Freedom of Religion

I’m probably not going to be saying anything here that hasn’t been said before, but it chaps my hide so I’m going to say it anyway.

When our country was founded, one of the founding principles was freedom of religion. Religion was core to the life of every person in the colonies and the countries they had come from, even if they personally did not believe. Church was not only the primary social venue, it was where people received their news, their education, where public records were recorded and kept, and where people were laid to rest. Whether you believed or not, the churches were fundamental to every part of life. However, especially in Europe, the churches went beyond simply being ubiquitous to being very powerful. The few denominations in existence held great power in all of the governments, from creating and enforcing laws to crowning the rulers. People who spoke or acted against these powerful political bodies were ostracized, punished, driven from their lands, bankrupted, even killed.

So when our founding fathers looked to create an ideal government, they put forth the ideals of freedom of religion in the form of separation of church and state. With this in place, no one could be punished by the state for what they believed or how they worshipped, unless in doing so they violated some of the other laws. It took quite a while for this to really be well enforced — there are countless examples of citizens in this country having lands and property taken, being denied the right to vote, and other injustices. But there were a lot of things we didn’t get right in the early years, and we’re getting better now.

But in the course of getting better, I fear that we are starting to go to an extreme that hurts us almost as badly as the Church of England hurt the early Pilgrims. In fact, we are starting to embrace a new state religion — secularism.

Of course, many people will deny this. ‘Secularism is not a religion, duh,’ they will say. But according to the dictionary, one of the definitions of ‘religion’ is ‘A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.’ And with the way that many people argue and pursue the complete elimination of references to a deity, it can easily be described as ‘zeal’ and ‘conscientious devotion.’

If the secularists agree to that point, the rejoinder could no doubt be, ‘so what? Mine is the TOLERANT belief system, not oppressive and intolerant like those religious wackos.’ To which I must point out that it has been many, many decades since there was true oppression by religious organizations in this country. You are not required by law to pay any kind of tithes. You cannot be denied housing or education or a job because of a different religion. You can’t be thrown into jail because you don’t believe or be tortured or killed because you spoke against a church. However, more and more these days it is becoming difficult to live a religion in this country. At this point in time, the problems seem minor. But anytime a group is barred by the government from publically stating or displaying tenets of their belief, particularly when that group is the majority, then we are treading on very thin ice. We can’t pass laws or try to interpret existing laws to punish our citizens for their beliefs. That’s an obvious road that we dare not go down.

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