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Listen to the people
There is a disturbing culture of deference and servility towards authority—religion, in particular—in this country that needs to be addressed. There is a strong tendency to not offend or criticise religious institutions or beliefs and this constrains the public conversation on issues such as homosexuality and abortion.
Individuals largely lack the conviction to abandon the tenets taught to them as children and the few dissenters that crop up are laughed off and told to “Lighten up!” or “Calm down!” I politely decline both offers. The ethos of mysticism and credulity in the populous has lead to a stunted intelligentsia and has wormed its way into the government. The disdain towards academia has led to mass scientific illiteracy and our culture is the poorer for it.
Let me make one thing clear: I do not wish to express antagonism towards any devout or pious member of any faith. That would be impertinent and wrong of me. What concerns me, however, is the eagerness to be a part and the willingness to be indoctrinated. It is a culture of blind, unquestioning faith in what you’re told, in which scepticism is discouraged and dissent feared.
In the recent public discussion on homosexuality (which I think could not have come up soon enough), the religious are quick to invoke the word of their supernatural authority—as if it has any place in a civil rights conversation. They recycle facetious non-arguments and unscientific babble from decades ago, borrowed from the religious Right in the US. They would be funny if only anyone was willing to laugh.
So, what to do? Here’s my advice, for lack of a less condescending term, to those involved. To religious leaders: You are fully entitled to have your beliefs, to worship your deity(ies) and to find salvation in whatever form you choose. But recognise that yours is not the only belief.
Do not, for one second, presume to tell people how to live their lives. Recognise that your holy books give you ABSOLUTELY no authority—moral or otherwise—over ANYONE, and especially over those who do not subscribe to your beliefs. Recognise that yours is a personal faith and as such, while it is your right to have it, it is to have no influence in government, scientific inquiry or human rights affairs.
To the followers/congregations: Resist the urge to be a sheep. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Do not allow what is screamed from the pulpit to sway your own morality and make you believe archaic, hateful nonsense. Learn to embrace the plurality and nuance of the world and let go of any conceptions of Utopia. “But my beliefs give me hope, comfort, etc.” Fine for you. But for the sake of all that is good, try to come out of your comfort zone.
Teach yourself to be suspicious and critical of authority—in whatever form it takes—and stop following the crowds. To the politicians: Your job is to listen to the people—ALL of them—not to a higher power only you can see.
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