Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Freedom From Religion

That one we don't have. First, the NYC "mosque" controversy is eating the air and energy everywhere in the media, despite being the most irritating and boring and school-yardish of all debates I have watched recently. Second, I see news like this:

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking "an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God."


In the Army.mil article, Maj. Gen. Chambers was quoted as saying, "The idea is not to be a proponent for any one religion. It's to have a mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds." But there has been no "mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds" at these concerts. Every one of them has had evangelical Christian performers, who typically not only perform their music but give their Christian testimony and read from the Bible in between songs.

Another problem with these concerts, besides the issues like soldiers being punished for choosing not to attend them, is that they are run by the commanders, and not the chaplains' offices. It is absolutely permissible for a chaplain's office to put on a Christian concert. It is not permissible for the command to put on a Christian concert, or any other religious event. Having a religious concert series that is actually called and promoted as a Commanding General's Concert Series is completely over the top.

Now, if your country decrees freedom of religion, then you give that freedom to all religions and don't stuff any one of them down the throats of your military or try to stop the erection of competing houses of worship which otherwise fulfill the local zoning, health and other such requirements. That's a no-brainer.

But I think those of us who note that freedom of religion bit also often think of religion as something private, something which a person can have in his or her private life without making much difference in the public sphere or in the way the country is ultimately run. Something like having certain family dishes which you eat at home or a second language which you use with the old uncles and aunties in the family. You don't use any of that in deciding whom to hire for your company or whom to vote for in politics.

That is not the attitude the extremists of any religion take, nosir. If you are a true believer of that sort you cannot ultimately believe in the freedom of all religions. Because your god is the true god and you must Spread The Word. Everyone will have to be converted, ultimately. And everyone will have to follow your rules of conduct in life.

Feminists are well aware of these dangers of religion, simply because the majority of formal religions do not assign women equal rights with men, do not let women preach or perform any of the tasks which presumably connect the worshipers with the gods and do not allow women much role in the interpretation and re-imagining of the meaning of religious texts.

I cannot forget that when I read about the religious freedom debates.