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.
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.
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.
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…
I am treading a fine line at times on my blog. I want to be accessible to YEC that are real seekers. I understand their concerns and know that bashing is neither effective nor the right thing to do. I am also calling out error where I see it if I think that interferes with what is really important: the message of the gospel.
Regarding the attendance thing. I do think is appropriate that RTB and BioLogos not engage in battles over the Ark attendance. They don’t need to be that messenger. Since I have been more engaged with the an assessment of the YEC movement and its influence I feel like I’m more in a position to comment on the significance of changes in the YEC sphere. I have a running blog post that comments on the attendance at the Ark. I hope it doesn’t sound like the Patheos or other atheist article out there. In fact I have been critical of them because the have over-reached in their conclusions and frequently misrepresented Ham’s words. My overall take is that the Ark isn’t the raging success, from a people walking through the doors perspective, as Ham and others had hoped but it hardly a failure. Its success, from an influence on the minds of his followers and beyond, far exceeds the simply financial bottom line. I think they Ark will be around far longer than most atheists hope and believe and I hope to provide help to those that go to the ark and find themselves confused and looking for other answers. I want to lead them to a theologically sound alternative not simply despair and rejection of Christianity that they believe is one in the same with Ken Ham’s Christianity.
Indeed, there is a lot of money in in some ministries, and some religions. To most atheists it’s ministries like AiG that are miseducating people and scamming them for the money. When AiG gets tax breaks to build the Ark park, that’s coming at the expense of public tax dollars. Yes, I know this has all been done with careful maneuvering to make sure it is legal, but that doesn’t make it right.
RTB and BioLogos are not doing this, but maybe they should be.
But isn’t the Catholic church also very wealthy? I don’t have great sources on this.
Pseudoscience, and the political manipulations to allow Creationism to be taught in the public school science curriculum. There is a lot of money behind that effort. So far, the only major successes are Louisiana and Tennessee, but they are still trying.
I’ve been seeing this for years already …
… and I suspect it been going on longer than that, fueling the rise of militant atheism.
Correct again (I says this too). I wish you were wrong, because we already have enough angry atheists.
@AllenWitmerMiller, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression: I agree that what people like Ham do is a travesty. In the atheism groups I see the people who are essentially refugees from religion, fleeing abuse from their friends, families, and community for the crime of seeing science as it is. It should not be this way. I’m not cheering for Ham to create new atheists because 1) I think it’s a bad way to come to that decision, and 2) I can’t condone the abuse that happens just because it creates new followers for the cause (whatever that is).
My own biggest criticism of many atheists is they do nothing but complain about religion. That’s not helpful, and even actively unhelpful. If I want to make things better, I need to be able to talk to people, and encourage the more reasonable voices like yours and many others. That, in a nutshell, is why I am here at PS.