Canadian Atheist Visits the Young Earth Creationist Museum in Kentucky and is Asked to Turn His “There’s Probably No God” Shirt Inside Out Before Entering

Then towards the end of the exhibit, because he and his buddies were laughing at the displays, they asked him to leave:

I’m of two minds about this. First, the museum is completely private property and those who own it have every right to set the terms of decorum for visitors. The museum receives no money from the state, so nobody’s rights were violated. On the other hand, it is symptomatic of many fundamentalists to be uptight around the diverse expression of opinions. But I think Jesus would have let the young atheist walk through, speak his peace, guffaw, and then Jesus would have kept the dialogue going. What’s that parable about the ninety-nine sheep, and the one sheep that had gone astray?

And, hey, I’m an agnostic, but maybe the dude in this video is an angel undercover. In other words, the museum curators may have been entertaining an angel unawares, and inasmuch as they were mean to him, “they were mean unto me.” But, of course, the atheist dude could also have used some manners, and maybe saved his mockery for the parking lot. You wouldn’t go into a church with a “there’s probably no God” t-shirt on, would you? And what is the Creation Museum, but ultimately a religious gathering place? It’s certainly not a place where science is seriously done.

And why, oh why, is PZ Myers so obsessed about hanging around religious gathering places? What would Freud say? It’s kind of creepy: A “Where’s Waldo” atheist who shadows religious goings-on all the time. What’s his problem? He really needs a bishop to battle, doesn’t he? God help PZ if he ever gets his wish and religion dies. Where would he go on summer vacation? I wonder if he stole something from the museum to burn on the Internet—a Catholic wafer sequel to last summer’s shenanegans.

Any thoughts?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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16 Responses to Canadian Atheist Visits the Young Earth Creationist Museum in Kentucky and is Asked to Turn His “There’s Probably No God” Shirt Inside Out Before Entering

  1. Aaron says:

    I was present for this event. I am a Christian and signed up with Secular Student Alliance (SSA), mainly for the discount ($10 instead of $22). If this really was a volitle incident, it was the only one I am aware of.

    Interestingly enough, there was an atheist there with a shirt that said “If I am really good then I will do to heaven when I die…NOT”, which is actually very good theology! However, he was asked by a member of security to turn his shirt inside out because it was offensive! I am curious about the last time they really studied theology (since the Bible is a book of theology) instead of studying the Bible for “science.”

    I am planning to write about my experiences on my blog, so stay tuned for more!

  2. santitafarella says:

    Aaron:

    I’ll be interested in hearing your eyewitness testimony.

    —Santi

  3. gonovelgo says:

    How often does PZ Meyers actually hang out in religious gathering places? This is the first time I’ve ever heard of him doing it, and a museum is hardly the same as a church.

    • santitafarella says:

      gonovelgo:

      He (en cognito) attends one of the premiere showings of Ben Stein’s Expelled; he asks his followers to score a Catholic wafer from a Catholic Church because he’s recognizable to the priests and nuns at his local Catholic church, and they won’t give him communion; and now he turns up at the Creation Museum in the midst of a controversy. This is a pattern. He seeks not just Internet confrontation with theists (which is extensive and obsessive for him), but he also seeks physical proximity and bodily encounters with his opponents, stepping onto their turf (for purposes of theater?).

      —Santi

      • gonovelgo says:

        Er…that’s three instances of him doing what you’re describing. Actually, it’s two – the reason why he attended the premier of Expelled was because he’s in in the movie. Whatever else you might say about his tactics, it’s hardly fair to claim that he’s some sort of atheistic stalker.

  4. First, the museum is completely private property and those who own it have every right to set the terms of decorum for visitors.

    Yes, they do. But it does not follow that this gives carte blanche to the ‘museum’ administration without criticism if it is so deserved.

    And why, oh why, is PZ Myers so obsessed about hanging around religious gathering places?

    I’m with gonovelgo on this. What are you talking about?

  5. santitafarella says:

    Shamelessly Atheist:

    What criticism does the museum administration deserve? You lost me. They did something unethical? They harmed the young man? They don’t have the right to set the terms of decorum on their very own private property?

    And notice that PZ Myers seems to think that religious groups’ private property is something to be broached. Why does he do this? Is he a control freak? He can’t stand, it appears, that others should practice their religious beliefs on their terms, on their own property, unmolested. He thinks Catholics can be punk’d for their wafers under false pretenses, and he seems to think it’s okay to not respect the decorum of a religious group’s private property, and that he or his compatriots have been wronged if they can’t step onto somebody else’s property, mock them, and from that vantage of standing on the property that belongs to another, tell them off with offensive messages.

    I’d also escort people off my property if they did that to me. It would piss me off. It’s rude and intolerant of the terms I have the right to set for my own space. You can’t have a civil society that disrespects people’s basic right to control their own space. A person steps on my property to tell me off? They’re asking for a fight, aren’t they? They’re trying to provoke a confrontation. They’re treating me with disrespect.

    I had an Obama for Prez sign on my lawn this past fall. It got ripped off, but that’s another story. If it hadn’t gotten ripped off, but somebody stepped onto my yard with a McCain sign and started laughing at my sign and snickering, I’d say, “Step off of my property and then say what you want from the street.”

    That’s what the Creation Museum people did. I can’t say that I blame them.

    —Santi

  6. santitafarella says:

    Gonovelgo:

    Those are just the incidents that I can rattle quickly off the top of my head, and they’re not small. And what’s he doing granting interviews to the Discovery Institute crowd for their propaganda?

    Once you see a pattern, it’s not unreasonable to infer that there are other incidents behind the obvious ones. For example, every single priest and nun at his local Catholic Church knows him. How many times has he gotten in their face for them to know him so well? And when you get caught by a cop speeding, is that the only time you actually engaged in speeding?

    Myers has a problem. Freud would say that, unconsciously, he loves Bible thumpers, and wants to be around them. Think of Ayn Rand’s atheist hero in The Fountainhead (Howard Roark). Howard never spends any of his mental energy thinking about the altruists around him. If atheism is so great “sui generis,” why does Myers not just joyously live his atheist existence above the rabble? Why does he need a devil? An atheist in need of devils. Curious, is it not?

    And think of this most recent incident. Hey, let’s get a bunch of us atheists together for a field trip all the way to Kentucky to see the young earth creationist museum! And let’s wear atheist tee-shirts to screw up the Evangelical families floating around and razz the staff. And we can go around smugly and indecently showing off how intellectually superior we are, and make our presence felt in the evil theist lion’s den, right on their own turf. That’s a great idea!

    I’m sorry. Myers has a serious, serious problem. As an older man, helping to organize and support such outings of younger people, is teaching them incivility, low-grade “intellectual” exchange, disrespect of private property rights, and obnoxiousness. He’s trying to turn atheism v. theism into something more than mature democratic and civil dialogue, and something akin to a football match or a segment for Fox News. It gets ratings and attention, but it’s stupid.

    If you must go around to fundamentalist cultural spaces, respect their right to dictate decorum on their own property, look around politely, take your notes, and then critique the crap out of them, and deconstruct them to your heart’s content, from your own free speech-space on the Internet. That’s fine. If I ever visit the creation museum, that’s what I’ll do. If you search the term at my blog, you’ll see that I’ve already sassed the museum, including their racist Adam and Eve display.

    But Myers’s confrontational style and habits are setting a cultural tone for the atheist movement that is illiberal.

    —Santi

    • Aaron says:

      Santi,

      First I wanted to let you know that my first reflective post is up on being a Christian there that day: http://lunchboxsw.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/scarlet-a-for-a-day/

      Secondly, while I agree that Myers’ tactics are often less than honest, not sure that your criticism is accurate. Mainly, the trip was organized by the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) and they were the ones that encouraged people to wear identifying T-shirts. I actually think that many of the shirts were helpful to Christians who wanted to simply avoid discussion/proxemity with SSA members.

      Other than the incident described above (which I was not aware of until I saw it online) the day was quite uneventful in regard to the behavior of the visitors.

      Again, as for Myers, I do think that he has been taking random pot-shots… but in the midst of the flair, he is making good points. The trouble is who on the other side will listen to him if he continues to behave the way he is.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Aaron:

    I’m glad to hear that everyone behaved civilly. I’ll read your post. Thanks for the link.

    I personally think it’s stupid of fundamentalists to open such a museum and not expect, periodically, atheist groups coming through with t-shirts. I wouldn’t think that the staff would want the atheists turning their shirts inside out. It feels like a creepy thing to ask a person to do. Christians can’t bear to see things? I think it’s childish to make people turn a shirt inside out, but I respect a group’s private property rights to set whatever terms of entry they establish.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that I think that atheists were being put upon by conforming to terms, or had their rights in any way violated. I mean, what do you expect? I can’t walk into cathedrals in Europe with my shirt off, or with an offensive religious symbol on it.

    —Santi

    • Aaron says:

      Yeah, good point. A friend made that point to me yesterday. There is definitely something to say for it being private property and having that authority with it.

  8. santitafarella says:

    Aaron:

    I read your post on the event. Wow. That was really great what you wrote. Very insightful. I like your notion of dialogue at the end. I’ll make a separate post later today on your post.

    —Santi

  9. Chris says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with people exercising their rights on their own property. They certainly didn’t do anything illegal. But whether or not you would allow someone to wear something if you owned the place is a completely different question and doesn’t really say anything at all about what the museum did.

  10. justintempler says:

    “And why, oh why, is PZ Myers so obsessed about hanging around religious gathering places?”

    Maybe because a man who has spent his life teaching science has a problem when a group opens a “museum” and teaches falsehoods in direct opposition to science.

    mu·se·um (myōō-zē’əm)
    n. A building, place, or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and EDUCATIONAL interpretation of objects having SCIENTIFIC, HISTORICAL, or artistic value.

  11. santitafarella says:

    JustinTempler:

    I understand the outrage against a museum devoted to bad ideas. Fine. But to obsess over it? To physically travel long distances to put your finger in its sides? Oh doubting Thomas, you do secretly believe, don’t you! I do think that Myers’s Manichean struggle to the death with religion of all stripes is rather Freudian. And I’m sorry, but to give so much of your energy being pissed off at ideas that have zip influence among the people that count on these matters (that is, scientists) is akin to obsessing about the assassination of JFK. Young earth creationism is a cultural curiosity, and a distraction from more serious pursuits. And I suppose the museum is kind of a freak show, akin to visiting the giant steer in a tent at a fair, but really now. Get a grip.

    I think that atheists who go to a creation museum are obviously not content with positive atheism. Atheism’s nihilistic absence of meaning turns some atheists into Don Quixote in search of dragons to keep them busy. To be a combative atheist is to demonstrate one’s inner dissatisfaction with atheism qua atheism.

    —Santi

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