First up from the God Machine this week is the long-awaited opening of a religious attraction in Kentucky that’s not quite like anything else in the world.
A 510-foot-long, $100 million Noah’s ark attraction built by Christians who say the biblical story really happened is ready to open in Kentucky this week. […]“I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history,” said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the ark.
The media and select supporters were invited to tour the attraction on Tuesday, two days before regular customers could check out the life-sized Noah’s Ark for themselves.
To put it mildly, the “Ark Encounter” attraction is not without controversy. As regular readers know, the Christian ministry that built the mammoth structure demanded and received taxpayer subsidies for this project, despite the fact that all employees – including staff whose responsibilities have nothing to do with religion – will be required to be Christian and sign a written document professing “Christ as their savior.”
Indeed, those hoping to work at “Ark Encounter” must also submit a “creation belief statement” before being hired, which includes endorsing the idea that the planet is roughly 6,000 years old.
The fact that Kentucky taxpayers are subsidizing all of this may seem legally problematic, but a Bush/Cheney-appointed federal judge cleared the way for the public assistance, and Gov. Matt Bevin (R), delighted with the outcome, did not appeal the case that had been litigated by his Democratic predecessor.
There’s also the fact that this theme-park attraction isn’t just a fun excursion for tourists. The point of “Ark Encounter” is to promote a Christian ministry’s worldview, “share the gospel,” and encourage visitors to embrace young-earth creationism. This ark’s builders genuinely believe the story of Noah is literally true – complete with dinosaurs on the replica of the mythical boat.
Dan Phelps, the head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, showed up for the opening on Thursday and told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the boat’s wooden craftsmanship was impressive, but the scientific exhibits, which he called “beyond pseudo-science, more like non-science,” were appalling.
For what it’s worth, while the Book of Genesis says Noah relied on tar and gopher wood, “Ark Encounter” was constructed with a team of workers using contemporary tools and materials. If the ministry intended to prove what was possible millennia ago, it may have unintentionally hurt its own theological case.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Bicentennial: “Just as their religious ancestors did exactly two centuries ago, members of the AME Church made a pilgrimage to Philadelphia on Wednesday (July 6) for the opening of the denomination’s General Conference. They gathered not only to remember their history, but to continue to forge a path toward racial justice.”
* At the Western Conservative Summit this week, reality-show personality Phil Robertson shared his belief this week that the calendar offers proof of the existence of Jesus.
* And the Washington Post this week published a piece from a New York psychiatrist who claims to occasionally work on patients who are possessed by demons. He wasn’t kidding. Why a major American newspaper would publish this as if readers should consider demonic possession a credible phenomenon is unclear (thanks to reader R.B. for the heads-up).