Thursday, March 18, 2004

One of the main reasons Europeans came to North America was the right to worship the way they thought appropriate, when they thought appropriate. In addition, the government could not directly settle any disagreements on how individuals worshiped. This context provided us with the “freedom” to worship in the United States any way we thought we ought to without interference from our government.

Other countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia to name a couple, have their “normal” governmental responsibilities such as money, taxes, water, transportation and so on, interpreted through the expectations of a dominant religion. That presents the citizens of those countries with major problems. What if they don’t believe in the majority or dominant religion. All the limitations applied to the believers is also forced on the non-believers, because the government and religion are one and the same.

For example, “’Critique and criticism of the government’s policies are not bad, but when someone attempts to undermine the foundations of the government, it is treason and not freedom of expression" (Ayattolah Ali Khamenei, 1998)”

“These words, uttered by the supreme spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1998, very well explain the standpoint of the leaders, the so called gray eminencies, of the theocratic republic of Iran. Due to their religious principles they reject any outer influences which might restrict the power of the clerical institutions and might introduce unwanted democratic characteristics to the present regime.”

One of the problems with religions is that many of them claim to “have the truth” about life, which they have possessed since their religion was established. Most religions disagree in significant areas. Since there are no easy or quick ways to “update” those religions, they tend to be most satisfactory for the general population when they are started and as time goes by become less and less satisfactory when change may be called for by new circumstances.

In the United States we’re seeing an increase in religious pressures. The rest of the world has seen it as well. We are speaking less as a government and more like a religion each year. That works well if others are in agreement with the announced religious posture. That increases division if there is disagreement on the religious posture assumed.

In my opinion, we should ask our government to do well those things that governments can do for all of us. Be more careful when getting into areas where the government has to choose between religions in order to serve all of us. If unity is a good thing, and I believe that it is, then we should nurture an environment in which un-coerced unity can survive.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The separation of church and state, freedom to make choices and freedom to talk about things that I believe are important, I never want to be without.

We can see what happens when countries like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan try to build a nation which must deal with secular things that affect all governments, but attempt to do it with religions that are centuries old with little or no coping skills for modern problems. In most cases, the religion that is in the majority or has the greatest power, superimposes it's system on everyone in that nation. That type of situation can lend itself to all kinds of abuses and many are committed in the name of religion.

If I decide that I want to move from one state to another, with the freedom of choice I will be allowed. If I want to build my house close to the surf along the coast, I can if I want. If I want to change careers and need to go back to college to pickup a new area of expertise, I can if I want. The idea of having the government tell me that I can’t do any of those things seems deeply wrong.

If I want to talk about some method of accomplishing tasks in my community, I can if I want. Even if I know you’re wrong about what you’re saying, you should be allowed to talk about what’s on your mind. I get uncomfortable with folk start telling me that I can't say certain things, which I hold to be of value and true. I choose to believe that if you would just listen to what I have to say, you too might see the merit in my ideas.

These to me are very important freedoms. And, if I want to listen to jazz, rock, folk or polkas, I don’t want the government to be in a position to tell me that I can’t listen. I don’t want the government to tell broadcasters that they can’t meet my need when it comes to music or other programming.

The problem isn’t in these freedoms. The problem begins with us and then it is passed on to the children we raise. If the methods necessary to solve life’s problems are not in our citizens, we need to start by looking at parenting. After we’ve looked at parents and parenting then we need to look at the institutions we have established to transmit and improve our cultures and societies. When we find problems there, we need to have within us the resources to fix the problems without violence. But, we need those freedoms in order to assure ourselves that we have the raw materials to build a better world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

In the United States, we value freedom of choice and freedom of speech very much. We feel sorry for nations that do not seem to have those freedoms as we enjoy them. There may be some consequences to these freedoms. For example, “Poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking are to blame for more than a third of all deaths in the United States.”

Well, what do you think? Don’t I have the right to buy, eat or smoke anything that I want to? And if I don’t have that right, what is the basis for my freedoms being endangered? Why should anyone, no matter how well intentioned be able to stop me from getting my fries supersized? And if McDonald’s decides that they won’t sell me my fries supersized, why can’t I just buy a double order? If I decide I want to do something that other people feel I should not do, what gives those people the right to curb my rights?

I ask you. Why should the FCC be allowed to censor, in any way, what I choose to see on TV, or hear on the radio? What about the rights of the folk who simply want to hear “free speech” or take advantage of the delicious opportunities that present themselves to us every day?