July: 135,922 ($67,961.00) (Drop in attendance from a year earlier: 6,704)
August: 98,106 ($49,053.00) (Drop in attendance from a year earlier: 8,055)
September: 69,207 ($34,603.50) (Drop in attendance from a year earlier: 14,123)
Not only is Ark Encounter drawing fewer paying members now than a year before, the attendance drop is getting larger each month .
Part of the puzzle of this article is the odd fixation of atheists on the Ark. I’m not saying this isn’t interesting. Someone really cares though, enough to carefully catalogue all these details. RTB and BioLogos are not doing this. Why do atheists care so much? Perhaps they see things more through the “follow the money” lens?
I find another fixation interesting: that atheists love to claim the decreasing number of religious people as religion “losing” to atheism. Just look at many of @Patrick’s post!
I don’t know how this is viewed in other religions, but in the Catholic Church, this is seen as a good thing. Pope Benedict is well known for advocating for a “purer, smaller Church” since decades before his election. We don’t want 100 people where 80 of them are not-really-Catholics, we want Catholics to be the core 20 people who live and breathe Catholicism. The Church is not a business whose goal is to maximize the number of customers.
It is the pseudoscience aspects of this that get atheists in a rage. Ken Ham says that a global genocide happened 4350 years ago. All geological, anthropological, genomic data says it didn’t happen. Ken Ham keeps wanting to bring children there. Atheists oppose this in any way that we can. I am really surprised that there isn’t a Christian backlash to Ark Encounter. It reflects on Christianity terribly. It is divisive and gives the view that Christians are morons.
You have to admit that the power centers of religion are losing it power base. This has been going on for centuries but now secularism is becoming the norm in the modern world. In America, the culture war between Fundamentalism Christianity and Secularism is at a tipping point right now. The results are inevitable, just like in Europe, Canada, and Australia, the ideals of the Enlightenment in secular humanism will win out. Ark Encounter will be seen as the last ditch effort by fundamentalist Christians to preserve power in a rapidly secular diverse country.
A key question is "why isn’t RTB and Biologos (and the Catholic Church) doing more to speak out against Ark Encounter as being not what the Bible says or implies.
I have read that globally, the percentage of Christians to non-Christians is at the highest point ever*. I’ll try to find the source. Clearly there is a war going on in America. There is a decline in some churches and a great increase in others, as churches adapt and find their way in this culture. Don’t count the church out yet.
EDIT: I’m not finding what I thought I read. This is what I’m seeing:
For all the admirable growth noted in the survey, Christianity seems stuck in something of a rut, if the measure is Christians-as-a-percentage-of-world-population. Christians were 34.5 percent of global population in 1900, 33.3 percent in 1970, 32.4 percent in 2000, and 33.4 percent today, with projections to 33.7 percent in 2025 and 36 percent in 2050.
Well, RTB does quite a bit to argue against the young earth position. Bashing is not advisable, however, as we have seen here from time to time. We have the best results when we can discuss evidence and work toward a conclusion. Even when we cannot, we at least have a better understanding and some respect. The Ark Encounter certainly is not “anti-Christian”, especially from their perspective. They would say that it is orthodox. There are many aspects of Christianity upon which most adherents agree, but only some of them are considered to be essential. There are many aspects that are non-essential. So there may be a great deal of disagreement, there is a willingness to let go.
I find YEC to be a huge stumbling block for any secular, science-oriented person. So I will gladly share my reasons as to why I find it to be untenable and unfounded. That said, if someone chooses to believe that the universe is 6-10kyo, it is their choice to believe it. As long as they don’t insist that I must believe it (or that anyone else must believe it), I’m okay with that.
Like being “orthodox” is somehow gives you license to lie about the science.
But not to be in a position of making US policy decisions!
As you know, I think bashing just perpetuates the nonsense. Remember the Woman Leaves the Westboro Baptist Church?
Regardless, RTB and BioLogos and many Christians are concerned about AIG and write quite a bit about it. One of the best websites on this is by @Joel_Duff: https://thenaturalhistorian.com/. He is engaging the ideas carefully and rigorously. What he is not doing, however, is obsessively watching the ticket sales of the Ark Encounter. That is the part I find curious about some brands of atheism.
Joel does a really great job of articulating points at the intersection of science and faith. He actually did a story on the Ark Encounter attendance, but, as you say, Joshua, he is not obsessing over it. @Patrick, I think that you would really enjoy Joel’s site.
Anybody concerned about science education (and an informed voting citizenry) is quite likely to care about the Ark Encounter and all that it represents. Moreover, I think a lot of us who have always seen such a tourist attraction as unsustainable by ticket sales alone long-term have a natural tendency to want to track the attendance numbers and see how quickly it will “sink” and confirm our predictions. (To a degree, our interest as observers is like “gaper’s block” in a traffic jam around an accident scene. People can’t help but look.)
It is interesting that ICR and others are working on their own tourist attractions. And Ham’s attendance numbers are no doubt being closely followed by those competitors.
This ^^^^. I know many who view Ham’s Ark Encounter folly as a less than subtle attempt to undermine science literacy in the U.S. As such many are cheering for its complete failure, and the sooner the better.
Ken Ham is such an important figure in that entire enterprise that I really wonder if it would sink very very quickly if he were somehow no longer involved. (He’s not all that elderly but we are all just a bad diagnosis away from an accelerated retirement.) I don’t think Bodie Hodge (his son-in-law) or Georgia Purdom share his Ham’s fund-raising skills.
Ham seems to believe that expanding the Ark Encounter site with other big projects (e.g. a Tower of Babel; perhaps a first-century Palestine attraction) will keep ticket sales up. I think it will only dig a deeper hole—eventually. I do think he probably believes that God will “bless it” and “If you build it, they will come.”
One problem I think he has is that there is nothing to be “learned” at that Ark Encounter which can’t be learned from the AIG website. And one of his constituencies which he most wants to reach, home-schooling families, tend to have the least disposal income for such expensive tourist attractions. (That is, they are more likely to be single-income families.)
We are not many years away from the first generation of “I was an Ark Encounter kid” stories being published by young adults who were raised in those environments—and reporting that their trek out of the fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist culture began the day that they visited the Ark Encounter. [Indeed, for that reason alone, it makes sense that many atheists are following the Ark Encounter attendance figures very closely.] Many will eventually investigate the actual scientific evidence and will get very depressed about what was fed to them as children.
Accordingly, I think Ken Ham is sowing the seeds of a lot of future disenchanted adults and even many atheists. After all, if one has always been told “There are only two options: You either believe in this brand of “scientific creationism” or you must reject all that is in the Bible and embrace godless atheism.” So many people assume this false dichotomy.
I have long said that I believe Ken Ham is producing more atheists than Richard Dawkins ever will. I hope I’m wrong but I suspect that this is a reality.
So, I don’t get why they hate Ham so much. He’s an invaluable ally after all.
This so reminds of the Bakkers.
I can’t claim to speak for atheists but I would imagine (for example) that many of them are bitter over the fact that people of Ham’s persuasion misled them during their childhood and prevented them getting a better education, especially in science. Many also feel like victims of the culture wars that Ham works hard to perpetuate.
So I can understand why many strongly oppose everything Ham does. I would expect it. Around seventy years ago the pseudo-science that Ham promotes barely existed in this form. Today it has become an influential and lucrative industry.
Again, in the movement for a “smaller, purer Church” in the Catholic faith, this is seen as a good thing. The Church should not hold cultural or political power or it will not be able to be true to itself. Ratzinger wrote in 1969:
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate
This is very important, as a Church that holds much power inhibits the free will to choose to be in the Church or not. Catholics are HUGE into free will, and a Church that is a cultural norm for people to join or one that holds power to God forbid force people to join inhibits this free will. As Ratzinger said:
In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.
Now, onto your statement:
I have two comments:
- Be careful with this statement, atheism is not secular humanism. Trivially, nihilism and absurdism both require less logical axioms than secular humanism. Further, there are many types of secular humanism, each with their own baggage of axioms.
- Again, “win out” according to whom? I don’t know about other religions, but you and the Catholic Church are not playing the same game. The Church would like a core of strong Christians, a “smaller, purer Church”. As Ratzinger again said:
The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment…