- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Fulfilling Our Dreams Through Compromise
The American Dream has lost much of its original meaning. Somewhere along the lines, fast cars, over-sized houses, and various other material items became synonyms with the American Dream. Truth of the matter is that the American Dream has always and will always be the fulfillment of one's individual dreams. America recognizes the rights and provides the freedoms to allow individuals the opportunity to pursue their dreams. However, the dreams of some are not compatible with dreams of others. To fulfill our dreams, then, we have to be willing to make compromises.
The most well known example of conflicting dreams is that of Hitler and the Holocaust. Hitler had a dream, but to make his dream come true required demolishing the dreams of all others. This inspired new dreams from those who would later rise against the Nazis to take out Hitler. They killed the dream he was working toward to fulfill their own just as Hitler had done to so many during his pursuit. Had Hitler been American, his dream would still have been considered un-American.
What makes an individual dream an American one? The key component is the recognition of the rights of others to freely pursue their dreams. Hitler's dream was un-American because it denied others their dreams in an inhumane way. Aspects of American life, such as current legislation, business structure, taxes, etc. may act as barriers to fulfilling one's dream. However, such obstacles do not prevent an individual from pursuing his or her dream. Unfortunately, some individuals and groups take advantage of loopholes and public opinions to prevent others' dreams with the hopes of seeing their dreams take precedence.
We see this kind of behavior in many areas, including religions and faith groups. The dream of such institutions is not to deny others their dreams. Rather, these groups envision a world where everyone shares their faith. In such a world, they believe all will be peaceful and enlightened. They see life in their dream as happy and ideal. When this dream becomes one's main prerogative, the only means of fulfilling it would be to find ways of ensuring conversion of all to their faith at the exclusion of all others. Of course, in a culture where individuals cannot be forced or threatened into converting, the best option is to ensure their faith is the only faith available or reputable.
Truthfully, considering the variety of faiths in America, such a feat is daunting. Those individuals who actually attempt to deny other faiths are generally few. Even when individuals with such agendas are backed by larger religious institutions, they can only attempt to influence the culture around them rather than attacking other faiths. For example, individuals of the Mormon church wishing to rid gay marriage and any supporters of it in California through local governments have the backing of the church because it promotes their values. However, not all individuals of the church may feel it is necessary to deny others their personal beliefs and values. These individuals will support measures that coincide with their beliefs, but they will not support direct attacks against others' rights.
Different laws, regulations, and policies exist that block other faiths from their dreams. In America a faith has to use Christian terms in describing their structure and leadership. For example, terms such as "church" and "reverend" are adopted into other faiths to describe near equivalents for the sole purpose of achieving recognition as valid religious organizations and to receive the tax-exempt status as such. If a group does not adhere to the policies because they wish to be who they are and not what others want them to be, they forsake legal status as a religion and risk being treated as a dangerous cult. Refusing to assimilate at least somewhat into the currently accepted structure may lead to the denial of religious rights.
Those who do not wish to see alternative faiths come to light will use propaganda and dirty tactics to ensure the image of danger is attached to the faiths. An example of a dirty tactic is watching for popular or well-known figures of the alternative faith and offering to pay them money to convert to their faith and remain a public figure speaking out against the alternative faith. In some cases, sleazy individuals will simply do this on their own in attempts to con money or favors from others, and are then supported by individuals who would like to use their "testimonies" as propaganda. (To be fair, in the latter case the individuals are oftentimes also being swindled and will denounce the con artist once they become aware.) This leads to the various forms of "I was once just like you, falsely believing ___ when ___ is the truth!" The inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the alternative faiths often spread paranoia, misunderstanding, and intolerance. The effect on the reputation of alternative faiths leave them vulnerable to many injustices and prevent the fulfillment of the individuals' dreams.
If we want to see our dreams come true we need to be willing to make compromises. The American Dream is not something that tears down or prevents the dreams of others. Denying other faiths the right to practice and be regarded as the positive alternatives that they are is not part of the American Dream. In the same way alternative faiths must use foreign terminology to receive equal religious legal status, those desiring full conversion must be willing to accept that others will come to their faith if and when they are ready. To build the world we want, we must consider encouraging positive changes in the world.
If you have to intentionally cause harm to others or their dreams to fulfill your own, you may need to reevaluate what your dream is. Will such negative means justify the ends? Or will they stand as a reminder to you and others that your end goal only sounded good at the time? Bringing down others is not only un-American but also negatively impacts your own dreams. Finding a way to cooperate with others will benefit all involved. A little bit of tolerance can go a very long way in fulfilling our dreams.
- Witchvox Article - Bill Schnoebelen
Article investigating the background and claims of Bill Schnoebelen, who preaches against Wicca and other faiths.
- Today's American Dream
Restoring the true meaning of the American Dream so today's Americans will apprehend the principles of liberty and freedom America's founding fathers
- Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations
Benefits & responsibilities under the US federal tax law.
© 2011 Evylyn Rose