Archive for the ‘religion’ Tag

Religious Freedom

Reading: “Religious Freedom,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks at a BYU-Idaho Devotional

The opinion of religion today is plummeting in the minds of much of the American people, and as more and more people look down on religion as silly or unfounded, our religious freedoms are jeopardized.  In this talk, Elder Oaks encourages us all to be more vigilant of our religious freedoms and to not be shaken by the increasing unpopularity of our positions.

Part of our religious freedom is the freedom to vote according to our religious beliefs.  It is very popular now to call religious beliefs “delusional,” “illogical,” “silly,” and “nonsensical.”  Part of the justification for this derision of religious belief is the incorrect belief that science has proven that God cannot exist, which any of the thousands of educated and actively religious scientists, engineers, doctors, and professors in this country could tell you is completely not true.  When your opinion no longer has a right to be heard, just because the other people in the country think your opinion is wrong, then you lose your freedom to participate in our democratic government.  Elder Oaks quoted Richard John Neuhaus as saying:

In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.

Increasingly those who vote according to their religious beliefs are facing retaliation for simply voting according to their beliefs.  This was particularly seen as people angry about the success of proposition 8 who went after individuals who supported the campaign. This was what Elder Oaks was talking about when he compared current religious persecution to that faced by civil rights leaders in the 60s:  part of freedom is being able to say and vote according to your conscience without being afraid of what other people will do to you.  Going after those you disagree with personally and/or violently was wrong in the 1960s and it still wrong now. Our democracy can only survive when we respect everyone’s right to share his or her opinion.

I think it is important to note that Elder Oaks does not suggest that we have currently lost our religious freedom, but rather he is telling us that if things continue along the current trend than in the future our freedoms are in danger of being lost.  He then gave five ways that we can act to make sure our religous freedoms are not lost. He says:

  1. We must always speak with love, showing patience and understanding towards those we disagree with.
  2. We must not be intimidated into silence, but rather continue to vote and act according to our conscience even when we may face mockery or even violence as a result.
  3. We must insist on the freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith.
  4. We must be wise in our political participation, and show our respect for those we disagree with as we debate with them.
  5. We must be careful never to support a “religious test” for those in office (meaning we must never support a requirement that someone in office must believe or not believe any set of religious beliefs in order to obtain office.)

This is a great talk which everyone should read.  Elder Oaks does a great job of explaining what religious freedoms we have in the constitution and why those freedoms are so important. I also believe he does so in a way that is respectful of those who disagree with us, while still being firm on our rights as religious citizens.  It certainly has motivated me to be more firm in my religious opinions and not be so quick and ready to explain them away when I feel they might be criticized.

What have you noticed about the current trends in the opinion of religion? What do your religious rights mean to you? How can you help preserve our religious freedoms?


Worlds Without Number

Reading: Moses 1:33

Today I’m taking a little break to post about something a little less spiritual than normal.

My husband and I have been watching Defying Gravity lately, which is a show about astronauts on a long term mission to visit various planets in the galaxy. This is a wonderful example of great writing in television, with deep characters and an interesting story. It shows what great science fiction can be like.

In the latest episode the crew encounters a previously unknown lifeform.  I became really annoyed, however, when the one Christian member of the crew seems to become unstable because she can’t handle the challenge this lifeform presents to her beliefs.  The woman retreats to her bible and goes into denial about some of the facts about the encounter. I can’t fault the writers too much because this seems to be how all religious characters (especially Christians) act in these kind of shows.  Yet, this annoys me because I feel it is an unfair and completely inaccurate portrayal of how I, or most religious people I know, would react to such  discovery.

Mormons, especially, openly believe that there is life out there other than the life on our planet. In Moses 1:33 it says:

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

Also, I cannot speak to other religous groups’ beliefs, but I find nothing in the bible that truly cancels out the idea that God, the creator of all the life on our planet, could not have also created life somewhere else in a similar way. If science were to reveal some form of life on another planet, it would only serve to confirm my faith in God. I would celebrate such a discovery as much as anyone else.

This is yet another faucet of the incorrect idea that religion and science are mutually exclusive.  Although a small, but vocal, minority of religious people feel that they have to fight science, the vast majority of religious people embrace science as wonderful addition to our culture and lifestyles.  Unfortunately, the media likes to focus on the small group that creates the most controversy.  I hope that people realize that not all religious believers fit into this narrow, and sometimes extreme, stereotype.

Defying Logic

Reading: Helaman 16

As I read the stories in the Book of Mormon leading up to the coming of Christ I often find many parallels to our day. Today as we were reading Helaman 16 I was struck with the similarity between the way people rebelled against Samuels prophecies and the way people today often feel about religion. The people reasoned that the prophecies were not logical, and were designed to keep them oppressed.  They reasoned that any miracle was just a trick to keep them hoodwinked. The people explained,

And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives
Today many people feel the same way about religion.  They feel that religion is just a tool for controlling people and keeping people ignorant.  While it would be easy for me to flippantly dismiss their opinion, it is true that religion is sometimes used just that way.  We see in the news all the time about cults or very conservative countries where religion is used to justify horrific actions. However, they are wrong in thinking in that because some religions are used in a despicable way, that all religions are the same.
I think the only way to combat the idea that religion is controlling, oppresive, and silly is for the members of the church to strive ever more vigilantly to exemplify the Savior. The Savior was loving, forgiving, patient, and never controlling. The true gospel is enlightening and uplifting and ennobling, and while many will reject our telling them, if we can show them in our lives they will see the truth eventually.
Today I am going to think of some scriptures that show how the gospel is not a tool for controlling others against their will and write them in my journal.
What experiences have you had that have shown you that the church is trying to help you and not trying to control you or “keep you down”?