Thursday, February 22, 2007

Protecting what?

Attorney General Launches Initiative to Protect Religious Freedom:The First Freedom Project

"Preserving religious liberty requires an ongoing commitment to protecting this most basic freedom for people of all faiths." --Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales

Call me a cynic, but this has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom, of course. It's all about imposing a specific religious belief on those of us that don't want religion imposed on public life. Its going to allow the favored group -- evangelical religious-right christians, who have dominated political life recently -- to demand all kinds of concessions from employers, teachers, zoning boards etc. This is all about special rights for a religion (and, in the history of this country, a specific religious belief), not about religious freedom.

I don't get it. Who is being prevented from exercising their religious beliefs? Who is being forced to deny their religion? Whose rights have been abridged by any law or behavior of the government?

Apparently the people who think that their religion requires that they force it on others. When they are prevented from making other people follow their specific beliefs, they believe they are being "prevented" from observing it. Sorry. That doesn't match reality.

I understand that I'm generalizing the opinion and actions of a small fringe group. But I can't help feeling that those people claiming that they are being persecuted, that Christianity is somehow threatened by the views of other, aren't living the same world that I am. Do good, and I will fully support you, whether I agree with your beliefs or not. Act like a club-carrying thug and I will try to make sure you're disarmed.

Much of the complaints that I see are because other religions are now getting the same sort of concessions and recognition that have historically been given to the Christian faith in America. Whether you ascribe to the mistaken belief that we are "a Christian nation" by design or not, Christianity has been a cornerstone belief of the US. For the most part, this has been a positive influence. However, we no longer can claim that Christianity has primacy -- the world is a small place nowadays, and people who believe in many other definitions of God abound. If you believe they are all mistaken, that's well and good. They think the same of you, as have most of the people who populated the earth since we climbed down out of the trees. But accepting that the differing beliefs of others should have the same cultural and social treatment is quite a stretch for some people, and is quite threatening to them.

One of my friends tried to explain to me once why 'tolerance' of other religions was dangerous and disengenuous, and I have to admit that I never quite got the argument. Tolerance somehow validates alternate beliefs and weakens the faith of those who go along with it? From my perspective, it's a non-issue. A person of any faith criticizing someone of another faith for having the "wrong beliefs" is quite astounding to me.

I've been reading 'Misquoting Jesus' in the last week or so -- and despite the title, the book is actually not a condemnation of any religous belief or the bible itself, it's a rather long-winded explanation of textual criticism and an explaination of the process of copying and deriving versions of the New Testament and how we know what the "original" looked like, even though we have never seen it. More like "how do we know what we know?" Very interesting. What we believe is so firmly entrenched in what we have been given as resource material, it was interesting to trace how we can trace how that source material has changed from early versions to newer ones and map the general beliefs of any age of Christianity to the influence of the written word. I strongly recommend it.

Woah. That digressed. Sorry!

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