My friend and Patheos colleague Tracey Moody has a thoughtful piece on Ken Ham over at the Friendly Atheist titled, Ken Ham Isn’t a Big Bad Ogre: Why I Feel Bad About Ark Encounter.
In her piece, she wonderfully humanizes Ken Ham, the enemy of reason, the anti-science juggernaut, the creationist extraordinaire. Moody has met Ham and is able to put a human interaction together with her thoughts on him. She makes a great argument for human kindness, respect, and common decency.
I am unable to do this, I have never met Ham, and likely never will. I can’t imagine I am high on the list of people he is interested in meeting at this point.
But is Ken Ham the big bad ogre? Yes, I say he is. Okay, maybe I am being a little hyperbolic here. In a world with ISIS and the Catholic Church’s child sex ring, maybe Ham isn’t the “ogre,” but he is still a dangerous troll under the bridge.
I want to highlight a few passages by Moody, and then explain why I feel differently about how I view him.
I’ve never felt that this battle over the Ark has been a “good guys” versus “bad guys” scenario. Tax incentive issues aside, this was always a battle between two sides driven by their beliefs and what they perceive to be in the best interest of mankind.
By the end of the conversation, we both seemed to agree that we would treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of our wildly different world views. Ten minutes later, Ham approached me again and handed me his business card. He told me I should write to him sometime.
We should never be silent about the government funding religious missions, or myth being taught as fact, or science education being bastardized. But we are in a position to do all of these things while showing mercy to the human condition.
I largely agree with the overall theme of Moody’s piece and these passages here, except I don’t think they apply very well to Ham as a human being.
Yes, I should take the moral high ground and “treat each other with dignity and respect,” but that is very one-sided when it comes to Ham.
When it comes to the Ark Encounter specifically, maybe it’s not a battle of “good guys vs. bad guys,” but outside of the Ark, in other real world battles, it seems to be, and Ken Ham is not just a “good guy” with different beliefs.
I respect Ham’s right to life, well being, his right to free expression of his ideas no matter how much I disagree.
He doesn’t, however, extend those same respects back to others.
Ham has made it well known he doesn’t believe atheists can have morals. He asked why, without a belief in God, that Miley Cyrus doesn’t have sex with animals. Her coming out as queer was enough for him to insist she must be okay with bestiality. Is that treating someone with respect and dignity because she said she enjoyed exploring her sexuality?
He says, often, that atheists cannot have joy and meaning in their lives without God. We have no purpose and are hopeless. Does that sound like someone treating atheists with respect and dignity?
Instead, he villainizes all atheists: we are the enemy, we want to destroy Christians. Not Christianity, but Christians. This is the kind of rhetoric used by Ham on a daily basis. We are not against a religious ideology, he says, we are against people themselves.
Where is the respect and dignity in lying about our positions?
Ham believes in conversion therapy for homosexuals. He believes Christians need to pray for and talk to homosexuals about their sexuality and lead them to Jesus so that they can see the errors in their ways. He often promotes Ray Comfort’s DVD Audacity, which argues for conversion therapy. Something we know is dangerous and leads to homosexual suicides. Many states of banned it, yet Ham supports it still.
Does that sound like someone who is respecting someone and treating them with dignity?
Ham said he believes building the Ark Encounter was a more important task than feeding the homeless.
Ham calls abortion murder, he compares abortion to the Holocaust, he villainizes abortion doctors and the women who seek them as murderers. We know this kind of rhetoric inspires Christians to walk into a Planned Parenthood and open fire. When they do, Ham is suddenly quiet about murder. He has a lot to say about abortion doctors, but nothing to say about those who kill them.
These are just a small sampling of the things that don’t make Ham a nice guy with a different belief.
Moody says, “Calling people names and wishing for them to suffer won’t cure them of their inability to see the world how you want them to.” She is right. I admit I often call Ham names, a liar, evil, dishonest. I called him “the village idiot,” in a speech at Apostacon. I know many who have called for him to suffer, sadly. I won’t and can’t condone any physical suffering for another human being. I won’t mind if his business suffers, but I doubt that’s what Moody was getting at.
Yet Ham does threaten people with eternal suffering. He also directly calls for them to suffer. By that, I mean he opposes same-sex marriage and wants the LGBTQ community to suffer, with fewer rights and dignity. He wants them to suffer through conversion therapy and rejection.
He wants pregnant women to suffer through the most heinous of pregnancies because he believes all abortion is murder. God has a plan, he will say — the kind of language that defends blocking abortion after rape or incest.
He also seems okay with the homeless suffering by simply claiming the Ark Encounter is more important than feeding them.
A lot of this boils down to this biblical world view: Suffer now, rejoice later.
So yes, Moody has made an excellent case for us opposed to Ham to take the high road. I could probably learn a lesson or two from her post. However, her kindness is not being extended back from Ham towards people I know for a fact she cares deeply about.
He doesn’t show atheists, women, the LGBTQ community, or many other non-young earth creationists respect and dignity.
Until he does, I won’t extend it cordial niceties for a man whose views can seriously harm others.
I don’t respect Ken Ham, he has shown he is unworthy of being considered a respectable human being.
Ham has a right to his horrible views and I will hold my right to call him an asshole for holding them.