The Great Spirits Portrait - Robert Donaghey
Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident.
– Arthur Schopenhauer
Last night I had a dream that I was invited to attend an annual symposium of Christians and non-Christians (non-Christians that is, whose belief in history, science and religion are not entirely Christian based). The argument from the Christians was, every year, that non-Christians are cold, scientific atheists who do not believe in God and therefore, are judged as faithless, empty heathens who aren’t going to heaven. The argument from the non-Christians, of which I was one, was one of defensiveness, that non-Christians are warm, loving, well-educated, spiritual people who are tired of constantly being judged falsely for not having the same beliefs as the Christians. We also contended that Christians are unrealistic thinkers who can’t exist outside the box of man-made religion and have no ability or will to redefine or reinterpret some of the old, outmoded verses of their bible that simply do not apply to life today or ever,and that faith is not fact and others should not be judged on their ability or inability to *believe* in one thing, when there are other things to believe in.
Everyone at the symposium was relatively friendly to one another, despite the black and white thinking. But sadly, the non-Christians only had about five tables to the Christians’ 15. Needless to say, I felt a little out-numbered.
As the symposium was about to begin, I ran to use the bathroom, which was rather dirty. As I waited in line, I saw one of the Christian boys stick his head down the toilet. I was horrified to see this. His mother, who was helping her youngest daughter in the stall next to the boy, yelled over to her son, “What the heck are you doing?” I then quickly jumped in and replied, “He’s sticking his head down a dirty toilet,” believing she’d jump up and grab him in outrage. But that didn’t happen. The mother, obviously exasperated by her situation and her son’s mindlessness, pulled both of her kids out of the stalls and simply said to her son, “Can you please behave?” And that was it. She dragged her kids out of the bathroom, her son’s head dripping wet, and they went to find their seats.
And then I woke up and thought this:
I used to believe that progress via technology and science was part of human evolution. That consumerism, capitalism and massive development was a natural human progression. I used to believe that anthropological societies like tribal peoples in Australia, Africa and South America who didn’t move forward and adopt new technology like “Westerners” were not evolving. That their growth was in some way, stunted. But after reading Vine Deloria’s God is Red I now recognize our progress is part of the trajectory of Christianity, not evolution. Progress, science, technology, manifest destiny, forcefully overtaking new lands from non-Christian peoples– many of these are Christian concepts.
I also thought, that just like the boy sticking his head in the toilet, people do crazy things that are interpreted in all kinds of ways. Even though I can be horrified over something seemingly horrifying, someone else may simply be agitated. Which response is correct? Which is the “true” response. Answer: there isn’t one. There never is. One-thousand Frenchmen can be wrong.
I think that it is so difficult for us to accept new ways of living and different cultural attitudes because we are so mired down in judging people for not being what we believe they should be. We believe, like I did, that there is only one truth, one way, one direction. I now know this not to be the case. There are many ways to live and progress. Christianity is not “the” way, it is “one” way. And yet, just like the mother in the dream, if I tried to convince a Christian of this, I’d probably be looked at like I had four heads.