10 August 2005

The Proselytizers...



Forcing Religious and Political Beliefs on Others
Notes from Indian Country

Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) 8/8/2005

© 2005, Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.

Every race and nation has its own story of creation. From the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist to the Hopi Nation the stories or myths are as believable or as unbelievable as one interprets them.

Those who do not believe in the creation story as related in the Christian Bible far outnumber the Christian believers. If one is to make judgments based on numbers does that make the non-Christian, non-believers right? Or are we as students of human nature to rely on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?

Just as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a “theory” so to is Darwin’s prognostication classified as “theory.” These “theories” pit evolution against religion.

When I was a student at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation we were not taught Darwin’s theory. Instead we were offered, and I use the word “offered” euphemistically, a class called Catechism. This class, of course, was a class in Catholicism.

In the Catechism course we were taught about how God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. Gee, I didn’t know God got tired, but apparently he did. Must have been really hard work creating earth and that doesn’t even mention the rest of the universe.

Did God also create dinosaurs? Strange, but they are never mentioned in the Bible and I was told that this book covered everything. Perhaps those Christians now pushing Intelligent Design as a replacement for science can answer that question.

There is little doubt that science has made its mistakes and has advanced through the years with its many flaws, but so has organized religion. Millions of people have died in the name of religion and the gist of the slaughter was always an effort to prove which religion was the true one.

Most of us recall the infamous “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee that pitted religion against science. In this case science lost and teaching evolution was forbidden in the Tennessee classrooms.

According to a column by Charles Krauthammer in Newsweek, Christopher Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna, Austria declared that the Roman Catholic Church rejects “neo-Darwinism.” He declared that Darwinism is an “unguided evolutionary process — one that falls outside of the bound of divine providence — simply cannot exist.”

Schonborn went on to say that “The Catholic Church will again defend human reason against scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of chance and necessity which are not scientific at all.”

I have often wondered what would happen if a new life form from another universe made an appearance on earth. Surely somewhere out there in the limitless boundaries of space there are planets filled with life forms, including intelligent life, that is only mentioned in the books of science. You will not find them mentioned in the Bible.

How would the hardcore traditionalist Christians explain this occurrence?

The United States is falling behind many industrialized nations in the field of science. Stupid decisions by stupid politicians using their religious beliefs instead of their common sense have stifled such innovative scientific research as that on stem cells. Other nations not restricted by religion, nations such as South Korea, are moving forward with stem cell research, and the cures for horrific diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s may be waiting at their fingertips.

Diabetes has become particularly destructive and deadly on the Indian people of this nation. I have lost dozens of friends in the past several years to this dreadful disease. I am a victim of this disease also. It simply boggles my mind to see politicians insert their religious beliefs into preventing a scientific breakthrough that could save the lives of so many diabetics.

I am continually amazed at the letters to the editor of our local daily newspaper from seemingly intelligent people who refuse to consider evolution and instead cling to their Bible as the sole source of creation.

These letters not only expound on their biblical beliefs; they also serve as a hammer to beat down anyone who disagrees with their beliefs. This is the frightening aspect of this entire argument.

As a journalist I have written that “I may not agree with your opinions, but I will defend with my life your freedom to have those opinions.”

Whatever happened to that way of thinking? When did a certain segment of our society become so obsessed with its own personal beliefs that it would disregard the rights of others to have a different perspective?

When did America become divided into red and blue states? This in and of itself is an evolution of sorts and one that I do not condone. I was taught at the mission school that a “house divided cannot stand.” Well, America’s house is divided and if it does not move in the direction of unification, it will fall.

There are many enemies wanting to destroy us and the day will come when they will strike and bring horrible destruction. A divided house contributes to those possibilities because while one segment of our society defends against disaster, the other provokes it.

Just as there are many stories of creation, there are also many different religious beliefs and until we learn that one story is no better nor more true than the other, just as no religion is any greater or less as the other, we will continue to move in a very dangerous direction.

When will we learn that one cannot force his political or religious beliefs on another? Iraq may turn out to be the primary example of this madness.

(Tim Giago is the former editor and publisher of the Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, and the Lakota, Dakota and Pueblo Journals. He can be reached at najournalists@rushmore.com or by writing him at 2050 West Main St. Suite 5, Rapid City, SD, 57702)



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