Another Facebook poll — Should Religion Be Made Illegal?
It seems as though someone on Facebook has their knickers in a knot about religion, particularly Christianity. Trust me, it isn’t me coming up with these polls just so I’ll have something to rant about on my blog. But since the question was raised, I’ll throw in my 2¢.
In the United States, criminalizing religion would be a direct violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Was the creator of this poll suggesting that all religions be illegal or just certain ones? Some of the darkest periods of man’s history have occurred when religions were banned, persecuted or annihilated by governments, religions or religions acting as the de facto government. What good could come from making the practice of any religion a crime?
Religion, in and of itself, is not bad. Most, if not all, of the world’s major religions espouse noble and lofty principles and ideals that improve or benefit the human condition. The problems we attribute to religion can actually be attributed to how certain people and institutions interpret and practice their religion. There are many who fervently believe that their religion is the only “true” religion and that anyone who believe something else is wrong and must either be converted or otherwise shown the error of his ways. That’s where religion breaks down. Your holy texts tell you that you should practice tolerance and love your neighbor but then those who make the rules for your religion add the caveat, “but only if they are of the same faith as us.” That’s bullshit.
Scriptures, whether the Bible, the Koran, the teachings of Buddha, or whatever defines your religion, should be taken in the historical and cultural contexts in which they were written. Religion is a guide for living a holy life not a set of absolute rules. Even if they are the Word of God or the product of divine inspiration, you have to keep in mind that they were written by men and, therefore, subject to editorial license, differences in translation and interpretation, and dumbing down for the masses. While mankind has progressed over the centuries our religions have, for the most part, remained in the Dark Ages.
John Lennon asked us to imagine a world with no religion but what would a world without religion really be like? Most people have a basic need to believe in something greater than themselves and to hope for something better when this life is over. Man is basically a social being and finds strength and comfort in associating with others who hold similar beliefs. Without something to believe in, most people probably couldn’t cope with life’s harsh realities. Maybe religion is a crutch but sometimes we need a crutch in order to stand up. I agree with Voltaire who said, “If God didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him.”
Overall, I believe that religion and faith are inherently good things. But whatever religion or faith that you practice, I would ask that you not follow it blindly as faith must be tempered by reason. I believe that you should look at its fundamental principles and ideals, the basic messages, not just the rhetoric and dogma that comes down from the leaders of your faith. Often, the message is lost in the rhetoric and invariably “fundamentalist” practitioners of a religion miss the real fundamentals of the religion. Take those fundamentals and apply them as they fit to your own life.
Religion should guide you along your chosen path to God instead of setting the absolute path for you. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own soul and you must find your own path to the Divine. The journey begins from within you. May you travel in light rather than darkness.