Do It My Way

There’s a website for people to experiment with ideas called TED. There are video talks on it that are pretty interesting, if you take some time to watch the videos. There are also essays to read. They have a few different forums as well, one where you talk about ideas you have and people add to it and help refine it. Another forum lets you ask a question –and people give their answers or maybe talk off on a tangent. There are people who would call it a lot of intellectualist BS, and maybe they’d be right. It’s not like what’s there is very likely to change the course of the world. But in a bigger sense, it might. Because it’s ideas that propel us forward into the future, fanning the flames of technology and growth.

But in looking it over, reading what people had to say and listening to some of the talks that interested me, I ran across a discussion about God. Now, there’s lots of those going on these days, what with religion turning into such a charged political platform issue. I noted that no one talked about a separation of church and state as a Constitutional mandate. The very idea of someone saying that they would seek to create laws based on their religious beliefs bothered me. It bothered me because when you put the force of law behind any particular religious view, then you deny freedom of religion.

I have my own views on God ad religion, and they aren’t at point here. My discussion is generalized. An exercise in logic, let’s say. If we have freedom of religion in this country then it means that each person or group should be able to practice their beliefs without interference. The minute that you make a law that forces a particular view –by curtailing or requiring some action or perspective, then you have just used the force of law to cause someone to participate in the religious aspect the law promotes.

The only reason that this bothers me is because I have seen laws, as we all have, change the attitude of the nation at large. One of the key debating points in modern politics is an example and that the Row v Wade decision. It applied freedom of choice to women by legalizing abortion. There was no part of it that said women had to get abortions, it merely removed the illegality of the act. But it also had the back door effect of promoting sexual liberation to the point that sexual toys are advertised on television during prime time and no one bats an eye. While my personal preference is that I don’t particularly like the way sex has incorporated itself into our media so prolifically, it is the right of advertisers to do what they do because our First amendment says it is. Now we have candidates who are making it a platform issue that they will overturn the Supreme Court decision. Of course, the way the court works disallows anyone to be able to make a choice like that. However, if there are available seats on the Supreme Court, a president can recommend people for the available positions who think along anti-abortion lines. Over time, this can cause the prevailing views of the court to change, and possibly lead to a reversal of the earlier decision. But no candidate can promise it.

Now, the reason all of this stands out to me is that I happen to believe that the government is getting too involved with the lives of people. The laws on stem cells bothers me because of the tremendous delays it has created for development of life saving treatments based on a religious tenet, along with a difference in perspective as to when life begins. So as I look out at those who, like myself, could benefit from stem cell development and research, it makes me cringe that religious ideals that I don’t happen to share are taking a toll on the medical directions of the nation. The stem cell transplants that we undergo as Multiple Myeloma victims is not particularly affected by the rules in this regard because we use a different kind of stem cell than those to which the laws apply. But I also know that some of the candidates with extreme religious values have their sights set on stem cells in general, and that means that we could be affected by a change. The general religious view being advocated actually touches on a variety of different things affecting our treatment, including genetic studies, the aforementioned stem cells, death with dignity and others. I happen to think that those who take a right to life to the extremes could create changes in the nation which could spread and limit a lot of the positive direction that our research takes in its search for improving human life. Look what happened as a result of Roe v Wade; while it had a positive effect for some, it had, in my view anyway, a negative effect on all sorts of ancillary issues.

It makes me feel threatened because I have found that those things that raise the hackles of alarm in us do so for a reason. While it’s impossible to say with any credibility that bad things will happen, the opposite is true. There are no guarantees that bad things won’t.

It causes me to have a greater understanding of why the separation of church and state was deemed wise by the authors of our Constitution. True, the primary issue at the time was that British rule came with bowing to the King as a religious deity, with its own church and all. But in addition to shucking the requisites of the political church, it shucked the idea that other than pragmatic reasoning be applied to political decisions and mandates. So I am not speaking from a position of is God good or is God bad, I am asking that we all think about whether religious mandate of any kind really belongs in government. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. We should not have the moral qualities of the Muslim, Catholic, Baptist, Mormon or any other church dictated to us as a society because doing so denies the individual to practice their own religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are a lack of belief.

As knee jerk emotional rhetoric is bandied about as our political processes unfold, it is important that as we make our allegiances according to our ideas of what is best for those we disagree with, not the other way around. Otherwise there will come the time when each of us will face the proscription or even abolition of our own spiritual beliefs and rights.