Hope you’re all having a happy hump day! Today has been an eventful day of nothingness for me thus far. I was thinking about how people flirt with one another earlier today, and eventually my brain got around to wondering about religious freedoms. I know, seems like I missed a couple spaces in between points A and B, but hey, sometimes the mind jumps around unpredictably. That’s part of life.
So how do people define religious freedom? I think most people recognize it as the right to practice religious beliefs as they choose. That sounds fine and dandy, but as we have noticed in recent extremist attacks, some people take warped, violent approaches to religion. Not Muslims, by the way, or the vast majority of Islamic peoples. But very specific groups of extremists (Klu Klux Klan, anyone? That’s a Christian group). So clearly religious freedom does not equal the right to practice religious beliefs as they choose.
I think a better definition is “the right to practice religious beliefs as they choose, so long as they do not directly impose or punish others for their personal religious beliefs.” This is a pretty secular definition, which is too bad for a lot of bible thumpers, because an aspect of Christianity is to attempt conversion, along with several other religions. It’s the argument to keep Creationism in schools. That’s imposing religious beliefs in a secular learning environment. I’m sorry if that hurts feelings.
Of course, the other side of this is that, to be free to practice religion, includes allowing those people to trust their own explanations of the world’s creation, in spite of scientific evidence otherwise. So we are stuck with a hierarchy of values that are in conflict with one another. Do we value religious freedom or education more? Some would argue that the Bill of Rights protects religion first, along with assembly and so on, and therefore is the primary law we should follow. Others will recognize that we have a distinct, intentional separation of Church and State for a specific reason—so that religions cannot impose their ideas that are against the development of intellectual thought.
The reality is that (public) schools are made to include all religions, as well as those who choose not to be religious. If a bible thumper imposes that creationism, a distinctly Christian ideology (at best, it’s a monotheistic ideology), is what everyone must learn, what is to prevent another religion, say, a revived Norse religion, or even Satanism if it were to gain popularity, from imposing its own ideas? The reality is that, as Jay-Z put it, “life starts when the church ends.” It’s totally acceptable to have beliefs, and even to practice them publicly. I have my own ideas about religion. But keep them just that—personal beliefs. Otherwise, we really aren’t that much better than the states we condemn for imposing religious sanctions on minority groups.