Religious Freedom is a Paradox

If there’s one thing you have to credit religion with, it’s their ability to insert themselves into things, often painfully and occasionally in a way that merits jail time, but mysteriously enough results in no real punishment. Religion is so skilled at doing this they manage to convince throngs of people to believe without them, the fabric of their lives would fall apart. Take marriage for instance, how many Christians in North America believe with absolute certainty the legal contract of marriage is bound to their religion? They are convinced that the union of minorities they revile, formerly other skin pigmentation and now sexual orientation, ought to be restricted, if not outright banned.

“From the beginning, the church has taught that marriage is a lifetime relationship between one man and one woman,” the bishop wrote in his diocese’s newspaper The Courier. “It is a sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ to provide the special graces that are needed to live according to God’s law and to give birth to the next generation”

In Montana, there are serious legislative attempts to make homosexuality a crime, a reminder bigotry can remain veiled for only so long. The fact this is happening on the eve of a new decade in the 21st century should be a rude wakeup call for anyone still slumbering in America. Your country is being systematically dismantled by religious conservatives intent on creating a hybrid of theocracy and democracy. As you can imagine, these two elements are completely incompatible with one another, and it’s precisely this reason that the very founding document of your nation forbade this. The Founding Fathers knew first hand the M.O. of theocrats intent on suppressing the rights of not only those they disagreed with, but also of their own flock.

Marriage isn’t a religious institution. It’s a contract a person enters according to the rules of our society, not those of Rome nor those of the local mullahs. Meanwhile, religions proclaim they can dictate for others, who don’t share their delusions, what their own rights are. How then are we supposed to react to the free exercise of religion when it interferes with the freedom of others? It reminds me of the asinine utterances of Christian fundamentalists who interpret the Constitution as meaning: “you have freedom of religion, not freedom FROM religion”.

How can I pretend to be surprised when religion itself is antithetical to freedom? What has historically been the punishment for the crime of apostasy in Christianity? The Old Testament makes no bones about it: kill anyone who tries to turn you away from Yahweh, your God. Islam may still take the notion of deserters very seriously indeed, but it’s only been recently that the crimes of heresy haven’t been investigated by Christian Inquisitions.

There’s a reason “free-thought” is associated with atheism and agnosticism; it is only by the virtue of being free to contemplate a Universe without a creator we can come to be fully liberated. Perhaps a person who does so will still continue to believe in a God, but the ability to contemplate otherwise, even for a brief moment, is not something our ancestors benefited from. In many parts of the world that have abandoned their murderous campaigns against apostates, it is the fear of persecution, death and alienation that prevents so many others from coming forward and announcing they too have nothing one would characterize as belief. What then, do we make of freedom when these institutions are in positions of power?

Comments (5)

  • avatar

    Anonymous

    A very good and emotional entry, and certainly correct. These religious nutters have been oppressing for thousands of years and it’s gone on for far too long. This world, in order to become civilized, will need to shed their skin of religion and, more importantly as it includes religion, superstitious belief altogether. If the general public were more skeptical, the world would save itself many, many problems.

  • avatar

    Aegis

    It has gone on far too long. It won’t, for too much longer.

    The past is their country.

    They do things differently there.

  • avatar

    J.N. Hudson

    Recent decades have seen the politicization christian fundamentalism in america to a degree not seen since the Puritans. With this politicization has come this buzzword laden myth of a “christian nation” founded upon “judeo-christian values” (The judeo part added only since the end of WWII.) that comes complete with it’s own fanciful backstory of devout, yet incredibly naive founding fathers who just couldn’t imagine that there would ever be non christians living in america and therefore felt no need to inclued the religious identity of the nation or even so much as mentioned any “god” in it’s founding document. The cornerstone of this myth rests on equal parts willful ignorance of what the founders of actually wrote on the subject and accepting that the proponents of this mythology know what the founders “really” meant.

    Freedom of religion must, by it’s very nature, be absolute, For a country to have freedom of religion it must also have freedom from religion. Where there is a specfic state religion or denomination there is, by default, an implication that the state religion will not only receive special treatment and consideration, but will also wield influence on law, policy, and police power.

    Many of those that advocate this “christian nation” myth speak of Thomas Jefferson’s “Wall of Seperation” between church and state a being “one-way” with religious institutions able to exert influence on the state. That dosen’t foster a free society, but rather a tyranny where the majority religion uses it’s influence to shape policy and law in such a way as to impose it’s religious beliefs on the whole of population. No matter how noble or good intentioned such an undertaking, sooner or later it WILL become corrupted, sooner or later it WILL be used as a tool of oppression, sooner or later it WILL use it’s influence over the government to exercise police power against non beievers and those of other religions, sooner or later it WILL attempt to subvert and twist the law to outlaw open dissent, critisism, and anything else is perceives to be threatening or offensive.

    Examples of the aforementioned things are all around us
    - The push to deny same-sex marriage
    - Advocating the outlaw homosexuality altogether
    - The call to disenfranchise an entire religion
    - Advocating the overturning of Roe v. Wade because they think that they should have a say over a womans body.
    - The near constant attempts to sneak both Creationism and biblical instruction into public school ciriculum.

    And those are but the barest scratch on the surface. The proponents of this myth support freedom of religion, only so long as it’s their own religion, They support want freedom of speech, as long as that speech is agreeing with them. They don’t don’t care for equality under the law as many see themselves as superior to non christians. And they most certainly have no regard for the truth as demonstrated by their willingness to lie through their teeth or bear false witness at the drop of a hat whenever it would benefit their position. This fairy tale “christian nation” they long to bring about would not be substantively different from the islamic theocricies that they condemn.

    I do somewhat disagree with you about marriage being a religious institution. Marriage likely began as equal parts religous and political institution, mainly because religion and politics were basicaly one in the same at that point in history. However, the fundie argument is moot because christianity has no exclusive claim on marriage seeing as how it predates most, if not all modern day religions, and it certainly predates all the abrahamic religions.

  • avatar

    Scott

    “Religious Freedom” makes me think of this clip from Boston Legal. I miss that show.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TegIxJUsE0

  • avatar

    Michael

    @ Scott,

    Oh. So. Epic. That Boston Legal clip was amazing! It was like the atheist’s argument reduced to the basics, and served up in a little truffle of awesomeness. I never watched that show, but hot damn if I didn’t miss out in something. I also noted that Jacob felt the same way. Great find, bud :-)

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