Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cumberland Caverns: Christian Tourist "Trap"

This happened a couple of years ago, but I would like to take an opportunity to share with anyone who happens to read this blog about what happened on my visit to Cumberland Caverns.

My brother came up to Tennessee to visit me when I was living up there, and wanted to check out some of the local attractions. Not to far away from where I was living was a huge cave they called Cumberland Caverns. I suggested we go and check it out. The trip there ended up being a little further than I expected, we ended up passing the place once and finally found a dirt road off the main drag winding up to the entrance of the park.

We ended up the only visiting people at the park, so my brother and I got a tour guide all to ourselves to take us back into the caves. The guide was what i'd call an Old Timer. He had been there for years, and probably knew every nook and cranny of the place since he was a young'un.

It started out well, we first ended up in "The Saltpeter Mine" where Confederate Civil War soldiers mined saltpeter to make gunpowder. They also had a old confiscated moonshine still in there from prohibition days that had been donated to them.

As we progressed a little further the guide would turn the lights off for that particular section, and as we progressed further into the cavern into another section he would turn on the lights again. The next geological sight of interest was a formation they called "Moby Dick" it obviously sort of resembled a whale, and it didn't take to much imagination to see how it could look like one. Once again lights out and deeper we went. We hiked through the twists and turn of "The Meat Grinder", past "The Oasis Room", and then into a huge open chamber called the Volcano Room." It was pretty cool and very huge inside this area. they had a large chandelier hanging from the rooftop of the cave, and the folks there would frequently have banquets and live music performed in this particular section.

Once again lights out and we hiked to the next area of interest inside the cave past a section called "The Bone Room" (I forgot why it was called that), then a lot of climbing in "The Mountain Room" until we finally got to a section called "The God Of The Mountain." This was the largest cavern in the whole place.

The guide told us we were about a half a mile back in the caves and around 500 feet underground. That was pretty exciting, and I was into it at this point, but that was not to last much longer.

Once we got into the main area of the "God Of The Mountain" room, they had some concrete blocks with 2x6 boards strewn across the tops of several of them. There was a makeshift podium set up as well.

The guide said, "Now in this area we have a special "light show" that we like to entertain our guests with." "I am going to turn off the lights for a few minutes before it starts and you can take in the darkness before it starts"
A few seconds later the lights go out, and the darkness was unlike anything I could describe other than it was really fucking dark...

I didn't mind it, matter of fact I enjoyed it, I bet I could of slept really good in there.

Then it got bad....real bad. A light behind a rock formation lit up on it, and all of the sudden the guide clicks on a cassette player where some voice (I think it was like Charleton Heston) boomed from the cassette player "In the beginning, the was light!" (musical creshendo)This went on for 15 minutes,from Genesis all the way to Revelations.

I had nowhere to go, fleeing meant fleeing into the pitch darkness and plummeting to my death off some 500 foot cliff. I was trapped.

My brother knowing I am an atheist was sitting next to me laughing at my discomfort. I had nowhere to get away from it. I was just recently immersed into darkness unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I knew I had no idea where those light switches were, and I kept thinking about what the guide told me about being a half mile back and 500 ft underground. I had no choice but to stay there and listen, and watch, and wait for it to be over. Whenever I winced or groaned it echoed louder inside the chamber of the cavern, my brother would start laughing at me all the more...

After the "light show" I kinda lit into the tour guide some. I told him that I came there to check out the cave, not be indoctrinated into some sort of religious belief system. I told him that they should tell people in advance that they are going to be doing something religious alongside the tour and give people the opportunity to decline that particular part of the tour.

I even asked him directly if he was a creationist. He answered yes... At this point I am fuming and exasperated. Here this guy is, taking people back day in and day out, for years on end through these caves, seeing their beauty and thinking the caverns around him are only around 6000 years old.

Needless to say after finding that out the guide could tell I was not happy about what had happened, and the guide got us out of there pretty quickly afterwards.

On the website for Cumberland Caverns (link is on the title of this blog) it mentions that they have special tours set up for schools and kids that are home schooled. I cant believe that a school would take their students to someplace operated by creationist and expose them to what they are presenting. An opportunity to be in a cavern like that needs to be educational, and not religious. I would not want a guide telling my children that all those beautiful formations inside the cave were around 6000 years old. They are wasting away a unique opportunity to teach kids to be inspired to lean things like geology, instead they get dumbed down with religious dogma.

Unlike The Creationist's Museum in Kentucky, you have no clue that the theme of the tour would be based on religion. If you go to The Creationist's Museum you go there fully knowing what to expect. It doesn't sneak up on you and bite you on the ass a half a mile back and 500ft. underground in pitch darkness.

If you would like to see a video of what is was like inside the caverns check this out. It does not have the "Light Show" I had mentioned included. (I was disappointed about that, I wanted to to be able to show it)

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