In our American society, there are few things that are held more dear to the people of the United States than that of personal freedom. The idea that no matter what is happening, whether it be at home, at work, at play, that we are free to choose what we want to do with our time. This idea has stood the test of time, and is a good one! Who wants to be told what to do every waking hour of every day? Now, this writing isn’t about the reality of that claim or how true it may turn out to be, especially in the Day of the Dollar (or Euro, or Pound, etc.). No, this is about another idea very closely related to the first. This idea is the freedom of religion, and the freedom to do whatever you like concerning your personal beliefs. We are lucky to live in a society that believes that personal freedom is of paramount importance, especially in regard to religion and beliefs; after all people used to be killed or tortured simply for choosing the wrong gods to worship. However, in such a society, a society that believes in ultimate individual freedom of religion, how do we draw a line between my beliefs and your beliefs?
In American political culture there is a very large divide between those on the Left and those on the Right. For this purpose I would choose to focus on the two extremes of either spectrum, the Far Left and the Far Right, rather those that are predominantly atheists and those that are predominantly religious. Ho ho! now I know just because you may be one or the other does not reflect your political leaning on its own! But for the purposes of this discussion it is far easier to make the points known in such a way that can be understood and debated without getting lost in political minutiae and be forced to go into painstaking detail.
Now, as I was saying, there are those on the Far Right and Far Left, one that can at times be fundamentally religious and on the other militantly atheist. You know who I’m talking about, I’m talking about the Glenn Becks, the Fred Phelps’, the evangelical Christians that would rather see their religious ideals imposed on the country in order to serve their own agendas. These guys are definitely on the fringe, and that is who I’m talking about, The Far Right Fringe. On the other side you have people, well..you have people like me. People who believe that religion is an inherently harmful thing, something that if left unchecked can grow into poisonous fundamentalism. People on this fringe of the Left will do everything in their power to ensure that religion loses its grip on morality and policy and allows this country to move into an age of Reason and logic.
These two ideas as you see are completely opposed to one another and yet both types of people live in the same culture and society and are governed by the same laws. Now we can bring this back to the original point on Freedom of Religion. On one side we have the Right, those that wish to impose theocratic ideals on society. Ignoring the direct contradiction with the Freedom of Religion ideal, these people are not evil nor do they “hate” America. Well, I suppose it is only evil if they know they are doing it only to further their own agenda, but that would be true of any person that is intentionally trying to mislead others, but I digress. These people do not have the intent of making America a “worse place” to live, on the contrary they believe that their religious moral code is the best way for people to live. You or I may believe that this moral code is evil, but that doesn’t make the person evil in and of itself, just the idea.
On the other side we have the Left that fights against this very religious ideology, the idea that any kind of religiosity, specifically Christianity, is inherently bad. Likewise with those on the Right, these people don’t hate America, but rather hold Freedom of Religion in as high a regard as anyone else. However for the Left Freedom of Religion is all well and fine up to the point it begins to effect those that are not of that religion. This may seem in direct contradiction of the Freedom of Religion, but wait! Is it really? Is the idea of shutting down a belief system that has built-in to it “Spread the word” really against Freedom of Religion? We must look at the end result If each side were to have its own way.
If the Right were to have its way there would be social and some financial laws dictating the lives of Americans according to the Christian ideals. Ignoring the many different denominations of Christianity, it is safe to assume that certain things would take place such as bans on abortions, homosexuality, and “sinful” acts. However, we would also spill over into our Freedom of Religion problem. What of those that are not Christian? What of those that are on the Left that are directly opposed? How should they be treated? To answer all of these questions we would have to turn to the religious texts and doctrines on this, and I think we all know what the Good Book says about non-believers. In essence, it would not be a pretty place to live, even if you were not on the Fringe Left.
Let us flip roles, and place the Fringe Left in control, those that would crush religion where it brushed against the Freedom of Religion. In this America there would be no institutionalized prayer in government organizations or proselytizing of religious ideals from public individuals. Social laws would become based on science and evidence, constantly changing to meet the changing needs of the people. Religion would be removed from schools and given the explanation as a critical part of American history, but no longer as an idea on even footing with the Scientific Method. In essence-
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Sounds like a pretty cool place to live right?