I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
3-inch stainless steel spikes, hammered by a heavy mallet through the hands of a pentitent, nail him to a rough wooden cross in Mumbai. Bloodied and torn figures slowly trudge up a cobbled street in Madrid lugging yet another cross. True believers reenact scenes imagined in the dark recesses of troubled minds.
Perhaps we can imagine their devotion and admire it, but we know that on the other side of that devotion is, too often, a tenacious intolerance of those who do not harbor their same deep, pained feelings. I grew up in the church and actually enjoyed a lot of it. I liked hearing the wise words of ancient figures that have traveled down to us over the millenia. There are many insights I carry with me today.
It never occurred to me, however, to wish to impose my private religious beliefs on anyone else. Everyone has to come to their own understanding and belief. If someone is trying to impose their beliefs on me, is that religious freedom? I am free to reject them, until I can’t.
Theocracies across time have imposed what others should believe and increasingly harsh punishment awaited (awaits) those who rebel. I know a woman today with 2 children at the age of sexual activity who will not even discuss the belief of her church that contraception of any sort is against the teaching. She would rather her children risk so much in their learning stages and remain abstinent and celibate instead; yeah, right, how’s that working out for you?
Politicians today talk openly about their agenda for when they get in positions of greater power. Their agenda will be imposed on others, like it or not. In the name of their religious freedom, arcane and discredited policies can be imposed on me, impinging my freedom of religion.
Churches in our country operate, to a large degree, in a tax-free bubble. They are catered to and accommodated to an extraordinary degree. When, however, they and their minions invade the territory of others’ beliefs, they have stepped over a line. I don’t want one dime of my money going to any group that attempts to force their will on anyone else, while being subsidized.
Co-equal with freedom of religion is freedom from religion.