Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.
- Albert Einstein
Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad. (and)
Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.
- Thomas Paine
It is in the continuing controversy over the 'ground zero' mosque-that-is-not-a-mosque being exploited by the right, by the likes of Newt Gingrich and and his Islamophobic ideologues;
in the horror of Koran burning by the unpatriotic, Unchristian, UnAmerican, ignorant bigots in Florida;
in the intensity of the emotions that accompany the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, that we discover who we are.
We discover who we REALLY are. We discover what it is we actually believe in.
It is appropriate we take stock of who we are, as a nation; and who we choose to be, as individuals. Because we DO CHOOSE how we rise to challenges like 9/11. We DO CHOOSE how we live our political principles and our religious beliefs.
We choose if they are ideals to which we only give lip service, when doing so is easy.
Our character, what we really believe in, not just what we say we believe in, what we really stand for, that emerges only when it is not easy, when it is uncomfortable, difficult, wrenching, even excruciatingly painful. There are times when we should NOT be seeking our comfort level; times when we should NOT be taking the easy choice.
THIS is the time to be stretching and challenging ourselves to be more ethical, to be more compassionate, to live and lead with greater nobility of spirit, to set an example to those who set themselves against us by demonstrating to them who we are, and how we live what we believe.
The threatened Koran burning in Florida underlines the role of religion for me. I believe that it is the essential function of religion to affirm and assist individuals to find their awareness of a real, personal, heartfelt connection to God. What professes to be religion that stresses outward forms over that spiritual awareness of a personal God is no better than superstition, no better than believing in 'magical thinking'. It has no greater value, no more real significance than a child walking down a sidewalk, making a game of avoiding the divisions between sections while chanting 'step on a crack, break your mother's back'.
Self-abnegation may be a method of focusing one's awareness of God to enhance individual spirituality; as are prayer, and forms of meditation. But the outward form of religions, the ritual, conformity to dogma, the differing sects that have blighted history with intolerance for religious variance must be opposed.
If you have followed the 'today in history posts' I have been compiling, nearly every day has an example of an individual who has been killed or tortured over a different idea, an alternate personal belief in God. Every day has one or more examples of religious and / or political conflict, even wars, where one group of people coerces another to do things, or to think or believe a different way. The worst acts, the most egregious inhumanity of man to man, are those justified by religion; acts which are rationalized by the conviction of the perpetrators of the violence that they are right, and the victims are wrong, or that it is 'for their own good', or to save their souls, or men carrying out what they think is God's will. The tragedy of 9/11 is an example of that wrong, of one group of people, extremists, harming others in the mistaken belief of obedience to God, slavery to outward forms and rules, instead of celebrating religion as that personal connection to, and experience of, God.
Most people embrace the faith of their parents, reflecting what they were exposed to at a formative age. Others venture on a spiritual quest to find the religion that best expresses their sense of connection to God. And some are atheists who don't, for whatever reason, define or describe their internal experience as including that dimension.
The magnificence of vision of the Founding Fathers in establishing our Freedom of Religion, the appreciation of the horrors perpetrated in the name of religions, plural, in human history, is embodied in individuals and groups of individuals being able to seek their own paths, without approval or agreement with people who have chosen a different path to experiencing God. When some people, like Minority House Leader John Boehner, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, or pundit Glenn Beck tell people they shouldn't do something, that they are unwise, or insensitive or evil for pursuing a sincere personal connection to God, they are negating the fundamental, core values incorporated in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers.
The Koran-burners in Florida, and the terrorists who crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 are two sides of the same coin. The Florida so-called ministry portrays all Muslims as extremist Muslims; they justify burning the Koran, revered by millions, by claiming Islam is the Devil, and therefore they believe they legitimately can offend or dismiss the equally passionate experience others have with God in different forms than their own.
They differ in degree - one burned people and buildings; the other threatens to burn what is as sacred or more sacred to millions. They are the same in kind, they are the same in putting their own beliefs over others as the only acceptable option they will tolerate; they are the same in their willingness to hurt others who are not the same; they are the same in disrespect for others, for REAL religious freedom.
This man who lost his son in the 9/11 tragedy 'gets it'; read it here.