“New Atheists” Seek to Fix their “Angry” Image by Engaging in a “Positive” Protest Against a California Creation Museum

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I was recently invited to speak for a special event at the Creation and Earth History Museum in Santee, California. This museum incorporates the building and exhibits of the former Institute for Creation Research (ICR) museum. When ICR moved its operations to Dallas, Texas, their facilities in Santee were purchased by Tom Cantor, president of Scantibodies Laboratory—a major producer of antibodies, serums, and test kits for medical use. You will be pleased to learn that Mr. Cantor, a dedicated Christian and distinguished scientist, has not only kept the ICR museum open to the public, but has substantially increased its space and number of exhibits.

Prior to flying out to Santee, I learned that the museum and its invited speakers (Duane Gish, Steve Austin, David Hillaker and I) were to be the object of a protest by an organization known as the San Diego New Atheists (SDNA). The organizer of the protest was John Viggiano, an atheist who considers creationists to be “delusional.” Viggiano, who is an employee of Scantibodies Laboratory, is quoted in the East County Magazine (November 15, 2011) as saying that Cantor, a brilliant biochemist, founder and owner of Scantibodies Laboratory, is “providing bad science to the public.” This sort of thing gives arrogance a bad name.

In an announcement of the museum protest posted on Meetup.com (and quoted in Christianpost.com), Viggiano claimed that he hoped to “focus more on improving the public image of science than on criticizing creationism.” Confusing his perceived image of science with that of atheists, he claimed to be put off by “the angry atheist thing” and invited his fellow atheists to “come join me in a positive, upbeat protest.” During the course of the day, nearly 20 “positive” atheists showed up at the museum, though one had to be asked to leave when he repeatedly turned off the video monitors for the museum exhibits.

Most of the demonstrators never entered the museum to see the exhibits or hear the lectures, but rather stood on the sidewalk out front arguing with museum visitors. Many of the visitors, including some homeschooled children, seemed to genuinely enjoy arguing with the atheists. To the credit of all concerned (especially the security guards), the arguments remained intense but peaceful. I suspect that were it not for the well-publicized promise of a protest by atheists, the museum might not have attracted such an unexpectedly large overflow crowd.

A protest just wouldn’t be a protest without signs and placards, and they were much in evidence. One indignant atheist bore a sign asking, “Can we teach evolution in your church?” You can indeed teach evolution in a lot of liberal churches, but I gather he was miffed that conservative Christians would dare to teach creation in what he considers to be the atheist’s private domain of science. It is noteworthy that no atheist felt it necessary to carry a sign asking, “Can we teach evolution in your tax-supported public schools?” In an effort to correct the “angry atheist” image, other protestors waved signs with such “upbeat” and “positive” messages as “No to organized ignorance” and “Thou shalt not lie”—and this from the sort of folks who oppose public display of the Ten Commandments!

I guess it is not easy for atheists to be positive when they chose to be identified by what they don’t believe. But most people are more interested in what folks do believe than what they don’t believe. I assume that the atheist protestors do in fact believe in empirical science, but then so do Mr. Cantor and his invited creationist speakers, who hold earned degrees in science from top universities such as the University of California San Diego, University of California Berkeley, Penn State, and Brown.

Still, I almost have to admire the zeal of the atheists who stood out in the hot sun all day long on a sunny Saturday in southern California, determined in their purpose of convincing folks that there is no purpose. Sadly, there are many Christians who seem to lack such zeal, though they have a marvelous purpose in the redemptive work of Christ to share with everyone—including atheists—that will be to their great benefit both here and in eternity.


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