Today we live in an increasing secular world to fulfill the freedom of religion clause of our Constitution. What is the implication of this?
Secularism is defined by the dictionary as "the doctrine that morality should be based solely on the well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state." This means secularism is about a morality based on a Godless way of living. A secular state is one where our Christian faith is separated from our discussion about morality in our public affairs. This assumes that we can separate our religion from our discussions on moral issues. Is this possible?
A secular approach is based on a misunderstanding about the nature of religion. Our faith is about why we live the way we do. It informs us about the purpose of all our actions, why we are given life and then death. It is an essential part of our world view that allows us to interpret everything we sense in this world. Religion is essential to all people. Even if we do not understand what our religion is, we still have a religious world view within us. It is what give meaning to our life.
The attempt to take religion out of public discourse and activities is doomed to failure as it is not possible to separate our beliefs about life and our life after death from our actions or any discussion we have about about moral issues.
The reality of the world is that there are many world views based on differing belief systems. Anyone who says we can build a society based on a non-religious viewpoint in our public life and yet allow for us to privately practice our religion does not understand that they are asking us to build a society on their idea of religion, an atheist one. They are assuming that religion really is not important in our life and can be relegated to a small part of our life. Secularism implies a view that self-proclaims itself to be greater than all other religions. It is another form of religion called secularism. No religion teaches us to keep our beliefs separate from our public life. Secularism is simply a way for atheists to promote their world view.
If we want to have more meaning in our society we need to have sincere dialogue about our individual beliefs and seek ways to include them in our societal actions no matter how much they may differ. There are many issues where agreement may not be possible. We have great differences on issues like abortion. Is this be something a diverse society that protects freedom of religion can ever attain agreement? It deals with how we understand the very idea of sanctity of life and the impact of our choice in this regard to our status after we die. For those who believe it's ok to kill a fetus, are they to be oppressed or restricted by those who see this a murder? Or, are we to leave such choices up to each individual based on their own faith? I as a Christian should be able to fight for the protection of the unborn based on my religious beliefs, not on some logical morality devoid of God.
We may ask, are we to be ruled by the Ten Commandments of Shria Law? How do we resolve such issues? In a free society we must allow each to practice their own morality based on their faith after a meaningful debate on such issues. Otherwise, we violate the intent of the promise of freedom of religion. When we do not permit this kind of dialogue to take place in our public arena, we are reducing freedom of religion rather than increasing it. There should be no place or forum where we cannot express our religion and its beliefs. It is part of who we are. To make restriction is an attempt to marginalize our faith.
It seems that it is best if we recognize the diversity of our beliefs in the public sphere and permit individual freedom to reign as along as it does not limit actions dictated by another person's beliefs. Everyday we make choices according to our religious beliefs. If we are an Orthodox Christians we daily examine our actions and seek forgiveness for all the times that we have not been able to follow the teachings of our Lord and God Jesus Christ. We know we cannot live up to them all, but also know that we are expected to strive for perfection in our moral behavior. The key for life as a Christian is to be able to live so we can freely pursue our faith and live according to the way Jesus taught us. This may mean we need to say a prayer before doing certain activities. We may need icons or other religious symbols in our work space. Christians are taught to accept those who have differing beliefs even though they disagree with them. So they should also stand up for the right of a non-Christian to say a prayer to their God or have display in their workspace a image of symbol of their faith.
We should have enough belief in our faith, in the power of God, that if we live according to the Truths taught us we will influence others and will bring others to the truth with His aid. This is what happened in the early days of Christianity. With fervent faith they were aided by the Holy Spirit. But they had a greater faith in those times. They were willing to stand firm in their beliefs even when it did not fit with the norms of Roman society or against the will of a ruthless Emperor and meant death or torture.
We should expect to persecuted as the Scripture tells us, but we also know that to be united with God we must become humble, seeing our own sinful nature while we also see the image of God that is also in all others who do not share our beliefs. We do not want to interact with others is a way that would make them sinful.
So what is the answer? It makes no sense to try and take religion out of public debate as it is integral to who we are a persons. A Christian cannot accept this and be true to their religion. We should work to expand our pubic discussion to include all our differences with respect for the rights of every one. We should allow each person to express their faith in their own way in public forums. Freedom of speech should never be compromised in the name of secularism.
Let's not shrink from standing from as a witness to our faith in Jesus Christ by expressing our faith in the public sphere and remaining true to who are and what we believe. In this way our faith will grow and not become weakened. If we succumb to secularism we will end up with a weakening our faith, succumbing to relativism where all faiths are seen as equally valid, and lack the strength and grace to become united with God. If we stand true to our faith, we will gain the grace of God and gain in our ability to live the life He taught us. As we do this we will influence others to come to the truth we have. But first we must not let our faith be marginalized by the well intentioned ideas of those who believe that a pure rational godless approach is superior to one that combines rationality with faith.
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