I was watching one of my Cousteau documentaries last night. This set was on the work his organization did on the Danube River in the early nineties. There is a sequence where he describes the geological changes that led to the current geology in the area. Immense salt mines and limestone formations left over from the receding of the ancient Tethys Sea. He discussed geologic time the way we talk about the weather. And it got me to thinking about other things.
I doubt is there is any first world country where the age of the earth is debated more fiercely than the US, and I think it’s a symptom of what’s killing us. Pope Benedict recently called on the people of Europe to remember their Christian heritage. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict ran the organization that took the place of the Holy Inquisition. Yes, your holiness, let us remember the Christian heritage of Europe.
Let me see, forced conversions and crusades preached not only to “free” the Holy Land but against fellow Europeans. By all means let us remember the heresy hunts that allowed torture and anonymous accusations with the unnamed accusers sharing in the property seized from the accused. And I must be honest. The church didn’t kill anyone. They just condemned them and turned the accused over to the secular government for execution. Usually by the most brutal means possible.
And the Lutherans and the Calvinists went at each other as enthusiastically as the Roman Church went after them. After reading the bios of some of the leaders of both sides, I’ve come to this conclusion. If any of them were alive now they’d as likely be in a psych ward as standing in a pulpit. Don’t even get me started on the likes of John Calvin. Reading Will Durant's description of life in Calvin's Geneva was eye opening to say the least. No dancing, theaters, card playing and mandatory church attendance was the least of it. Having the elders show up at your door at least once a year to quiz the members of the household on the state of their souls, well I know how that would go over now. Shades of the neighborhood committees in communist China under Mao.
Let us not forget the seventeenth century witch trials that targeted the old, the infirm, the scolds, the cantankerous and those who just didn’t fit in. What could Benedict possibly say to the more than seven million Germans who perished in the Thirty Years War? What can anyone say to the more than 600,000 Irish who died from siege, famine and disease in Cromwell’s “pacification” of Ireland during the period between the death of Charles I and the restoration of his son. And this out of population of little more than one and a half million. And I've seen the same atrocity wood cut used to damn Catholics and Protestants.
After watching the Anglicans who’d been persecuted by the Puritans and Presbyterians during the commonwealth definitely not turn the other cheek when they were back in power, Charles II was quoted along the lines of “Presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman and Anglicanism was no religion for a Christian.” Charles himself was a skeptic who may or may not have received last rites in the Catholic Church before his death.
I find a great deal of good in what is reported of the teachings of the rabbi who may have come from Nazareth. I say reported because I suspect that as much was left out as was included when the leaders of the new church got their hands on it two or three centuries later. I find very little good in what the power hungry have done with those teachings. And even less in the gyrations those who claim that every word and punctuation mark in scripture is inerrant and infallible.
Curiosity led me to some web searching which led me tothis very interesting site. So if perhaps one third of Americans (at best) attend any type of worship service in any given week, what the heck is going on here? Watching presidential hopefuls twist themselves in knots trying to placate the minority within a minority of the religious right is painful and embarrassing. When did we become so afraid of being seen as not nice or not fair that we lost the power to tell the modern Know Nothings to take a running jump at themselves or to at least MYOB.
Or at the very least, "I believe I can get elected without you." And then make it happen.
(In case nobody has noticed from earlier entries, this is something that really ticks me off. I loved science when I was in school. I have a degree in Anthropology. I've never had a problem separating the how and the why. I just found myself in total, jaw dropping, awe of the whole damn thing. Put me in front of a picture of galaxies dancing and I won't come up for air for the rest of the evening. Rueful shrug
And I do appreciate more than anyone can imagine the individual churches who try to practice what that rabbi taught. Very often in opposition or in spite of the ruling bodies of their denominations.
It's about power and control folks. Who has it, who doesn't, and what they'll do to get it and keep it. It's enough to send you screaming into the night, isn't it?)