It’s Not “The Message” We Object To, Trust Me… – A Response to Ken Ham

Let me start by saying that I usually avoid dialogue with young-earth creationists, for a few reasons, but mostly because I’m not a scientist. I accept evolution the same way that I accept gravity, or the laws of physics, or how I can operate a car even if I don’t know the intricate workings like a mechanic does. That said, it is simply not my role to educate people on scientific theories.

Today though, someone retweeted Ken Ham’s blog into my time-line, and I just could not pass up the opportunity to get my feet wet with a response post.

Titled “It’s Really the Message They Object To”, our favorite non-celebrity attempts to ward off naysayers regarding his infamous Ark Encounter project.

He begins:

Nearly every time I post an update on the exciting Ark Encounter project, there seem to be those habitual complainers who claim the money should be spent on the poor instead and not be “wasted” this way.

Yeah. We are talking millions of dollars for a for-profit theme park celebrating genocide. A quick Google will give you an estimated cost of $150 million for this project. That could help a LOT of poor people, Ken.

His response? First, he tries to accuse his opponents of hypocrisy for not criticizing the money that Disney World, Louisiana State University or Hillary Clinton’s campaign spend on their own projects.

Oh, Ken. Not off to a good start, are we? Your logical fallacy is… (drumroll, please!)

wpid-tuquoque.png

Besides just trying to shift the focus here, there is a huge difference between non-religious businesses or programs and a religious institution that claims to follow Jesus but actually just wants to make a shit-ton of money.

He goes on to list some of the charity that Answers in Genesis has contributed to. That’s great, Ken. Glad to hear it. It doesn’t excuse the ridiculousness of the Ark Encounter. If God wanted you to build this display so badly, why doesn’t he send his rock monster angels or whatever to help you? How come there’s no magic forest popping up out of nowhere? Oh, that was just the movie version of Noah? “Not scriptural”, you say. Huh. Sorry, I guess I got “rock monster angel thingies” mixed up with “demons that had sex with humans to produce giants”. You’re right; that’s much more realistic. Damn Hollywood, always getting it wrong.

wpid-giphy.gif

Ken then tries to disparage his opponents some more, by comparing them to Judas in one of my favorite Bible stories:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1–8) (Emphasis mine.)

This statement, to me, is one that highlights a Jesus we don’t often see – one who is callous and unfeeling toward the poor he supposedly loves so much. One of my first doubts regarding my Catholic faith had to do with the huge churches, statues and gold chalices. Because Catholics believe the Eucharist actually turns into the body and blood of Jesus, the cardboard-like “host” and bottom-shelf wine can only be held in containers made of precious metals.

Dude was born in a stable, I would think to myself, there’s no way he would demand such a thing. According to the verse Ken Ham cites, though, I’d be wrong. I wonder why he doesn’t quote the story of the rich man, though? The one whom Jesus told to sell all his possessions and give his money to the poor? Hm. I guess that doesn’t apply to projects that amount to preaching like the Ark Encounter.

Another way he tries to justify his silly project is by stating it’s more important to feed people’s spiritual needs:

At Answers in Genesis, our mission is to “proclaim the absolute truth and authority of the Bible with boldness, relate the relevance of a literal Genesis to the church and world today, and obey God’s call to deliver the message of the gospel.” So while it is important to help the poor and needy meet their physical needs (which we do), it is even more important to help meet their spiritual need—the need to come to know Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world—because lives—and eternity—hang in the balance. The Ark Encounter will help us do that in a powerful, non-threatening way by simply sharing the truth of God’s Word with visitors at the Ark concerning the historicity of Noah’s Ark, the Genesis Flood, and other authentic accounts of history revealed in the Scriptures, including the account of redemption weaved throughout the Bible. Our motivation for the Ark project is to reach as many people as we can worldwide with the saving gospel message…

Yet whenever you ask “What about cultures that have never heard about God or Jesus?” or, “What about people before Jesus came?” we almost always get some form of the same answer: Everyone gets a chance to know God through revelation. There will be no excuse. Excuse me, but um, doesn’t that render Ken Ham and his little project rather… extraneous? Redundant, even?

Finally, Mr. Ham throws out the deus ex machina of Christian apologetics:

The point is that there are those who, no matter what we do at AiG, will complain about it—and ultimately I do believe it’s because we stand on the authority of the Word of God. I’m reminded of the Scripture,

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

Sigh. Of course. Whenever Christians face criticism, no matter how small, they can toss their opponents this little gem and ignore the cognitive dissonance bouncing around in their brains.

Ken, you are not being persecuted. Lie to yourself and your followers all you want, but “the message” is not really what is being opposed. The message is laughable. It’s the blatant hypocrisy we have a problem with.

Advertisements

Why I’m Skeptical of Atheism

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed more and more of my tweets and posts have focused on atheism and (dare I say it) the atheist “community”, as opposed to ripping on religion. I think this is because I have been doing a lot of personal reflection and musing on my own goals regarding atheism.

Assume for a second that I’m right, and there are no gods watching us, instructing us, or using us as pawns in some great galactic chess game. I would love to live in a world where religion was not an issue. No religious wars, no kids being indoctrinated into harmful beliefs, and no religious groups trying to force their beliefs into law. I sincerely hope that belief in imaginary deities is dying out, and in the future Yahweh will be lumped in with Zeus and Ra in the myths of old.

This is not going to happen in my lifetime. I have accepted this. So what now? What should my goal be?

Changing Tactics

There is room for all types of atheists, I think – firebrands, civil debaters, apathetics, and everything in between. I admit I first came to Twitter looking for a fight. When I first accepted that I was an atheist, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Most of us are formerly religious and feel like we’d been lied to our whole lives; can you blame us for wanting to lash out? More than even wanting to vent my anger and frustration, I wanted to deconvert people. I wanted them to feel the freedom I felt now that I was no longer chained by the shackles of religion.

But slowly, over the course of about a year, I backed off from frustrating, endless debates with Twitter theists. While I was never enthralled with the big names like Dawkins and Harris, I became much less dependent on their words and ideas to shape my own. I became much more interested in displaying atheism in a positive light as opposed to just ripping others’ beliefs to shreds. Having been on both sides of the argument, I am in a unique position to be an intermediary. This could be my goal, I thought.

Bridging the Gap

Encouraging secularism and advocating for separation of church and state is a great place to start. This is a common ground that atheists and theists should be able to come together on. Having a secular government not only protects atheists, it protects the religious from having OTHER religious views forced on them. Christians are so terrified of sharia law, yet are perfectly happy to have the government support their Christian beliefs. This is a bad move on their part, because any step toward a theocracy opens the door to some religious faith besides their own coming into power.

Some people think groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) make atheists look petty by suing over what they think are “little issues”. While working for the FFRF may not be my particular calling, I think what they do will be important for us in the long run. By squashing small instances of religion overstepping its bounds, we can make secular government the norm, as it should be. If we let people get away with violating others’ rights in the name of religion in small matters, they will have less of a battle in the big matters. Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile, right? Call it a version of the broken windows theory, a criminological theory which states that:

Maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

A highly debatable topic, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I am far more likely to leave a dish in the sink if there are already dishes there to begin with. I bet people are more likely to litter in an area already full of litter, don’t you think? If religious people are used to their particular faith holding sway in their local schools and town halls, they are much more likely to, firstly, assume that most places are operated in the same manner, and secondly, to continue the push to encroach others’ freedoms in a bigger venue, like the federal government.

Question Everything

One of the difficulties many former believers face is that there really is no framework to atheism. It’s only a position on the existence of gods. From there, an atheist has to decide a lot of things with very little definitive guidance. She must explore systems of morality, develop a sense of purpose, and adopt a worldview. In contrast to most religious groups, there is no leader outlining what an atheist can and cannot be, do, or feel. It is only fair, then, that we sometimes challenge and change our own thoughts, feelings, and attitudes even when it comes to atheism. It calls to mind the preceding, less often quoted line of my favorite quote by Thomas Jefferson:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

I guess what I am trying to say, is don’t be afraid of a little introspection. Skepticism doesn’t end with atheism. Continue to be a skeptic – of yourself, other atheists, and atheist “leaders”.

The Argument From Wishful Thinking

Defending the faith is hard. Trust me, I’ve been there. But there are some arguments for theism I come across that aren’t arguments at all, and I think need their own category. These are usually used by your everyday Christian, not apologists (I’d hope). This is when someone claims something is true just because they want it to be. I call these “Arguments from Wishful Thinking”. For example : “If there’s no God…”

“That would mean… There’s no ultimate justice!”

“I don’t want to live in a world where Hitler isn’t punished.” Erm… Yeah, sorry. Do you really think Christianity is the only world view with a “ultimate” justice system? Every religion comes with a built-in system of justice. Protesting that Hitler won’t be punished by the Christian or Islamic God is like saying, “But if there’s no reincarnation, that means Hitler will just be dead and not be turned into a worm to be stepped on like the scum he is!” Uh yep, pretty much (sorry, Hindusim).

It may seem grossly unfair, but just because you wish that bad people would get what’s coming to them, doesn’t make it true that they will. Of course we want to think that evil is punished and good is rewarded. Hate to break into you, but there may be no universal tally of all the good and bad deeds people have done. I don’t want to live in a world where chocolate doesn’t grow on trees in my backyard buuut… just because we want something to be so, doesnt mean it is.

wpid-30wphfo.jpg.gif

“That would mean… There’s no ultimate purpose in life!”

I guess that depends on what you mean by “ultimate” purpose. Yeah, it’s a little scary to think that we’re out here on our own, just a few billion people on this rock in space, just getting through life and sometimes contemplating our place in the universe. It’s juuust a tiny bit daunting.

little bit

But just because it makes you feel better thinking that there is some ultimate being pulling all the strings — I mean, sorry, that God has a perfect plan for precious little you — doesn’t make it true. I understand how comforting that thought can be, but there is no argument here.

“That would mean… There’s no afterlife!”

There are quite a few ideas wrapped up in this one. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. The idea that if life sucks now, it’s okay, ’cause there’s another one coming. The thought that if the poor will be better off in the next life, we an excuse not helping them now. The fact that we wanted to be rewarded for being a “good person”. All of these come into play when someone tries to ask, “So what happens after we die?” This one, I think, best fits the Argument From Wishful Thinking category, just because there are so many implications there if theism is false.

Look, I don’t know what happens after we die. But I can recognize that just because I’d like there to be some kind of continuation, or that I would like to see my family and friends again, doesn’t mean that there is, or that I will. Yeah, that sucks. But guess what? It’s not an argument for theism. It’s just wishful thinking.

As Neil Degrasse Tyson warns…

ndt

Are there any other “arguments” you think fall into the “Argument From Wishful Thinking” category? Let me know in the comments below!

Check Out My Guest Post!

A while ago, I wrote my very first blog post as a guest post for Godless Mom (here) and continuing onto Cyber Atheist’s page (here). It was an absolute honor to collaborate with these two and I’ve gotten tons of great feedback on it.

Please check out “6 Arguments Atheists Need To Stop Using” and let me know what you think in the comments! 🙂