Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Bloom, or Blossom Where You Are Planted"

There’s an old proverb saying,

‘Bloom (or blossom) where you are planted’.

It’s a benign saying meaning you should to try to do your best in the environment you find yourself in. But a corollary to this is contained in a quote from J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur in 'Letters from an American Farmer’, (1782) having, though probably not intended, a somewhat less benign flavor:

“Men are like plants, the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment.”

I think de Crèvecœur means that men are products of their nurturing environments. Most of us will readily agree. Thus, if a person is the product of a close-minded, fearful, or paranoid culture, they usually, if not always, become so themselves. Conversely, a person raised in a tolerant, open, liberal and more intellectual climate tends to be the same. In other words, we are very apt to take on the shades of our nurturing environments. This has important ramifications for the future of humanity. For if we continue to breed and produce backward looking, intolerant, and fearful groups of people, mankind, and civilizations will inevitably trend backwards to earlier, less congenial times.

The evolution of civilization is then in great danger of regressing. All progress and advancement is stifled and societies tend to lapse into a form of feudalism. The Dark Ages are a prime example of this very phenomenon coming to pass. The onset of the Dark Ages coincided with the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire. The people now called ‘Flat Earthers’ gained ascendancy. Not because the earth was then flat, but because their priests and leaders insisted that was so.

After sliding backwards from a ‘classical golden age’, civilization required many centuries to recover, in what is now called ‘the age of enlightenment’. From roughly 1300 AD until well after 1800 AD, even the most civilized and advanced cultures on earth were mired in a climate of fear and repression where the more thoughtful and clear headed people were shouted down when they spoke out - if they were lucky - or burned at the stake (or worse) if they were not. Thus Galileo was forced to ‘recant’ his belief the earth was round - as ‘heretical depravity’,- and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life:

“I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, arraigned personally before this tribunal, and kneeling before you, Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General against heretical depravity throughout the entire Christian commonwealth, having before my eyes and touching with my hands, the Holy Gospels, swear that I have always believed, do believe, and by God's help will in the future believe, all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

- (translation of the prologue of Galileo’s recantation, 1633, in which he later attests; ‘with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies’)

After being shown the error of his ways, Galileo must have felt he was one of the lucky ones, because so many others were hideously tortured and put to death in various ways simply because they held opinions not approved by the church. Opinions many of which are now abundantly proved many times over to be the truth. A simple denouncement by anyone of status often resulted in the horrible death of an innocent.

Thankfully, such days are long past, at least in most western cultures. But, they still exist for others, with the Taliban being a prime example. But, I am minded of the excesses of Christianity when I read some of the vociferous words of today’s Christians. Words by people otherwise unremarkable, and who would appear completely normal if one met them on the street. Words like those by the late Jerry Falwell who said, “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions”.

And, words like those by *Pat Robertson - who claims his TV programming is seen in 97% of US markets, who said, "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up." Because of these kinds of intolerant positions, I maintain the only real differences between Christians and the Taliban, is in the specific beliefs, and the nomenclature. The basic approach is the same.

The problem I have with Christianity - and for all religions for that matter - is their absolute insistence a person must accept all their tenets at face value (as interpreted by their leaders) - much like the ‘Inquisitors General’ of Galileo’s time. These are solid beliefs held with no evidence whatsoever, except what is written in ‘The Book’. Most of them are also tracts written 2000 or so years ago by barely literate herdsmen, and passed down through succeeding generations - and interpretations.

Nevertheless, many Christians still insist they be accepted verbatim, without question. A good example is a bumper sticker I once saw:

“The Bible said it, I believe it, That settles it”

And, in some circles, they will still kill you for disagreeing with some point or the other! There's no one so certain as one who holds a strongly held religious belief . . . . . . . And to me, their attacks are a lot like attacking someone because they no longer believe in the Easter Bunny!

* If you want an in depth look at Pat Robertson, here you are


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