- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Ways that Personal Faith Can Cause Harm
Is Personal Faith Truly Personal
I've recently encountered a large number of people who seem to back pedal themselves into a corner when faced with an honest religious discussion or debate. They strike back in the only way that they know how - ultimately, their argument hinges on one single point.
These people all say something along the lines of "well, I don't know how my personal beliefs affect you - why does it matter that I believe what I want, I'm not hurting anyone"
That statement is not only a blatant attempt at misdirection, it is also completely untrue. If you think that whatever you believe is simply whatever you believe and it causes no harm whatsoever, you're failing to see the big picture - or you're remaining willfully ignorant.
The fact of the matter is that no one lives in a vacuum. What we do affects other people. It would be one thing if you lived on a deserted island, no one was around and you simply just did whatever you want. That, however, is not the case. We don't live in a vacuum. Our choices, decisions and actions do affect other people, and religion in general - including personal religion - does cause real, discernible harm to others.
Think outside of the box for a moment. We are mere days away from another presidential election in this country. What makes you decide which candidate is going to get your vote? Are you more likely to vote for someone who shares your faith, or someone who opposes it?
Personal religion impacts an individual's take on social and moral issues. Two big examples that are prevalent in today's society are the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian citizens and the issue of abortion. Many people oppose marriage equality because of one reason alone - they believe that homosexuality is a sin as determined by their holy book - and because of it they vote to limit the rights and freedoms of other people - regardless of whether those other people adhere to the same holy book or interpretation thereof or not.
A lot of religious people also consider themselves to be pro-life, and consider people who are pro-choice to instead be pro-abortion. They believe (contrary to what their own bible teaches) that all life is sacred and that means that the rights of an unborn fetus supersede the rights of the mother and abortion is immoral. They choose to legislate based on those beliefs, and that legislation is currently threatening imminent harm on thousands of women who are not in a position to give birth - but may be forced to against their will should certain laws be passed and readily enforced.
No matter how personal your faith is, it also determines your stance on many issues - and those issues affect the lives of other people. Trying to excuse away that kind of negativity is dishonest to the extreme. Claiming that your personal beliefs should be justified because they cause no harm to others is looking at the world with blinders on. You're only seeing what you want to see - not the way things really are.
Silence is seen as assent. If you do nothing to help, then you're willfully making yourself part of the problem. You may not agree with everything that the religious right does or said, but refusing to take a stand against it allows it to continue indefinitely - and it's not just your life, your livelihood and your future at stake. Every move we make starts a domino effect on the people we associate with, the acquaintances that we see every day at work or the strangers that we pass without a second though. While faith may seem like a way to maintain inner strength, what is the true cost - and how can that cost be negated, when it's potentially harmful to someone else who doesn't see eye to eye with your beliefs?