What Did Christians See When They Joined the Atheists at the Creation Museum? August 12, 2009

What Did Christians See When They Joined the Atheists at the Creation Museum?

Among the 300+ group visiting the Creation Museum last week were Aaron Gardner and his wife. They are both evangelical Christians.

Aaron says he wanted to answer the question: “What would it be like to be a Christian and a fly on the wall as a group of atheists peered at exhibits that attempted to prove them wrong?”

I’ll admit, that’s a pretty cool experiment on his end. Almost like an atheist visiting churches…

So, after he put on his Secular Student Alliance nametag, what did he find?

He was appalled at the way other Christians treated us atheists.

… While I did not have a T-shirt (a symbol anyway) it was obvious that there was a distinctive way that we were being treated because of the shared identification. There were hateful glances, exaggerated perceptions, waxing surveillance by security, and anxious but strong ‘amens’ accompanying a lecture on “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” by Dr. Jason Lisle.

Is this how Christians treat people? Is this how we follow Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? I cannot help but think that many Christians are fearful of atheists. It is a sort of xenophobia that runs along lines of faith and belief. What we tend to forget is that atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists are people too. If our attempt to preserve our belief means that we are treating these people like animals, are we really holding up principles that are based on a creation worldview?

There have rarely been times in my life that I have been ashamed of people that I call “brothers and sisters in Christ.” This was one of them…

Thanks for stepping in our shoes, Aaron.

I hope he can take that message back to his church and Christian friends.

(via Prometheus Unbound)

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  • J. Allen

    He wouldn’t say that if he was a TRUE christian.

  • Freethinker

    I agree with J Allen. The Young Earth Creationists interpret Genesis exactly as it is meant to be interpreted. These metaphorical views that their wishy-washy coreligionists believe are only a way to save face.

    As long as they believe in a sky-fairy, they are nothing more than delusional faith heads and should be treated as such.

  • Daniel

    I appreciate the sentiment, but I have a hard time with this part:

    Is this how we follow Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?

    That kind of blows it for me. We are enemies? That are persecuting them?

  • I truly wish the Bible did not depict non-followers as enemies, but alas.

    I’m very, very pleased about the experience this gentleman had (both the bad behavior by the Christians and stellar behavior by the SSA) and that he chose to write about it. It illustrates a bigger picture of the whole in America today.

    I hope it is one more chip in the wall western society has built up against seculars and atheists.

  • Richard P

    They hide who they are behind the mask of their religion.

    I was always exposed to religion. We lived next to the catholic church. I was an alter boy. The priest that was there from from the beginning was the pinnacle of what a great priest should be. No abuse in his church. Born again at 17. Lived for years as a christian. Evangelizing, preaching, Even worked at a gas station for a few years that only hired christians.

    Eventually it had to come to an end.

    One lesson I learned was never trust a christian. He will smile in your face tell you god loves you then turn you around and rape you blind, then invite you to his church. Even today I will walk away from deals no matter how good it looks if the person is very religious.
    I am not saying all of the religious are like that, But my personal observances are that there is something that corrupts people inside when they feel self righteous. It allows them to justify anything.

  • Richard Wade

    Aaron, I very much appreciate your openness and courage to meet us and experience things from our shoes. Thank you! I hope you can take your experience back to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and beyond your eloquent blog, directly appeal to them face-to-face to relax their fear and loathing of us.

    …but if you do, take a helmet and have a getaway car ready.

  • And links on what the “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” lecture said? I’m very curious to know what the proof is, and why it’s ultimate.

  • Randy

    I think he was refering to the general “love thy enemy” rather than pointing at us directly.

  • First, thank you Hemant for you kind mention! It is very encouraging to hear from you! No doubt your experiences with “I Sold My Soul” have been inspiring to me on my journey.

    Indeed, I did not mean to call atheists the “enemy” but to address this perception in the “Christian” community. (Thanks, Randy, for that clarification!)

    To Richard Wade: thank you! No doubt that this is the real fear, but it is definitely worth the risk!

    To PrimeNumbers: Not sure about a link, but there is a book by that title that the lecturer (Jason Lisle) wrote. It is available at http://creationmuseum.org and I was planning on getting a copy myself just so I can mark it up 😉

    To all of you: I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog as well… there are quite a few great comments coming in!

  • schism

    Even today I will walk away from deals no matter how good it looks if the person is very religious.

    This is just personal observation, but I think that behavior is a result of moral superiority (from being a member of the One True Faith) being conflated with general superiority. Google “Christian tippers,” for instance. The only way I can imagine giving a waiter a religious tract designed to look like a $20 in place of an actual tip (or pocket change, or nothing at all) is if I had a complete disregard for the person serving me.

  • thilina

    And links on what the “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” lecture said? I’m very curious to know what the proof is, and why it’s ultimate.

    I didn’t realize you needed an entire lecture (or a book) to say ‘god did it’ and i assume it’s ultimate cause ‘god said so’.

    Good job Aaron, that was a great post.

  • JadeMargery

    This guy is admirable–he put himself in someone else’s shoes and learned from the experience. We should all do that more often.

    I think that a lot of the crowing going on in the comments is unwarranted though. Consider, if you will, how a person wearing a jesus fish pin on their shirt would fare at an atheist convention? I hope that they would be treated respectively, welcomed to participate without malice or mockery, and come away impressed that atheists could be so open and accepting of someone who doesn’t agree with them.

    I am not sure this would be the case. Has anyone done anything like this? Any links?

  • Honestly, at least he recognizes the fact that most Christians do not practice what they preach. He is being open to other peoples’ thoughts and opinions, as Atheists, I would expect us to be open to others’ thoughts and opinions as well.

  • Very nice, but I misunderstood the intro.
    I was hoping to see what a Christian who happened to be visiting the museum the same day blogged about the band of atheists that descended upon the place.
    Has anyone seen anything like that in Fundamentalist blogs?
    For that matter, does anyone know if there’s a staffer at that museum who blogs?

  • Cypress Green

    Thanks, Aaron, for your willingness to try out another perspective. I believe many of us have our own moments like those Christians, and I understand why the Christians in this particular instance were more poorly behaved than we’d wish. Many of them probably felt threatened. Still, they shouldn’t act that way.

  • matt

    excellent post!!!!!

  • That is a cool experiment.

    And kudos on being a Friendly Atheist. I’m an agnostic and sometimes encounter hostile atheists. It pushes me further away from atheism.

  • Matt D

    I read Aaron’s post and I’m curious as to what else he took out of the visit.

    I’m not sure exactly how i would feel if that experience were reversed ie me with a heap of Christians poking fun at my (lack of) beliefs. Pretty sure I’d be looking to bitch-slap someone!

    @Aaron if you’re out there – was there anything said or done within the group that made you go “huh, hadnt thought of it that way”?

  • Wendy

    Way to go, Aaron!

    What a nice man.

  • I wish there were more christians like Aaron who obviously are more interested in treating everyone fairly and without discrimination.

  • PlayMp1

    Aaron, you’re a good guy, that much I can tell. I’m glad you know what it’s’ like to be one of us, if only for a day. It’s tough. Discrimination is at every social gathering. Invariably, there’s always one guy who talks about his church gathering, and I involuntarily wince at that, and everyone notices and teams up against me.

    It’s great knowing there are Christians that don’t want to put us up on death row, that aren’t part of the masses screaming for us to stop discriminating, and any of our actual and perceived offenses. I love what Jesus says and does in the Bible, sometimes (things like him killing an out-of-season fig tree and whipping the apparent wrongdoers out of the temple when he goes to Jerusalem), but I take Gandhi’s stance here: I like your Christ. But I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.

  • Honestly

    I think it’s appalling how mankind treats each other.

    It’s not just Athiests vs Christians. People seem to find any way they can to divide themselves up into groups and find any reasons they can for why they are the better group of man.

    I’m not pointing the finger at all people (I mean, hell, I catch myself doing it too sometimes), but there is a notable amount that makes me want to be devoid of society all together.

  • Phil

    “We are enemies?”

    The Bible teaches that those who spread so called ‘disinformation’ about God are adversaries to Christians.

    So yes, basically, but not with the same hostility that the term ‘enemies’ conjures up. Jesus in one of the Gospels called one of his disciples an enemy for questioning his plan to go teach the public. It isn’t a term of hatred as it is a term of skepticism, regardless of how certain idiots take it as free range to make asses out of themselves.

    As for the persecution, some might believe it but most of the rest of us realize that is the farthest thing from the truth.

  • It’s the same old “You’re either with us or against us” mentality. I suspect most atheists really don’t care what religion anyone practices. We just want theists to stop attempting to impose their beliefs upon everyone by force of law and physical violence.

    I also have to say that every time in my life I have been cheated, treated badly, or lied to, it’s been by a “good christian”.

  • Anri

    Well, we are after all dealing with a group of people who, as their core statement of faith, believe that the most loving, wonderful, forgiving being in the universe stands ready to cast every human into eternal torture unless supplicated and pleaded with.

    And, that above and beyond that, it will be deserved torture, for the ultimate crime of not being perfect. That we are all so horrible and loathsome that unending agony is our fair and reasonable, loving even, repayment.

    Really, once you begin believing that, how can you not view other people as enemies?

  • Goodness, the first two comments are appalling. Not only do they not extend a hand of friendship to you, they condemn other Christians? *shakes head*

    I am a Christian, and I often struggle with the behavior of Christians. There are times when I wish I could create a new label for what I believe, but the label “Christian” has been the descriptor for those that believe what I believe for a very long time. It’s not really up to me to purify or judge those around me, but rather to hold to what I believe is true and dialogue with all (within my camp and out of it) when it is possible.

    Thanks for posting this, and I apologize for whatever behavior you were forced to put up with at the Creation Museum. I was brought there over christmas by conservative family members and found it difficult to take.

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