Archive for April, 2007

Eternal Vigilance

This weekend we are Blogging Against Theocracy.

I have to concur with Jason Pizl-Waters that while we aren’t quite on the verge of theocracy- religion established formally in government but we are far from having a perfect separation of church and state. Our country was founded upon high ideals, and we’ve never quite lived up to them. It’s always a work in progress. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.” Indeed- vigilant we must be- ever watching the actions, words and decisions of our officials and judges, from our local school board and city council all the way to Washington. On the local level is often where many challenges to our freedoms take place- parents challenge books in school and public libraries, the teaching of evolution, sex education and even global warming. Religious extremists have gained power beyond their numbers by being very good grass-roots organizers- we must respond in kind. Get together with your neighbors and fellow townsfolk before fanatics try to take over. These things happen precisely because people in the middle are afraid to discuss Those Scary Controversial Topics. To speak out. It’s a lot of work, it’s not comfortable. But maintaining a democratic system takes work- totalitarianism is so much easier. The government makes all the decisions for you. To be frank, I haven’t really done much in the way of activism on religious liberty per se though I have been quite involved in GLBT rights and reproductive rights, which are both very threatened by efforts to legally enshrine certain religious views of morality. We may end up fighting on different fronts, but it’s all for the same cause.

Another point I’d like to make is that theocracy is not only bad for religious/moral/intellectual freedom and the integrity of political systems, is also bad for religion. Once a religion becomes identified with a state, or with a power-hungry movement it’s teachings are subject to manipulation for anything that maintains the power of the regime. It becomes corrupted. It also often becomes stagnant over time- as it does not need to compete with other religions or secular philosophies, it need not be updated or improved to stay relevant as people’s spiritual needs change. And people will go to worship because they are expected to, not because they find it meaningful. The secularization of Europe that has taken place since World War II demonstrates the effect centuries of state religion can have- countless wars were fought there over religion, and now many churches languish essentially as state-funded museums. Meanwhile in the United States, religions of many flavors flourish.

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April 9, 2007 at 8:19 am 1 comment


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