There are forces in our world that go unseen. One of these non-physical forces is the power of belief. Everyone believes something. A recent series of museum trips left me thinking about what makes people believe, why some beliefs are more reasonable, and the believer’s interaction with other people. In the space of about a week, I visited an exhibit about religious relics at the Art Museum, the OSU Geological Museum, and The Creation Museum. All three were examples of how faith works. Each expressed its own form of belief. I learned a lot from them.
The first museum was the Art Museum here in Cleveland. Their current special exhibit is entitled “Treasures of Heaven” and is an extensive display of medieval holy relics. The exhibit explained that the relics were intended to bring devout Christians closer to their God. They needed a physical reminder of the holiness of God, and the only way they could do so was to preserve the dead bodies of people or things that were alleged to be saint-like or blessed. At the time, there was no way of proving that the bone or tooth was really the alleged person’s. Their belief was in the holiness of the object. Pilgrims were occasionally lied to by people who wanted to bring money to their town. But still the pilgrims believed, despite this possibility. The atmosphere at the art museum was informative and undemanding. Even if you didn’t share that faith, you could still enjoy the exhibit. You were not required to believe.
The second museum was the minuscule Ohio State University Geological Museum. Tucked away in the geology building, the atmosphere was anything but threatening. The caretaker seemed to be a busy old man. We were the only visitors yet that day. It was only one room, but had a lot of information, many charts, and plenty of artifacts. One of the most interesting things I noticed was that they showed the difference between real fossils and fake fossils. They were willing to tell you when things were fake, and when they had real items, they told you how they knew. They gave information about the ways that they got their facts. The museum gave clear ideas and physical evidence that supported their belief in the Evolution theory and in the oldness of the Earth.
The final museum was the famous Creation Museum in Kentucky. I knew beforehand that their beliefs were very different from my own and I had heard that the museum itself was a little absurd, so I prepared myself to not laugh. Unfortunately, the experience was very different from what I expected. The atmosphere was scary, threatening. They have their own police force and K9 unit. According to an outside observer (my mom) I was visibly uncomfortable and nervous. Creationists believe in the literal truth of the Bible. All other ideas are deemed evil. In a series of videos and plaques, they literally stated that non-believers are going to hell. Their “science” was gibberish, almost impossible to read, or simply not mentioned at all. They didn’t give straight facts. It seemed like their only reason for the Evolution theory being wrong was that they believed they were right. Even their slogan, “Prepare to Believe”, forced belief upon you.
The very first room was about two scientists, one who believed in Evolution, and one who believed in Creationism. The creationist stated that they formed different conclusions because they started at different places, but the museum barely explores that other viewpoint. You are expected to already share their ideas. Also, the museum was extremely over-stimulating, because of the excessive number of animatronics, videos, and sound effects too closely packed together. The one good thing they mentioned was that we all need to take care of the Earth (accompanied by a picture of a recycling bin) and each other, but even that was hypocritical, seeing as we couldn’t find any recycling bins in the building and the angry view toward non-believers was obviously not taking care of their fellow humans. They offer almost nothing to solidly support their beliefs.
I suppose belief doesn’t necessarily require physical evidence to support it, but believers should have reasons for believing what they do. The three museums were very different, both in approach and in content, but they had the same fundamental idea. All three wanted to spread information about a faith. I respect each museum for different reasons. The Art Museum was commendable for being neutral, calm, and very informative. They didn’t demand anything of the visitor. The Geological Museum was quietly knowledgeable. They gave reasons for their belief, and backed them up with evidence. The Creation museum’s only reason for respect is that they gave their opinion without hesitation or any sort of self-consciousness. All other aspects of the museum were unrespectable. So, in conclusion, there are many different types of belief. There are loud, in-your-face kinds, and more subdued quiet beliefs. Some beliefs demand that you believe as well, and others live and let live. Belief is in everyone. It is just how we choose to express that makes it different for all of us.