I think I might be decreasing Mississippi's population.
Imagine yourself a 35 year old divorced mother of two. Brought up a
strict baptist (a Southern baptist, not what they call a "Hard-shell"
baptist - the ones who believe in the bible literally). You've only
left Mississippi once to visit a nearby state. You only go to church
every other week, which your family disapprove of. Your brother is a
missionary in Africa. You're university educated and employed.
Your children come home from school and tell you they can't watch a
recently released mainstream film (think Harry Potter and similar),
because their teacher told them that it teaches against god's word.
You want to complain about the teacher, but you know that you'll be
the only one doing so, and you don't want your kids singled out in
You've heard of evolution, but it wasn't taught in school, or even in
college - "there is a thing called evolution but we're not going to
get into it", said your teachers.
Some guy from Australia arrives and meets with you and your friends
The conversation turns to politics, and you all lament the loss of
Bush, who was such a strong Christian. Most of the group has read his
book and were impressed by it and how clever he sounded - not at all
the way he sometimes appeared on TV. None of you have ever heard of a
The conversation moves to religion. You and the others explain your
religion, including the difference between the First Baptist church
and the other 30 baptist churches around town. You believe the world
is 5-6000 years old, like the bible says. Creation happened just like
the book describes.
This guy asks you what you know about evolution.
Nothing, really - something about monkeys turning into people? The guy goes on to
explain the basics of the Darwin's Origin of Species, talk about
Galapagos finches, the path of the vagas nerve in fish, giraffes and
whales, and explains in just a few minutes how new traits in
individuals can lead to competitive advantages through improved
survival and sexual selection advantages. It is also explained that it
is actually NOT about monkeys turning into humans, as you'd be told.
It makes a lot of sense. Why weren't you tonight this in school? It's
a revelation, and all completely new to you. It's such a new and
powerful idea it is almost overwhelming.
It occurs to you that you'd like to learn more about it, and teach
your children about it too. You get a bit of a 'reading list' together
of texts including a bit of Richard Dawkins. You're quite capable of
doing the reading yourself, as long as you hide it from your family -
you once left a light hearted satirical book which made fun of the
bible laying around (not as a child - this was a year ago) and your
mother, upon finding it, quietly took it home and BURNED it.
But you foresee another, more significant problem.
During the custody hearing about your kids after your divorce a few
years ago, one of your husband's arguments in his attempt to gain full
custody was that you didn't take the children to church every week.
This argument was made in a civil court, which, as part of the
separation of church and state, should be distinct from religion. The
problem is that your husband is the multimedia person for his church,
his lawyer is a deacon of the church, the judge goes to the same
church as both of them and he and his wife is heavily involved in it,
and your lawyer is a 'hard-shell' (literal) baptist, to the point that
he is shocked when he hears about this faux-pas.
It is a very real risk that if it became known that you were teaching
your children about evolution in any way, this would pose a
significant risk to your custody of your children. You expect that
your own lawyer would refuse to represent you, if he knew you taught your
children about evolution.
It is no exaggeration to say that here in Mississippi, teaching your
own primary-school aged children about evolution would threaten your
custody, your home, your employment, would destroy social
relationships and break family bonds, and the legal system would work
Now this guy is talking about Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Your country is well known for entering foreign countries to bring
'freedom', and it's something you're proud of. You don't understand,
however, why when you've removed the oppressive regimes in other
countries, for some reason there are local factions which fight your
troops, as if the defend the status quo.
Then this guy 'reads back' all the points that have been raised,
and suggests that the way it's just been described; when it's all out
on the table like this, it's beginning to sound like YOU are
oppressed. Oppressed by all-pervasive and powerful Fundamentalist
Christianity. And you all have to agree - that's probably true.
It's then suggested that by logical extension perhaps you need someone
to rescue you from oppression - to come in, with tanks and troops, to
remove your government and restaff your courts for you in order to
bring YOU freedom... And then he asks how you might feel about that,
and how people might react.
It's as if cartoon light bulbs have just appeared above the heads of
everyone in the group. Sighs of "Oh..." followed by silence.
In a small town here in Mississippi, in 2011, evolution is a
dangerous idea. The repercussions of teaching your own children about
it, a proven scientific doctrine, are very serious, due entirely to
the prevalence of endemic religious oppression. You are being
oppressed by your own fundamentalist religious state, and it's so
uniformly and deeply entrenched that it's hard to know how where to
start with fixing it, other than to just move somewhere else.
Image 1. I didn't see it
Image 2. Raising cock-fighting roosters. Fighting them is illegal, but
raising them is not, even though each rooster is literally attached to
it's own hutch with a leg-chain.
Image 3. Had to try out the local tucker. Not bad!
Image 4. The ruin of a 32 room Plantation House (they call them
Antebellum Houses) near the Mississippi