Please ignore the cheesy title. I want to talk about two things today. The first is the reason for the truly terrible title, and that is the National Day of Prayer. First, let me premise my argument with this fact: I am not prejudiced against any religion. That's actually why I'm writing this. So please keep this in mind as you read.
I was reading an article in USA Today earlier about how the reverend Franklin Graham (the famous Billy Graham's son and successor) is complaining that his invitation to speak on the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon was revoked because some of his beliefs exclude many Christians and because he believes that Islam is "evil." He says that if he isn't allowed to speak "it will be a slap in the face of all Christians."
This is just ridiculous. Seriously, what kind of person do you have to be to believe that you are that important? They're still having the prayer, and it's still going to be a Christian prayer. So who cares if he is going to lead the prayer or not? Aren't Christians supposed to be humble?
Intolerance is what I can't tolerate. I hate how some Christians go around saying that a religion other than their own is "evil." The reality here is that no one knows what religion, if any, is the "true" religion. No one has the right to tear down another religion based on their own. You just can't go around saying that someone else's beliefs are wrong because you have a book that says so. Well, guess what, Islam has a book that says Christianity is wrong! So does the Jewish religion! And hundreds of other religions in the world think it's wrong, too. Just because you grew up believing something or were told about it your whole life, doesn't make it true. You could've been born in India and been told Hinduism is right, you could've grown up in the middle east and been told that Islam is right, or Israel and been told Judaism is the only way, or Tibet and been told that Buddhism is true. You could've grown up in England or China and heard that no religion is right.
But, here's the kicker, if people just go on believing everything they are told, everyone will keep on believing they have the only true answer. And people will be divided like this forever, never moving forward or searching for truth. Do you think it is good for people to blindly follow whatever others tell them? If your religion tells you to be prejudiced against others, maybe you will be prejudiced. Maybe you'll commit hate crimes or kill people because of it. Plenty of Christians were involved in lynchings in the past and the slave trade. They said back then that it was okay because they thought the Bible told them black people were inferior. Many Christians do the same thing now with gay people. They justify their hatred of other human beings without for one second considering that every person deserves the right to live their lives how they choose and not be discriminated against for those choices.
Not every Christian does this, let me make myself clear that I understand this point. Not every Christian is hateful or prejudiced. And I realize I just went off on a huge tangent there. So let me get back on track.
My other point is that I don't believe that we should have a day of prayer. The bottom line is that it's just another way for Christians to "spread their message." It's unfair to people of other religions because they aren't included. It's unfair to people who aren't religious or are atheist because they aren't included and it can make them very uncomfortable. No one should have to be told they are evil or that the choices they came to from personal struggle are just wrong. Plus, it's unconstitutional.
Besides, what happened to the separation of church and state? And why is it such a big deal for people to think politicians are religious? I think the problem here is that people just can't seem to be able to make up their own minds and choose their own morality without some kind of rule book or something. Why can't we just be good people and grow up and choose our own values? Why do we need some pseudo-father to continue telling us what to do, even after we're "all grown up?"
I suppose I'm a bit disillusioned. I just don't think you need religion to be a good person. In fact, I think religion can actually impede the road to becoming a good person with all the little prejudices and exclusivity hidden within its message. I guess I'm really only talking about Christianity here because I don't have the kind of experience with other religions to talk about them. But I do know that if people would look at the evidence, they might begin to see life in a different light, which leads me to topic numero dos.
If you look at the history of religions, you will find patterns among them that are hard to explain if you think that there is only one true religion. Many Christians will say that theirs is unique because they're so inclusive or because theirs is a message of hope while others only condemn. I've heard this too many times to count. It's not true. There are themes running through religions all throughout time and space. For example, Christians practice communion, which entails figuratively "eating" a god's body and blood. Several other religions do this, too. Ancient Indian tribes used to eat different parts of their defeated enemies or drink their blood so that the "power" or "strength" from those parts would be transferred to them. And plenty of other religions spread a message of hope and rest. It's just one of those things we're told time and again.
Also, I am surprised at how many people know little or nothing about evolution, yet still adamantly refuse to believe it. First of all, evolution is a scientific theory - which in science means it is a tested and proven hypothesis that is now little short of fact. It's not some "idea" that someone proposed with no evidence to back it up. There is so much evidence it's hard to ignore.
For example, the fossil record shows a progression of more and more complex life forms, the rock record can be radiometrically dated to prove the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, the rock record shows us that the earth's magnetic field has switched thousands of times throughout the earth's history, plate tectonics show us how the continents have formed over billions of years, fossils of the same kind found on opposite sides of the world show us that the continents were once joined (actually they joined and broke up several times over our history), some starlight that we see now would not have reached earth yet if it were only 6,000 years old, since they are so far away, homology of different mammals are evidence for common ancestors, mammals that have returned to the sea (after coming on land for the first time - look up tiktaalik) are evidence for adaptive evolution, evolution that we can see before our very eyes (like Darwin's finches and tortoises), speciation on islands that have formed in recent geological past (where species are found in no other place than those islands).
All of these and more are great evidence for evolution. But most people don't know about any of it and still believe that we walked with the dinosaurs (even though the crater where the asteroid landed that killed the dinosaurs has been found near the Gulf of Mexico - **edit: right off the Yucatan Peninsula**). And let me just point out that the Bible never says that the earth has to be 6,000 years old. Actually, some dude came up with that hundreds of years ago based on, most likely incomplete, ancestral records listed in the Bible (which also have inconsistencies to boot).
I think the country needs a little more (or a lot more) education. Classes in geology and evolutionary biology should probably be required. And, as a side note, they wouldn't be "in your face, you have to believe this or else" type deals, they'd simply give you the facts and allow you to decide for yourself. At least then no one could honestly say "show me the fossils." If we all had the facts and looked at them and really had to just decide for ourselves, maybe there wouldn't be so much exclusion, intolerance, and hatred in the world. No more "Holy Wars." Maybe we could all just get along and get on with our lives. It's your choice to believe what you want, and I respect that. Just don't be ignorant or intolerant. Let's all be decent people, eh?
And, just as a final note (maybe a plea to angered readers?), I do not hate anyone, or discriminate against religious people. I may have sounded indignant, but that's just a cry against ignorance. You may be a very well informed religious person, and for that, I applaud you. Just get the facts straight and leave the slighting skepticism at home. No one wants to hear any more sneers from misinformed zealots who can't take the time to "know thine enemy." I'm just saying, open your mind to possibilities and come into it with a good heart. Search honestly for truth and that is what will make you a good and honest person.