To kick off the Social Justice Challenge the participants are asked to answer some questions on religious freedom. Here are my answers:
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of religious freedom?
For me religious freedom is connected with the freedom to chose for myself as long as it harms no one else. Freedom of religion should also mean Freedom from religion. I understand that for some people part of their religion is to evangelise to others and many of them do it from a position of love (thank you Eva for reminding me of that). However, if I say thanks but no thanks I do expect them to respect that.
Many times I feel like those who evangelise fail to realise that some of us have actively chosen no religion. We are not not [insert religion here] because we don’t know about it, or don’t understand it, but rather it is a decision we made after careful consideration of the facts.
The flipside of this coin is that I have to respect their religion and their right to choose. Not to question their motives and to support them in their choices. I had a friend in college who chose to start wearing a headscarf halfway through our first year. At the time I was not very understanding, I didn’t say anything to her in person but me and my other friends speculated. That did come from our caring for her, we were worried that she was being pressurised. But as the years went on, I came to realise that her wearing the scarf was a choice she herself had made. It was something that was important to her. Respecting others is the most crucial thing here, I think.
What knowledge do you have of present threats to religious freedom in our world today?
I think that the greatest threat to religious freedom today is a very old threat. Fear of the unknown and political leaders (from all countries) use of this fear. Not understanding religion (or other things) can lead to fear of those who practice it. When we fear something our knee jerk reaction is to forbid it or ridicule it. This leads to resentment and persecution.
I’m about to propose something that I know will get many people up in arms, but please hear me out. I live in one of the worlds most secular countries. We have problems with religious intolerance here too, although I would say we are more equal in our intolerance, we distrust religion in general (not good either). But what I do like about my country is that religion is a compulsory subject in school up and including one year of high school. One of the goals in this subject is to understand the basic tenants and expressions of Christianity* and some other world religions. This means that we get an education and an understanding of how and what other people believe and thus removes some of the fear. Of course we still have misinterpretations and people who plain don’t want to listen, but at least everyone has a chance to learn. Learning about a religion doesn’t have to be converting to that religion, it can and should be about learning about our fellow man.
Sorry this is a bit of a soap box issue for me.
*Christianity is named because at the time when the national curriculum was written one of the parties in power was the Christian Democrats and also because Sweden was in the most recent time a Christian nation. We now no longer have a state religion.
Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?
I will be reading Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of The Dalai Lama because, although I aced Religion in school I feel that I need to learn more about Buddhism. I am taking part in the World Religion Challenge this year because I want to learn more about different religions and the people who practice these religions.
Why does religious freedom matter to you?
Religious freedom matters to me because it should be a matter of choice and one should never remove choice from people.