Long: Religion and morality not necessarily equivalent

Craig Long

Religion of any kind is not evil. Billions of people around the world believe in a god or gods in one way or another. The feeling of belonging, friendship, peace, love, fear, etc., that one gets while practicing a religion has been a common experience shared by billions since ancient times. There are hundreds of different religions spread around the world today, encompassing different sects of similar beliefs, each distinct from another in some way.

However, when religion and government collide, problems can arise. Conflicts between religion and government, and between different religions, have spawned countless wars over the centuries. It is one of the reasons that America was first colonized (by refugees from England looking for religious freedom). It is the reason that our Founding Fathers wrote freedom of religion into the Constitution in the First Amendment, because they understood people’s need to be free in their own personal beliefs.

For whatever reason, it seems as though we have lost the distinction between religion and government. Look no further than the candidates for the Republican nomination for president. Several candidates (Bachmann, Cain, Santorum) said they decided to run after praying over it, as though God himself endorsed their campaigns. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism has been discussed as though it is an issue that will affect policy if he gets elected. Many people argue against abortion and gay marriage on the basis of their religious beliefs.

These people need to stop for a moment and think. A lot of these issues boil down to moral issues (e.g., abortion and gay marriage), and people simply defer to their religion in these situations. Don’t get me wrong, religion (or absence of) can be a very important factor in developing one’s moral compass. However, to simply pass one’s religious beliefs as an undeniable truth is to do a disservice to one’s self and to harm the freedom of others around them.

If you believe that gay marriage and abortion are wrong, it is highly unlikely that you have the same religious beliefs as a woman who has had an abortion or married someone of the same sex. Thus, to try to institutionalize those religious beliefs is to impose your religion on them. By doing so, you limit one of the original, basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. And you draw closer to a system of laws based on religion (in this country, ostensibly it would be the Bible).

Isn’t that one of the reasons many Americans oppose Islam, especially in countries where it is the predominant religion? It seems as though many Christians believe that Sharia Law (drawn from the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad) is bad, yet they continue to push for policy based on what they learned in the Bible. Pot, meet kettle.

The worst part about those who use religion as a substitute for their own moral sensibilities is that they are simply using someone else’s decisions on what should and shouldn’t be allowed. The Bible, which some use to form their religious beliefs, contains much more than many people know. It contains things which would downright shock us if they were actually followed.

For instance, any woman on this campus who has had premarital sex would be stoned to death for it (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). All female professors on this campus would be immediately removed from their positions, according to Timothy 2:11-12. These are just two examples, but many like them exist right there in black and white.

Somewhere along the way, people realized that those two edicts were ridiculous. They decided to stop following them, which I for one am thankful. By using what others have done without questioning it yourself, you simply accept their logic as superior to your own. Even the Bible in its whole form was subject to the censorship of persons other than its authors. The Roman Catholic church omitted entire books of the Bible as they did not fit with the beliefs of the church at the time. Are those original texts from the Bible any less important or correct than what the church included?

So when it comes to social issues, political candidates and your own moral compass, please, for the love of God, use your own judgment. Try and figure out reasons other than your religious beliefs (be it Christian, Islam, or any other) as to why you believe that a gay couple should be denied the freedom to marry and all the governmentally provided benefits that go with it. Decide who should be president based on their track record of governance and their platform, not how Christian or Mormon they are. Live based on your own beliefs, not on what someone hundreds of years ago decided you should believe, and allow others to do the same.