Everybody Has One
This article appeared in the June 10, 2006 edition of the Lewiston Morning Tribune.
© 6.1.06 By D. Eric Williams
There's a lot of talk these days about keeping religion in its proper place - chatter about religion being a purely personal thing and how folks should keep it that way. The truth is, it's impossible to keep your religion "purely personal." Your religion is what impels you, it's what your entire life is founded on. Religion is your world-view, your philosophy of life, your controlling beliefs. In other words, everyone has a religion and everyone wears their religion on their sleeve whether they care to admit it or not.
I realize that when someone makes a reference to religion today, they're typically referring to something like fundamentalist Christianity, or radical Islam maybe. This narrowing of the term is especially true in the way the news media utilizes the word. Nevertheless, like opinions, everyone has a religion - and everyone feels their toes are trod upon when their religious views are not accepted by others.
Still don't believe me? Alright, let's take the example of what most people would consider the complete absence of religious beliefs: atheism. Atheists believe there are no gods or other supernatural powers. Most atheists would describe themselves as naturalists or materialists and believe the highest authority one can appeal to is human reason, or collective human reason (as an ideal). In other words, the controlling belief system of an atheist excludes God (or gods), from the scenario and enshrines reason as the ultimate. Everything they do - the way they relate to their spouse, the way they do their job, the way they vote - everything is determined by their worldview; God does not exist and human reason is the ultimate power. For the Atheist Humankind is the measure of all things.
If someone wants to embrace atheism (or any other religion), that's their business. What is wrong is when atheism (or other religion), says there is no room for my world-view (historic Bible believing, Christ centered Christianity), in the marketplace of ideas. Think about it; the atheist who says "one nation under God" should be removed from the pledge, does so based upon his controlling beliefs. He says religion has no place in the public square, simply because his religious sensibilities have been offended. What he is really saying is he doesn't want my religion to have a place at the table with his. But that's not how things are supposed to work in a democratic society.
The fact is, every religion is welcome in the marketplace these days except that world-view which places God on the throne of history and creation. There are loads of religious people calling themselves Christians who are welcome in the public square because they keep God in a convenient box and deny Christ as the only way of salvation. Even though they use the same vocabulary as Bible believing Christ centered Christians, they find little resistance to their views because - like the atheist - they actually make Humankind the final authority instead of God.
Now, I'm not saying all religions are equally true nor am I saying that we should enact laws to enforce one world-view in favor of another. I am suggesting a civilized, democratic society allows for the expression of differing points of view and that truth will win out in the end.
If you disagree with my religious beliefs, feel free to say so. Plenty of people already have. At the same time, don't pretend there are some places my religion cannot go. Don't pretend my politics or my job performance or any other part of my life should remain unaffected by my religion. Moreover, don't pretend you leave your controlling beliefs at the door of the voting booth, the doctor's office or the work place. It simply isn't possible. Even human reason tells us that.