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Biblical Literalism and the “Redemption Racket”

by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

The leaders of America’s Christian fundamentalists and biblical literalists are constantly whining about being mocked and ridiculed. There are good reasons for the derision, and no one better personifies those reasons than Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum.

On 17 February 2010, the Associated Press ran a story about Mr. Ham’s latest pronouncement. It was also carried by OneNewsNow – the propaganda organ of Don and Tim Wildmon’s rabidly anti-gay (and anti-gay families), anti-civil equality, anti-reason, anti-science American Family Association website – under the title “Creation Museum founder: U.S. should take Genesis literally”:
In what he characterized as a “State of the Union” speech from his museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham rebuked churches and Christian scholars who don't believe in a young Earth and creation in six days. “That’s why we have such a weak church, why a church is not touching the culture,” he stated. “[T]he church in our Western world needs to repent of compromise and get back to the authority of the Word of God and stand unashamedly on the Word of God.” 
Apparently Mr. Ham wants churches and “Christian scholars” to intentionally lie. It’s absolute fact that the earth is not 6,000 years-old, as Mr. Ham insists, nor did human children play with dinosaurs in Eden as his museum asserts. Mr. Ham and those who believe as he does seem little more than scared children who refuse to recognize the Old Testament for what it is: stories created by Bronze Age people to explain what they didn’t understand and to create fear of a wrathful “God,” thus enabling his priests and prophets to control the people. The same hold true today. 

Don and Tim Wildmon’s American Family Association conducted a poll in mid-February in relation to Mr. Ham’s statements. The question asked was “What side of the argument would your pastor take in the evolution-vs.-creation debate?” The offered responses were

  • The first chapter of Genesis says it all – literally 
  • God created the earth, but probably populated the planet through the evolutionary process 
  • Scientific explanation (Big bang theory, for example) is more believable than Genesis 1 
  • I do not attend church
When I checked the results of the poll on February 17, 2010, at 2:33 PM, 1,060 AFA viewers had voted:
  • The first chapter of Genesis says it all – literally -- 87.08% 
  • God created the earth, but probably populated the planet through the evolutionary process -- 6.98% 
  • Scientific explanation (Big bang theory, for example) is more believable than Genesis 1 -- 2.36% 
  • I do not attend church -- 3.58%

The 87.08% response rate from AFA readers was not surprising. The other percentages, however, offered some hope that reason and rationality are not completely dead among some of those readers.

Updated Poll Results:

When asked by Bill Maher in the quasi-documentary Religulous (2008), why he insisted the earth was 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, Mr. Ham responded, “If you’re saying this part [of the Bible] over here that says God made land animals and man on the same day is not true, then, ultimately, why should I believe this bit over here?” Religion, for Mr. Ham and his followers, is a house of cards. Any card that falls brings down the entire structure. 

Yet Ham and his followers continue to reveal their hypocrisy. Is Mr. Ham et al in favor of selling daughters into slavery? Is Mr. Ham in favor of stoning to death people who wear clothing made of two different threads? Is Mr. Ham in favor of stoning non-virgin brides? Is Mr. Ham in favor of killing gays? All of these were “God’s commands” in the Old Testament? Or is Mr. Ham just content with making a very good living from promoting Genesis as literal “truth,” being the curator the Creation Museum, and his lucrative speaking engagements?
What type of person is attracted/drawn to the biblical literalism and religious fundamentalism advocated by Mr. Ham?

Generally speaking, those who are very insecure and afraid of reality. People who are so insecure and so afraid of life and reality that they withdraw into a cozy little box that has on its entrance: “No Thinking Required Here. Just Believe and Obey.” Such people prefer to believe absolutely in a book that contains texts written by Bronze Age people who didn’t know North and South America, Australia, or Antarctica existed. Nor did they know the earth was round and not the center of the solar system. But then again, religious fundamentalism does make not thinking a virtue. 

Fundamentalism also seems to give its adherent a sense of their own moral superiority and that they – and they alone – know “the Truth” and will be saved during “the Rapture.” Perhaps that’s also one of the draws of fundamentalism: to be among the elite, the self-righteous, the saved.

Christian fundamentalism also seems to thrive on a type of fatalism, a gleeful welcoming of the end of the world that would likely appeal to someone at odds with this world and life in general. Consider an article titled “The World as It Really Is” by Jim Fletcher, whose latest book is titled It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), with the subtitle “How to stop worrying and learn to love these END TIMES.”
After listing some human miseries he saw while strolling around Austin, Texas, Mr. Fletcher stated:
But even in all this misery, I thought about how it confirms the Bible. If the Bible is true, we would expect to see a diseased and dying world. A physically dying world. Pollution. Corruption. Illness. … 
The Bible’s early books contain the history of Earth’s beginnings. Genesis contains the historical account of man’s spiritual and physical fall. In those brief verses, we can know enough to figure out our world. … 
If the Bible is literally true, then human misery is “God’s will.” That’s a strange sort of “loving God” who takes pleasure in torturing His creations. But it’s the opening of the second paragraph that speaks to the essence of fundamentalism’s glorification of irrationality and mind-numbing simplicity. Genesis contains “the history of Earth’s beginnings”: the earth is a flat disk supported by pillars and covered by a dome to keep out all those celestial waters and, according to Mr. Fletcher, Genesis is all we need to know “to figure out our world.” The Kafkaesque appeal of fundamentalism: no thinking needed, just believe, obey and send in your donations to help spread “the Truth.”

The “wisdom” of Mr. Fletcher continued when he explained how it was not the slaughter and torture of millions and millions of people by religious zealots during the last two millennia, but “the beginnings of modern evolutionary thought, which has destroyed millions and millions of people, and now has America’s children in its grip.” 

Can you think of ANY incident in the 151 years since the theory of evolutionary in which evolutionists killed, maimed, waterboarded, or in any way “destroyed” fundamentalists in the name of Darwin? Mr. Fletcher would, no doubt, bring up Hitler and the “connection” his ilk like to posit between Darwin’s theory and Nazi-style eugenics. Madmen such as Hitler cherry-picked and used whatever they could to advances their cause, including Christianity.
As for science, reason and critical thinking having “America’s children in [their] grip,” GOOD! Perhaps they will then be able to see through the irrationality and inherent bigotry that underwrite religious fundamentalism and the hypocrisy of its leaders:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
-- Matthew 19:24, NRSV 
Ultimately, biblical literalists and fundamentalist preachers are selling their product: salvation. And business is good. Jerry Falwell left millions and his private jet to Liberty University. Pat Robertson used to breed thoroughbred racehorses on his expansive Virginia estate.
Alex Koppelman was correct when he suggested America’s fundamentalist leaders run “the redemption racket.” And intricate to that racket is Genesis as literal history. Mr. Ham is just playing his part… and profiting from it.