Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

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

About these ads

February 19, 2012 - Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. JOHN 12:8
    For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
    In the 12th chapter of the gospel according to John, we see a wonderful story about a woman named Mary. Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The previous chapter we find the account of the man Lazarus, who had been dead and buried for four days, being miraculously raised from the dead by Jesus.
    32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
    39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
    40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
    Mary saw the glory of God that day as her dead brother came forth from the dead, alive wearing grave clothes. (In other words he was all wrapped up like a mummy)
    Both Martha and Mary believed …” 27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
    Now back in chapter 12 Mary, forever grateful, full of faith in Christ, demonstrates her love, devotion, faith, and thanksgiving to Jesus by offering to him the most expensive gift she could. The act of offering such a gift was a great sacrifice for her. Possibly, she may have given up any opportunity for her to be married in the future.
    This gift was hers. It was in her possession. She had the right to do whatever she pleased with it.
    She could keep it. She could destroy it. She could give it away. She decides to take her gift, her possession and demonstrate her gratitude and faith to “minister” to Jesus.
    Judas, with selfish and perverse motives, rebukes her and tries to manipulate her with guilt, saying they could have sold the ointment and gave the proceeds to the poor.
    1. It was not Judas’ decision
    2. It was not even his business
    3. He was just trying to manipulate her for his own good
    4. Judas was a known thief, trying to get his own gain.
    5. Judas had no intention to give to the poor
    Jesus knowing this comes to the defense of a WOMAN. Puts Judas in his place and basically calls him on the carpet.
    This is not about helping the poor. This is about the love and gratefulness of a woman and the corrupt and perverse attempt at robbery from Judas.
    Jesus rightly observed and commented, “For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.”
    This was not a doctrinal statement! It was an observation! It was a true observation!
    The same account in Mark tells us that we should help the poor.
    To imply that Christians believe since the poor will always be with us, we should do nothing to help, is a DISHONEST characterization of both Christ and Christianity. No such idea exists in the heart of God, Jesus, or those who follow.
    To say God is not merciful toward the poor is like saying since we as humans are imperfect and “fall short” or sin, then we might as well just sin all the more because God doesn’t really care. (After all we cannot get rid of sin; there will always be sin in the world)
    I find this characterization of the religious to be very dishonest and simply errant. Your logic is flawed, perhaps intentionally.
    You sir are exactly guilty of the same thing you accuse others of. Judge not lest you be judged!

    Comment by Kerry | February 23, 2012 | Reply

  2. You can’t use reason to change a religious person’s thinking. But I am curious if your rational position could change a political person’s thinking.

    You say, “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 agree. This is a classical liberal philosophy (today only consistently applied by libertarian-leaning thinkers).

    When this position is applied to other areas of public policy, might both sides be missing the point on the religious freedom/contraception debate? Might not the real question be, does someone have the “right” to the services/labor of another person? Or, do I have the “right” to receive healthcare services from you?

    If we say “no,” it seems that these employers, religious or not, have a fair position to consider if they choose to not pay for a particular service that raises the premium cost on their plans, no?

    Or, if the argument is, “government decided what the standard of care must be,” are we simply replacing one belief system with another? After all, I didn’t agree to that just like I didn’t agree to the church’s position on the morality of the behavior.

    Would it not simply be best to let individuals decide what they want to pay for and leave employers and government out of it?

    Comment by seantrapani | April 22, 2012 | Reply

    • It would be great to let individuals divide what they want to pay. The problem is that many, if not most, people who have health issues just can’t afford to pay for the care they need. If we took employers and government out of the equation, thousands of people would likely die needlessly. Employers should not be responsible for health insurance, government should. Every European country offers health care to all of its citizens. Most of these countries have healthier populations, and their economies are just a robust as ours, for the most part. The U.S. Constitution specifically states that one of the main purposes for it’s creation is to promote the general welfare. I would say that insuring adequate health care all fits that goal.

      Comment by James Walker | April 23, 2012 | Reply

      • Thanks for the response, James. You’ve raised a number of potential discussion points in your reponse, but for the sake of brevity, I’d only ask one follow up. Is there anything that government CAN’T do in order to “promote the general welfare?” If there are some prohibitions (such as things done by the government that would violate the Bill of Rights), is this not a fair position to consider? And if there are no prohibitions to achieve the end of “general welfare,” they why have a Constitution at all?

        Comment by seantrapani | April 24, 2012


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 391 other followers

%d bloggers like this: