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creation museum creates discomfort for some visitors

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Kentucky's Creation Museum, a facility devoted to the belief that Earth and the universe are only 6,000 years old, is usually viewed in one of two ways: As a fun place where fundamentalist Christians can go to reaffirm their beliefs, or as the epicenter of a worldview ripe for mockery by scientists.

Now, a new analysis argues that for people already alienated by religious fundamentalism, the museum can be a painful reminder of discrimination and isolation.

The study, presented Sunday at the American Sociological Association meeting in Atlanta, took place over three in-depth visits to the museum over a year and a half. Bernadette Barton, a professor of sociology at Morehead State University in Kentucky, toured exhibits, attended museum lectures, observed museum guests and led a student field trip to the museum.

In her analysis, she argues that despite the museum's mission to reach out to believers and skeptics alike, the Creation Museum can be uncomfortable for non-fundamentalist visitors. [Discussion: Does science condemn God?]

A young Earth

Young Earth Creationism is the belief that everything in the Biblical book of Genesis is literally true: God created the universe in six 24-hour days 6,000 years ago; all mankind came from Adam and Eve; and the Garden of Eden is a lost paradise where humans and dinosaurs co-existed peacefully. Young Earth Creationists reject evolution, but may embrace a sort of short-term natural selection to explain biodiversity after Noah's Flood.

The Creation Museum, opened in 2007, puts its own brand of scientific explanations of creationism alongside exhibits of Adam and Eve, dinosaurs with humans, and Noah building his Ark. One exhibit, "Graffiti Alley," purports to show what happens when mankind abandons Young Earth Creationism. These consequences include the birth control pill, abortion, divorce, murder and gay marriage.

Though debates about creationism usually revolve around education, Barton visited the museum as part of a larger project on fundamentalist culture. She's particularly interested in why homophobia persists in the Bible Belt. This area spans the southern United States and parts of the Midwest and is marked by a high proportion of evangelical Protestants. In Kentucky, where the Creation Museum is located, 62 percent of residents describe themselves as fundamentalist.

"I was seeking to understand the fundamentalist framework," Barton told LiveScience. "I went there seeking to understand how people adhere to [a] set of beliefs that can, in my opinion, have sometimes destructive consequences."

Compulsory Christianity

Barton combined hours of observation and analysis of museum materials into an ethnography, a detailed narrative about a place and its culture that is often used in sociology. Unlike other research methods, the ethnography does not strive for impartiality; rather, the researchers recognize and reflect on their own reactions to what they see.

On her third trip to the museum, Barton took her undergraduate students, who found the visit unsettling. Several in the group were former fundamentalists who had since rejected that worldview. Several others were gay. In part because of these backgrounds, Barton said, the students were on edge at the museum. Particularly nerve-wracking were signs warning that guests could be asked to leave the premises at any time. The group's reservation confirmation also noted that museum staff reserved the right to kick the group off the property if they were not honest about the "purpose of [the] visit."

Because of these messages, Barton said, the students felt they might accidentally reveal themselves as nonbelievers and be asked to leave. This pressure is a form of "compulsory Christianity" that is common in a region known for its fundamentalism, Barton said. People who don't ascribe to fundamentalism often report the need to hide their thoughts for fear of being judged or snubbed.

At one point, Barton reported in her paper, a guard with a dog circled a student pointedly twice without saying anything. When he left, a museum patron approached the student and said, "The reason he did that is because of the way you're dressed. We know you're not religious; you just don't fit in." (The student was wearing leggings and a long shirt, Barton writes.)

The pressures were particularly tough for gay members of the group, thanks to exhibits discussing the sinfulness of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. A lesbian couple became paranoid about being near or touching one another, afraid they would be "found out," Barton writes. This "self-policing" is a common occurrence in same-sex relationships in the Bible Belt, Barton said.

Museum response

The museum does use guard dogs and employs strict warnings, said Jason Lisle, a speaker and astrophysics researcher at the Creation Museum. But, he said, the security is in response to death threats against museum organizers. The signs and warnings, he said, are because people will occasionally come to the museum to hand out anti-Creationist materials, disturbing other visitors.

"We know that the nature of the subject is controversial," Lisle said in a telephone interview. "It's just one of the things that we have to deal with in a fallen world."

Lisle defended the anti-gay messages in the museum as part of the museum's goal to stay true to Biblical teachings.

"I don't think we would kick them out for [holding hands in the museum]," he said. But, he added, he could understand why gay guests "might be uncomfortable."

"I would say, don't shoot the messenger," Lisle said.

Respect or repression?

Not every visitor to the museum comes away with the same feelings as Barton and her group. In 2007, University of South Dakota earth scientist Timothy Heaton visited the museum and described its portrayal of evolution as "respectful," if not accurate (though Heaton was offended by a video of angels mocking a science teacher).

Part of the reason behind the students' strong reactions may have been their close relationships with fundamentalist Christians. Seeing the museum's messages was a reminder of the disapproval the students felt from their own communities, Barton said.

"For my students that's like their moms and their dads and their aunts and their grandmothers and their neighbors and their church parishioners." she said.

Barton is combining the ethnography with interviews with gay and lesbian Bible Belt residents for a book to be published next year.

http://www.livescience.com/culture/creation-museum-fundamentalists-christians-discrimination-100818.html


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Interesting article. Religious zealots of all stripes make anyone not like minded uncomfortable so not too surprised by the studies conclusion. 6000 years old! Good Gawd!


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There's a video of angels mocking a science teacher ? I keep missing it, I wanna catch it, next time.


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Really, it must be nice to wrap yourself with such beliefs. There's no need to question or think about anything.

I do note that most of those taking the Bible literally focus more on the old Testament and hardly any on the new; except for Revelations of course.

Edited by BobandXiaomei

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Religious zealots of all stripes make anyone not like minded uncomfortable so not too surprised by the studies conclusion.

Uncomfortable how? As in fearful for their safety? Religious zealots don't make me uncomfortable.

I don't really understand this study. I think there's more discomfort for the fundamentalists having to tolerate the presence of unbelievers and homosexuals, etc. And why would you go to the Creationist Museum if religious fundamentalists make you uncomfortable?

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I think the idea of the museum is really interesting. If it was a bit closer to me I would check it out just to see what it's about. From this article and the things on the website, it seems ott to me.


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I think the idea of the museum is really interesting. If it was a bit closer to me I would check it out just to see what it's about. From this article and the things on the website, it seems ott to me.

Amby, they would spot you from a mile away. They'd not let you within 10 feet of the entrance. :P

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Uncomfortable how? As in fearful for their safety? Religious zealots don't make me uncomfortable.

I don't really understand this study. I think there's more discomfort for the fundamentalists having to tolerate the presence of unbelievers and homosexuals, etc. And why would you go to the Creationist Museum if religious fundamentalists make you uncomfortable?

Insanity on display should make anyone uncomfortable but if you support intolerance I suppose that would be your issue and I can't fix it. I would only go for free, not paying a dime to these loony tunes.


B and J K-1 story

  • April 2004 met online
  • July 16, 2006 Met in person on her birthday in United Arab Emirates
  • August 4, 2006 sent certified mail I-129F packet Neb SC
  • August 9, 2006 NOA1
  • August 21, 2006 received NOA1 in mail
  • October 4, 5, 7, 13 & 17 2006 Touches! 50 day address change... Yes Judith is beautiful, quit staring at her passport photo and approve us!!! Shaming works! LOL
  • October 13, 2006 NOA2! November 2, 2006 NOA2? Huh? NVC already processed and sent us on to Abu Dhabi Consulate!
  • February 12, 2007 Abu Dhabi Interview SUCCESS!!! February 14 Visa in hand!
  • March 6, 2007 she is here!
  • MARCH 14, 2007 WE ARE MARRIED!!!
  • May 5, 2007 Sent AOS/EAD packet
  • May 11, 2007 NOA1 AOS/EAD
  • June 7, 2007 Biometrics appointment
  • June 8, 2007 first post biometrics touch, June 11, next touch...
  • August 1, 2007 AOS Interview! APPROVED!! EAD APPROVED TOO...
  • August 6, 2007 EAD card and Welcome Letter received!
  • August 13, 2007 GREEN CARD received!!! 375 days since mailing the I-129F!

    Remove Conditions:

  • May 1, 2009 first day to file
  • May 9, 2009 mailed I-751 to USCIS CS

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Insanity on display should make anyone uncomfortable but if you support intolerance I suppose that would be your issue and I can't fix it. I would only go for free, not paying a dime to these loony tunes.

Yes, I support intolerance. :rolleyes: Why are you so antagonistic? I find insanity on display rather entertaining.

Good point about paying though. I wouldn't want to give these people money either.

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