Monday, May 9, 2011

Freedom Of (And Freedom From) Religion

Last week, I ran across a news story about a 2 ½ year-old little girl named Neha who had been the victim of an abduction and brutal rape in her native Pakistan because her Christian father would not convert to Islam. Neha’s father worked on a dairy farm where he was repeatedly pressured to convert to Islam by fellow employees. Because of his refusal to embrace Islam, one of the employees attacked his daughter as payback.

(The link for this story can be found here: Rescue mission to save a persecuted family)


Well, let me say this...

It infuriates me whenever I run across stories like this about religious zealots that truly believe they have the God-given right (excuse the pun) to force their beliefs on someone else by bullying, threatening, and often times, physically harming them. And it makes my blood boil when they target the most innocent and vulnerable of all: children.

How in the world do you justify the assault of a toddler in the name of any God? How?

Now (and excuse my bad language, albeit only slightly vulgar), I don’t give a rat’s ass what religion anyone is devoted to, and whether it’s made up of millions of followers or just a handful. And I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone believes that their religion is the one and only true one, and that whoever doesn’t subscribe to it is going to burn in hell for all eternity. And I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone believes that their God or prophet or saint or angel – or who-e-ver - speaks to them personally, and that they’re designated messengers of their preferred religion. And I don’t – and never will – give a rat’s ass if a specific religion is practiced by the majority of the population in any country.

None of that matters to me because it all comes down to this:

No one, and I mean no one, has the right to terrorize or harm another human being simply because they don’t share the same spiritual beliefs. No. One.

Religion is a personal choice. We all have the right to determine what spiritual path we wish to follow, and whether we even want to follow a spiritual path at all; that choice is ours to make – no one else’s. We all have the right to practice – or not practice - a religion, any religion, without fear of persecution or retaliation. How - and what - we choose to practice, or not practice, is a decision we should be free to make.

If someone is content with their beliefs, if it brings them peace and joy, and if they’re honest to goodness convinced that they are ‘saved’ and that their soul will live for all eternity in a heaven above, that’s great. I wish them well, and I am sincerely happy that they have found something that is a source of comfort and inspiration to them. But that’s where it ends. With them. Their choice. Their life. Their soul. Because not everyone shares those same views. And they certainly shouldn’t have to.

As One Free World International (an international human rights organization based in Toronto) states on their website:

“OFWI believes that, along with the right to life, religious freedom and freedom of conscience are the first and most fundamental of human rights. The ability to believe (or to choose not to believe) in something beyond our material existence, in accordance with our individual conscience, and to manifest that belief in practices and observances is one of the most essential distinguishing characteristics of the human race. Thus, persecution of people for their beliefs or coercing others into adopting, changing, or denying their beliefs denies the very humanity of the person who is thus violated.”

(Note: OFWI, together with Canada's Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, helped Neha’s family to relocate to Canada where they are free to practice their religion without fear. Amen to that.)

Incidentally, this post is not focusing on any particular religious group, Rather, it’s focusing on individuals who are religious bullies (tyrants, dictators, persecutors, intimidators, extremists, fanatics, fundamentalists, totalitarians, oppressors...insert whatever word appeals to you), no matter what their beliefs, that aggressively, and violently, force their views on others. So please don’t write about how I’m targeting – or discriminating – against any specific religion. I’m not interested.

And finally, to all religious bullies everywhere:

- Learn to live and let live.
- Learn to respect diversity.
- Learn how to be tolerant, respectful, understanding and compassionate towards all fellow human beings.
- Learn how to stay on your side of the holy fence.

I draw very clear lines in the sand on religious boundaries. Your freedom of (or freedom from) religion ends where my freedom of (or freedom from) religion begins.

It’s my soul. Let me worry about it.

Who died and made you God, anyway?

8 comments:

  1. Very powerful post. Like you, I will not point fingers at any particular religion - suffice it to say that tens of millions of people in this world are suffering from mass delusion, all because they fear death.

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  2. I am liking your new format. Your page loads so much quicker!

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  3. Great post indeed. And in the same vein, every time I hear of good ole US troops demolish yet another country in a misguided attempt to bring them 'democracy' by way of killing civilians, I think 'hmmm, who would Jesus kill?' :)

    I'm quite wary of a any crowd of people, especially a crowd filled with religous zeal, as there is no telling of what they can do 'in the name of God/Allah/whoever' of course. And the ignorance of attacking a toddler knows no bounds.

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  4. Discussion of religions always reminds me of the 'ten commandments' written by one of my favourite authors (they don't seem to be online any more, so I'm glad I saved them), specifically, the first one:
    '1. Your religious beliefs, however strongly held, are only an opinion.
    Until God or Shiva or Mumbo Jumbo, Lord of the Congo, appears a thousand
    feet high waving a shining sword or flaming dust mop and answering all
    doubters, they remain opinions. '
    Always makes me grin, and it's true, too. The question is, how to make all people understand this... my instinct is always to hit them on the head with a heavy object, but of course that's no solution, and would be pretty hypocritical too. I just wish people wouldn't be so damn stupid.

    I've taken to telling people my soul got eaten by a hamster (long story), so they shouldn't waste their time on me.

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  5. Great post Martha. You know how much I like challenging people's opinions with my posts as well. Any type of fanaticism is downright wrong. The A and Z of any democratic society is the freedom of thought, the freedom of opinion, expression, association, assembly conscience and religion. Unfortunately democracy does not exist, not even in the West. There is a superficial delusion that it does exist… but you know it doesn’t. Democracy is no easy path, but those of us who really believe in it, preach about it and live by its rules must be prepared to sacrifice in its cause every single day so that the small stream of voices can flow into a river and then into an ocean of change. Keep on posting these types of articles. If you are successful in making at least one person listen… then it is mission accomplished… and one more drop will be added towards the movement for change. As for this particular post, and judging by the response... you have won. Pebble by pebble, and stone by stone, people everywhere can move mountains.

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  6. @Jane - Death is not what we should fear but an inadequate life, which includes being inconsiderate towards other human beings. It amazes me how some of the most religious can be the most intolerant and cruel. The way they live their lives is a direct contradiction to the way their God expects them to. It’s warped.

    (I prefer this new format, too; it really was taking too long to load. I cleaned up a lot of useless additions to my blog and it really made a difference.

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    @Tatiana – Mobs can become quite dangerous when they spiral out of control. And religious mobs can be some of the worst. I love that thought: “Who would Jesus kill?” I think God/Allah/whoever people believe in is quite tired of people using his name to justify their violent/fanatical actions. I’m sure he wants no part of that.

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    @Ivynettle – BAHAHAHAHA...I love your instinctual method “...to hit them on the head with a heavy object...” I get that feeling too...sigh...

    In any case, I have little to no patience for any type of fanaticism. We’re all free-thinking individuals that have the right to an opinion. It’s when that opinion is forced, especially with violence that it becomes a problem. I could live right next door to a family that steps out into their backyard every day to pray to aliens on planet zoobookoo and I wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s only when they’d bang on my door and threaten me if I didn’t join them that I’d have a problem with it. Live and let live...

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    @Hellas – Human beings need to learn to respect each other, allow each other to live in peace, stop forcing their thoughts, politics, religions and opinions on others, etc, etc, etc...that would be my perfect world. Unfortunately, I don’t see this ever happening; humans are much too flawed; there will always be problems. All we can do is live our lives as honestly and compassionately as we can, and do our small part to make a difference.

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  7. oh, lord… I remember this horrible story too…. unbelievable!

    kudos … to Canada … sure am learning a lot about your wonderful country these days! thanks to you and Rick.. wow!

    YES… stay on your side of the holy fence… LOVE IT

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    1. That's what it comes down to, doesn't it? That we should all stay our our side of the holy fence. And leave people alone!

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