Freedom to think or not to think
Religion has been both a blessing and a curse on human civilization ever since our ancient ancestors first began seeking answers to all of life’s questions. An unfortunate truth is that a significant percent of folks look to religion for the answers to all of life’s questions — and they look no further than that. Of course our Constitution protects the beliefs of the minority, same as the majority. But a confounding irony is that protecting the minority in some specific instances means protecting the notion that the Constitution should be replaced by the Christian Bible. For example, have you ever heard of the Flat Earth Society? Yeah, it’s a thing. These yahoos really believe the earth is flat, and only about 10,000 years old to boot. Sorry (not sorry), but not all beliefs are equally deserving of respect. It isn’t in anyone’s interest to perpetuate mythology as if it were scientific fact.
Freedom of religion, belief, thought or whatever you wish to call it is a fine thing, so long as objective truth is part of the equation. I honestly believe that most people are interested in knowing the objective truth on any given subject, no matter how unpleasant that truth may be. But there are those who either out of fear or of corrupt intent will deny objective truth to their own detriment or that of others, even to the point of death. What we end up with is cyclical ignorance, bigotry, and yes, child abuse — psychological abuse at the very least. Extreme right wing white evangelicals (ERWEs) go to great lengths to keep any and all information away from their children that would conflict in even the slightest way with their particular brand of religious dogma.
ERWEs represent a clear minority of the country. But given the politics of the GOP, one might easily get the impression that ERWEs are actually the vast majority, not just of self-identifying Christians but of the entire American electorate. Why does that matter? Because the minority would and will force their ERWE beliefs into legislation that affects, nay, denies the freedom of the majority. ERWEs chose to focus on pretty much two topics: abortion and homosexuality (which, interestingly enough, Jesus never discussed in any of the four gospels). Mainstream Christians (MCs) focus on a plethora of social justice issues; poverty, hunger, oppression and the like. MCs see human suffering and reach out to in an attempt to heal and reconcile. ERWEs are all about wrath, judgement and punishment for those who refuse to accept ERWE beliefs.
I struggled needlessly much of my life as a victim of cyclical religious bigotry. Fortunately for me I got out of small-town rural America and was exposed to much more information, reliable information, scientific information, and because of that I have been better equipped to navigate my way through life. I was lucky, as are the thousands of others who were able to escape the bonds of ignorance. But not everyone is so fortunate. And my heart aches for them. I don’t have all the answers to all of life’s questions. None of us does, and none of us ever will. But as we seek those answers together as a civilization, if we put the dogma and religious BS aside, we can grow and learn together and find some of those answers based on shared values: the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Jeff Taylor is a vendor and artist for Street Sense Media.