Religious Freedom: Your Rights Are Special; Your Religion Is Not
No one’s beliefs are beyond question or criticism. Insisting on special special status for your religious beliefs has nothing to do with your freedom of religion and everything to do with your belief that your religion is somehow better than everyone else’s. You have the freedom to believe what you choose and to live your life accordingly, unless you try to infringe upon the rights of others. You do not have the freedom to insist that everyone else live by your beliefs.
I respect your right to believe as you wish but that respect only goes as far as me not trying to stop you from believing as you do, or insist that you believe as I do. That respect does not include respect for your religion’s ideas, concepts, or particular moral code.
I expect you to question my beliefs and to challenge them. I have no problems or qualms accepting your challenges to my beliefs. I believe that if we don’t constantly question, we stagnate, then we stop learning and stop growing. I question everything, even my own beliefs, constantly. This brings a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.
You, on the other hand, recoil in dismay when your beliefs are questioned and claim that you are being persecuted and that your right to freedom of religion is being infringed upon. You are wrong. Your beliefs are being questions, challenged, and even ridiculed. Your right to believe them are not being questioned. Your right to practice your beliefs and to worship are not being questioned.
Freedom of religion does not give your the right to insist that every public meeting or event be preceded with a prayer to your god. It does not give you the right to insist that laws be passed to restrict the actions and speech of others not of your faith just because they don’t hold to the same moral beliefs as you. Freedom of religion, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, also implies the freedom to have different religions, or even freedom from religion. It implies freedom of conscience.
The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution was enacted in order to prevent this country becoming a theocracy, as were most countries of Europe at the time, where Kings reigned by the grace of God. The Founding Fathers, in whose memories of the vicious religious wars of scant generations past were still a powerful and terrible memory, created the Establishment Clause to forestall just such terrible religious inspired strife in this country.
Today we see our society polarized by religiously motivated groups on the right who would push their vision of a Christian nation under their particular god upon all of us. Their titular political arm, the Republican party, which once fought against religiously supported slavery, has now become a tool for those who breed hatred against, homosexuals, the poor, women, and the non-christian or non-religious. Their justification? Their religion. Their Bible.
Their belief that their Bible tells them that homosexuality is a sin worthy of death(1) that the poor will always be with us(2) and will be rewarded in heaven(3) and therefore somehow can be ignored here on earth); that women must be silent(4) and submit to their husbands(5). They claim that their god is a god of love and mercy. Their Bible, their words, and their actions show otherwise; that their God is an angry, merciless, and vengeful god and that they are a bigoted, racist, misogynistic people who use their holy book to foist their twisted view of morality on the rest of us.
We all have the right to our own religion, our own beliefs. We all have the right to worship as we wish. We do not have the right, none of us, is to have our beliefs put up on a pedestal that is above question, challenge or even ridicule. What none of us has is the privilege of having our special religious beliefs, modes of worship, and morals elevated above those of anyone else. The freedom of religion granted by the U.S. Constitution implies, above all, equality of all beliefs, where no one belief or religion, especially that of majority, is above any other.
1 Leviticus 18 and 20
2 Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8
3 Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20
4 1 Corinthians 14:34
5 1 Peter 3:5
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