Are you evil? Well, have you ever been jealous of someone? Have you ever lied? Have you stolen something? What about your clothes? No polyblend, right? What about sex; missionary only?

So wait, are you evil? Let’s talk about some things that are actually bad now. Have you knowingly caused pain to someone? Have you stolen something that you had no claim to? Have you screamed obscene things at people, like that jackass that cut you off or that teenage girl walking into an abortion clinic that you didn’t know was bringing the doctor lunch?

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, you’ve done something you aren’t proud of. Why’d you do it? Anger, jealousy, misplaced concern?

We all normally have good intentions, but our actions don’t always reflect those intentions. It’s not that we don’t care about each other; we just don’t understand each other.

In Christian mythology, Genesis chapter eleven contains the story of Babel. It’s one of the stories that took me out of my former faith, and one that is constantly tap danced around by preachers.

(1) And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. (2) And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. (3) And they said to one another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime they had for mortar (4) And they said, Go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach into heaven; and let us make a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth (5) And the lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men had built (6) And the lord said, Behold, the people is one and they have all one language, and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. (7) Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (8) So the lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth, and they left off to build the city.

The story is one that has a clear antagonist, and it isn’t the humans united for a common goal. I recommend watching version one of Matt Dillahunty’s part of the Unholy Trinity tour. It’s engaging and educational and includes this story in simpler, 21st century terms.

Obviously I don’t believe in Babel, but the story has a valid point. We’re stronger together. I went to Jewish temple for services Friday and got to listen to a sermon not just about biblical strong women but also about Malala Yousafzai, the Muslim woman who’s just about to turn 18 and has already won a Nobel prize (I feel like a failure writing this, for the record).

It occurred to me while the rabbi (female and obviously reformed) was speaking that in most parts of the world, a Jewish community leader could not stand in front of their congregation and praise a Muslim woman, even one like Malala.

I’ve been to this same temple several times. Not only have they performed same-sex weddings, they had to leave the state to do it until one of their rabbis joined the United Church of Christ lawsuit to help overturn the NC ban. There are trans members as well. Not all of the congregation is ethnically Jewish, and even though I make no secret about my atheism (I rarely do anymore, fuck it) the people in general aren’t just respectful of my views but actually seem to be willing to discuss it (civility is the rarity here. Plenty of people are willing to talk god).

My point is that we all have our separate communities, and not just languages but dialects as well. That’s no excuse to hate. Every religion ever created has commandments about love, but understanding is just as important. That’s why I always say that my worldview is based on empathy and not love. Love only gets you halfway to humanity.