How old is the Grand Canyon?

Do you know how old is the Grand Canyon? You may want to store that information somewhere because you may not be able to get that information from the authorities that administer the park. Apparently, because the age of the geological formation ofthe canyon contradicts the creationist belief that it was created during Noah´s flood, park geologists are pressed to hide that information.

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

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The Great (Ecumenic) Mosque of Cordoba?

The Great Mosque of Cordoba can be seen as a symbol of the many layers of Spanish history and of all the peoples that carved this nation. After the Muslim conquest of the Spanish kingdoms, Abderraman I ordered the construction of a mosque on the site of a Visigothic church (which was itself built over a Roman temple). When Cordoba fell back into Christian possession in the thirteenth century, it was turned back into a church.

Earlier this week, the president of the Islamic Association of Spain, Mansur Escudero, wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI requesting that Muslims be allowed to pray in front of the mihrab* of the great mosque, alongside Catholics. Escudero alleged that the shared use of the building would help bridge relations between the two groups and would follow the example set by the recent visit by the pope to the Hagia Sophia in Turkey. The bishop of Cordoba quickly issued a press release denying the request saying it would only cause “confusion” among the faithful. His exact words are interesting: “sólo generaría confusión en los fieles, dando pie al indiferentismo religioso”.

What does he mean by “indiferentismo religioso”? That people wouldn’t be able to tell the two religions apart? Well, maybe stressing the things we have in common wouldn’t be so bad. But god-forbid we make a muslim seem less alien to a christian… That would be too revolutionary.
I think the Church lost a great PR moment here. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is mostly a tourist site these days. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit it every year. Catholics don’t find it a practical place in which to do their worship. That role is played by more local parish churches. Allowing the Mosque of Cordoba to be used as an ecumenic temple would be mostly a public-relations effort that would probably disturb few Catholics and fit well with all the efforts of interfaith dialogue pioneered by the late Pope John Paul II.

When I first moved to Canada, I was surprised to find that the local Catholic church shared the building with a Protestant church. One could go to mass at 9 AM or attend a Protestant service at 11:30. Martin Luther and Jean Calvin probably turned in their tombs, but I thought it was great. It shows respect towards each other and reminds us that we have more uniting us than we do separating us.

As a Spanish tourist said when asked if Muslims should be allowed to pray in the building, “Es de sentido común, es la mezquita de Córdoba”. A couple from Valencia added that after all, the Muslims also have the right to pray.

*a mihrab is a niche in the middle of a building that indicates the direction of Mecca

Mansur Escudero praying by the mosque of cordoba

photo © El Pais