Certainly my outlook on life, my philosophy of existence, has been influenced and affected by Christianity. Besides the fact that our culture in the United States is immersed not only in Christian metaphor, but has as its core the underlying belief that everyone is Christian and shares as a result some common understanding of a shared reality plays a part in that. It can be an insidious, even covert sense of instrusion by which that undercurrent makes itself known. I’m not referring to the obvious politically motivated occurrences, like “In God We Trust” or “under God” or swearing on a Bible in court as your standard oath. I’m talking about the definition of words. The framework for a worldview that assumes certain things to be “self-evident.”
I see these signs in dictionaries and their more readily-accessed counterparts, crossword puzzles. The dictionary I have has a definition for Adam: the first human, and theoretical forefather and progenitor of the human race.” It does not preface this phrase with “According to the scriptures of the Christian religion…”. Likewise, it is common to see the clue “earthly paradise” in a crossword puzzle. The correct response is, of course, “Eden.”
Our system of law likewise reflects this closed-system view. What exactly is “an act of God” – whose God, I would like to know, and on what proof is it established that there is a direct divine origin for said act? Do “acts of God” happen to non-Judeochristians? To atheists (of course, an atheist denies the existence of “God”, which doesn’t necessarily make it so, Number One, just like believing that George W. Bush is a decent, honest and intelligent human being interested in the well-being of all Americans equally doesn’t ip so facto it). This is almost, of course, tanamount to a strange kind of animism, to suggest that anything outside of one’s personal control (e.g., earthquakes, floods, political action committees, the mating habits of the lemur, etc.) are under the direct purview and lead by the immense finger of some unseen deity. Are we really saying that every shift in the tectonic plates, every overabundant rainfall (even those precipitated, so to speak, by our own environmental mismanagement and ignorance of the havoc we as industrialized peoples wreak upon the natural balance and cause-and-effect) is a wakeup call from some divine switchboard?
The Bible has been re-translated (or adapted, universalized, updated, modified, or denigrated, depending on your particular point of view), particularly in the New Standard Revised Version (NSRV) to eliminate unnecessary male/female specific pronouns, to reduce gender bias where possible. Political correctness has placed restrictions on such words as “blackboard” (as if being a board whose color, defined by the slate by which it is constructed, being black, is somehow derogatory).
How about a politically correct, or rather, ecumenically correct, dictionary of the English language? One that eliminates Christocentricism so that people (particularly those coming from outside the English-speaking universe) can learn the source of phrase or words without a preconceived bias that is antithetical to their own religious belief? Let the religious nature of a word be defined by its context — a context not pre-imposed within its very definition, so that it can be better understood that in the human experience, which is in fact in the majority non-Christian world-wide, the prejudices of a minority sect are not the basis by which the English language need be understood. Let the Word represent more universally everyone who is interested in knowledge (be it of words, customs, cultures, self, or even the divine).
Of course, to be thorough, that would entail identifying the sources for artifacts of Christian mythology as well.
For example, the world antediluvian might require modification to its definition, from “the period prior to the Deluge visited upon mankind by God” to “the period prior to the catastrophic flood referred to in Christian literature as the Deluge, and referenced by many other religions and ancient histories as either a divine cleansing, or simply a significant watershed event perhaps linked to the melting of the polar icecaps due to global warming during the post-Ice Age period of the earth’s development…” or something like that.
Is this likely to happen? No.
The anthromorpocentric bias of Judeo-Christianity firmly imbedded in our collective Western (and Near East) consciousness, the one that believes there is such a thing as “pre-history” and imagines that with the appearnce of Adam that evolution was completed and the entire universe reached its climax whereupon improvement and/or modification was no longer required, does not entertain exploration beyond its narrow boundaries – thus enforcing its own limitations with a kind of circular definition: it has ceased to evolve, therefore evolution does not exist and has never existed. To paraphrase Descartes, “I do not think, therefore, it isn’t.”
As I have said before, evolution can be proven. There is no mention of humankind being able to swim in the Bible. Yet, it is obvious that somewhere along the long stretch of time from “Adam” to the present, humankind learned this activity, probably as a means of survival. Ergo, it must be a “learned” skill. A change to the frame of reference by which humanity encountered the surface of the world (and a good part of its surface, by the way). An evolution. Humans have evolved, learned new skills, adapted to different environments, with variations in bone size and density, skin pigmentation, cranial capacity, genetic modifications designed to weed out the less able from the fittest, so to speak. We have, as a species, evolved. Therefore, evolution MUST not only be possible, but essential to our very existence. Everything else is a perhaps once-useful, but ultimately superstitiously misguided despite its apparent good intent, mythos.
However, to paraphase again, this time Arlo Guthrie, “I didn’t come here to talk about Alice, I wanted to talk about the Draft.”
My outlook on life has certainly been informed by Christianity. But that is not its only source of information. Were that the case, I would be standing at the seashore with a galvanized bucket full of briny water thinking I had a lock on the meaning of the whole ocean. And that is not the case. I have looked in a great number of buckets, tasted many a variety of seafoam. And I have found that by and large, the salt does not lose its savor in the process. If anything, being as a human animal a microcosm for the world as a whole (both approximately 70% saline based) I have discovered under my own blind hands a few of the different parts of the elephant. The trunk, the tail, the tusks, the broadside, the ears. Not that I have a picture in my mind of the whole elephant. That is not likely in a single lifetime, I suppose. But at least I know there’s more to the elephant that what it leaves behind in the cage.
Or something like that.