Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ark Encounter Finally Opens

So in the end, Ken Ham did it. He pushed junk bonds, got state tax incentives and then lost them, and delayed the project numerous times as the funding kept coming up short. But today Ark Encounter, Ham's full-size replica of Noah's Ark, finally opens next door to his Creation Museum in Kentucky, drawing both supporters and protesters.

The Young Earth Creationist and founder and president of Answers In Genesis has become one of the most powerful and polarising religious leaders in America’s Bible Belt. And his life-size Ark Encounter in Kentucky is a monolithic physical reminder of that. As Thursday’s opening day looms, a renewed wave of protest and support for Ham’s Ark Encounter project has built.

Atheist group Tri-State Freethinkers is planning to hold a protest against outside the Ark Encounter on opening day. It tried to place billboards on the highway approaching Ark Encounter, calling it the “Genocide and Incest Park”, but was rebuffed by billboard companies, Christian news website Christian Today reported.

Ham believes evolution is a fraud, the world is only 6000 years old and was created in six days, the Book of Genesis is historical fact, homosexuality is a sin, and, yes, Noah really did march animals onto an ark to save them from a great flood. Ham’s ark is built according to the dimensions given in the Bible.

I'm going to repeat this because I love harping on it. Ham's interpretation of the Book of Genesis does not match the literal text. It's based on a messy piece of scriptural interpretation called the Ussher Chronology that doesn't even line up with the Genesis narrative. So if Ham is a literalist Christian, he's just wrong, period. His assertion that to be a real Christian you have to believe everything that he does is ridiculous in that regard.

Maybe it's silly to keep bringing that up, since a world that's 6000 or 10,000 years old, or even in that ballpark, is pretty much impossible based on all available scientific evidence. But the fact that Ham can't even keep his theology straight continues to amuse me long after it probably should. The bottom line is that he's a hypocrite just like many fundamentalists, reading the Bible as literal when it supports what they want to believe and otherwise interpreting the text to match.

Anyway, it remains to be seen if the attraction can draw the number of people Ham claims that it can. The Creation Museum opened to much fanfare and drew larger than expected crowds in its first year, but then attendance plummeted dramatically. My suspicion is that a lot of the traffic that year was of the "point and laugh" variety, since there was legitimate curiosity about how awful the place was going to be.

As far as the protests go, I usually am supportive of atheist activism, but frankly it seems a little pointless to me in this case. Shady though Ham's methods are, he basically built the ark with donations and it doesn't sit on public land. Granted, if I were to build a Thelema theme park Christians would probably protest it, but don't atheists claim to be more rational than fundamentalists?

It seems to me that these protests aren't going to change anyone's mind and will only feed into the completely false narrative that Christians are constantly under attack by nonbelievers. The reality is that most non-Christian religions don't proselytize at all and are fine with just leaving people alone. It's the Christians who insist on bombarding people with "The Good News" and then condemning them if they fail to accept it.

Actually, if the atheists really wanted to make Ham angry, they should put up a billboard proclaiming "The Ussher Chronology is a Fraud." You know, because it is. It predicted that the world would end in the year 2000. How's that working out for everyone? Anybody who's read the Bible knows that there are some awful stories in the Old Testament. But when Pat Robertson dared to criticize Ussher, Ham went ballistic and basically tried to call him out as a heretic.

The fact is that I would rather have a guy build a giant Noah's Ark as a theme park than have him show up at my door and start ranting about how I'm going to Hell if I don't accept Jesus. The latter is really, really annoying. But a theme park is pretty easy to avoid and doesn't inconvenience me in the slightest. It seems to me that Ham should just be left alone, and if the ark succeeds, so be it.

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