It’s National Prayer Day. Also, the president signed an executive order to remove the threat over churches the last several decades (since 1954) monitoring their speech on penalty of removing their tax exempt status.
So, for today’s post I’m repeating a part of the Spherical Model website, under the Civilization section.
Religious Freedom Is Necessary to Civilization
No one can be forced to believe something. It isn’t how our human minds work. We can be persuaded, shown overwhelming evidence, encouraged to believe, but we cannot be forced. The problem is, in an oppressive society (as most historical societies have been, and many are today) we can be forced to appear to believe.
There was an article in the Religion section of the local paper some time ago, in which several different religious leaders were asked what they thought were the most dangerous religious beliefs. The common answer was, “that you belong to the one true church.” And I thought, what’s dangerous about that? If you’re a pastor who makes your money by how many generous believers you have, then you, personally, might feel threatened that some people out there with different beliefs actually think they have the truth. But what would be the purpose of choosing a religion if you didn’t believe you were finding the truth? Wouldn’t you just keep looking until you found one you could believe held the truth about how we should worship God and how we should behave toward one another?
One clergyman, from a place where no proselytizing among members of his religion is allowed, said he thought proselytizing was the most dangerous threat. And I thought, in his country, it’s only a threat to those few who dare to believe something other than the state religion, who if they answer simple questions about their beliefs might be seen as breaking the law, which could be life-threatening to them. But a threat to his religion? I don’t see how.
I am still a little surprised they didn’t all offer the obvious answer: the belief that it is righteous to kill people for believing something different from you. That is clearly a lot more dangerous to religious people than people who believe they have found a true church or people who share their beliefs.
In religious thought there is nothing so dangerous—and illogical—as killing because of religious beliefs. If someone believes differently from you, it means that, based on what they know so far, in the context of their life experiences and interests, they haven’t been persuaded to believe what you believe. You can’t persuade them that you have found the truth by threatening to kill them; you can only persuade them, if you’re in that oppressive power position, that if they value their life they’d better pretend to have been persuaded, and better give every outward sign of belief.
Oppression is uncivilized. Always. It’s untenable that a religion intended to improve people’s hearts and minds accepts summarily mowing people down because they were born into a different culture and taught a different belief. I don’t think this can accurately be considered religious thought; it is politically tyrannical thought. It is the thought of people who want to increase their power over others by eliminating their enemy, and they happen to choose the name of a religion as their excuse for power lust.
A religion’s strongest rightful punishment is excommunication, a declaration that an individual’s beliefs or behaviors are so far out of line with the religion that the church does not acknowledge that person’s claim of membership.
Wherever you see a religion claiming it has the right to execute people, not even for evil acts but simply for their beliefs, you can be absolutely certain you are not looking at people seeking closeness to God. You’re looking at the same run-of-the-mill tyrant types that have thirsted for power throughout history.
Likewise, there is no circumstance in which having a state-sponsored religion is actually intended to increase the faith of the people; it is always to eliminate dissent. The state—the governing entity that the people have ceded power to—has no moral sense in and of itself. So ceding to the state the decision of what religious beliefs to hold is more foolhardy than ceding just about any other personal responsibility related to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Belief that the state knows best is a weak populace’s excuse for giving in to oppressors.
[A smaller, non-political, unit of society, such as a family or a church community, can have a preferred religion. That belief can be a civilizing influence and philosophical bond. But that happens when the members choose the belief, and choose to associate, not because the governmental entity has prescribed it. At the time of the founding, only the federal government was constitutionally prohibited from establishing a state religion; the separate states were allowed. Several colonies had state religions. Connecticut continued for some time after the founding; Massachusetts continued to levy a religious tax so every man would support a church of his choice. I think we agree now, though, that any government entity at any level prescribing religion is taking from the individual’s freedom to choose. And it is only in the choosing that religion has power to improve the human heart.]
In ancient history, it was nearly always the practice of a tyrant taking over a people to force them to bow down and worship whatever idol the tyrant insisted on (quite often himself as deity). Religious uniformity was a unifying dictatorial force. And tyrants claiming religious reasons will use the very same methods for gaining power that atheist tyrants use.
In a number of countries in the world today, it is illegal to say anything against a particular religion with many violent adherents (adherents being a relative term, but they describe themselves as believers). I trust that 90% or more of the adherents of this religion are peace loving and live their religion because they are seeking to be closer to God. But a surprising majority in some countries believe that there are circumstances in which terrorism—purposefully killing innocents in as large numbers as can be accomplished (and not as part of a defensive war)—is an acceptable practice.
That is mental derangement on a grand scale. There are no such circumstances. Terrorism is a savage act. And it is a tyrannical act; the purpose is to create chaos to persuade the innocent to succumb to the rule of the tyrant. It is never a civilizing religious act. Never. Its perpetrators cannot have a civilized reason for committing the terrorist act. The only reason is savage desire for tyranny.
That terrorism increases in horror is purposeful—to instill greater fear. If there is enough chaotic fear, a sense of danger, that the oppressor can persuade people he is capable of curing, then the oppressor gains power, and that is his goal. That there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who are willing to accept such horror does not bode well for the planet. It was horrifying to find that the savages recruited suicide bombers, persuading them they were giving their lives in the pursuit of horror. In spring 2008 the horror level was raised when these tyrannists recruited two mentally deficient women to be suicide bombers, presumably without their understanding or consent. And the terrorists did this despicable act on purpose to increase the horror, since the run-of-the-mill suicide bomber no longer causes the same gut-wrenching reaction around the world.
Using the spherical model allows us to see that an act as uncivilized as terrorism against innocents is both savage and tyrannical; the behavior is polar opposite of civilization and freedom. There is no possible outcome for civilization to continue except to prevent, by every means necessary, any terrorist act, and in addition to persuade the world to choose civilization and be willing to sacrifice and fight for it, with absolutely no sympathy for terrorism.
I don’t know what means the peaceful, actual followers of this religion should use to root out the evil terrorist fringe. But they must condemn the terrorism—including any rationale the terrorists use to claim it is their right. Many have done so. But unless virtually all adherents condemn terrorism, and find a way to make that belief public, the overall religion will be rightly condemned for condoning savagery, which makes it by definition a false religion unworthy of society’s respect. I hope they find a way to bring forward the civilized sectors and expel the savagery from among them, so that their real religion can do good for society as a whole.
Just adding this video here, about freedom of religion—our first, God-given right.