scientific term for all life on Earth is "biosphere"; for example, the Wiktionary has:
The totality of living organisms and their environment
And the corresponding Wikipedia article says, in part:
By the most general biophysiological definition, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships
- All living species may be used to refer to everything that is alive.
But 'creation' , as noted, includes everything, alive or not.
Nature has a more inclusive definition:
- The material world and its phenomena.
- [mass noun] the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations: the breathtaking beauty of nature.
■ the physical force regarded as causing and regulating the phenomena of the world: it is impossible to change the laws of nature. See also Mother Nature.
Nature can refer to petty much all the same things as creation without any sort of connotation.
I've always liked Bateson's -- originally Jung's -- distinction between Pleroma and Creatura.
As Wikipedia puts it,
In his work on the Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson adopts and extends Jung's distinction between Pleroma (the non-living world that is undifferentiated by subjectivity) and Creatura (the living world, subject to perceptual difference, distinction, and information). What Bateson calls the "myth of power" is the epistemologically false application to Creatura of an element of Pleroma (non-living, undifferentiated).
More can be found in Bateson's book Mind and Nature, of which some parts are on the Web
(though the diagrams don't work and there are occasional misretypings).
For religions that make a distinction between life and nonlife, creation does not refer only to "everything that is alive." It refers to everything.
If your question is about how to express everything that is alive in a single word then one obvious answer is life (or the living, depending on how you use it).
Your question is really unclear. Are you asking about (a) everything; (b) things that live, have lived, or will live; (c) things that are living right now, or (d) something else?
Perhaps, Biota (pl.)
Biota are the total collection of organisms of a geographic region or a time period, from local geographic scales and instantaneous temporal scales all the way up to whole-planet and whole-timescale […] spatiotemporal scales. The biota, or biotic component of the Earth make up the biosphere.
ety: [New Latin, from Greek biotē, way of life, from bios, life; see gwei- in Indo-European roots.]
As others have noted, it depends a bit on the context.
The creation implies an event or act, the scientific equivalent would be the big bang or the origin of the universe for the creation of matter and energy (and possibly space and time) in general. If you're more concerned with the development of living organisms from a non-living chemical soup, an extremely technical term is abiogenesis, but origin of life might be a simpler, less theoretically-weighted, description of that point in time.
All of creation, however, seems to be more the sense you're going after. Non-creationist equivalents are all of existence, all of nature, or simply the Universe and everything in it.
These all encompass all matter, not just living things, (although some people would argue about nature). For living things in particular, the biosphere or all biota are good technical words, but all living things might really be the most specific plain-language description.
Unlike the Pope or Richard Dawkins I do not profess to know much about the "creation", nor the "creator".
However, none of the replies I have read so far really answer the OP's question. Words like 'biosphere' are not really equivalent to 'creation'. The biosphere describes something that came to be.
Like so much else in occidental society it is difficult to get away from religious vocabulary, since it was upon that that our language was built. Though you may no longer believe in a purposeful 'creator', you will undoubtedly speak of 'creatures', and I see nothing wrong with that. So why is there a problem with 'creation'?
And there are plenty of historians, sociologists etc who happily use words like proletariat and bourgeoisie without being Marxists themselves. In the same way that the bearded man won an early monopoly over the way history of industrial society would be explained, the prophets of old gained a foothold in the way the world and its place in the universe would be described.
So to answer the question specifically, no, there is not a suitable alternative to 'creation'.
World English Dictionary, Entry #3.
The animal and plant life of a particular region.
"In all of biology there has never been pigs that can fly." "In all of creation there has never been pigs that can fly."
The cosmos is all creation in it's entirety. The Creation (capital) is a religious theory.
- Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms: organic matter.
An example, from the Brazilian Documentary "Ilha das Flores":
Employees select the organic materials that are good to feed the pigs. 'Organic material' is everything that was once alive. Tomatoes, chickens, pigs, flowers and paper are organic materials.
Although you could still use the word to refer to things that are still alive.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is biogenesis.
the production of living organisms from other living organisms.