Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear -- you know, a few thousand years ago when God flooded the whole Earth to punish bad people and when Noah built an ark and filled it with, among other animals, dinosaurs.
No, really. Dinosaurs . At least that's what the Creation Museum in Kentucky says happened, and its founder says you can believe it because the Bible is a historical, literally true document, even if it doesn't exactly mention dinosaurs. (The photo here today is from the museum's website.)
I love this story in The Atlantic, despite its obviously snide tone. The writer lets Ken Ham, who heads the museum, paint himself into a corner simply by speaking. For instance:
“If you say that the history in Genesis is not true, then you can just take man’s ideas as true. When you go outside of Scripture, why shouldn’t you just reinterpret what marriage means? So our emphasis is on the slippery slope regarding authority.”
Perhaps Ken Ham is unaware that Mosaic law protected marriage between a man and more than one woman. Polygamy under Mosaic law was a valid form of marriage. Perhaps he skipped over the part in the Bible about wise King Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines. And on and on.
But it's too easy just to make fun of the kind of biblical literalism that Ham promotes (for fun and profit). As the author of the Atlantic piece notes, the question is "why did 42 percent of adults surveyed this spring by Gallup say they believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago?"
That kind of widespread scientific know-nothingism shows how easy it can be to delude people, especially on the basis of religion, but not only there. You can find people who still think the Earth is flat. You can find people who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. You can find people who think human beings never made it to the moon and that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration and that the Holocaust never happened. (You can even find people who believe the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Oh, wait. That one is true.)
The fragility of human reason is frightening at times. And when we find it leading people to adopt such foolish positions we are called to point it out and call it what it is.
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CALLING EVIL EVIL
Pope Francis, speaking this weekend in Albania, says we live in times when "an authentic religious spirit is being perverted" into acts of terrorism. Exactly right. And it's a good thing to name this reality for what it is.