To many people’s dismay, the US has become embroiled in something called “religious restoration”. The politicians and religionists who favor so-called religious restoration laws say that they protect the religious freedoms of the people. Those who are wary of such laws, say that religious freedom is already protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. They say that these new laws are steps towards theocracy and away from equanimity.
Bubbling not very far beneath the surface are newly evolving civil rights. Women, blacks, gays, and other minorities are beginning to find their social and political footing in this country. These advances apparently are frightening to the established power base. The use of “religious freedom” provides a politically safe minefield in the battle against civil rights.
The argument goes something like this: If serving the needs of certain individuals offends the religious beliefs of a business person then discrimination is righteously justified. A rational person might counter that argument by asking that if a person is unwilling to serve the needs of the general public, why would a person decide to go into a particular line of public business?
In the manner that devout Hindus and Buddhists follow their deeply held beliefs about harming animals, they do not work in the beef industry, pious Christians should not work in fields that expose them to people with whom they find disagreeable–members of the general public. Our social contract stipulates that everybody is treated equally in public business, so nobody should be discriminated against.
If I read that an anti-minority business person is using religion as a smokescreen to hide their personal dislike of minorities, I will wish to examine her particular religion and its tenets. When I find no endorsement of business behavior within that religion’s sacred writings, then I assume she has purely personal, political motives behind her activities.
I have carefully examined all of the major religions of the world. At their deepest, most profound levels, religion teaches openness, love, compassion, and generosity. I have not found any instances where a religion promotes discriminatory business practices towards people. Love and service are at the core of genuine faith.
At a base level we find a sports team type of mentality. Avid fans say, “This is my team and all other teams are terrible.” Such an attitude stems from insecurity and the wish to dominate. In my view, this type of rivalry is at the heart of many social disputes, secular and religious. Such sectarian opinions work against the need for harmonious human relationship in society. Just as we witness deep hatred and even violence regarding sports team rivalries, we find it among several religious organizations.
Personally, when I ponder “religious restoration”, I think of a return to the deepest aspects of religion. What comes most readily to my mind is the term “wisdom tradition”. This is when we examine the true motives behind our actions. The restoration of religion to a wisdom tradition involves the exercise of methods, that include harmony and caring, to help reduce the suffering of all types of people, without exceptions.
Religion, in its deepest sense, cannot be used as a political weapon in the fight between progress and reaction. At its heart, religion is not a mere political tool of aggrandizement. When a religious faction wishes to politically dominate a population, we find the dark world of theocracy.
To me, any religious restoration must include love, compassion, cooperation, harmony, and mutual respect. Certainly there will be differences in theology and metaphysics. People will hold different opinions about such matters. Those opinions or beliefs are topics for intellectual and spiritual discussions.
A true religious restoration will improve the lives of all people by teaching compassionate thinking. Religious restoration means an harmonious balance between spiritual and secular requirements. The issues we all face include environmental degradation, global climate change, poverty, religious corruption,
political competition, greed, hatred, prejudice, nationalism, wars and other urgent problems. It is necessary that all people, religious and secular, work together to face our suffering. We can no longer afford to think and act in narrow, self-centered ways. When we are presented with fear, we must face it with wisdom, not knee-jerk reactions.
Legitimate religious restoration actually means we must treat one another with respect, care, compassion, equality, and, most importantly, love.
The Blue Jay of Happiness meditates on this teaching from Alan Watts: “Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”