Grand Canyon National Park: Open To Some Faiths

Religion in the national parks is a white-hot topic. Just mention that park rangers at Grand Canyon National Park can't discuss the geologic age of that canyon, as PEER suggested late last year, and you'll draw a crowd.

Controversy aside, the National Park Service officially does not endorse one religion over another, or even religion, for that matter. But it doesn't outlaw it, either. Proof of that can be found at the Grand Canyon, where the park leases out a building for religious services, as well as for concerts and meetings.

Called quite innocently the Shrine of the Ages, the nondescript rock-faced building plays musical chairs with religious services offered by the Latter-Day Saints, Catholics, Baptists, and a community congregation.

Comments

Right next door to the old visitor center, we used to use the Shrine as our indoor evening program facility in the winter months. Now that there's a new visitor center much further away, I doubt the Shrine gets much use... they should tear it down like the Thunderbird Lodge was a while back. It's by no means a concert-quality structure -- more like a school cafetorium at best.

As far as the age of the rocks in the canyon, there are creationists who also believe the billion plus age is much closer to reality than the 6,000 year figure. There's not only one variety of creationist out there.

I teach ancient history to sixth graders and before I introduce the Australopithecines, I give them a lesson on radiocarbon dating, and then show them the movie on Kennewick Man. Next I tell them that scientists use an atom pair like uranium and lead to date the oldest rocks, and we start looking at the age of the earth first with the Hadean Era, I telling them the only rocks that date to that time are the moon rocks. As I'm telling them about the Precambrian Eon, I say, "ok, some of you are Christians, and you must think I am teaching nonsense, but please consider what God said to Job..."Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." and then I mention Psalm 90 and say to them that God's time is not the same as ours." With these two Scriptures, which I usually even paraphrase from my memory, I can teach the Geologic Time Scale with enjoyment and ease! Then I can fit the Australopithecines into their more recent three million years. I joke a little and say...I don't know what God did, but if Adam was a farmer, then he would have had to live in the time after about 9000 B.C....and then I perplexedly say, "I don't really know!"

PEER didn't 'suggest.' PEER claimed falsely, severely discrediting themselves in the process.

I concur with Merrland's assessment of the building's lack of usage, and some might go so far as to label it "inappropriate" usage. While the location of the unit is not quite what would be deemed "prime", I believe that strong resistance would be encountered in seeking to demolish anything with the word "Shrine" attached to the name, although that term is quite a stretch in just about anyone's imagination in this particular instance. At best, Theatre of the Ages, or Ancient Hall of Commons is perhaps more descriptive.

In past postings I have made a sincere attempt to place parameters on the term "Bad Science" as it pertains to any sort of research that is purposefully designed towards a specific end. The Creationist movement is currently hiding under the term of Creation Science (or Creation Scientists, akin to another religious organization popularized by a current celebrity) in an effort to lend credence to their views of a "real time" Biblically based Earth history. I have attended their meetings, read their propaganda, witnessed their debates, and made sincere efforts to understand their experimental data which would allegedly support a claim of a "young" Earth. The meetings are nothing short of rallies, the printed literature is biased, the debates are like an Oprah show, with an audience stacked almost unilaterally in facor of their positions, but to me the real issue is with the positively sophmoric design of the experimental design processes. I've stated, and will be supported by scientists across all diciplines that anyone seeking to uncover evidence to support a view can and will find such evidence if they are seeking it through poorly designed and conducted experiments, biased in their controls and flawed in their analysis by a closed mind with a predetermined agenda. Their data does indeed support their view. But in reality, all contradicting data has been eliminated from research parameters, and only that data which support their "faith" has been included in their studies. It's very similar to the old joke about a frog with four legs jumps four feet, a frog with three legs jumps three feet, two legs, two feet, one leg, one foot, but a frog with no legs is deaf. This is a perfect example of a great experimental design and conclusion, eh?

Now looking at both sides of the issue, there are a fair number of permanent residents there and they should be entitled to some sort of worship service without having to leave the park. Grand Canyon School (a public school) is within the park boundary and had about 25 kids per grade when I was there, so that's a lot of families who should be able to congregate somewhere within the park on a weekly basis. Let's face it, some parks are so popular that they need to have things like a bank, grocery shopping, auto repair shops and gas stations, a school, and yes someplace to worship as well. A single non-denominational place to do that seems to be the path of least resistance to make that happen. The building doesn't have a steeple, stained glass, a giant cross, or much of anything else that would tell you it had any religious affiliation whatsoever. I just think it's an ugly building with few if any redeeming qualities. I'd rather see some sort of non-denominational community center closer to the residents' homes where they can walk to it no matter the weather, hold weddings, parties, and barbecues there, whatever...
-- Jon

THE THUNDERBIRD LODGE WAS NEVER TORN DOWN....SITS RIGHT WHERE IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND IS NOW A HISTORICAL BUILDING AND CANNOT BE TORN DOWN.
THE NEW VISITOR CENTER IS A JOKE WITH NO PARKING AND MOST PEOPLE CANNOT EVEN FIND IT. IT WAS BUILT FOR A TRAIN THAT HAS NEVER PUT INTO SERVICE AND PROBABLY NEVER WILL BE AND IS A BIG RAMBLING SKELETON.
THE SHRINE GETS USED QUITE A BIT. I WAS AT A FUNERAL THERE RECENTLY.
I GUESS PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN NATIONAL PARKS DON'T DESERVE A BUILDING TO HOLD WEDDINGS, FUNERALS, CONCERTS. WE ARE AFTER ALL IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AND THE LOCALS HAVE NO OTHER VENUE?

I, like Merryland, was under the impression that the structure was intended as a non-denominational gathering place, as was open to more than just the affiliations listed in Kurt's original text. That it should serve as a place for the local inhabitants should be viewed as a bonus. At least SOMEBODY is making use of the building, which should in and of itself raise the ire of nobody except the local atheists. Can't please all the people all the time, can we?

Susan, the theory of radioisotopic decay is not without its detractors and the Christian Science movement has a world of excuses as to why heavy metal and carbonic methods of dating are flawed. Radio-carbon based methods are typically reasonably accurate, within a window of 1000-5000 years, and only to organic materials less than about 50,000 years ancient. This eliminates rocks fromt the discussion, which is why and how geochemists derived the heavy metals decomposition protocol. While exponentially more reliable than carbon isotope analysis, the religious zealots argue that this method is nothing other than another attempt by flawed theorists to denounce their beliefs in the Young Earth hypothesis, and, they claim. based in the same unreliable dating decay methods as the carbon protocol. They are dead wrong in this assertion, but the followers of this sect have only to view the inconsistencies in carbon dating to be lead down the wrong path by their leaders on this method as well. So much for objectivity on their behalf. Like I said, anyone can gather evidence to lend credence to any viewpoint if that is what you set out to achieve in designing your experimental methods.

Oops, guess I got the T-bird mixed up with the one that did get torn down... was it the Moqui then? But that's not near the rim, so nevermind on that reference!

And Linda's right about it being the middle of nowhere. The Grand Canyon School sports teams travelled many many hours to find their competitors. We even went as far as Phoenix School for the Deaf for a volleyball match.

Like I said, I'm in agreement for the need, I just don't like that facility. But then again, I don't live there now do I? ;-)

Thanks, Lone Hiker, I do tell my students that the heavy metals decomposition protocol, of course in simpler terms, is the way scientists are coming up with these dates. I definitely do not tell them that the scientists are wrong or right. I tell them these are the methods that the scientists are using. The Christian Science movement perplexes me because I think Jesus would have us to be charitable towards one another rather that proving to be argumentive, for what reason? Especially if they are dead wrong! That makes them as Christians look dumb, and exasperating to those that are merely trying to educate people on geology. If something new comes along in science, the sensible scientists will be the first to use the new methods! The "Christian Scientists" should be nice, I think, but unfortunately as Christians, they seem to have their priorities misplaced.
I love the Grand Canyon, by the way! I have hiked down to the Phantom Ranch a total of four times in my earlier years! Once I did the whole hike, down and up in one day!