He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
As regular readers here know, I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As such, it is obvious to me that one cannot have a healthy democracy in any country in which both of those fundamental freedoms are absent. Nor can one have a healthy democracy if women are denied rights equal to those of men, freeing them from any subservience to or oppression by the opposite gender.
That means, of course, that a healthy democracy also requires the separation of religion and state. We have abundant examples in history of the disastrous results when state and religion are joined and religious law becomes mixed with state law. And we are still seeing the catastrophic and unnecessary results of the mixing of religion and state in the ongoing tragedies in the daily news. There can be no true freedom without government guarantees of freedom of and from religion.
Some never seem to learn from the past. Sad to say, the Russian government, under the strong influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, has now made it virtually illegal to support equal rights and equal freedom for those whose orientation is toward the same sex. That is appalling at the beginning of the 21st century, a reversion to the days when the Russian State was the punishing and persecuting arm of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian people have been forbidden to simply express a desire for such equality of rights in any public or visible manner. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (often seen in photo ops with Putin) has even made the ridiculous and astonishingly intolerant and backward statement that the legalization of same-sex marriage is “a very dangerous sign of the Apocalypse.” That is something that should shock everyone who advocates freedom of speech and expression, as well as universal human equality of rights.
Religion can sometimes be a force for good in the world, but all too often it has placed backward doctrine above spirituality and compassion, and has become instead a deadly force for evil. We see abundant proof of that every day in those countries combining religious dogma with state law, and it is something that anyone who advocates human freedom and equality should deplore. Without the separation of religion and state, humanity will simply revert to the doctrine-based wars and persecutions of past centuries, the great difference being that now even the most backward and fanatical of religious dogmatists have access to the most up to date and deadly of technical weapons.
It makes one think of Carl Jung’s statement that the welfare of humanity “hangs by a thread.” To keep that thread from breaking, it is crucial that an advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and equal rights, along with a staunch advocacy of the separation of religion and state, should be strongly held and publicly promoted by both individuals and governments. This is of vital importance in a world where so many are daily threatened by persecution and violence incited and supported by those holding fanatical religious and political dogmas of one kind or another.