This business of religion and politics, of what Americans really think about freedom of religion has proven very interesting after the brouhaha regarding an Islamic center near Ground Zero. Opinion pieces are busy putting out their take as it expands and contracts with new events.
Do Americans really believe in freedom of religion or is it really just freedom of divisions within Christianity and maybe Judaism... and I do mean maybe. To me the following link is the crux of the issue and says a lot about America today and how we see basic issues. This is about a lot more than one mosque.
I have mentioned often, as have many others, that we have a big division in our country. It is how we see the world and our nation. It is who we think we are or want to see ourselves. It is who we trust to tell us the truth. It is whether we are open to change, to new ideas or have it set in our minds that what was is what should be. We are a people divided. It's not like it's just us. I suspect it's part of human nature.
Reading the article by Douthat was informative for helping clarify the differences within Islam. No, they are not all the same anymore than Baptists and Catholics are. We see the same divisions in all religions-- unless they hand over power such that any dissent leads to death.
On the issue of the mosque near what is for some strange reason now called Ground Zero, it is more than about religious freedom. It is an example of using religion for political power which we are seeing the Republicans once again hypocritically do. They are milking another fear-- that of having one religion, one with a potential political agenda, gaining too much power.
Yes, anybody who pays attention knows that Islam has a violent history and a violent sector in its current religious expression. So does Christianity. If you don't think it does, you aren't paying attention to some of the militia groups rising up in the United States.
Americans have never trusted religious power and that means any. Yes, there are those here who would hand over all power to Christians but that's not the majority-- and when Christians have had that kind of political power, they haven't wielded it lightly either.
History gives us many examples of religions dominating and taking over personal liberty, sometimes violently. Most religions believe they are the truth and they think everybody else should go along with it. If they don't proselytize, they might kill who go against their 'truth'. When religion gains total power, choices are done. Fear of that happening is both nonsensical in today's America and historically hard to deny as a possibility if enough changed. What looks good on the surface often changes terribly when it is in control.
Sharia law is one of those examples of not good. I don't know how many read of the couple in Afghanistan that were just stoned to death by their village and family members for the crime of adultery. He was married. She was not. Even though Islam allows multiple spouses for the husband, in this case, it was not acceptable and hence the decree was death by stoning. It's not unusual for religions to do such. Even in our country there have been women slaughtered by their families when they wanted to lead their own lives with the family members using Islam as their justification. It's not legal. It's not legal in Afghanistan either but such religious fervor takes power over people's logic or even their love.
What we have to recognize is what this article is reminding us-- there is more than one version of Islam as there is more than one version of Christianity.
What we want to encourage in our country are religions that improve living and do not force their way onto others. That is true for any religion. It's not wrong to be aware that religion can be perverted and move into the realm of political power where it makes moral and other choices for the populace. Everybody in any particular religion doesn't automatically buy into everything it claims as truth or as a requirement. Frankly, I have felt concern about Christianism (a political version of Christianity) as much as some others are about Islam.
I do not want to live in a theocracy. I have no problem with living in a world where people choose any given religion as a way to improve their own lives, so long as that religion doesn't hurt others.