Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Are there two different species of humans? On the curious cultic behavior of earthlings

Two cultic images staying near each other in a church in the small Italian town of Bibbiena, in Tuscany. 
(h/t Paolo and Luciana) 

Just a few days ago, I was visiting a small church in an Italian village and I saw myself as an alien just landed on this planet. What was going on in there?

Earthlings have this curious habit of kneeling in front of images of non-existing beings. But what I noted in that church is how different these beings can appear. On a side, there was an idol in the shape of a human male, obviously in great pain having been nailed to two crossed planks of wood and wounded in the chest. Nearby, there was a completely different image; a smiling human female nurturing a small child. Granted; the behavior of earthlings is often difficult to understand, but, here, it is truly puzzling: how can two such different deities cohabit the same cultic place?

The solution came from a book written by an earthling named George Lakoff, "Don't think of an elephant." Apparently, there are two kinds of earthlings; at least according to Lakoff. The "nurturant" ones (the left, the liberals, the US democrats) and the "patriarchal" ones (the right, the conservatives, the US republicans). In this subdivision, Lakoff perfectly explained what I had been seeing in that small church. Let me leave the description to him  (p. 148-149).
Conservative Christianity is a strict father religion ... First, God is understood as punitive - that is, if you sin you are going to go to hell and if you don't sin, you are going to be rewarded and go to heaven. But since people tend to sin at one point or another in their lives, how is it possible for them to ever get to heaven? The answer in conservative Christianity is Christ. What Jesus does is offer conservative Christians a chance to get to heaven. The idea is this; Christ suffered on the cross so much that he built up moral credit sufficient for all people, forever. .... If you accept Jesus as your savior, that is, as your moral authority, and agree to follow the moral authority of your minister and your church, then you can get to heaven. But that is going to require discipline, You need to be disciplined enough to follow the rules, and if you don't, then you are going to go to hell. ...
Liberal Christianity is very, very different. Liberal Christianity sees God as essentially beneficent, as wanting to help people, The central idea in liberal Christianity is grace, where grace is understood as a kind of metaphorical nurturance. In liberal Christianity, you can't earn grace - you are given grace unconditionally by God. But you have to accept grace, you have to be near God to get his grace, you can be filled by grace, you can be healed by grace, and you are made into a moral person through God's grace. In other words, grace is metaphorical nurturance ... In a nurturant form of religion, your spiritual experience has to do with your connection with other people and the world and your spiritual practice has to do with your service to other people and to your community. 

Seems clear: the two idols in that church are different deities worshiped by two different categories of humans. The nurturant humans worship the virgin Mary, the mother of God; the patriarchal humans worship Jesus, the son of God who suffered on the cross.

So, are there two species of humans? Could be; surely these two categories of humans look so different from each other that any good alien should wonder if they can even interbreed with each other. Apparently, indeed, some data indicate that they rarely do. Earthlings are, indeed, curious creatures.

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