‘Ken Ham and his followers lead more people away from Jesus than any atheists I know of’

Photo by John Foxe, via Wikimedia Commons.

There was a comment posted on our Facebook page this morning that was so insightful, and so in keeping with yesterday’s article, that I wanted to make sure all of you had a chance to see it.

Here it is (with some bold font for emphasis added by me, since Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook apparently don’t know what bold font is):

All I keep hearing from the Ham-Camp is that our kids are becoming atheists due to evolution. NOT SO!!! Kids turn away from their faith when they are forced to choose between evolution or Ham’s theory of faith. It’s ridiculous!

I grew up believing evolution and that God had chosen this method for life. It never once conflicted with my faith. Then my husband and I attended an AIG church that had me shaking in my boots that I had somehow missed something so huge and was probably never even a believer because of it. I’m so glad we are away from that.

Our kids were slightly indoctrinated by that, so I feel like I’m doing damage control. I’m thankful for sites such as this and Bio Logos to refer my kids to so they are NEVER forced to make a decision that has no impact on their faith. Ken Ham and his followers lead more people away from Jesus than any atheists I know of.

This commenter’s perspective hits home because it comes from a place of personal experience. But it also makes intuitive sense. I understand why Christian parents are afraid of the “secular” boogeyman; really, I do. And I understand the instinct that kicks in when you are afraid: to hunker down, to try and shield those whom you love from a world you’re afraid might steal from them that which is most precious.

But — and this is a big “but” (that’s why I bolded it) — this is a really, really bad idea. The gospel is not meant to be spread, nor sustained, through fear. It is the “good” news, and fear is antithetical to the spirit of God.

And it just plain makes sense that teaching anyone that they have to choose between Christianity and atheism, with no other options allowed without “compromising,” is going to force most smart people to pick atheism. Especially since, in the construct offered by Ham and those who follow him, the atheism “side” has all the evidence in favor of it, and the Christianity side has little more than fear-mongering, deceit and some embarrassingly bad cartoons.

Tyler Francke is the founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached here.

  • Dennis Venema on Biologos is one of my favourite writers on evolution, and his account there of how he moved from denial to acceptance of the science is inspiring and moving.

    • Yeah, he’s pretty cool for sure. Love his writings on the genetic evidence for evolution.

  • drew

    when I first heard the comment that Ken Ham was the chief recruiter for atheism, I didn’t quite understand what it meant, but because Ken Ham gives you the choice between believing in science or in some mythical, non scientific account of the world we can know. You must lop off half of your brain, or totally reject Christian theology. I’m sure he thinks he is right and is somehow protecting the faith, but to accept the scientific account of nature and ackonowedge that the Genesis story is an allegorical expression of God’s revelation of himself, is the only truly rational way to arrive at faith.

  • Dylan Gorman

    Ham just ignores all studies that show denying the fact of evolution is hurting the church, not helping it. How does he come up with the theory that accepting evolution always leads to atheism?

    • Out of necessity. He has to be able to offer some reason for why he and his organization spend millions of dollars propping up a view that was never once articulated by Jesus. Otherwise, he’s just wasting a church’s money on an issue that has nothing to do with spreading the good news or saving souls.

  • It’s such an interesting life being a Christian who is facinated by science. I watced Interstellar yesterday (great movie, btw) and as I walked away from it, I couldn help but think about Time-Dialation in respect to Genesis.

    Time is relative and under specific conditions, time dialates so, for example, an hour on a planet near a black hole could be 25 years here on Earth. What does that look like from God’s perspective – as a being who exists outside of time, what does our 4-dimensional universe actually look like to him?

    Ham’s philosophy, in no way, allows for this kind of thought.

  • Sean Robert

    “…fear is antithetical to the spirit of god.”

    But isn’t that the driving force behind the whole of Christianity, follow Jesus or you’ll fry in hell for all eternity?

    • That may be what some people think it’s about, but that’s not how the founder of Christianity ever described it.

  • Jeff, lord of the maniraptors

    So you don’t think people are at all punished for not following Jesus Christ?

    • No, that is incorrect. What did I say that made you think that?

  • Jeff, lord of the maniraptors

    You said that Jesus did not describe Christianity as driven by fear of divine punishment.

    • Yeah. He didn’t.

      That doesn’t necessarily mean that there are not consequences for rejecting the Son of God. In my view, it seems the Bible is pretty clear that there are. But the motivating factor for following Christ is meant to be a desire to love God, serve others and seek holiness, not simply as a “Get Out of Hell” free card means of avoiding punishment.

  • Jeff, lord of the maniraptors

    But still how can God’s idea of love be real love if it involves divine punishment for not loving him?

    • He loves us enough to let us make the choice whether or not to love him. If we choose to love him, we get to be with him. If we choose not to love him, then we get to not be with him. That’s how I see it.

      • Hard2find

        So all the people he murdered in the flood… What happened to them ? This hell they speak of…

      • myklc

        I’ve more recently accepted the idea of the second death (spoken about in a few places) as being the destination of those who choose it. The lake of fire is reserved for the devil and his angels.

    • Kele

      I think Tyler’s trying to explain that Hell is not so much God punishing you for not loving Him but rather God giving you what you want; if you don’t love Him, then you don’t want to be around Him, so God arranges for you to be exactly where you want to be–away from Him. However, the consequences of your being away from Him are unpleasant, because ultimately God made you to be fulfilled by Him, so if you reject what you’re made for, you’re never fulfilled. That’s why hell is a torment. It’s you, stewing in eternity in your own selfishness and hatred, alone and apart from God. You choose it. In reality, it’s you punishing yourself. God doesn’t want anyone to “go to hell”, He wants all His creatures to spend eternity with Him. however, He also wants them to choose Him, just like He chose them, so He gives us the option of not spending eternity with Him if we like. The torment of hell is simply the natural consequence of separating yourself from God.

  • Jeff, lord of the maniraptors

    But how is he allowing us to choose if the only other option is hell?

    • The way I see it, those who choose God go to a place where he is, and those who reject God go to a place where he is completely absent. Everyone gets exactly what they want, which seems perfectly fair to me.

  • Jeff, lord of the maniraptors

    Kele: I am an atheist, so do not believe there is any god to hate, nor do I use that as an excuse to be a selfish loser with no regard for other people, but even if I thought he/she (probably neither; why would a deity have sexual genitals?) was real, how do you know I wouldn’t feel fulfilled if I didn’t follow him/her. I might simply have other plans.

    Although, I do kind of prefer what Tyler said to a literal lake of fire or anything of that sort.

  • Trent Lammins

    I’m a christian. I personally do not believe in evolution, nor do I believe in a YEC view. I personally see the majority of genesis as metaphorical, as a representation of sin and consequences through sin. I view both the stories of “The Fall” and “Noah’s Flood” as kind of warnings and statements, that just show the power of god and the necessity to accept Christ. Parts of Genesis I do believe include stories on Joseph, Abraham, etc.
    Back to evolution. I believe it’s a possibility I personally don’t think it’s how it happened. In all honesty, I don’t know how it happened, and I won’t try to figure out. I plead ignorance on the topic, nobody was there. Evolution could be reality, OEC could be reality, six 24 hour days could be factual, or something entirely different. I seriously doubt YEC views though, mainly because of Ken Ham.
    Speaking of Ken Ham, I too once thought evolution was a threat to the bible, and could contradict it. Going through biology classes, I doubted God, and in turn most of the bible (including that of Jesus and Heaven). I looked for answers, and came across Answers In Genesis. I actually believed the garbage the site fed me at first, then as I began to consider his “evidence” my doubts only increased! I had to call up an uncle, whom is a christian scientist to get rid of any doubts. I had to talk to a more sensible being. Happy to say god saved me, and brought back my faith. When doubts resurrected I came across this site. I like this site a lot, as it shows how evolution doesn’t go against a god. Thanks for the site.
    Testimony from previously doubting christian.

    • Matthew Funke

      I plead ignorance on the topic, nobody was there.

      You’re right that no one was there. But we can still weigh the evidence, and evolution is the best framework we have that explains the facts we see and the experiments we perform. We’re not completely in the dark here.

      True, we could still find some cause to re-think things — but any future explanation will also have to explain why evolution worked so well as a framework of understanding. (Admittedly, at this point, the evidence is so voluminous and so comprehensive that the odds that we will find out we need to fundamentally revise our ideas are lower than the odds that we will have to retract the idea of a round Earth, but in principle, it’s not impossible.) There’s nothing wrong with provisional acceptance, knowing that we don’t know everything and at the same time knowing what our best option is in light of what we do understand. I want to encourage you not to fall into the pit of “We don’t know everything; therefore, we know nothing”.

      Evolution could be reality, OEC could be reality, six 24 hour days could be factual, or something entirely different.

      There I have to disagree with you. Even if we can’t tell what’s exactly correct by examining evidence, we can determine conclusively what is wrong.

      • Trent Lammins

        I do agree we are not in the dark. We have evidence and a law-following world the lord has made. Any way god has made us is perfectly fine by me now, in evolution or in creationism. I think when you weigh the evidence evolution makes the strongest case and now as I look back on my post I realize several logical inconsistencies in by belief in god and my previous belief in evolution. By this I don’t mean that God and Evolution contradicts, I instead mean my previous understandings of them did. If I am to plead ignorance of evolution by stating “I was not there” I must also plead ignorance on the subject of God (despite the evidence and personal experience). In truth there is reason to believe in God and reason to accept Evolution. My viewpoint has drastically changed over the last month (due to “proper” research on evolution, websites like BioLogos, etc.) and I would now consider myself a theistic evolutionist. It only took about a month of research and inner searching to find out this truth (this truth being Evolution).

        “Evolution could be reality, OEC could be reality, six 24 hour days could be factual, or something entirely different.” I still hold to this view. Not because of denial of evolution or belief in YEC but instead cause of belief in an omnipotent God. I’ll explain by better analyzing the idea.
        “Evolution could be reality” – This statement here as I’ve mentioned has the best support and evidence, so I accept it.
        “OEC could be reality” – Evolution could be wrong, but as you’ve said the chances of this are extremely low.
        “six 24 hour days could be factual” – God could be an amazing illusionist constantly changing the laws of his universe, and giving us the false concept that it is more than 6,000 years old. He could have made the world premature with starlight already reaching the earth and so on and so forth. Dinosaurs could have partied with homo sapiens. All of this is possible with an omnipotent God. The question is, why would God make the world this way. If God is so happy about wisdom, why make a world that’s always changing in its laws, why trick his creation with a major illusion. Why would a changeless god make ever-changing laws for a world. YEC has a lot of major issues, that make it nearly impossible, but it’s not impossible with a God, which is what I was saying here. God would most likely not do this, especially because stacking all the evidence against the truth (note: YEC is most likely not truth, just saying again) would lead several people toward atheism.
        “or something entirely different” – The idea here is we don’t know. As Ken Ham would say “were you there?”. God could have made the world in any way he wanted to. Of course once again Evolution is the most supported way.
        Basically what I’m saying is the YEC position is possible but so improbable that it’s most likely not how it happened. When it comes down to it, this is how YEC belief continues to thrive, cause it could have been how it happened. It most likely did not happen this way though, instead most likely in Evolution. I like how you worded it; “we can still weigh the evidence, and evolution is the best framework we have that explains the facts we see and the experiments we perform.”

        In the end evolution best explains it, and luckily it does not contradict Christian Faith.

        “I want to encourage you not to fall into the pit of “We don’t know everything; therefore, we know nothing”.” – No need for encouragement here anymore, I’m more of a “we don’t know everything; therefore we don’t know everything” kinda guy now (after merely 25 days).

        Anyway I’m done going off now but let me summarize with a quick conclusion (since that was kind of rant-y”)
        -God can do anything that does not go against his nature or contradict the universe.
        -God can be an illusionist.
        -God can change things.
        -YEC could be true simply because God could make it true and then trick us to believe it is false. This is highly improbable.
        -Evolution is highly probable.
        -If forced to choose YEC or Evolution, Evolution wins because of probability.
        -We can’t know Evolution is how it happened but it is so likely we can safely assume it did happen this way.

        Anyway I’m done. Lots of thanks to Tyler for dragging me out of the pit and into the light of Theistic Evolution.

        • Matthew Funke

          Well, yeah, I suppose that if you’re willing to posit things like a trickster God, then you’re right that anything’s possible. But of the options before us so far, only evolution is consistent with the available evidence. YECism likes to paint itself as consistent with that evidence (and merely reaching different conclusions because it starts with different assumptions); it’s not, and that’s all I meant to point out.

          • Trent Lammins

            This is what I am saying as well. However I was also saying I don’t believe in a trickster god which is why I follow the evidence where it leads.

            “YECism likes to paint itself as consistent with that evidence (and merely reaching different conclusions because it starts with different assumptions)” – Precisely that. YEC is not consistent with the evidence unless they suppose that both God and the Evidence are inconsistent. 🙂

          • Matthew Funke

            Yeah, that’s the only way I can think of, too.

            But — just speaking hypothetically, here — if the universe always acts as if evolution is true, then it follows that if we want to work within the universe in a useful way, we have to act as if evolution is true, too. (Otherwise, we won’t make the right predictions about the consequences of our actions that touch on evolution.) So at what point do you throw up your hands and simply go where the evidence points?

            That question is rhetorical, I’ll admit — I’m not expecting you to answer for the creationists. I just think this shows why arguments like “Appearance of Age” and so on are foolish, even before you get to implications like the idea that God might be a trickster.

          • Trent Lammins

            Jeez as I grow in intelligence I feel a large urge to remove my first comment. Mainly due to the opening statement.
            “I’m a christian. I personally do not believe in evolution”
            BLEGH! I just can’t look at 2 month old self anymore.

          • Hey, at least you’re still growing and learning new things! There are still some believers out there who think even being open to new ideas and ways of thinking is a sin, so you’re a step ahead of them!

    • Old Earth Creationism opens the door for the discussion on the epic of evolution and Big History (this speaks of The Big Bang to the present) — I suggest you take a philosophy class as evolution was born in Ancient Greece from a natural philosopher as Muslims and Catholics both embraced theistic evolution.

      The Big Bang stemmed from the Catholic Church as Forbes pointed out. Answers in Genesis preaches a cartoon theology of humans and dinosaurs coexisting. That’s one of the top ten dinosaur myths and this was a teaching from the Independent Baptist church as Jack T. Chick included this in his tracts. I spent years refuting Chick as I used to pass out those tracts until I took philosophy in college and use modern translations to refute him.

      My first science fiction story when I was 27 criticized the Teach the Controversy as I faced off with Eric Hovind I took that to a new meaning suggesting they teach theistic evolution in Christian high schools and secular philosophy. The moment I took aim at the King James Only movement I ended up getting singled out by Kent Hovind’s followers such as this holier-than-thou bastard. I was handed the Big Daddy Tract and it still pisses me off to this day as “Dr.” Kent Hovind was lying for Jesus. To see the Genesis Creation Narrative as Allegory as well as Noah’s flood as this then you left yourself some room to learn about the Epic of Evolution.

      The Earth is 4.5 billion years old as man came 200,000 years ago — you may want to read up on human history to get an understanding about the ancient world as a whole. Young Earth Creationism is a modern entity as it came from the Baptists as they see Pat Robertson as a heretic because he became a theistic evolutionist. To understand evolution it comes from Proverbs 18:15 and I am using a modern version of this, “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,and the ear of the wise seeks it.” You need to be wary of those like Creation Liberty Evangelism, Creation Science Evangelism, and others who try to convince Christians that the world is young and retorting to Witness Wear to push this down the throats of the intelligent. Wikipedia points out Human Evolution you have to be wary of pseudohistorians as well as Ken Ham preaches this along with Eric Hovind much like the Latter Day Saints claiming Christ came to the Americas as the First Nations were the Isrealites in North America as we don’t know about Ancient America.