Monday, July 10, 2006

Open Hearts, Open Minds

I’m glad I didn’t have time to rant about the creationist museum article, last week. Now the thoughts have had time to mull around in my head, I think I have come up with a more considered response rather than a rant, which may be less entertaining a read but, hey, I have a Libra moon, so I have to see both sides of every question.

The thing that irritated me enough to want to rant, isn’t that a seemingly large number of people believe verbatim - for a scientific fact - the Bible’s explanation of how the world began (as far I’m concerned they can believe a hundred impossible things before breakfast every day of the week). It isn’t that they want to propagate their interpretation of the Bible to every child in school alongside the scientific evolution theories. It isn’t even that they are dogmatic enough to insist that everyone else has got it wrong.

What got to me was this creation of an exclusive, creationist world, with everybody else classed as a weird outsider. The creation of a theme park, re-writing science and, most of all, the need to present those beliefs as science. The dogma. Subscribe to any belief system you like, but you don’t need to justify those beliefs in a multi-million dollar theme park museum, creating a bubble of alternative reality, just because reality doesn’t happen to co-operate in realigning itself to your beliefs.

It seems to me a very childish approach to religion – taking the Bible stories at face value as fact. Jesus used parables to explain ideas. You don’t have to believe the story of the Good Samaritan really happened, to appreciate the message he was putting across. The creationist attitude seems to come from a six year old view of life: I’m right, you’re wrong, I’ll prove it by making a bigger one than yours. Or is it just human nature to have to indulge in one-upmanship, even when it comes to your beliefs? Children past a certain age know when you take them to Disneyland that it is all make believe, but I think these creationists have suspended those faculties of discernment when it comes to their theme park.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for the stories of the Garden of Eden. In my opinion, humble or otherwise, a lot of the Bible stories are stories: giving digestible form to complex, abstract, spiritual issues, helping a simpler people absorb truths in a way they could connect with.

These days, there are still a lot of people who need to believe the Bible lock, stock and barrel, swallowing a lot of anti-women sentiments along with all the enlightening spiritual truths it contains. It was written down by men, after all and a lot of chauvinist opinions crept in with the good stuff. So those people who subscribe to every single word, uncoloured by discerning intellect, believe that women are unclean when they have their periods, must be subservient to men...I won’t continue with that particular rant!

What I am arguing for, I guess, is for people to keep their minds open and use their head as well as heart and soul to give form to their spiritual life.

I was telling a friend about my son’s school, a Waldorf school and she was reading his school books, where he’d written about “God making the stars”. She asked me what religious stance the school took. I explained my interpretation of the Waldorf philosophy, which comes from a solid, but broad-based, non-denominational Christian background. At the primary level, the children are taught a lot through stories: fairy stories, folk stories, Bible stories. They are thus able to absorb the spiritual truth and essence of the subject at an unconscious level, using their imagination, before having to deal with the realm of bare scientific facts. They will be hungry and ready for these at an older age.

For now, the simplicity of - God made the stars and all that is in the world - assuages their need for meaning and beauty in the world. Later they can delve into balls of flaming gas with inquiring minds.

My children believe in fairies and the tooth fairy and Father Christmas, as well as the angels and God. I’m not going to explain to them now that those are all personifications of abstract spiritual concepts and no less real for that. One day they’ll realise that for themselves, I hope, without the older one telling the younger ones before they’re ready.

I hope I’ll know what to say to them when they ask me. They must be allowed to believe in things and find what they are comfortable with believing. Even be allowed, as teenagers or young adults, not to believe in anything.

They must find their own path, as must we all. I just hope they will keep open minds and open hearts as they do so.


6 comments:

  1. Very compelling topic and well written Kit! Open minded is the key! Creationism vs. Evolution has sparked a tremendous debate here in the States. My state of Kansas has been in the center of this mailstrom for several years now. Our State Board of Education is allowing a split between some schools offering intelligent thought or creationism and evolutionary sciences on the origin of the species. The majority of Americans do not believe humans evolved. What is this telling our children? Free thought has always been a hallmark of civilization and progress. Without it we are doomed. I am in full agreement with you that children learn to make order and sense of the universe through stories and parables...whether it be The Holy Bible, Grimms fairytales...ect. To not allow the freedom of rational scientific thought in education is chilling indeed. Your behemoth monument to creationism is enough to give any intelligent and open minded adult pause for alarm and concern. I can only speak for myself living in what is referred to as The Bible Belt of the USA. The best I can offer my children is to educated them to decide and THINK for themselves what and how and IF to believe what is put in front of them. To think critically and creatively and out of the box and not to accept the status quo. That knowledge is power. Unfortunately critcal and creative thinking is being stripped away from mainstream public education of the masses. The choice to accept theories such as Darwin proposed should remain in the classroom and textbook. The insiduous political hand of fundamentalism is what frightens...as well as monuments of what you describe forced down our throats. It is a constant struggle as well informed and intelligent parents to achieve a balance in an unbalanced society. Thank you for your very well thought out non-rant! I enjoyed reading it! :)

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  2. Amen!
    If I were part of the club that awards perfect posts, I would totally nominate your beautifully written, well thought out, non-rant post.
    well done!

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  3. I think along the same lines as you. We need to think with our heads and our hearts.

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  4. Thank you for your very thoughtful and well-put comment Jenny. I thought it was a scarily large minority group I was talking about, but you say the majority of Americans don't believe in evolution - now I do find that worrying.
    Thanks Nicolle and Meredith too.

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  5. the truth will set you free...seeking the truth is the hard part.
    Walking a journey that is based on love is what I seek.
    The answers are there, living them is enough work for me, let alone trying to figure it all out!
    Good writing!!

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  6. Beautiful post. Open heart and open mind, a simple idea that seems to be so difficult for so many. My wish is that I can be an example of an open heart and an open mind for my children.

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Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!