Several years ago, the movie industry folks in Hollywood produced a comedy named “Airplane.” It was funny, and one or two less successful sequels followed. That period was before air travel became a nuisance of long lines, bare feet, and threats of terrorism. It was also a time when the only fear most air travelers ever experienced was the malfunction of an engine or sudden air turbulence and misinterpreted plane noises. Recently, however, it seems that someone came up with the idea of having an impromptu evangelistic revival meeting at 33,000 feet in the air. Now, that is something new.
You and I know how divisive it can be when we group into different beliefs and creeds. Somebody whose name I fail to remember once said, “We are scared by what we don’t know and offended by what we don’t believe.” My experience as an educator and a columnist vouches for the accuracy of that wise statement. If that practice is destructive, think what would happen at 33,000 feet in a commercial airliner where none other than the pilot becomes a preacher and asks the passengers to raise their hands if they are Christians, as one American Airlines pilot was accused of having done recently. He also added that you were crazy if you were not a Christian. I suppose some folks in that flight were wondering whether they were going to watch “Elmer Gantry,” the famous Burt Lancaster movie.
Imagine yourself at that moment sitting next to a person who belongs to a sect or religion of a denomination that is opposed to your own, whatever the two religions are. Imagine that History also contains numerous episodes of belligerence between the two faiths. “Flight attendant; please double scotch on the rocks: And very light on the rocks please.” Is that situation scary or what? Yet it happened exactly that way according to some unhappy travelers of that flight. That of course is very unusual, and I am the last person in the world who would make the airline responsible for that first officer behavior. There is some anecdotal information indicating that the pilot had returned from a religious lecture in Central America and was perhaps in a state of religious euphoria. However, just because it happened, there is enough evidence in the incident that we carry our understanding of God and religion to unimaginable levels. In addition, we do not seem to end the phenomenon.
That incident is not surprising or the only recent example. Never-ending arguments about the theory of evolution in our country, for instance, have a way of their own to evolve: they come and go, showing their head now and again. The theory of evolution, for those who need a refreshing course in its meaning, is “a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations” (Merriam-Webster dictionary.) Opposing this theory that was espoused in all its force by Charles Darwin in his theory of natural selection (of the fittest) there is a group of about a dozen different belief systems, which form some of the approximately 500 religious dogmas called creationists.
There are two major groups of creationists: New Earth creationists and Old Earth creationists. New Earth creationists believe that the earth, its current life forms, and the rest of the universe were created by God 10,000 years ago and exists today with very minor changes within various species and no new species have evolved or been created. For these folks there is no link between you, me and the monkeys. Old Earth creationists believe that geology, radiometric dating, has shown that the world is billion of years old and that God created the earth and the rest of the universe. If you put two of these opposing believers together at the top of the Grand Canyon, they would give you very different opinions about when that old rock hardened.
Evolutionists belong to one of two groups: Naturalistic and Theistic. The Naturalistic evolutionists believe that the origin of the universe occurred about 14 billion years ago give or take a year or two no one cares about. The earth became itself about four and a half billion years ago, well before grandma and grandpa were born. Life subsequently began, probably as bacteria (which mean our ancestors were bugs, Aaargh!), and has been evolving ever since. Purely natural forces, without input from a God or a Goddess or multiple deities, have driven the process.
The Naturalistic group is usually associated with strong atheism, although some scientists who support naturalistic evolution believe both in evolution AND in one or more Gods and/or Goddesses. According to these latter groups, called Deists, God created life and then left its natural processes to originate life and drive evolution. In other words, God kicked the snowball at the top of the mountain and let it roll down without any interference forever after.
The Theistic group believes that evolution happened as supporters of the naturalistic evolution accept as true, but it was an evolutionary process created, used and/or controlled by God. These folks, like me I suppose, give a loving God eternal presence and creativity with the ability to plug and play. Thinking otherwise would be a hopeless proposition on the ability of humanity to evolve for the best. We still have a lot of room for improvement as any reading of the daily news attest.
The lesson is over. You can take your pick. The argument is in the center of groups of folks who oppose or favor the concept and its use in our educational institutions. For more on this subject I suggest you visit http://www.religioustolerance.org, the web site where I obtained some of these facts. When we wrote a recent article about the controversy that erupted after a preoccupied father could see nothing worse that might endanger the health of his daughter in this violent society of drugs, poverty and sexual abuses than the use of the word God in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, we referred to the subject.
Here went my article: “The fact that the [“under God”] controversy surrounds a school-based conflict is interesting to say the least. Education is a wonderful experience. The same folks who fight teeth and nail for the inclusion of the words “under God” when it comes time to define the creation of America turn their faces to the other side when their children are taught about the complexities of the theory of evolution and the possibility that the same God was not involved in their own making as American beings.”
Now it seems that someone heard me. I hope they did not think I said, “Bring them on!” In Atlanta, Georgia, the State Superintendent of Schools, responding to pressures from some parents who had challenged the teaching of evolution in the schools because the education does not include an opposing point of view stating that a supreme intelligence created everything in the world, decided to stop the teaching in the state. Parents are asking for equal time, which of course is ludicrous. They already have their day in Sunday school or church. This is mainly a Godly society, so we do not need constant reminders.
To give rebate time within normal educational arguments in a secular school to those creationists who oppose evolution does not necessarily translate into the same rights for evolutionists to have their day in churches either. I would consider that privilege a violation of the separation of church and state. Would you envision a scientist having a chance at equal rights after the Sunday preacher ends his or her sermon? I would not accept or support that exercise of free speech.
Therefore, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, which I am not or ill bred, whom those who know me well would disagree with, let me bring this subject again at a higher and more complex level. Many things have happened since I discussed the Oath of Allegiance controversy, things that require my full attention, and the Supreme Court has accepted the issue in its docket, so someone smarter than me will issue the final opinion. I hope you give me the opportunity of a hearing here, because I think the matter deserves yours also. The issue can affect all of us.
The raucous created in educational circles in the country by the Georgia school Superintendent who initiated the measure and was in the process of implementing it was loud and clear. She turned 180 degrees after receiving enough accusations of ignorance, intolerance and censorship to make her blush. Even former President Jimmy Carter, a religious person himself, criticized the woman for the decision. Therefore, for now the polemic event is off, although one never knows when creationists will return with vengeance. For more evidence stay tuned for part II with my point of view.
Next issue: Our God intermediaries, their powers. Citizen 0.00000000001.
Who is he?
Dr. Montesino, solely responsible for this article, is the Editor of LatinoWorldOnline.com and Senior Lecturer in the Computer Information Systems Department at Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts.