Lately, I've been arguing with a lot of fellow Mormons on line and other Christians about this so-called threat to religious liberty. And, now. we have had a special stake conference and the representative from the church leadership decided to emphasize the threat of secularism. About how church members are criticized for speaking out about their faith or even threatened. About how religion is being forced out of the public sphere.
Well, I'm afraid I could not suppress a vocal groan. Hopefully, everybody thought my back had gone out. (Not very comfortable sitting still that long.)
He called out such countries as Norway and Sweden as examples of what could happen if we didn't stop it. I nearly laughed out loud. It's not like we'd turn into China or Russia, no. He picked Scandinavian countries. Some of the happiest and healthiest countries in the world!
One of my biggest problems with this demonization of secularism is the idea that it is somehow attacks religion. A secular country is not by definition or in practice an atheist country. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the definition of a secular state is:
A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment from a particular religion/nonreligion over other religions/nonreligions. Secular states do not have a state religion or equivalent, although the absence of a state religion does not necessarily mean that the state is fully secular.
I am a Mormon. I like to think I'm a good Mormon. A faithful Mormon. I have a testimony of this church and I know it is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I know that Jesus Christ died for me.
That being said, I also know the harm that religion can do if it gets too involved in government. Why did our forefathers move here? It wasn't for the weather. They moved because they were hounded and persecuted out of Europe. Even the Netherlands didn't want them anymore. (Even back then they were pretty progressive.)
In my own Church (which was pretty badly persecuted in its early days), they like to teach that God prepared this country for the restoration of the gospel. Well, if that's true, they shouldn't attack the separation of church and state. They were persecuted badly enough. They were hounded from state to state. The founder of the Church was foully murdered. Would this happen today? With more progressive and liberal laws, I think not.
And, in my own family, some of my earliest ancestors on the American continent were persecuted for not practicing their faith to the standards of others in their community. (And they were Quakers.)
Because of all this, I am a strong defender of the separation of church and state.
Now let's look at the value of secularism. Secularism that protects the free practice of their faith. Now the speaker today discussed how bad the Scandinavian and many European countries are becoming because of rising secularism. I say NONSENSE! (I could say worse, I suppose, but it's a Sunday.)
Here are just a few statistics I looked up.
Happiest (most content citizens) countries:
4) The Netherlands
5) New Zealand
Safest to live or visit:
2) South Korea
3) Hong Kong
Countries with least income inequality:
4) Czech Republic
Best countries to be a woman:
Best countries to be a kid:
Countries with the best human rights record:
2) San Marino
Now, now, now, they don't look that bad. Look at all those European, and Scandinavian names. Now, certainly, they aren't all secular governments. But 44% are Scandinavian and 75% are European. And our poor country didn't even hit the top 5 on any of these.
I love my Father in Heaven. I love being a Mormon. However, I can still see the damage religion can do. Why is secularism and atheism rising? Now, I know that many will say that religion is irrational. Well, besides that, how many people won't go because they consider religion to be harmful and intolerant. How many young Catholics have left the church (or even committed suicide) because of the Church's teachings?
We, as sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven, need to keep in mind his teachings. Most importantly his two great commandments, especially the second great commandment -- "to love our fellow man as we love our God".
Secondly, we need to remember that our right to practice our religion should not compromise others. Let's not be hypocritical. How many times have our legislatures tried to pass laws that discriminate on those who practice Islam or Wicca or those who choose not to practice at all? Yet, they also want to pass laws that favor their religion? When do those laws get even more restrictive and only protect those of the Protestant or Evangelical persuasion? Where does it stop?
A person I used to communicate with on line - one I thought of as a friend at one time - once said I was attacking free speech. I guess she missed the point. I understand free speech. That's why I object to people going on and on about how evil the liberal philosophy (or ideology) is. To supporting a party and philosophy that seemed to be the complete opposite of Christ's teachings. I also object to a Church that constantly extols the values of free agency (free will) telling me that I'm wrong.
Now, to be fair, I also object to people of my political persuasion telling me I'm irrational and deluded for believing in a Higher Being.