When I say “mea culpa” I only have myself both to blame and forgive. I have no God for a fall back position.
I have not believed in a “maker” since I was 11 years old 66 years ago, although I did come from a Christian based family. I therefore became adept at going” under the radar” for many years and I do deeply respect the life values of most mainstream religions. (I find these values within each major religion very similar.)
This morning, reading the article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Catherine McGregor, with which I basically agreed, I found myself musing on the difficulties that religions have posed over the years.
Whilst the essence of most religions is the call to be good towards others, this at times appears to me to be incompatible with some of the strong beliefs and also the expectations of some congregations.
When once I said that I thought religions have been the cause of many conflicts over the centuries, the late Dr Denis Wright, a University teacher and researcher in Asian history, religions and culture, modern Asian politics and Society, replied with these wise words.
“I think it oversimplifies when it’s said that people have fought for centuries over their beliefs. When you study the history of religions, you discover that the beliefs themselves are practically irrelevant to conflict; it’s how you are treated because of your religion that matters. Is the battle between Jews and Muslims in Palestine over doctrine? How often does doctrine come up as the basis of war between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland? When did violence really erupt between Hindus and Muslims in India? It was only when all of these became political and economic issues, usually cloaked by nationalism in various forms, that doctrine was made the rationale for conflict. It was never about doctrine. It was about land, equality and freedom.
Why is there not bitter struggle between religions in Australia as there us elsewhere? Because most have enough of the good things in life to be content to live with each other; not with a knife at the others’ throats, or a bomb. Violence erupts when people feel a keen sense of injustice.
(It amazes me that the aboriginal people are not more violent towards those they blame for their loss – or is the violence turned inwards for them, against each other? Another question, not for here.)”
Wise words. When I hear of proposals to give those of the Christian Religion another favoured voice in my culture I feel a great sense of injustice. I do not acknowledge that our society is great because it is founded in a Judeo Christian culture. I think our society is only great whenever we can bring ourselves to think of others, including minority groups. I look around in dismay at what we have done regarding various beliefs in our indigenous cultures and migrant cultures. I remember the fights in my childhood between Catholic and Protestant children, often supported by parents.
And indeed it is adherence to differences that is sometimes what is preached by many religions. But these cannot be unfairly imposed in the secular society by giving personal beliefs any priority under our laws. All we can ensure is the right to personally hold such a belief within the law.
I know many Christians who are dear to me and who I admire. I know Muslims I love. (I do prefer the Islamic sacrifice story and regard it with more satisfaction than the Christian sacrifice story- though they have some strong similarities. I do not believe either of them.) I have known a Christian Arab, born, bred, educated and working in Jerusalem, who was exiled, for life, from his home. So much for the “Judeo/ Christian” bond!
My own personal faith in life is to try and be nice to others. I like to help where I can, if I can, which is not really as often as I should.
I do think everyone has a right to believe as they like and to freely practice their own religions in this country – but only in ways which do not impinge on the rights of others who are not of that faith or indeed of any faith.
We live in a society based on a secular constitution. Christianity has had an “inside run” since colonisation, first because of brute force and then because of its powerful majority in the population. Christianity, and in particular individual Christians, have certainly contributed some great good to our society. It has also perpetrated some evils, particularly upon the indigenous population. But those of us who are not Christian should not be forced to support a belief, and its trappings, which are not ours.
I will take full responsibility for all my decisions. I will obey all the laws of the land in which I live. But I deserve the right, in a democracy, to protest peacefully against any proposed laws that I think are unjust. And I think they are unjust when they favour religion in a society.
I take this responsibility seriously and do not have a God to give me guidance and forgive me if I err. I have to forgive myself and mend my ways.
I do not wish to support any legislation that will either regulate society by interpretation of any “superior” God’s wishes over any other God’s wishes, belief systems or indeed over the considered personal, equally non intrusive, decisions or speech of a free human being who does not have a belief in a God.