Tuesday, July 05, 2011

THOSE RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS

"Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants."
Benjamin Franklin

No Religious Freedom
I'm not sure where it started, but there's a new talking point in England about the American Revolution. It goes like this "well, we call it our chance to get the religious extremists out of our hands." My guess is it came from some British comedian or television show.

Now, many people who say this are joking, they are just trying to have fun with the idea, like Americans who joke with Brits about how we overthrew them. Some aren't though, and the problem with this line is that while it initially has a sort of emotional appeal like a shouted comment at an Oprah Winfrey show, its idiotic and false.

First, if the British were so eager to rid themselves of American puritans, they'd have said "good riddence" rather than "die, traitor" when the Declaration of Independence was issued. No war would have started, no blood would have been shed, they simply would have been glad to be rid of these terrible religious types.

Second, history teaches us that England was being ruled by religious extremists who would not permit any other particular brand of faith than their own, and were horribly oppressing the pilgrims. That's why the whole "religious freedom" thing came about and people fled England to find a place they could worship God as they saw fit.

The Puritans were a people who had a very basic, plain, and reformational view of Christianity which clashed with the more state-driven, Catholic-leaning Church of England. The CoE told the puritans they couldn't meet to worship, they couldn't have their kids attend any schools, they could not have any businesses within miles of any port or city, and in some periods, they were hunted down and murdered.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this, the puritans prospered, and ended up building two of the most fundamental and important things that created the English empire. The first was the canal system (now outdated, but incredibly important for English commerce at the time), and the second was the concept of banking, loans, and business which we all rely on today, learned from the Dutch. These ideas allowed shunned puritan businessmen to ship goods to market and build businesses without the patronage and riches of the ruling CoE class. This did not sit well with the established church in England, so oppression got worse.

The many puritans who left England (along with other faiths, such as Jews) to find a new land where no lords and kings were crushing their liberty and trying to command their conscience, found America a fine place to start over. Some began imposing their own tyranny and religious oppression. Others founded places that any faith could be practice with freedom.

Third, England at this moment is under far greater threat and trouble from religious extremists than it has been for centuries, and incredibly more so than America. The Islamic fundamentalists in that nation are building in power and boldness, and have almost institutionally been protected by law and practice for over a decade now, allowed to do and say what others many not, and protected from criticism or question. Native British are dying out; Islamic radicals are outbreeding them.

So to claim some sort of victory after losing a lucrative colony that became the most powerful nation on earth by portraying it as some sort of triumph over religious extremism is not just historically inaccurate, its idiotic. That's fine for a joke, but to take it seriously is simply unbelievable.

But in today's modern culture with so little history known and so much animosity against any sort of virtue, ethical behavior and religious faith, it isn't surprising I am seeing this spread around.

The sad fact is that we've gotten to the point where people think religious freedom means a lack of anyone expressing any ethical or religious opinion that is remotely based on faith, that religion is fine if you just shut up about it and don't let it in any way affect your outward life.

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