Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Religious Freedom and the Ground Zero Mosque

The Eleventh Article of Faith states: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

I stated in my last post that my evolving three pillars of Things I Care About The Most In Politics are peace, a healthy sustainable environment, and moral/religious agency.  I think if we safeguard these three things we can live in a pretty great world for a long time.  Of course the three are intimately intertwined.  War is usually based on scarcity of resources (the environmental aspect) or religious conflict.  If we could focus on cleaning up our religious conflicts and our environment, sustainable peace would surely follow.

Unfortunately, there are many right here in America who want to restrict the religious freedom of anyone that worships different than they do, thus creating more conflict and less peace.  The latest and most public incarnation of this bigotry is the uproar over the plans to build a mosque and Muslim information center a few blocks from ground zero.

The opponents of this mosque truly believe that those who died on 9/11 would be dishonored by the mere fact that Muslims would have a place of worship so near ground zero.  The only way this thinking makes sense is if you believe that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of al Qaeda and the extremist factions that want to harm the United States.  This is, of course, absurd and bigoted.

Only a very tiny fraction of the around 1 billion Muslims in the world have radicalized and condone terrorism and violence against civilians.  Granted, that tiny fraction is doing some serious harm, but it is still no reason to condemn an entire religion.  What's more, Muslims in America are showing no signs of radicalization and some polls have shown that they are less likely than the American population at large to condone terrorism.

And lets not pretend that some of our actions in the Middle East played no part in creating extremism to begin with.  It does not justify terrorism, but it is relevant to understanding why such extremism exists.

If we were to hold every religion to the standard that those protesters are holding Islam, we would not allow any religion in our borders.  Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Mormons all have extreme factions and skeletons in their closets, but we are willing to overlook those because we are a supposed "Judeo-Christian" nation.  Frankly, I'm more afraid of extremist Christian groups like the Christian Identity and other racist, nationalistic groups than anything else.

And if we allow the intolerant to dictate how, where, and what Muslims in this country worship, what is to stop them from coming after Mormons next?  They've got some pretty weird beliefs, don't they?  Then they can go after the Jehovah's Witnesses, then Buddhists, then Catholics.  Where do we draw the line?

Fundamentally, we have to let all religious people peaceably practice their religion, or practice no religion at all, if we want true religious freedom in this county and if we want to retain our moral agency.  That means coming to terms with Islam and extending a hand of fellowship.  It means truly respecting all peaceable religions and demonstrating true tolerance of differing religious beliefs.

If we let this sort of bigoted religious thinking to become mainstream in America we will all become less free.  We will be less free to practice any religion we want, less free to exercise our moral agency and strive to become more like Heavenly Father in the way we best see fit, and less free to hold points of view of any kind that are unpopular with the majority.


Architect said...

A friend of mine started a religion, but it was later declared a fraud and he went into hiding.
I've heard of prisoners developing religions with strict food codes.
The Communist Manifesto bans all religion.

When should religions get prime public land for no cost or reduced cost? Which religion should get the most favorable treatment? Should it be determined by how much money they give to a particular politician or group of pols? Do only rich religions get favorable treatment? Should we take into account how a religion treats gays? women? people not of their faith?

As a matter of religious faith, I believe in the Eleventh Article of Faith. As a libertarian I am cautious when I read about the religious freedoms in Islamic countries.

Chuck said...

I attended an Interreligious dialogue conference over the weekend at UCS. It was put on the the Mormon chapter of The Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy. As a liberal Mormon and someone that has formally studied interreligious dialogue, I thought I knew what I was getting into. To my surprise, my expectations were pleasantly exceeded in many refreshing ways. Several times the point of the need for more intra-religious dialogue came up as well. Mormons seriously need to understand the rich resources within their own tradition in support of allowing, supporting, and even HELPING others "worship how, where, and what they may."