There’s a “list website” called The Daily Eight. A “list website” makes lists that are intended as click bait, places teasers here and there on the Internet, and sells advertisements based on how many eyeballs the click bait brings in.
You know the kind of thing I mean: Five Actresses Who Started in Porn Films. Cars Under $15,000 Promising 0-60 in Under Five Seconds! The one I bit on said “Top Eight Religious Destinations in the World.”
I’ve visited some sacred sites in my time and many are really interesting, but I claim no authority. What particularly got me was the claim in the world. Maybe some of these destinations belong on my bucket list?
I donated my eyeballs by clicking and my reward is below. I am pleased to report they don’t claim to rank the sacred, so this is the random order, not the ranking:
3. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
4. Temple Mount, Jerusalem
5. Canterbury Cathedral
6. Ganges River
7. Mount Fuji
8. Fatima, Portugal
If you have read this far, through the list above, you perhaps understand why I was ready to do violence to my computer screen. How is that list wrong? I can’t even count all the ways, but the major burr under my saddle is that they could not come up with even one “religious destination” for the top eight in the entire western hemisphere!
While leaving out half of the world is my major beef, I even wonder about the half they purported to cover. I am an Indian born and raised in rural Oklahoma, so be aware of my limitations as I attempt a do-over of a list created by persons I admit are probably more worldly.
This comment is not rooted in Islamophobia but in the reality of being a non-Muslim tourist. The list informs you that you will not be allowed in the sacred parts of Mecca and Medina, so either you must be a Muslim or a very accomplished liar before you can enjoy those destinations.
Christians would call me a pagan, so that may explain my thought that Stonehenge seems to me a lot more interesting than the Canterbury Cathedral. Both are in use for services today, but which is older? Which contains more mystery?
Then there’s the Ganges River, which may be sacred to Hindus, but if I want to see a gloriously wide and once-beautiful river desecrated by human waste products, I have the Mississippi.
Ganges River, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
If I wanted to snub the hemisphere where I live, I would still replace Canterbury—sacred to a church that would not exist but for Henry VIII’s libido—with Stonehenge.
The places where infidels (in the jargon of Muslim fundamentalists) are not welcome? I would replace one with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was a Christian cathedral and then the great mosque at the heart of the Caliphate. Now it’s a museum, and one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture to be seen on the planet.
I would replace the other with the temple complex at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Originally built to honor a Hindu deity, it is now a Buddhist temple.
Leaving these differences aside, I would like to speak up for the neglected half of the world, where I live. While I doubt that I have the necessary breadth of knowledge, somebody ought to take on the task of rebuttal rather than admit there’s nothing both sacred and worth visiting on half of the planet.
If I were focused on architecture, I would think of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., or the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah.
If I were focused on history, I would think of the Old North Church in Boston, the Spanish missions in San Antonio (of which the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo, is neither the only nor the most interesting), or the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Or, as we called it back in the day, “Bombingham.”
But I’m just an Oklahoma Indian, and I think about the sacred and the beautiful in a different manner that I’ll describe in part II. I will dare to nominate an Indigenous Eight, knowing that I’m sure to be blown away by ICTMN readers, but somebody has to start the discussion.
This story was originally published December 28, 2014.