The Real Freedom of Religion
- Author Gerry Kramer
- Published April 2, 2019
- Word count 2,462
Religious absolutists are everywhere. It seems like almost every religion essay I’ve written has to do with religious absolutists in some way. Why? Because I want people to know about the trouble they can cause. Now, grant it, I believe that no person is universally better or worse than anyone else, but that thirst for the unification of beliefs just displeases me. We have already solved the issue of discrimination based on race and gender (or have we?), but discrimination based on faith is still thriving.
According to multiple sources, atheists are the most hated group in America. Many Christians would say that America is a Christian nation, and I agree. It is too much of one. Trump mentioned that "Our Christian heritage would be cherished, protected, and defended as you’ve never seen before." And he also said, "The first thing we need to do is to give our churches their voice back, it’s been taken away." The truth of the matter, at least to me, is that the churches’ voices have not been taken away, they’ve been overly amplified.
(Please don’t take any of this personally if you are a devout Christian. I do not mean to offend anyone because of their beliefs, I’m just stating my view in this conflicting world. If you are a religious absolutist reading this, all I will say is that there is time to change and we have different views on things and we should both respect that.)
Eight states ban atheists from running for, let alone holding, public office. That already says a lot. But there’s more: we have "under God" in our pledge and "in God we trust" on our currency. "God Bless America" is a famous patriotic song and we have "so help me God" in our presidential oath. What would happen if "God" was replaced with "Allah"?
If you watch a YouTube video about religion with a lot of views (I watch a lot of Crash Course, I love those guys! They have a video on the history of Christianity, and it’s a good example of what I’m about to talk about.), you will most certainly find a surplus of religious absolutists. You can tell who they are by counting the number of insults they inflict upon those who kindly disagree with what they are saying. You can also find them on websites like debate.org in any religious opinion debates.
One of the debates on debate.org was entitled "Should atheism be illegal?". They're referring to the United States, of course. I was very pleased to see that 87% of voters said no, atheism should not be illegal. I was not one of them. I almost never communicate directly to anyone online about controversial topics like this one, since it permanently unlocks seemingly endless doors for anger and frustration, but I do agree. Many of those people who said no were indeed atheists, but there was a huge influx of theists and Christians out there too. I am happy to see that religious absolutists are the minorities here. If you were a theist person who voted "no" in the poll (or any person who thinks that we should have true freedom of religion), I would like to take this time to thank you. Although we do not share the same beliefs (I'm talking to theists), we agree to disagree. That is the best way to go. You are a kind and compassionate person and you give people their real freedom.
Yet there were ten people in that poll who voted yes. And looking at their reasons why, I can't believe I'm saying this in a public article, but they got my wheels turning. In their main reasons, they rambled about how atheists are "evil" and they are going to turn this society into anarchy, and they want to persecute all theists, and their little shtick. This is just wrong: I am an atheist and I for one do not want to persecute anyone. Atheists are the "everyone else" category in the religious world, and there are religious absolutists in all faiths, but I, and all other atheists I know of, believe in the cause of true religious freedom. If anything, those Christian absolutists want to persecute people because they are atheists or even non-Christians. This is an example of hypocrisy in its most authentic form.
I will now provide authentic and fresh words from those people. I will not leave their names in order to protect their identity. But here is what those absolutists think:
"Atheism should be banned in the United States because it is very wrong, although I am not that religious, I do agree that it should be illegal. I seriously think these atheists should read the Bible! I hate it when some kids these days say that they are atheist, it is absolutely WRONG."
"Those who disbelieve in God are what I call 'clouded minds'. You don't realize you are one until you are freed from corruption. I know from experience. I was once a disbeliever and then came to realize that people are not educated on who God actually is and how religion and science can coexist."
"Atheists are sinning against God. Jesus said that 'whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven' and atheists are violating this. America is a Christian nation and atheists should respect that. It was founded on Christian principles and you have freedom of religion but not freedom to have no religion. Read the Bible! Repent atheists!"
They should realize that not all atheists have even heard of deities. When two atheists marry and have children, they bring them up to believe whatever they believe. How can you blame someone for being a Jesus-hater if they don't even know who Jesus is? Yes, many atheists (like me) are former Christians, but still, you can't blame someone for believing whatever they believe in.
(Also, keep in mind that many Christians become atheists by reading the Bible.)
Following is one of the many amazing responses from some of the most compassionate people on the "no" side. Not all of them are great because there are some atheist absolutists as well calling God "an imaginary friend", but here is one of the many good ones:
"If you think we should toss the United States Constitution into the nearest garbage pail, then perhaps you might agree that atheism should be illegal. The Constitution explicitly states that religion should have no hand in government, and government should have no hand in religion. If you want to look outside of the United States, we can also think about this as a moral question. Is it moral to outlaw a religious belief? In no way does a person not believing in god outwardly impact the rest of the public. It is not harmful. Since this is so, it would be morally wrong to impose another’s beliefs onto an atheist."
Many people responded to these "yes" arguments referencing the first amendment of our nation's Constitution. The one about freedom of religion. Yes, America was founded by Christians, but at least they cared about religious freedom. The whole point for settlers coming to America in the first place is to have religious freedom. And our founding fathers can relate to this. But not everyone thought this.
In response, those absolutists responded with some of these quotes:
"Freedom of religion? It does not mention anything about atheism, merely changing from one religion to another. Our current Declaration of Human Rights is as corrupt as anyone can guess."
"America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles and they should respect that. The Constitution gives you freedom of religion but not freedom to have no religion. Read the Bible and repent."
The definition of "religion" is very controversial. I should write an article about that. (I love coming up with writing prompts by luck. One of the greatest writing blockers is the cluelessness on what the topic should be, and I have come up with many ways to instantly spawn prompts. I should write an article about that, too! See what I mean?).
Anyway, enough rambling, let's keep going. We still have a long way to go (oh boy!).
My definition for religion is "a set of beliefs that answer the questions of life". Yes, I do think that Confucianism and Daoism are religions because even though they don't believe in god, they provide answers to life's most valuable questions. Atheism is also a religion because it's a belief system. Even though atheism is kind of like the "everyone else" category, atheism still provides answers to these questions religions are meant to answer.
But many absolutists say that a religion has to be a belief system where believers worship a god. Yes, I said A god, not godS! So that definition pretty much just outright excludes polytheism and only includes monotheism.
Some could even argue that Christianity isn't a monotheistic religion since they believe in Satan, which I kind of view as the counterpart of God. You can't believe in one and not the other. You believe in both or neither. Christians believe in both and atheists like me believe in neither. So by that definition, Christians are excluding themselves. But then again, my Christian family members, who are by no means absolutists which I'm extremely joyous about, tell me that Christians believe that Satan is no more than a sneaky angel.
I have read the Bible from start to finish, but being a library in one (It has 73 books, for crying out loud! Hey, I should write an article about that, too!), I don't remember everything from the Bible. There are naturally going to be certain things that I forget. The Christian view of Satan as an angel was apparently one of them.
But anyway, based on that definition of religion that I mentioned a while ago, there are many modern religions that would be excluded. Here are some of them:
Hinduism. Hinduism is one of the biggest religions in the world. They believe in the supernatural and they have moral codes. It is just like a monotheistic religion except that it is not. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. They believe in millions of gods (yeah, you are not having a hallucination, that word is millions). Yes, there is one god to rule them all, Brahma, but they believe in other gods like Vishnu and Lakshmi.
Buddhism. Buddhism is an atheistic religion. It is similar to Confucianism and Daoism. They don't believe in any gods, but they believe in the teachings of a specific person. In this case, it is Buddha. From my research, Buddhists do believe in supernatural spirits, which is why even though Buddhists don't believe in gods, there are spiritual Buddhists temples scattered all across Asia and other parts of the world.
Confucianism and Daoism. Like Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism are atheistic belief systems that believe in the teachings of a person. For Confucianism, it's Confucius. For Daoism, it's Lao Zi. Confucianists believe in things like patriarchy and education to all among other things, and Daoists believe in yin and yang. They do also believe in supernatural spirits because there are Confucianist and Daoist temples all across China, my native country (though I lived in the U.S. for around 99% of my lifetime and I'm half American. My mother is Chinese).
Obviously, atheists and agnostics do not apply either. And as I mentioned earlier, some might argue that Christianity would also not apply.
But please, I beg you, do not scroll down. I want you to take a guess at a religion that WOULD apply to this definition. Take a minute or two to think about it. When you are ready for it, scroll down and find out the shocking truth.
Are you sure?
Okay, here we go!
Albeit Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Daoism, and atheism and agnosticism don't apply to this definition of religion, SATANISM does!
If there is one people group Christians hate, it is those bloodthirsty, cannibalistic, evil, broken-minded Satanists that worship the devil!
There are a couple of things wrong with this. First of all, many "Satanists" would say that they are actually atheists and use Satan as a symbol of pride. Well then, I would say that they are not actually Satanists. They are atheists. One can be both an atheist and a Buddhist, but not a Satanist. Satanism literally means worshipping the devil, believing that the devil exists and worshipping it.
Many people (like me) were brought up to believe that Satanists are completely evil, but many discover that Satanism has its own moral codes that many find legitimate. I don't agree with all of those codes, but I do respect that they have their own beliefs like everyone else. And I did find out that Satanists are not bloodthirsty cannibalistic beasts.
But if a Satanist does not believe that Satan exists, then he is not a Satanist. They only admire Satan as a symbol of pride because they find Satan to be an inspiration. Even though I don't believe God exists, I do admire some of the teachings associated (which I believe were created by men), like judging without prejudice. If only all Christians would actually do that…
But there are real Satanists who worship the devil in this world. Not very many, but not zero either.
So the atheistic Satanists wouldn't count according to that definition, but the real Satanists would. And that is what I call an unknown irony.
So, what must we do in order to achieve real religious freedom? Quite simply, make any form of religious discrimination illegal. Let atheists and non-Christians have the exact same benefits that Christians have. Let them run for public office. Remove all Christian references in our government. Teach people that religious absolutism is never right. Like many ideas, this one may sound too good to be true, and reaching for perfection, we will always find we have two short of arms, but even if we can only imagine infinite perfection in the mind, we can still get closer in reality.
I do feel good because most people are not religious absolutists, but there are still so many of them that it makes me as a member of a minority faith feel uneasy. The founding fathers of this nation were indeed Christians, but they built this place upon freedom. Real freedom of religion, as of right now, applies to everyone but atheists and possibly Satanists. When really, religious freedom of religion should apply to every belief system in the books. That is the only way we can achieve the true goal of liberation.
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