Don’t get me wrong, I’m no bigot. In fact, I have a lot of religious friends. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian. A veritable rainbow of belief systems.
Because I’m glad that we live in a free society. One where people of all faiths are entitled to worship as they see fit. But that doesn’t mean I need their world-view shoving down my throat. I mean, I’m pretty broad-minded. But please, spare me the gory details. After all, what people practice behind closed doors is entirely their own business.
Despite what some might say, no-one is born religious. It’s a lifestyle choice. Some people feel that they’re religious from an early age. Others lead a life of carefree agnosticism, before realising later in life their true calling.
For many, this means turning their back on their former selves, as they form a completely new identity in line with their chosen lifestyle. They might change the way they dress, start listening to different music, and even form new social circles.
Sometimes, this can make them almost unrecognisable from the people they once were. And I guess it can be tough for their families to adapt to this surprising new identity, especially if they don’t know any other religious people.
More vocal critics argue that deeply religious behavior is a sign of mental weakness or disturbance. Something to be cured or reconditioned. I don’t believe that at all. These people deserve our understanding and acceptance, not judgment or persecution. Remember, religion is not their sole reason for being. It’s merely one facet of who they are. When they’re not spending time in contemplative prayer, they’re going to work, spending time with their loved ones, and paying their taxes. Just like the rest of us.
I suppose it’s the militants that cause me the most distress. Marriage is an institution as old as society itself. It changes with the times, adapting to the needs of the world around it.
Some people are loud and proud about their religion. They wear icons on their clothes or around their neck to broadcast their beliefs to the world. You see these symbols on the bumpers of cars, or in shop windows. It’s their way of telling the rest of us that they’re here, they fear, so get used to it.
The behaviour of consenting adults is one thing. But I do worry about the children. Surely we should be preserving young people’s innocence, rather than recruiting them to a lifestyle they’re too naïve to comprehend? It seems unfair to promote a belief system, and indoctrinate the next generation into it, before they’ve developed the maturity to make their own decisions.
Of course, there are also a number of sexual risks associated with a deeply religious lifestyle. For instance, some religions believe that a rape victim should be forced to marry her attacker. Others are more obsessed with sex, and teach that abstinence is the only virtuous path. Sadly, this can lead to unprotected sexual activity and countless unplanned pregnancies.
Animosity between certain faiths has been brewing for hundreds, even thousands of years. But no one religion has any right to dominion over the others. In an equal society, we’re all entitled to the same basic human rights.
I suppose it’s the militants that cause me the most distress. Marriage is an institution as old as society itself. It changes with the times, adapting to the needs of the world around it. And yet, there are special interest groups that are looking to hijack it, and redefine it as an exclusively religious ceremony. Marriage is for everyone – it’s a basic building block of civilisation. So let’s keep faith out of it, and in the houses of worship where it truly belongs.
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