THE BLOG
10/02/2014 02:05 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

Why Do We Poke Each Other in the Heart?

Ekaterina Minaeva via Getty Images

"It's sprinkling."

"No, it's raining."

"No, it's sprinkling."

"No, it's raining."

"My mom told me it's sprinkling, not raining!"

"My mom said it's raining!"

I've watched this video about ten times, mostly because it's adorable. But around the fifth or sixth viewing, I came to a realization: This video of two toddlers arguing about whether it's raining or sprinkling is the most perfect representation of religious conflict that I have come across in many years.

I've had a lot of conversations with friends about how difficult it can be to go from thinking our parents are perfect beings who mysteriously know the answer to any question to recognizing them as mere mortals, fumbling around in the dark like the rest of us. As we grow up, we (hopefully) understand that they can be imperfect while still overflowing with the love that has sustained us our entire lives. But it can be jarring to realize that our parents are not all-knowing gods. And watching these kids reminds me of that; for them, there simply is no reality that exists other than the one Mom says is true. When each child tries to convince the other that theirs is the only reality, the poking begins.

Now, indulge me for a moment and look at the lengths to which people have gone to force their version of reality onto others in the name of this thing we call God. Think about all the religious wars that have taken place in human history, the degree to which we have made each other suffer because we find it unacceptable that two different versions of the same thing can exist.

The thing is, the real teachers all speak the same language.

Jesus: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

Confucius: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."

Buddha: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

Muhammad: "As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them."

Some people like to call this the Golden Rule.

The individuals who spoke these words lived centuries apart, in vastly different cultures, with dramatically different lives, yet they arrived at the same conclusions. Today, the followers of one of these men kill the followers of another one of these men simply because they aren't followers of the same men.

"My mom told me it's sprinkling, not raining!"

At its best, religion can be the glue that binds us together, the grout we stuff between the tiles of the corporeal world. Embodied within every faith are principles for living a fulfilling life. Where we get stuck, though, is when we insert our own insecurities into the equation and end up poisoning the well for everyone. Sometimes when a lot of unhappy people get together, they co-opt an idea to bring everyone else down with them. With Islamic extremism at the forefront of our collective consciousness, this is something we deal with every day. The things that human beings do to each other in the name of religion are utterly repulsive, yet they cannot surprise us. ISIS is not a revelation in the world of well-poisoning.

I watch these adorable children argue about whether it's raining or sprinkling, and part of what makes their fervent arguments so cute is that they are absurd. Back and forth they go, proudly and confidently declaring their truth as though it is the only truth. We are grown-ups, though, and we know that raining and sprinkling are synonyms for one another, that they are two ways of describing the same thing.

I have no idea where we'll be tomorrow, much less a year or five or ten years from now. Some people will probably continue to refuse to acknowledge any reality besides their own. Perhaps, though, with all this social media interconnectivity and TEDtalk talking, we can take a few moments and realize that after 2,000-plus years we're still arguing about whether it's raining or sprinkling.

And maybe then we can stop poking each other in the heart, because if this kid's face is any indication, it really, really hurts.