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Independence or Submission?

By Carl S ~

Recently, I bought a used book at a yard sale, Life magazine's "100 People Who Changed the World,” published March l, 2013. Within its pages are such "world-changers" as Elvis, Muhammad Ali, and the Beatles. And then there is Abraham, of whom the authors state, in their own words, "if he did in fact exist, a thing that is impossible to prove…" You read it right; this "World-changer" might just be made up!

But, it isn't until you reach page six that you realize how far out the publisher has gone in order to lose respect for facts: "We couldn't include everyone, and three who helped change the World but didn't make the cut were Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson." What? "Didn't make the cut?" But Oprah Winfrey and Picasso did? The effects resulting from the Declaration of Independence are still driving social movements throughout the World, to this very moment!

Considering that Time magazine, the publisher of this issue, is patriotic, one fails to understand its snubbing the founders of the government of, by, and for the people, beginning with a declaration of independence and individual self-determination. Maybe its religious members were influential in determining the process of deciding just who the Top 100 were to be, because every religion is perpetuated through submission. Seriously then, we might consider any submission to established traditions, such as religion, as being un-American. Challenge to tradition, in every way, has been a major factor of our country's greatness.

American tradition itself is anti-submission. To this date, conflicts are fought over state's and federal government’s rights. Some states have threatened to secede, and indeed, some did, erupting into the American civil war.

American Catholics rebel against being told by their pope that they must not practice birth control. Nor do they submit to exhortations to avoid certain writings, or certain movies, or that they should submit their judgements in all moral matters to their priests and bishops. The tremendous diversity among sects in America attests to the fact that each of them rebel, for the most part, against submitting to dogmas they just don't want to agree with.

About religious freedom in America: religious conservatives regard religious liberals as the enemy, and vice versa. This is an interesting and perplexing state of affairs, isn't it? On the one hand, we have the liberal Christians, who interpret the religion as a social movement for change through an emphasis on humanitarian action. To these liberals, at least as a facade for the religion, "Jesus" is a role model to be acted on through his examples of compassion. The Liberal Christians are not as judgmental or rigid as the conservative Christians. Yet, each uses the same Bible to justify their actions, and each claims to humbly submit to the authority of their scriptures!

What's hopeful for all of us is this: the liberal Christians are not the only ones opposed to the Christian conservatives, with their rigid and authoritarian interpretation of scriptures, their infiltration into American social, political, and judicial affairs. The majority of American citizens feel the same way. Let’s face it, what the religious right wants is for everyone to be submissive to the will of God as they interpret it to be, and they will do everything in their power to bring this about. After all, they boldly assert, it's God's will, and God's country. (Whereas we think it is, "We the People's" country.) And while they tell us, when we protest, to "Go live in Iran or China, if you don't agree with us," they ought to consider that they’re asking for trouble with that attitude. We don't like being bullied, and we do push back.

There's an irony about this country. In a nation founded through a revolution against tyranny, religious righters set up their own tyrannies, in a nation founded on, and asserting the rights of the individual (those very rights denied as non-existent by religious dogmas), religions keep trying to reverse them.

They fight to deny rights to gays, to deny the rights of women over their own bodies, the rights of non-theists, the rights of citizens to even question them or their motives. (Turn the comedians loose to sarcastically joke that the Christian right envies Sharia law!) Notice how even the media avoids and treads lightly over, or ignores, religious incursions and violations of human rights? In a nation that proclaims, "liberty and justice for all," religious faith-based organizations are exempted from federal laws all others must abide by. You can hear Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine screaming from their graves, "That's not fair, that's un-American."

What will happen to this country if it doesn't uphold its foundation of rebellion and, instead, allows the mounting tyranny of religion to slowly and surely erode our freedoms? For certain, this loss will not come about through full frontal attacks, but by the indifference to a comfortable and unsuspecting chipping away at our rights, as a result of citizens not doing anything to stop them.

The revolution is not over. Unfortunately, when freedom seekers came to the United States, they brought the tradition of religious submission with them. Two hundred and thirty-nine years later, that baggage is still dragging us down, threatening our fought-for rights. Each generation has to continue the fight. This is your generation and your future.