Freedom from Religion

Loads of reasons why you should spend time living in another country: personal growth, career advancement and personal liberty.

Here’s another biggie: freedom from religion.

In countries like the US, Turkey, or Indonesia, religion is a vital part of the culture.  And for some people, like me, we need a little break away from that, to experience life on our own terms.

Now, for Americans, what I just wrote above might sound unpatriotic, immoral, or even blasphemous and illegal.  If so, see? …case in point.

Inseparable Mix of Politics and Religion

Outside of a church itself, religion is most tied up in politics.

Pretty soon, the US will vote who will be President for the next four years.  The two “choices” given to Americans are:  the incumbent, President Obama, and a challenger, Mitt Romney.

Ask the average American what religion Romney follows and odds are great you’ll hear the right answer: he’s a Mormon.  How does anyone know?  Well, aside from his stealthy wealth and charm, his religion is big news.  And, if/when he gets elected, Romney will become the country’s first Mormon president, even bigger news.

Ask the average Canadian what religion Romney follows and odds are good you’ll hear another right answer: who gives a shit?

Well, Americans do give a shit because it’s not just big news, but, to the average voter, it’s practically necessary.  The candidate’s religion is a prominent decision factor to liking him or not.  A candidate’s religious strength provides a measuring stick to his morale character.

To Canadians, the concern is almost non-existant.  For example, Bloc Quebecois party leader Giles Duceppe happens to be atheist.  I’m doubtful that even 5% of Canadians know that.  And fewer would care or weigh it against whether to vote for him.

Compare that to American politics, where a noticeable lack of mentioning God demands explanation and apology.

About the First Amendment

About now, readers in the US are screaming at me “Hey – we got the First Amendment!  We have ‘separation of church and state’.”  Not true, read on.

Yes, the 1st amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, among others.  But careful how you interpret that freedom.  Does it mean that religion can’t be intertwined with government (you can’t tie together church and state)?  No, not really.  It’s more correct to say the first amendment guarantees no laws can be passed to infringe on your freedom of religion.  So, we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  And stemming from our historical roots, the US government passes laws to grant religious institutions the freedom to flourish and spread their word.

In the US, community meetings (often called Town hall meetings) often begin with a prayer.  Yes, that is totally normal and expected.  What the first amendment guarantees, is that you can’t exclude other religions from those Town hall meeting prayers.  Meanwhile, if a candidate were even rumoured to be atheist, that would make headline news in mainstream media.

UPDATE:

Now, in May, 2014, the Supreme Court just ruled in favour of allowing opening prayers at higher government meeting levels. Opening prayers allowed at Council and other legislative meetings. The Court’s decision was split 5:4 in the end, but check this out…

Most interesting:

  • ALL 9 judges agree religion can be in a government forum without endorsing a particular faith.
  • ALL 9 judges agree that such a public forum doesn’t have to be religion-free.
  • But, only 5 felt such prayers can speak to a certain religion (read: Christianity).

Not surprisingly, the deciding majority (the 5 judges for the decision) are Catholic, while the dissenters (the 4 judges against) are non-Christian.

This should alarm you if you’re American. The decision does 2 things, very plainly:

  1. Less separation of Church and State (more lenient on having “any” religious prayer, at legislative government meetings)
  2. More exclusionary to non-Christian religions.

I tell ya, the US is going beyond just allowing religion in state affairs. It’s encouraging those of faith (and only one faith) to feel supported by the US.

UPDATE #2:

Immediately famous as of minutes ago: the Hobby Lobby ruling.

June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court with another major ruling. Now, corporations are allotted the same “religious freedom” as individuals to the effect of denying its employees’ birth control coverage. Yes, if the company’s owners are staunchly against birth control, they can deny (otherwise) mandatory health care coverage to its employees.

WTF? Come on, really?

Read the whole ruling here

 

Millions of Years or Six Days? A Personal Story

How about evolution versus creationism?  Did Darwin get it right, or did it happen as the Book of Genesis spells it out?  Did animals evolve over millions of years or did it just take six days?  What’s your belief?  I’ll share my beliefs, then and now:

Back in 1997, when I met the beautiful girl who is now my wife, I was fairly religious.  I didn’t often go to church, but my faith was blind and strong.  I sincerely believed in creationism… that God magically created the Earth and all its creatures in just 6 days.  And I told my new girlfriend what I believed.

Well, luckily for me, she was one patient young lady.  Since she is a geologist (and btw, not American), you can guess that she doesn’t share the same belief that Earth was created in six days.  …I’ve learned a lot since then.  Thanks babe!

Before I draw the ire of many religious people … (too late), I only mean to highlight how important religion is in US culture.  And that there’s little a citizen can do to escape it.  For those religious people:  not everyone believes it as you do….or wants to be convinced otherwise.  And, as you travel the world …beware how strongly you argue your beliefs.

How do different religions accept evolution?
Side note: How Do Different Religions Accept Evolution?

Again, if you are religious and you are talking with others about it, then beware your convictions will be tested or debated.  Hey, who knows, you might be set free from them!

US Does Not (& Will Not) Offer Freedom from Religion

The US is one of the most religious countries in the world.  In one survey, the US ranks 5th among a sample 30 countries.

Back on evolution versus creationism, the US is second only to Turkey in how many people don’t believe in evolution!

Politicians are hell-bent on introducing “alternative theories” to evolution to biology class curriculums.  The latest new creationism law happened in Tennessee, when its governor sidestepped debate by avoiding both signing and vetoing it.  “Intelligent design” is just a new label for an old argument.

Evolution isn't just a theory
AP – Books against the theory of evolution are sold at an outdoor stand in Dayton, Tenn., 1925, scene of the John Scopes “monkey trial.“

Think of Your Kids, for Christ’s Sake!

Our kids inherit our future.  In 20 years, we expect (and will need) our children to run the show.  For the entire next generation, all things yet to be discovered, improved upon and manufactured, will be by our children.  Cool thought, right?

So, I ask you now: Do you want your kids to creatively think for themselves or blindly believe “God will see us through”?

Bill Nye, a.k.a. “the Science Guy” on TV, asks similar scary questions.  In a recent Youtube video, Bill Nye pleads parents to spare their children from the oversimplified world of creationism.  His argument is, if kids are forced to abandon all the evidence (fossils, astronomical distances and spans of time, minute changes in species), then those kids learn to abandon reasoning and scientific deduction.  I totally agree… do you?

 

Closing Thoughts

Like most all posts, I only ask to consider travelling outside your country.  Travel and explore the world.  Visit with others and get to know them, their way of life.

And, in the name of religion, why not go out to understand and appreciate all that splendour.  Don’t you owe that much to Him?  🙂

 

If you agree with these thoughts (or staunchly disagree), would you please share it?  It’s going to take a LOT of awareness to make any amount of change.  Thank you in advance for sharing this with friends and family.

If you have any additions, corrections or personal stories to share, I welcome all as a comment below.  Check out what others have said, and add your own.

best, -Jeff

 

Published by

Jeff

An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.
Enjoy.

7 thoughts on “Freedom from Religion”

  1. Jeff, interesting points you make here. I feel more freedom from religion living in a predominately Muslim country (Malaysia) than I did in US.

    Unfortunately I have to face the origin question when I visit family – my father is a die-hard creationist and tries to persuade me to buy into “creation science”, which is of course heavily cherrypicked to feed confirmation bias to the true believers. Always frustrating to have to avoid that subject or confront differences that will not be resolved.

    1. Thanks Mike for the comment!

      I hear you about your dad. My mother’s also quite religious …which might help explain my strong need for this “freedom” 🙂 But at least her strong views stay with her; no trying to persuade others at all.

      So, Malaysia — you got that outsourcing contract, then? What do you find the same/different between Malaysia and the Philippines? How about the family?

      Best to you as always,
      -Jeff

      1. Yes indeed, I’ve been in Malaysia for almost a year already. Hard to believe it’s been that long already. I need to write about all this on my blog…

        Malaysia – more diverse, more developed, less overpopulated than Philippines. Best I write a blog post on that – probably 500-1000 word answer there.

        Family is adapting well, just started school. So far so good 🙂

        Glad to hear all is well with you and family as well.

        1. Please nurture your blog, Mike. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but I also believe your blog would be well appreciated by many folks. 🙂

  2. Thanks Jeff appreciate the encouragement. It’s looking like I will be disengaging from one of my project soon so that will open the window of opportunity to get back to blogging. More to follow.

  3. Hi Jeff and fellow wannabe expats 🙂

    Have a bit of an odd question to ask.

    I recently got some news from CIC Sydney NS office that the updates I sent couldn’t be commented on as my file had been transferred to the Ottawa Office for processing (yay! any news is great news!!)

    My question is regarding the PR letters or request for interview letters prior to getting a medical – I know this will be coming in the post. My mother told me yesterday the local post officer were saying a postal delivery man has been arrested for taking people’s mails. Now, I pretty much don’t have any mail that comes to my Australian address though I did have a bank card go missing- what my mother is worried about that I may have had a letter that was never delivered. As I have no idea what the letter would look like- I am assuming that one of the address labels I was asked to provide would be used for this purpose- I am not sure whether I should be worried? I have heard, from asking and coincidentally my temp boss used to process Canadian visa documents (what a discovery), that PR processing for people outside of Canada tends to be a bit quicker and I’m in my 7th month and everyone keeps telling me to focus on the good (I am ever hopeful it will happen sooner rather than later)- so, should I contact the Ottawa office on the off chance something has come through? I don’t want to have had a letter requesting an interview or medical and not show up! That would reflect poorly on me.

    Your advice is much appreciated

    Thanks!
    Rosie

    1. Rosie,

      I used to teach English in South Korea, many (many) moons ago.
      It was in this little run-down hagwon (private language institute) with five other American/Canadian teachers. Over time and experience, we teachers grew a very popular list of “Kong-isms” or special phrases from our institute director.

      Our favourite phrase was: “Don’t worry about such no big thinges!”

      I think it explains itself, but let me spell it out for you and your mail situation.
      First, your mom isn’t helping at all with the story of a thieving mailman. Really, what are the odds that he/she took something from you from CIC? Quite unlikely they sent something, and that it got nicked by the mailman. Plus, the mailman’s more likely taking holiday cards that feel ‘thick’ with cash.

      Second, it’s only been 7 months. Wait it out longer, then begin, to start, to sort of, get a bit concerned. Not a big worry now. 🙂

      Third, call them and ask. Or go online and check on your status. If it’s still in processing, then yup- wait.

      No big deal – you’re good.
      Thanks for reading and following my blog! 🙂
      -jeff

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