Diverse beliefs, varied conclusions

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

I remember as a child that people in my family who raised issues simply for the purpose of causing conflict were accused of fostering “cold water arguments.” Consequently, only visitors were likely to enter a debate in which neither wins nor losses had any validity, and discussion was considered a waste of valuable time. I suppose that early memory of my family’s rules of verbal exchange account for my less than lukewarm response to the creation versus evolution controversies raging in some parts of the country.

After careful listening to all sides of the issue, I came to the conclusion that we don’t all begin our examination of the subject from the same point, and therefore, the possibility of us arriving at the same conclusion is highly unlikely. Personally, I have to begin my investigation of the matter with who I think God is. Since I believe God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, I can accept that he created human beings and, therefore, understood their capacity for boundless curiosity and provided them with scenarios by which they could pursue various avenues leading toward a natural history. This way they could explain themselves to themselves. I can understand other people not subscribing to this theory in the same way that I can accept people who, without a qualm, board a 747 jetliner firmly believing that they will land safely but disbelieve the possibility of a virgin birth. You see, it all depends on the individual’s concept of what constitutes reasonable belief.

As one who has been associated with Christian activities all her life, I don’t understand why some people insist that creationism should be taught in public schools. Darwin’s theory is pretty straightforward, to be believed or not. My son received his early education in a parochial school where religion was taught, and I have to admit that I am absolutely astounded by some of the theories, opinions and beliefs that I have heard out of the mouths of Christians. I’m horrified to imagine Christian concepts being taught by people of various faith groups without a cohesive theology. To me, this seems to be an issue to which little thought has been applied. I applaud the people who set up their own religious schools to teach their faith practices. To me, this is the only sensible way to proceed. I understand that some people want their children to believe as they do, but these folks have to understand that many of us want our progeny to choose their own beliefs.

Some people who claim to be Christians actually believe that they are the creators of their children. They feel a sense of ownership whereby their children are obligated to follow in the parents’ footsteps. They sincerely believe that they have every right to feel this way and to put their feelings into action. Many non-Christians also share these same beliefs. Since, outside of laws governing abuse and neglect, parents in our society are free to bring up their children as they please, I don’t think it’s reasonable or appropriate for schools to be in the business of acting as an extension of parents’ value systems. No matter what some people persist in believing, there are way too many value systems out there to expect schools to take on this role.

I hear people speaking all the time about “our rock-solid moral principles.” Obviously, they read American history differently than I do. I won’t even bother to list the outrageous acts of moral degradation of which these “principles” apparently are comprised. I realize that most of the “rock-hard principle” kind of talk is politically inspired rhetoric designed to seduce the lazy thinkers. Unfortunately, it works amazingly well. The crafty, of course, persuade the innocent and the process gains momentum.

With major problems such as the hard times many are having trying to get adequate health care and the high cost of heating fuel facing many impoverished families, I suppose it’s important for politicians to use diversionary tactics to keep the public’s mind away from real issues. Not surprisingly, this also works well.

There probably are a few of us who can remember the time when targeting the most economically vulnerable segment of the population to take the brunt of slashed budgets would have been considered political suicide. Nowadays, punishing the sick and poor has become the “fix” of choice. Some might wonder then why the news is not filled with moral outrage.

Frankly, I think that most of us are overwhelmed by the multitude of tragic events going on around us. I think our minds are so boggled with the decline in moral and ethical behavior on the part of public figures and so disenchanted with leaders who preach one philosophy and practice another that weariness has overtaken our ability to respond appropriately.

So, I’m glad that I’m still able to recognize cold water arguments and that I was taught early not to try to swim upstream against the tide. For me, this is a time to examine the strange manner in which our democratic republic is functioning. It’s also an opportunity for quiet reflection on where the republic is headed.

One thing I know for sure, maintaining our democracy is going to require a patient, thoughtful and well-informed populace. Hopefully, we will be equal to the task.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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