By Sam Grover
Freedom From Religion Foundation
"And God said unto Noah, seek out a $62 million municipal bond offering."
Genesis 6:14-21 describes the instructions given by God to Noah to build an ark and stock it with food and animals before the great flood. While not quite up to Ikea assembly manual standards, God was still quite specific about the end goal: Make the ark 300 by 50 by 30 cubits in dimension, coat the ark with pitch, make sure you put a door on the side, and fill it with two of every animal. Unfortunately, God left out the specifics of how Noah was supposed to achieve this great task and the bible authors, as they tend to do, just skip that part of the story. All we are told is that Noah went ahead and pulled it off. How very unsatisfying.
One might assume that if God thought it necessary to remind Noah that the ark needed a door, he would also have spent at least a little time explaining to Noah how to finance this endeavor... but no. Now, however, thanks to Ken Ham and the young earth creationists at Answers in Genesis, we can finally begin to fill in those pesky biblical gaps!
After a recent media boost from Ham's highly publicized debate with Bill Nye "the Science Guy" (a personal childhood hero of mine), Answers in Genesis now claims to have the necessary capital for groundbreaking on its newest project: construction of a 510-foot replica of Noah's ark. The ark is designed as the centerpiece of an 800-acre theme park estimated to cost $120-150 million to build. In 2011, shortly after the project was first announced, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority promised up to $43.1 million in sales tax rebates over 10 years to help offset the initial costs of construction. The ark-building phase of the project has also been funded in part through a $62 million municipal bond offering.
While the final ark replica is no doubt designed to demonstrate the plausibility of the underlying biblical story, Ken Ham's saga in trying to fund his latest pet project may have unintentionally had the opposite effect. Skeptics now have a whole new set of questions to ask biblical literalists, based on the struggles that Answers in Genesis has experienced in trying to achieve what Noah seemingly accomplished without incident.
Where did Noah get the $24.5 million needed to fund his project? (That's AiG's estimated cost of building its ark). Moreover, how did Noah and his seven family members secure the necessary finances in a timely manner, given that it has taken over three years for AiG, with all of its media capital and state support, to meet its minimum financing goal? And if Noah could build his ark without the help of the Kentucky government, why can't Ham?
Now that groundbreaking has been announced, the next question that AiG will help to answer is how long it took a 600-year-old Noah, his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law to construct the ark without the benefit of modern-day tools or construction equipment. I'm sure that AiG will stay true to the biblical narrative by avoiding the use of these implements, right?
FFRF considers the issuance of government bonds to support a religiously-fueled project inappropriate and constitutionally suspect. We are continuing to follow this debacle with rapt attention in order to evaluate all of the funding issues and any potential ways in which they may be challengeable. Meanwhile, this is one project that's sure to provide leagues more entertainment, whether it sinks or not.
“If the concept of God has any validity or use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of him.” –James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
“I leaf through [the bible] quite often--if only to shake my head in disgust. I quote Leviticus to people who think that every word in the Bible is absolutely gospel and you need to obey every word. In Leviticus it says you must kill a bull if you’re going to really love God. And you must kill it in a certain way, or else you will be killed.”-Seeger, interview, Beliefnet, March 16, 2007.