Freedom to believe – and a responsibility to respect


Kia Ora

When I was at primary school, my teacher sent a letter home to all parents. It asked whether or not it would be permissible for her to teach us about religion. I remember little of the actual lessons, but every Friday(?) the class would be asked to offer a prayer just before we started the current events segment of the day, looking at a major issue somewhere in the world to get children aware of wider goings on. I think I only ever offered one, but it was for something like world peace – there had just been the First Gulf War (Iraq vs Kuwait + U.S. Coalition). All these years later and the Middle East once again in the grip of a conflict – albeit one with several borders – I wonder what the world has learnt about religion.

Religion, very generally speaking, is something I have a simple rule about:

I will respect your religion, whatever it may be as long as you do not try to stuff it down my throat.

I know people of the Islamic faith. I know people of the Hindu faith. I know people of the Jewish faith and of the Christian faith. Although I cannot yet say I honestly know anyone of the Buddhist faith, a number of people I know do.

None of these people are potential terrorists. None of them have a desire for militant activity. The idea that an entire religion can be written off simply because of the views of a few well oiled people in ivory towers with no limits on air time or funding, brainwash the masses into believing they are dangerous, disgusts me to no end. It matters not whether it is a God Squad type like those who occasionally come to your door and proceed to tell you about Christianity, or someone of the Islamic faith trying to tell me that Israel should not exist. I have met both – the former I sent packing because he was on my doorstep, whilst the other was in Cathedral Square and I simply walked away from him.

I do not adhere to any religion and have no desire to.  I have no desire to interfere with other peoples beliefs insofar as they do not see fit to interfere themselves. I can count the number of times I have been to a church for religious purposes on one hand – my parents never gave it much thought themselves and have never tried to impose a religion on me. And yet, they have been the most moral figures I have ever looked up to, and possibly the most moral figures I ever will look up to.

They taught me well.

The idea of morals to me has never been based on a religion, and never will be. I do not think one can call basic common sense a religion – at least I certainly hope not. Certain behaviours do not need morality based on a religion to be correct. You NEVER lie to someone. You NEVER steal or vandalise property.  You just do not.

My morals are fine. I do not need anyone to tell me that. Nor do I need or want someone moralizing on behalf of a higher being that not everyone – myself included – believes in about what life and death.

In short, if any partner I have needs an abortion because the foetus in her womb has developed complications that could kill her, the mother to be, she shall have that abortion. Horrible for the foetus, yes, but what about my partners family who might have to go to the funeral of a living loved one? What about myself as her partner? It is not that I think abortion is the only solution, the morning after pill, condoms, and other preventative measures are all necessary since none is 100% fool proof. But if a foetus in the woman’s uterus has developed complications where her life as well as that of the foetus is on the line, my conscience leaves no room for argument.

And after all of these years, what have I learnt?

  • All religions probably have people who see it as their one mission in life to spread the word about their higher being as far and wide as they can
  • One can listen for as long as they like or as short as they like – with me it is usually a 30 second conversation
  • The vast majority of believers in any religion are likely to be normal people just wanting to make an honest go of their life
  • The separation of the Church and the State is for very good reasons, though it is not always two way

And that is me.

Happy Easter Sunday/Happy Sunday.

 

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