In which our intrepid hero encounters various signs of religious inclinations…
It goes without saying that religion is a touchy subject, as many deeply held beliefs can be. My own perspective on religion is slightly unusual. I was raised Catholic in a city with a significant Catholic population. However, I still remember from my childhood being passed anti-Catholic comic books published by Jack Chick and being told by one Baptist that I was going to go to Hell for being a Catholic. I became aware of religious prejudice at an early age. However, religion did not “take” with me. By the time I was an adult I had become an atheist. Yet I always had a great many friends and relatives from a variety of religions whose opinions and perspectives I greatly respected. Later, as I began professionally to get into the arena of studying (and combating) extremism, I became even more familiar both with religious prejudices as well as prejudices against people because of their religion. And for more than a dozen years I have been working for a civil rights organization dedicated to fighting against such prejudices.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better version]
So I have turned out to be a holder of no religion and respecter of all. One interesting aspect of being non-religious is that you are free to judge other religions based on their actions, rather than their beliefs. So, for example, I have found that there is a tremendous amount that I admire regarding Judaism—not in its religious teachings per se but on the effect that those teachings have had on Jewish culture and actions. Similarly, the emphasis that the Mormons place on simple kindness and respect is something that I have always admired (what other religion makes the effort to put out public service messages asking people to treat others nicely?). Many religions urge their adherents to be charitable and this is a major reason why many people to make contributions to charity; that is clearly a good thing.
This same principle of judging by actions rather than beliefs, though, makes me depressed when religious beliefs lead to pernicious actions, such as anti-gay prejudice on the part of the Catholic or Mormon faiths (though there has been some change for the positive with both faiths, much much more needs to change), or the efforts by many different faiths to foist their own religious beliefs on others (including in our schools). It makes no difference to me why someone may believe in Creationism, but to attempt to teach it in schools is simply bad. It is not science, it is religion.
Anyway, in this excursion to Southeast Ohio, I had just left the village of Bremen, Ohio. There is an Amish community in the area (as there is in many rural areas in Ohio; Ohio has the United States’ largest Amish population). So the first of many exposures to religion that I had during this segment of my trip was seeing an Amish farmer out working in his fields. Unfortunately, the environmental circumstances were such that prohibited my being able to compose a good shot, so I ended up taking a hasty picture simply to mark the occasion. I have ethical issues about photographing Amish people without their permission in circumstances in which they could be recognized, but this very distant shot seemed innocuous to me.
This is what a lot of back-country roads in Southeast Ohio look like (though many are not paved). At times, the foliage from the trees on either side of the road meet to form a tunnel over the road and in cases where the vegetation is denser than in this example, it can shut out most of the light and create a rather creepy sensation.
I don’t take very many pictures of mobile homes, because (for obvious reasons) they tend to look so alike, but they are a dominant feature of the landscape in many areas of Appalachian Ohio. The above mobile home, perched precariously on a hill above a road, is a very typical example of what one might see.
The countryside in Southeast Ohio is beautiful. It tends to be dominated by hills. Roads will tend to go up along ridges (sometimes with precipitous drop offs on their way up to the top of the ridge) or along the bottoms. In such cases, as here, a road will often hug a hillside, then on the other side of the road there will be a flat patch of varying size which might be farmed, if large and feasible enough. Past the flat patch, of course, is another hill.
People collect the oddest things out in the country, perhaps assuming that they will have some future use. These old soda vending machines are a good example. Was there a thought that they could be resold at some future point? If so, the idea never panned out and there is no telling how long these machines have rested here.
As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, some people simply turn their property into their own personal junk yards, disposing of whatever they want wherever they want. In rural areas, property owners are usually not bothered by city ordinances prohibiting such actions. This property was filled with junk of every description, including an upside-down car.
Many readers will be aware of the phenomenon of “animated gifs,” which are graphic images with a limited color palette but which can include brief animation. I wish there were such a thing as an animated jpeg file, because, though the curious horses are interesting enough, what was truly captivating about this scene at this time was the wind whipping through the grass, causing waves and ripples that were just simply beautiful. You can get just the barest hint in this still image that something like this was going on in this meadow.