While driving around town today, I saw a cool bumper sticker. It simply read
C O E X I S T
with each letter doubling as a symbolic representation of a different elaborate, often uplifting, and occasionally dark worldview, apparently with the point of promoting tolerance between adherents of conflicting mindsets.
No, not this one:
I’m not really a believer in the message of religious ecumenicalism that it preaches, even if I do dig the simple cleverness of the graphic design used to preach it. (I find the message COEXIST very clearly spelled out amongst the jumble of images representing Islam, hippies, genders, Judaism, paganism, Eastern mysticism, and Christianity, although it always bothers me that they stick a physical “S” in the middle of the yin-yang. Apparently, they’re more confused we won’t see the letter S in the distinctly S-shaped swirl of the black and white, but are completely fine with us decoding an “X” from the jumble of lines forming the hexagram.)
Anyone can pay lip service to the idea of religious tolerance, but it’s actually extraordinarily difficult to put it into practice. If you really and truly believe the tenants of of your religion — particularly if it makes claims provide for post-death benefits or punishment — then you cannot in good faith tolerate the existence of contradictory religion if for no other reason than to make sure that no one is deprived of that sought-after salvation. For such folks, dealing with those other religions is better summed up by:
Consequently, the only people for whom religious tolerance is a practical, feasible idea are precisely those people who don’t really believe the claims made by those religions (including their own), since they’re often directly contradictory. Instead, such folks see “spirituality” as path to Truth with a capital T, but pretty much disregard the actual content of any particular “religion.” Those folks would be better suited with a different bumper sticker:
However, if we’re willing to postulate that our favorite fantasy worldview is just that — fantasy — then we can probably go a lot farther with the tolerance idea. So while I think there’s no chance that religious tolerance will ever work among the general population, I’m ever hopeful that we can at least attain a level of science-fiction/fantasy tolerance among the geeks and nerds of the Earth.
Thus, the following clever variation on the COEXIST theme:
That being said, I have a few gripes about this particular design:
- Star Trek hogs up two whole letters, which seems particular unfair when you note that Stargate is reduced to the tittle above the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. (Yes, tittle is a word.)
- The letter X should have been an X-wing fighter. That’s just obvious.
- No Battlestar Galatica? What the frak?
Fortunately, the geeks of the world went about setting this one right.
You can even find a version that extends the olive branch of fictional tolerance even wider:
Of course, both of these new designs omit that Babylon 5 ship that appears in the original design. But, seriously, Babylon 5 fans? Heretics and infidels.
Let ’em burn.