Article #1: What Is Religious Freedom?

I have joined my University’s magazine as an editor. For the first issue, they’ve allowed me to participate as a writer. The theme everyone chose was ‘Religion’, and after observing a huge amount of negativity on everything that has to do with that topic, I decided to write this piece. I only hope that they won’t shift or remove any of this during publication — but I have decided to post it on my favorite platform nonetheless. This is probably the most passionate I have been about writing in a long time. [Guys, I swear I wrote this in half an hour. It’s the passion, I tell you!]

It is of a hapless truth that only an exiguous portion of society today understands what is meant by a freedom that exists within an enslavement. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines freedom as a “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another”, and that particular perspective seems to almost run through us like some axiom – that the only way to achieve freedom is to be cut loose from all governing surroundings. Humanly governing surroundings. Recognizing the ‘human’ aspect of this definition is imperative if you wish to comprehend the unheeded meaning behind it.

What is the first thing that enters your cognizance when you hear the word ‘religion’? Do you think of ‘dogma’ or ‘shackles’ or any other word carrying negative connotations and heavy loaded jargon? It is unfortunate that you feel that way. In fact, it is almost pitiful that you have not been assigned another soul to reveal to you the beauty behind a spirituality so connected and so engrossed into its worship.

There is a cloaked maxim that lies behind our desire for love and existential purpose always coveted in acts like painting or singing or writing. We are relentlessly defeated and being defeated by our own selves in a conflict to unearth the reason for our existence – religion has come to remind us that our journeys should not be so exhausting.

Once the concept of freedom is redefined as a perspective inside of us rather than an outcome created for us, much of our world will return into our control. There is a tranquilizing meaning in religion’s requirement of servitude. It does not ask for a worship of another facile human like us, one who faults and errs. It does not request a debt to be recompensed after providing us with a guide so immaculate and so pristine. It commands the worship of God, the one who created and the one who perpetuated. Your freedom in religion opposes any meaning of enslavement on earth, because you are a slave of no one but the one who created you. And how couldn’t you be? If there lies a consensus that no mind is alike, and that no mind is capable of the best, how is it fair to our souls that we choose for it its path? We used to hate it when our parents would give us that detrimental glare after we would refuse to scoff a lettuce leaf down our throats because it wasn’t as palatable as a French fry. But when our bones grew and when our minds comprehended, our satiation became impossible without that lettuce leaf. Worship is the same. The freedom in worship is the lettuce leaf that looks like it should be left at the end of the meal, when it truly carries all the nutritional benefits our souls crave every day.

 

There is another notion that lives inside of religion that mustn’t remain remiss. Religion is no restriction when it is understood as protection. For proper expatiation, certain epistemological theories are required. If one is to delve into the Tabula Rasa approach that argues humans have originated as a blank slate without any built in material and that they are only made up of their experiences, then religion is the key to inundating the white soul with righteousness. Without knowledge of anything, how else would we know right from wrong? What would morality even mean? It would all be trial and error without boundary until a governing force would put us into place. Not a humanly governing force – remember, humans don’t know anything.

Take Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ideology concerning the origin of human character where he claims we are naturally good, but corrupted by the society we have created. If this is the case, religion continues to assert itself as the domineering impetus steering the corrupt back into their hubs of ‘good’ and safety. It continues to guide until it becomes the shield that pushes for certain decisions and diminishes others. One of the key corrupters that Rousseau argues has destroyed humanity is private property. Religion combats this evil and commands us to give alms to the poor. It requires us to quit being so attached to our worlds that we will leave one day. It forces us to understand the value of today and the greater value of the hereafter. What if some decisions shouldn’t be as restricted as they are, you ask? We can’t know that anymore – society has corrupted us. To find our goodness would be to reach into our souls, and to reach into our souls would be to spiritually connect with the Divine.

There is a final perspective asserted in both Islam and Christianity that needs to also be addressed – and that is that humans are born in sin. Religion reverses that truth, and our hedonistic self that covets lust and pleasure grows feebler until righteousness prevails. Religion remedies it all – whether it is from rendering the perfect guide to sheltering from existing evils, it remains the only entity above all of us, because it did not come from us. Life without God and His religion is not freedom, life without God is fear and confusion.

 

We have created a society for ourselves that has acquired so much power, sometimes it is easy to miss what happens in the blink of an eye. As social creatures, it is no secret that we crave a social identification for a physical and emotional stability, and without really paying attention, we have slid down this journey to find identity in human-made things. We wear certain brands, and watch certain television shows, and eat at certain restaurants, all to form our own identities within these communities until we become so engrossed into their gilded cages of ‘possibilities.’ There is already a paradox in the notion of too much choice, and there is a blatant stupidity in defying the concept of freedom by identifying, but what can we do? We’re humans, we can’t help it.

The beauty of religious freedom is in its borderless identification. You are not a part of a certain SES to join, you do not look a certain way to participate, and you definitely don’t come from a specific place to contribute. We are all the same in religion, and our identity comes from something completely above us. It comes from what is not manipulated the way we are.

If two lovers broadcast their blinded passion for each other, how is it that they are appreciated and smiled at? When someone is attached to their pet, their relationship is applauded and encouraged. Why is it then, when someone attaches themselves in a blinded passion to God, the same way all these other people have, they are criticized and deemed of lesser intelligence? How is someone who has become certain of their purpose lesser than a confused skeptic who doesn’t believe they really exist?

I present to you that question to ponder because it really is a little baffling. We live in a world that has flipped freedom with incarceration and intelligence with vacuousness. The truth is not in the world we live in. The truth is in religion.

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2 thoughts on “Article #1: What Is Religious Freedom?

  1. Your perspective on “religion” is rather confusing. I would suggest more study of world religions for balance. It may be that you’ll find “truth” isn’t as neatly packaged as you present. Perhaps you’ll also discover that a secular perspective isn’t necessary lacking freedom nor is a non-theistic life one of fear and confusion. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Chris. I want to quickly point out that my knowledge on world religions is quite abundant, I have lived with people of all sorts of religions since the day I was born. That being said, the lens through which I have written this really was Islam-focused. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to specify that or if keeping the word “religion” as a general concept was better for the readers — it was purposed as more of a guiding article to one belief, but I suppose that wasn’t lucid enough. Your comment has helped me comprehend that perhaps this article’s own religious identification might be necessary. Thanks!

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