For Some Reason, The Religious Right Is Looking For A Boost From The Eclipse

One of the most discouraging things about many fundamentalist Christians these days is their utter repudiation of science. It’s not that they can’t understand it – they choose not to try. Furthermore, they often heap disdain upon it.

This is one reason why Americans United works so hard to keep our public schools free of things like creationism. The people pushing it are wedded to dogmatic beliefs that they will not depart from, no matter what the evidence says. Public schools do students a disservice when they equate (or worse, elevate) fundamentalist dogma over accepted science.

Which brings me to Anne Graham Lotz. The daughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham is not as vocal as some other Religious Right pastors, but she tends to share their far-right political views. And, like many of her Religious Right counterparts, Lotz appears to be abysmally ignorant when it comes to science. This leads her to interpret explainable events as examples of divine wrath.

Sorry, creationists, but the eclipse is no help to you. 

Consider the coming solar eclipse. Because she doesn’t seem to understand what it is, Lotz is convinced that the eclipse is some kind of warning from God that we need to repent from our wicked ways. On her website, Lotz writes that she feels compelled to “warn” America.

“The warning is triggered by the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, nicknamed America’s Eclipse,” asserts Lotz. “For the first time in almost 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be seen from coast to coast in our nation. People are preparing to mark this significant event with viewing parties at exclusive prime sites. …  [M]y perspective on the upcoming phenomenon is not celebratory. While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is.”

Or maybe the eclipse is a natural phenomenon that can be explained? NASA does it right here, in language designed for middle-school students.

It would be arrogant to assert that we know everything about our world and the universe around us, but there are some things we can state with certainty: Our planet is a sphere, and it is ancient. Life evolved over a long period of time. And sometimes the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, temporarily fully or partially blocking our view of the sun.

What bothers me about people like Lotz and her fundamentalist counterparts is that they don’t seem to have any curiosity. The eclipse has spurred many people to want to learn more about this kind of phenomenon. There’s no shame in lacking information – the shame is in never seeking to rectify that.

Lotz and many members of the Religious Right never take that step. Their narrow interpretation of the Bible erects a kind of giant barrier between them and further human knowledge. You can’t go beyond that point no matter how compelling the evidence because someone’s interpretation of the Bible has declared that the matter is settled.

This attitude spurs people like Australian creationist Ken Ham and his coworkers at Answers in Genesis to insist, against all available evidence, that our planet is only 6,000 years old. It’s what leads “geocentrists” to proclaim that the Earth is the center of the universe and does not move. It’s the force that motivates at least some of the recent wave of Flat-Earthers. It has also led the “intelligent design” creationists at the Discovery Institute to conclude that somehow the eclipse buttresses their weird science.

In America, Lotz and her allies have the right to believe what they want concerning the Bible and the cosmos. They can preach it through private channels all day long. But they must be kept far from our public schools – lest they eclipse the natural curiosity of children with their anti-science darkness.

P.S. Learn more about AU’s efforts to defend the religious neutrality of public schools here.