December 2nd, 2010
06:18 PM ET

My take: Where's the outrage over Noah's Ark park?

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

A four-minute video that includes an eleven-second depiction of a crucifix crawling with ants has been removed from the “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, but it is still stirring up controversy in Washington, DC.

First, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) blasted the National Portrait Gallery for its “obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season,” while the incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans threatened to scrutinize Smithsonian funding next year.

Then Martin Sullivan, who directs the National Portrait Gallery, said “it was not the museum’s intention to offend” but pulled the video anyway, which prompted the liberal group, People for the American Way, to accuse Republican critics of the exhibit of censorship: “This new GOP leadership wants a government that stays out of people’s lives when it comes to health care and unemployment benefits, but they show no scruples about using government power to censor the free expression of those they disagree with.”

I write not to raise First Amendment questions about elected officials transforming themselves into self-appointed curators, but to ask whether these officials are really concerned (as they claim) about the use of taxpayer funds to weigh on matters of the spirit.

In a press release yesterday, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky announced that his state had entered into a deal with the folks behind the Creation Museum to break ground for Ark Encounter, a $150 million theme park complete with “a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark.”

Rather than speaking of his state's support of this group’s creationist agenda, Gov. Beshear spoke of employing 900 workers and drawing 1.6 million visitors a year. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, however, the tax breaks offered by the state to Ark Encounter, as the theme park is being called, “could surpass $37 million.”

The entire exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery (of which the brief clip by the late artist David Wojnarowicz was a small part), cost, by contrast, $750,000, and all of that from private donations.

So my question to Representatives Boehner and Cantor, and to Glenn Beck and others who are working themselves up into a lather over this supposed attack on Christianity, is this: Are you equally outraged over millions in tax breaks to a group promoting fundamentalism? 

Would you be outraged at all if the clip in question concerned not an "antsy Christ" but an "antsy Buddha" or an "antsy Christopher Hitchens"? And how loud would the outrage be in Washington if Kentucky's governor was offering millions in tax incentives to a Hare Krishna theme park? Or a Disney Land of Atheism?

Beyond these questions of basic fairness, I have a more practical question, this time for Belief Blog readers: Would you pay good money to see a 500-foot-long replica of Noah's Ark?

I hate to sound like one of Noah's scoffers in Genesis, but the last time I was at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, it wasn't exactly crowded. And that Bible theme park is in Orlando, Florida, not Grant County, Kentucky.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Art • Bible • Church and state • Culture wars • Fundamentalism • Opinion • United States

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soundoff (974 Responses)
  1. StormChaser

    Where's the outrage? Are you freakin serious? Look around you! OUTRAGE EVERYWHERE!

    I think I'll go build an Atheism park. One that shows how evolution works.
    If we Atheists were to do that, the place would be torched before it was completely built.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  2. Jesus

    I hope they include some minorities on the Ark this time. Otherwise there is no rational explanation as to where they came from after God flooded the whole world killing everyone but who was on the boat.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • Amunaka

      Hmmm ...never thought of that...thanks

      December 4, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • Sydney Australia

      That answer is almost too easy – the minorities, as usual, were stowaways.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  3. Ronald Raygun

    why is mankind so hung up on these myths?

    December 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  4. blueoceans2

    Totallly against spending millions of taxpayers dolllars on this. We do have a double standard.. You can burn the Bible, throw it in the garbage, but you can burn the koran. No an antsy Mohammed or an antsy Buddha would ever be allowed.
    Try making one for an experiment and see how far you get.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  5. cmkc

    God created love, Satan created religion.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  6. pdawg

    The time has come and now is, that the Glory and the Power of God will be on display like the earth has never seen before....these are the days of the latter wine, the latter rain....signs, wonders, miracles will be on display for all to see...the light of God is going to shine brighter in these days of darkness....a light that darkness cannot comprehend. Let us LOVE people, for God is LOVE...His love and power in these endtimes is going to woo in billions of souls like the body of Christ has never seen....this is not the time for vain arguments...JESUS IS LORD....HE IS GOING TO BE EXALTED AND THERE WILL BE NO ARGUMENT. God bless us all and may He cause us to find the truth so we can be set free from the deception of the enemy.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Yawn.. Same old tired religious bull crap!

      December 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • Untrue

      You're crazy. And it's often Christian extremists like you that scare me more than my kind, polite, tax paying, respectful and friendly Muslim neighbors next door.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • pdawg

      Love you with the love of the Lord...may our eyes be opened. God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus to die for us...so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. May our eyes be opened to see this truth and may the power of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin..bring on us deep conviction and lead us to the love of Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS....HE IS COMING SOON...HE IS COMING SOON. REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST OUR LORD IS NEAR. HE LOVES YOU SO MUCH....BLESS US ALL

      December 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • Richxx

      Its been the "latter days" for 2000 years. Jesus said (if you can believe he was quoted correctly) he would return before all of his current generation died. Humm. How long will you be waiting for his return? I personally have heard the end is near for 55 years.

      December 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  7. Observer

    I have no problem with them spending $37 million dollars of our money to create an exact replica of the ark as long as it is created just like in the Bible by a 600-year-old man.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  8. Amunaka

    Well they are teaching this stuff to kids in bible classes...it just sounds so funny when creationists try to explain science ....

    People often wonder: Were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark?

    Yes, they were! Scientifically, dinosaurs are defined as land-living animals. But the Bible tells us that all land-living animals and people outside the ark died in the flood (7:21). We know, however, that some dinosaurs must have survived the flood, because the book of Job (which was written long after the flood) mentions animals that appear to have been what we call dinosaurs (read Job 40:15-24). The fact that God talked to Job about dinosaurs that were living after the flood shows us that dinosaurs still were alive. But how could dinosaurs (which live only on land) have survived the flood—unless they were on the ark?

    You might ask how animals as large as dinosaurs could fit into Noah’s ark. First, it is important to remember that the ark was about 450 feet long (one-and-a-half football fields!), 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. Until 1858 (just 140 years ago), it was the largest sea-going vessel ever built. Some scientists have suggested that even when all the animals were in the ark, it still was only half full. [Remember that only land-living animals had to enter the ark; those in the oceans did not.] Second, it may be possible that God allowed Noah to take into the ark young animals, or even animals in eggs. That would save a lot of space. Third, it was God Who created all the animals, and it was God Who told Noah how to build the ark. Because of this, we can be sure that God knew how big the ark should be.

    Were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark? Yes! It was an awesome and powerful God Who created the dinosaurs. He is the same God we love and serve today.

    Check it out..http://www.discoverymagazine.com/articles/d1998/d9809h.htm

    December 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • Observer

      The story of 2 or more of every land animal being put on a ship that is just a fraction of the size of a current ocean liner for one year is so ridiculous that it could only be compounded by the nonsense that supposedly followed. What makes this even more of a joke is that after the animals were saved by being cramped up for a year, Noah and God celebrated the succession completion by killing some.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • Observer

      type: "succession completion" = "successful completion"

      December 4, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • LIZ

      Seriously? Listen to yourself. Can you really try to make a comment or decision based on the logic and the brain GOD gave you and think about what you are saying? JC did not die so a bunch of stupid, sheep would praise his name. He was an example for you to follow. Use your brain! Think about how absurd you sound. People thought the same way you do 2000 years ago! You are supposed to Evolve not DE-Evolve!!

      December 4, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • tjs

      question -do dinosaurs have souls? do cavemen? were cavemen on the ark??

      December 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
    • Amunaka

      Seriously? Listen to yourself. ""

      Who me ?.. wasn't me that made that chit up...here's more and ahhh these are not my beliefs..

      Were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?

      How did those huge dinosaurs fit on the Ark?

      Although there are about 668 names of dinosaurs, there are perhaps only 55 different 'kinds' of dinosaurs. Furthermore, not all dinosaurs were huge like the Brachiosaurus, and even those dinosaurs on the Ark were probably 'teenagers' or young adults.

      Creationist researcher John Woodmorappe has calculated that Noah had on board with him representatives from about 8,000 animal genera (including some now-extinct animals), or around 16,000 individual animals. When you realize that horses, zebras, and donkeys are probably descended from the horse-like ‘kind’, Noah did not have to carry two sets of each such animal. Also, dogs, wolves, and coyotes are probably from a single canine ‘kind’, so hundreds of different dogs were not needed.


      The Bible is reliable in all areas, including its account of the Ark (and the worldwide catastrophic Flood). A Christian doesn’t have to have a blind faith to believe that there really was an Ark. What the Bible says about the Ark can even be measured and tested today.

      For more information on dinosaurs, read the online version of our Dinosaurs and the Bible booklet.


      December 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • Amunaka

      ? were cavemen on the ark??""""

      No that was just Noah's kids and their spouses....

      December 4, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  9. DRay

    Glenn Beck Christian? Don't think so. He's Mormon. There is a difference.

    And no, as a Christian I wouldn't see Noah's Ark. The Creation Museum is a farce.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  10. Moby, Detroit, MI

    So Mr Paul, where is your outrage about this misuse of tax money? Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.....lol

    December 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  11. Ive Nopenis

    WHAT A PATHETIC STORY,,,,,, Mr.Prothero,Please stay out of journalism and stick to academia !

    December 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Rob Degnan

    I would like to see you people mocking Christians try something like this art exhibit using a statue of Mohammed. Of course you would not. Say what you want about Muslims, they stick up for their leader the way he directed them.. We Christians stick up for our leader they way Jesus directed us. Go ahead, try going into a Muslim country and talk about Mohammed the way you talk about Jesus here. The greatest scientific minds can not explain creation. The Bible makes it quite plain. Just remember we Christians tried to warn you......we really tried.....really tried.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • JD

      The two groups have very different goals. The greatest scientific minds are interested in discovering the truth through evidence. The religious are interested in defending their faith against evidence.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Rob Degnan: Seeing as how intolerant you are about Wojnarowicz's video, it seems to me you are no better than muslims who are offended to the point of outrage over cartoons.

      December 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  13. Richxx

    I believe in God, but not the god of any book written by man. So much harm has been brought to the world over thousands of years by those professing their man created religion is the true religion. For otherwise intelligent people, they turn off their brain when they open the bible. The flood story is nothing but a rewrite of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the bible story God gave Noah rough dimensions for the ark and closes the door. The rest is left to noah to build a 450 foot long 3 deck ship with stone and copper tools. And just how did he get animals from Australia, North America etc.? It takes more than faith to believe this story. Santa Claus is more believable.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • ttwp

      Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. Genesis 7:15

      Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

      December 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • Richxx

      Genesis written about 500 BCE, oldest complete copy 300 CE. Passed down for more than 1000 years verbally before written down. Matthew written 40 years after Jesus death in Greek. Earliest scrap 250 CE. Only copies many copies removed from original written by who knows who in Rome in Greek. How many changes were made? Not even written by anyone who knew Jesus. The name Matthew as author was added many years later. I can't except your quotes for these reasons.

      December 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  14. joe whatever

    Theme Park to be known as 6 Flags over Jesus. Somehow, this all has gone terribly wrong. I wonder what He would say 1)Build a theme park, or 2) feed the hungry.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  15. bob

    You make an artificial distinction. The Creation Museum and theme park is a business that brings in a lot of revenue to the state so they are making money by giving them a tax break. This is normal. Many businesses get tax breaks to run their businesses because it brings in revenue to the state. The question is this: do you advocate not giving tax breaks to a business just because they have a certain political or religious orientatrion? That would be descrimination.

    The art in question was delibrately provacative and might be labeled a hate crime.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • Enos Rifkin

      The ark in question is delibrately provocative and might be labeled a hate crime.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • Frogist

      @bob: Your post shows a distinct lack of understanding of either art or hate crimes.

      December 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  16. Superhiro

    Actually "The truth" since it's a public forum as you suggested, he can do whatever the hell he wants. Respect isn't a law.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  17. Ray

    Government shouldn't be paying tax dollars for cultural stuff, period. Let the free enterprise system take care of it. If people like certain cultural things (art, theme parks, etc.) they'll pay to see them. If not, it'll die a natural death due to lack of funding. Government should only do what it was intended to do by the founders of the country and then butt out.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  18. Jeffision

    Visualize a post-religious era.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • Enos Rifkin

      Yes. I just hope we can get there before ignorant 'true believers' destroy the planet.

      December 4, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  19. Larry

    I don't want my tax dollars used to support religious myths, period.I am guessing the people building this are laughing all the way to the bank.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  20. Jim Bob

    Well said, Mr.Prothero. Fundamentalism seems to have hijacked Christianity like it hijacked Islam. They want to take society back to the Dark Ages.

    December 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.