Views & Voices

Evolving Legacies — Blind obedience to religious ‘laws’ a return to the Dark Ages


The call from some of the extremist religious fanatics to make homosexuality illegal, and subject to criminal prosecution, is rightly being condemned as a return to the Dark Ages, when superstition was used to justify the killing of people who were thought guilty of rejecting the religion in any of its aspects.

Those fanatics, who advocate such a return to blind obedience of often re-interpreted religious laws, actively make statements which can easily be seen as attempts to amend the First Amendment with religious references, to the point of effectively turning the U.S. into a theocracy; or worse still, into rule by brutish thought, executed by mob mentality.

The Constitution, as it stands, tries to safeguard this from happening through protection of minority interests from being overridden by the majority.

Constantly we see the proponents of a church-state claiming that they would, if elected, amend the Constitution to accommodate their Christian religious views as sacrosanct.

In an effort to justify such actions, they refer to their belief that the United States is derived from Western European civilization and should conserve the religious puritan links of the old world, and additionally, they oppose efforts to mix races. In this they ignore the motto on the Great Seal of the United States, ‘E Pluribus Unum’, and therefore disrespect the meaning of the motto, one of the foundations of the United States, ‘Out of many, one’.

Today we might envisage that as, ‘with acceptance of diversity we achieve unity’. Yet this too will be lost under a theocracy where the one (religious concept) is imposed on the many.

When we combine such a narrow attitude with their desire to recriminalize homosexuality, it becomes a source of concern for the welfare of not just LGBTQ people, but for all minorities, everywhere.

In the case of LGBTQ people, imagine what such a theocracy might be capable of doing should it gain control of the U.S. Congress. Records of same gender relationships could be searched, whether civil unions or marriages, as could the records of joint IRS statements, welfare and insurance entitlements to discover the names of individuals whom are then deemed as being homosexual, with a view to prosecution.

Congressional committees would be appointed to investigate people who are suspected of being homosexual, with names of other homosexuals being demanded from them, their families, their employers, landlords and associates. Couldn’t happen? Don’t be naive. These same fanatics have influenced such tentative laws for Uganda.

This question is already ringing in my ears, “Are you now, or have you ever been a homosexual?”

Note too that, thanks to legislation like the USA Patriot Act, the legal protection to only prosecute an action rather than a thought is no longer in full force. That’s even worse than the laws of a hundred years ago where you couldn’t be prosecuted for being homosexual, only for committing what was termed, “a grossly indecent act.”

Theocracies punish people for their thoughts, even for not having the right thoughts, right-wing thoughts, and righteous thoughts.

In short, the fanatics want to prosecute you for being who you are, and what you think, in addition to what you do. What is worse, like their Dark Age equivalent priests, they do it under the guise of saving your ‘immortal soul’ from sin, because they ‘love’ you, whilst they burn you at the stake. They will even state that the reason they are burning you, stoning you, or praying away your sins, is because they love their god, and oh, you too.

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Won’t happen? Think again. There are many historical examples of people, whole races even, having been persecuted, bullied, tortured, assassinated, and murdered for being who they were. It was all done in the name of religion, and it was done in the name of patriotism.

Why? It is fear of the different. People who are different to those in their cave, or immediate clan, or nation, are seen as an unknown, an unfamiliar and untrustworthy threat. The fear instinct evokes an assumption that difference equals danger.

Rather than being curious or seeing that diversity enriches life’s experience, those fear-filled fanatics, with their distaste for secular democracy, proclaim that only the known and familiar must be conserved, even to the point of eradicating those who are marginally different from themselves. They claim family, culture, and nation must be protected from what they see as threats from the unknown and different, which they always find a way to denigrate as inferior; to be isolated from their restrictive culture as much as is possible.

Such isolation is a pathway to unintended extinction, because life needs variety, not only for the need of biological diversity in natural selection, but because simply, thoughtfully, and colloquially, two heads are often better than one. ‘Out of many, one’.

Considering the American Constitution as the culmination of all the historical efforts to realize the freedom of the individual from the tyranny and enslavement of older cultures, may seem to some as a grandiose claim, or even a threat to the constants in their lives.

“Liberty for everyone” is something different, an unknown and a challenge. As such it engenders fear. It also needs to be seen as a legacy of the freedom envisioned by the U.S. Founding Fathers; freedom to be who we are, or be whatever we fancy.

It is the freedom to be something new or different that is fraught with danger when the result does not admit who we are as individuals; when it does not allow us the ultimate freedom of self discovery, when it imposes conditions on our freedom, over our human rights.

To stop being a slave is not just to revolt, as Spartacus did against his oppressors’ authority, but to also accept responsibility for one’s own existence. We build our lives on the legacies of the past, but also have the freedom to adopt alternatives.

The problem is that a certain sophistication of objectivity and thought is required for liberation not to be lost in a repeat of historical rebellions. Without them we are doomed to replicate yet another failed economic-poltical system from which humankind staggers, leaving us with token vestiges of the freedoms that are in fact our individual Human Rights. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if we didn’t drag the baggages of belief, which have no substance in reality, into the lands of our brave new different worlds.

This is not to say that religious views and personal opinion should be disallowed. Indeed such opinions are rightly part of our freedom as individuals, but we must be free within ourselves, intellectually honest within ourselves, to know and admit when those views have outlived our need for them.

Adapting to the technological changes and the speed with which they occur is not easily achieved by many in today’s world. These changes are new and threatening to many people. It is all too easy to confuse or equate the legacies of technologies with the evolving life experiences of human individuals and society. These experiences are what shapes our interaction with each other, not the technology, which is merely the means to the interaction.

The technologies are the backdrop against which we play out our lives; they alter the form of our physical legacies to our descendants, and whilst they form part of the legacy itself, they can be discarded for the sake of our development as loving sentient beings, which is the only legacy that matters.

In Part Two (next Sunday), I will discuss how change affected the previous generations over the last sixty years, not so much technological change, which is obvious, but how the nature of legacy has become threatened. Threatened by cultures ill-prepared to cope with the diverse changes and riches we have created; those which, to paraphrase Emerson, we have put in the saddle on our own backs.

Until then, please consider that congeniality between people encourages the freedom to grow, adapt, discover, create and celebrate our lives, by welcoming the existence of our diversity (heterogeneity) as an opportunity to share our human similarities (homogeneity) with one another, instead of being afraid of each other. In accepting that, we may then come to comprehend that the reality of what we are is greater than who we think we are.

To be continued, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

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