Monday, February 05, 2007

I'm Religious; I Hope My Government Isn't

"There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as The Dark Ages." - Ruth H. Green

My reasons for being religious are my own. Some of the best people I have ever known I met in worshiping communities. Some of the best music I have ever enjoyoed was composed as tributes of faith. In fact, one of my favorite songs ever is Schubert's Ave Maria, a prayer to the mother of Jesus.

In moments of crisis, religion has comforted me. Sacred texts have challenged me and caused me to wrestle with important questions, a process that has led me to empowering ideas and conclusions (often in opposition to the institution that introduced me to those texts!). The sacred stories of my tradition are true for me because of the inspiration they provide, even when I don't believe the stories are historically factual (I don't believe, for instance, that Moses magically parted a sea or that a snake spoke in a prehistoric garden or that Jesus walked on top of water, but the fictive elements of these stories do not prevent the stories from revealing deeper truths).

I pray daily (though, by prayer, I mean quieting my discursive thinking, expressing hope for myself and others, and affirming possibilities rather than begging a far away but always spying deity for favors or forgiveness). I worship weekly. I support my church with time, talent, and treasure. I am seminary educated. I am baptized, confirmed, and ordained. I am a religious person.

It is my choice to be religious. My reasons are personal, and I believe valid. Everyone is entitled to be religious for their own reasons, or to be non-religious, also for their own reasons.

However, in a secular democracy, the personal religion of individuals (no matter how many they number) cannot be legislated by local or federal governments. I am religious and will share my religious views with anyone who shows the least bit of interest, but my government must protect and serve and represent the Muslim, the Jew, the Catholic, the Protestant, the Atheist, the Buddhist, the neo-Pagan, etc. Theocracies are by definition un-democratic, and whereas I may invite the god of my understanding into my daily life, I am very much afraid of the god of anyone's understanding sitting on the imaginary throne of my nation. As deeply as I value religion in my life, I value liberty at least as much.

The freedom of religion in life requires freedom from religion in government.

"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated." - Ulysses S. Grant

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