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Religious Freedom: The Freedom To Force-feed Religion


R. S. Martin
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Regarding freedom of religion. Exactly what is it? Is it freedom of religion when parents and religious organizations have the political, economic, and social power to force-feed their children via church schools, and to excommunicate any and all members of whatever age who reject/question some detail of their beliefs?

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It's freedom for those who force-feed Xianity, but not for those who are force-fed it. Most of the time, those who are raised Xian are never given any real alternatives, or the alternatives are painted with as negative a brush as possible.

 

Those who are raised in seriously Xian households don't realize it, but they are trained to throw away their right to choose their religious beliefs by believing that an invisible sky-monster will torture them if they don't choose the right religion.

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Maybe this has not been a problem for anyone else. But for me it's HUGE. My questions started the day I was told that Jesus died so we could go to heaven. I lived with these explosive questions for many decades, forbidden so much as to ask them. Asking these questions could have social consequences on levels I was not prepared to deal with. Such as excommunication and shunning.

 

Simply asking a question would not get me such dire consequences but I mean really pursuing the question and not settling for less than a coherent answer that makes sense logically as well as emotionally.

 

But it goes even deeper. In order to be part of the family and community I had to profess belief in things that made no sense. I had to turn off my mind and hope things would eventually make sense. I don't know how to explain it so it makes sense to people here. It was a moral issue as well as social and intellectual.

 

There was a double bind built right into the system. Disobedience was preached to be as bad as witchcraft. See the story of Samuel and Saul. Obedience to parents is one of the ten commandments. In a culture where thirty-year-old married men are asking how long this obligation applies with regards to aging parents, there is no chance that a single woman would get away with less.

 

When I finally did leave the community I was well over the age of forty. Even so, my uncle (by marriage to Dad's sister) confronted me. In an effort to get me to change my mind he said, "Your parents don't like this." I wanted to scream for him to tell me something new. But this goes to show that I am not exagerating when I bring in this issue of obedience to parents.

 

So that's the double bind. You MUST obey your parents. Surely the conservative Mennonites and Amish are not the only religion who are like this. So you reach the age of accountability. You are obligated to:

  1. obey your parents and accept believer's baptism along with solemn vows to remain faithful till death
  2. keep the baptismal vows for life.

Moral Issue: It's a lie to profess that I believe something I don't believe. Lying is WRONG.

 

Intellectual Issue: I cannot believe something that makes no sense. It is not possible.

Social Issue: Putting off baptism beyond the age of 18 would have drawn much pressure from the entire community to conform. Since there is absolutely no socializing with people outside the faith community, not conforming would have cut me off from the only human community I knew. I know one woman who tried it. Eventually she had to leave because her friends deserted her. No fight or anything. They just weren't there anymore. She had no intentions to get baptized in that community and her parents had already left. So she left too. She ramains a Christian of sorts today but only if the definition of Christian is wide enough.

 

 

 

It's freedom for those who force-feed Xianity, but not for those who are force-fed it. Most of the time, those who are raised Xian are never given any real alternatives, or the alternatives are painted with as negative a brush as possible.

 

Those who are raised in seriously Xian households don't realize it, but they are trained to throw away their right to choose their religious beliefs by believing that an invisible sky-monster will torture them if they don't choose the right religion.

 

EXACTLY! You posted while I was writing. Glad to see someone understands.

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Ruby I empathize with your plight. However, what would be the alternative to allowing parents and community teach their children whatever the hell the want to teach them? Who's going to do it if not them? The State? And what are they going to teach them?

 

No, there may be pitfalls to freedom of religion, but the alternatives are unbearable in my opinion.

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No, there may be pitfalls to freedom of religion, but the alternatives are unbearable in my opinion.

 

So true.

 

The best antidote for bad religion is education. Opponents to such must keep the information war going, and get the word out to people that ther is no Hell to fear and no omni-god who's going to punish them for being different.

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The best antidote for bad religion is education.

I agree. I vaguely remember seeing a study that showed that the greater the level of education the less likely a person is to embrace religion. That would make sense to me. From personal experience I see that as I learned more the less credence I gave the indoctrination that I recieved as a child.

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Ruby I empathize with your plight. However, what would be the alternative to allowing parents and community teach their children whatever the hell the want to teach them? Who's going to do it if not them? The State? And what are they going to teach them?

 

No, there may be pitfalls to freedom of religion, but the alternatives are unbearable in my opinion.

 

To call it religious freedom seems a misnomer.

 

 

The best antidote for bad religion is education.

I agree. I vaguely remember seeing a study that showed that the greater the level of education the less likely a person is to embrace religion. That would make sense to me. From personal experience I see that as I learned more the less credence I gave the indoctrination that I recieved as a child.

 

You're the opposite from me. Education is what made me hold on much longer.

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To call it religious freedom seems a misnomer.

From what I can gather of your story Ruby I can see how you might view it this way. It seems that in your case you were raised in a community where the choices were believe or leave. That's a hell of a decision to have to make.

 

It saddens me that you had to endure the things you must have. I hope though that now you have found a new community, one that is more accepting of your views.

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I agree with RubySera here. I was one of those who was force-fed religion from birth and had to go to a Christian school and be essentially brainwashed on a daily basis. Even when I begged my parents to be able to go to the public school, after having been constantly bullied, I still had to go to church unless I was deathly ill or something.

 

My mother was a fundy, and I was never religious enough for her, no matter how hard I tried to believe. She was also very good at making me feel guilty and using threats of hell on me. I really had no choice what to believe until after she passed away (I was in high school at the time).

 

It is not freedom of religion if children are still being forced into believing what their parents do. But that is how the religion has survived for 2,000 years, and probably will survive for a few more generations, at least.

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As I see it, the fundamentalists use religious "freedom" as a license for them to be as obnoxious as they wish to be in proseletyzing and "winning" others to their brand of religion. In their way of thinking, there are no barriers, for they have a "commission", which my church used to call "the Great Commission", to preach the gospel in every way, and in every place, to "win souls". By contrast, fundamentalists love to feel sorry for themselves as "persecuted" when they are told they are violating the constitutional priniciples of separation of church and state by being told in court that they may not post bible verses or christian symbols in public places or they may not force prayer at public school functions. In their own perverse way they consider such actions to be a mark of their faith sure to be recognized by their god as "faithfulness". Not to mention, of course, the responsibility to brainwash their children with this hogwash.

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Regarding freedom of religion. Exactly what is it?

 

Common definition: Free choice of religion.

Fundiespeak: Free exercise of (your own) religion, including force-converting everyone else.

 

'nuff said :Hmm:

 

(I found this nice and short definition somewhere on the great website www.creationtheory.org - if you don't know it yet, go thee out and read! :) )

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Thanks for your responses. Another question: How does one deal with people who are still in the clutches of this religion? I had the opportunity to go to public school for my first five years of elementary school. Not that this made much of a difference because most of the other children belonged to the same set of churches we did. But there were a few families that did not speak our language or go to a Plain* Mennonite church. Besides, when things were switched over so our church bought the school half the other kids weren't there. Why? They went to different Mennonite churches than we did. All the same I did have the experience of being classmates with kids from various churches--being freinds with the "other," something not all my younger siblings had.

 

One of my big goals when leaving the community, and esp. now that I've completely deconverted, is not to "lead astray" or be a "bad influence" on the rest of my family, esp. neices and nephews. Not that I ever see the kids but all the same...In the case that one of them ever contacted me for help I would be in a difficult situation. I would know the kid was desperate. I would also feel some responsibility to let him or her make personal decisions. My road may not be theirs. However, any help or information or moral support I offered would be seen by the parents as hugely offensive--as collaborating with a rebellious child. Not that there's much love to lose with my family but this would be taking things one notch further.

 

The kids are hitting their teens. One is nearly 20. Others are still infants. I don't expect this sort of thing to happen ever, esp. not before they are twenty or more. Well, unless there is a really desperate one who needs to get out from under parental control. So far as I know they all have good homes but one never knows what is simmering beneath the surface and behind closed doors. Adolescence can bring all kinds of new and unexpected problems with it as any parent knows.

 

*Plain People is a term originally used for Quakers. Today the very conservative Amish and Mennonites who wear plain or distinctive dress use it. There are a few other denominations, such as possibly Hutterites and some River Brethern who also qualify as "Plain People." I think I got some of this info from Melvin Gingerich's "Four Centuries of Mennonites."

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The First Amendment has a number of fundamental freedoms wrapped up in it:

 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

 

My citizen layperson's understanding of the law is that it basically means that the federal gov isn't supposed to endorse, enforce, financially support, or otherwise establish any religion over another. It isn't supposed to create a "state religion", either by mandating the adoption of a given faith or outlawing the practice of another.

 

This makes it possible for citizens to adopt and practice any religion they see fit, or no religion at all, without fear of persecution from the government about it, at least in theory. Freedom of speech allows people to talk about their religion; freedom of the press allows people to publish books, pamphlets, websites, and so on about it.

 

And yes, that means that families have every right to teach their children whatever they feel like as far as religion goes. No, it doesn't amount to "religious freedom" for the child in question; but an uncomfortable truth about it is that children aren't "free" in the way adults are. Minors simply do not have the same legal rights as adults do. (Nor do they have the same legal responsibilities, either, but that's a different ball o' wax.)

 

It does mean that when someone grows up and reaches the age of majority, they do indeed then have as much right as anybody else to decide for themselves what they really believe. It also means that people of other faiths - or people lacking a religious belief at all - have every right to go around challenging religion as loudly as we wish.

 

We have every right to talk about being ex-Christians, publish websites about it, and shout it from the rooftops that Xianity is a load of bollocks. That, I think, is a good way to reach people who are still entrenched in a religion we think is awful: TALK about it, as much as possible, when and where we can.

 

Anyway. I'm kind of losing my train of thought here, but that was what I came up with on the fly, fwiw. Just some stuff.

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