Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lies, Lies Damnable Lies … and Conspiracy Theory!

In a blog-post dated January 14th and entitled “Princeton student lies about the creation museum” Ken Ham reveals something of his fundamentalist habits of mind. A Princeton Physics student named Tyler Simko criticizes the creation museum in his blog and in response Ham launches into the all too typical fundamentalist revilement about “lies”. Viz:

….full of outright lies….outrageous claims…another lie….. egregious lie….. intentionally misrepresented…

Finally Ham, who was probably foaming at the mouth after that little lot, goes for nuclear button and deploys the ultimate censure; namely, that to be at odds with Ken Ham entails being at odds with God and therefore in danger of eternal judgement.

Simko’s flagrant lies make me want to pity him for the account he’ll have to give one day for his attempts to lead others astray and undermine Ken’s God’s Word.

Having an ongoing interest in the study of religious sects and cults I am very familiar with this knee jerk use of the word “lie”: A Jehovah’s Witness once told me I was a “lover of lies” and this reformo-charismatic fundamentalist  accused me of propagating a lie when I told him he was part of a religious sect.

To be fair Simko refers to the lies at the creation museum, but then, unlike Ham’s attack, Simko’s isn’t a personal attack; instead he attacks a culture rather than a person. In his reply to Ham Simko gives fair reason why he stands by all that he has said (apart from one retraction he has to make down to factual error). This is not to say I agree with Simko’s line of thinking, but his points are at least arguable and genuine; except to the perversely paranoiac they are clearly not intended untruths (=lies) as Ham tries to make out.

The final irony is that Ham asks the following:

I wonder if the young man will be honest enough to apologize to his readers and correct his false statements:

As far as I can see Simko has nothing to apologize for. If anything it is Ken Ham who should apologize for his attempted assassination of this student’s character using some very familiar (to me, at least) religious abuse. Fortunately Simko will have plenty of support from his science community and is therefore well out of reach of this kind of moral duress. Unfortunately that is not the same for many for whom fundamentalist sectarianism is a thoroughly intimidating cultural ambiance. As I have advised before: If you are attracted to God and faith, please avoid fundamentalism – as a culture it is well tuned to applying moral pressures and this can end in much grief. Above all, in the final analysis, it undermines the faith. As even Simko observes:
Additionally, I suggest to Mr. Ham that he direct more of a focus towards spreading Jesus’s fundamental messages of love, tolerance and “turning the other cheek,” as messages that I have received from many of his supporters have been anything but respectful.

Sectarian religions have the resources to apply some very strong emotional pressures to believers (See also here). Finally I would like to take this opportunity to once again remark that Ham’s fundamentalist habits of mind provide fertile ground for conspiracy theory (See here). The fundamentalist finds himself disconnected from the world beyond the narrow confines of his sect, a world that his culture trains him to treat with deep suspicion. Fundamentalists are likely to feel that if you are not with them then you must be against them and if you are against them you are against God, thus in effect committing the unforgivable sin. In particular, if you criticise them that is read as sure fire proof you are in thrall to Satan the father of lies and therefore depraved. No matter how one might reason the fundamentalist reads it as the chicanery and artifice of a black heart worthy of the kind of moral abuse we see Ken Ham handing out. It is no surprise that this jaundiced disaffected outlook on the extra-sectarian world easily crystallises into some expression of conspiracy theory.

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