Mudcat Café message #598754 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41427   Message #598754
Posted By: lamarca
27-Nov-01 - 04:42 PM
Thread Name: BS: Harry Potter: Good or Bad Witch part II
Subject: RE: BS: Harry Potter: Good or Bad Witch part ll
McGrath, Susan, JohnH and Catspaw, I guess I have kind of muddled thinking about "choice", free will and security in one's faith. It's rather easy for me, from the outside, to dismiss a fundamentalist's attempts to convert others to his or her belief system as an expression of their personal insecurity in their own faith, a fear of making other choices in life. I guess that I, as an agnostic whose own religious beliefs are not well defined, feel less threatened by viewing people as poor, misguided individuals who are trying to deal with their own insecurities by trying to get affirmation that their way is the only right way by imposing their behavior rules on me.

A more threatening view is that fundamentalists, be they "Christian", "Islamic" or "Jewish" (and major segments of all these religions will say that the fundamentalists have lost all touch with the true core of these belief systems) are secure in their beliefs, and feel duty bound because of those beliefs to ensure that theirs is the only "Truth" permitted to be publically expressed.

Unfortunately, such "true believers", be they terrorists who blow up people in the name of Allah, or the assassin who killed Menachim Begin in the name of Zionism, or a "Right-to-Life" terrorist who targets and kills a doctor or a Southern preacher who describes Catholics as "spawn of Satan" in the name of Christ - these people are all sincere and sure in their beliefs, but are easily manipulated by people who are merely using their beliefs and willingness to act on them as a way to personal and political power.

The criticisms of Harry Potter and attempts to ban it by some people in the name of their religion make me worry about my rights to my beliefs, however foggy they may be. I feel threatened in the same way (although not to the same degree) by rabid vegetarians or sports fans, who want society to conform to their world view, and for all of us to change our behavior or help pay for what they deem "right".

I wish that the Bush administration, and those members of our government who support the notion of America as a "Christian" nation, would go down and look at the Jefferson Memorial. Engraved on the walls are the words of one of our founders, who said:
"Almighty God hath created the mind free…All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively." Jefferson believed in God, but believed just as strongly that in a civil society, people should have the right to hold their own religious beliefs without coercion by society to support another's.

We get into trouble when we start trying to define the murky line between what behaviors are permitted in the interest of religious freedom, and what are limited by a society's intrinsic moral code. Jefferson may have believed that there is but "one moral code" for both the individual and society, but in a pluralistic, democratic nation, agreement on what that moral code is, without investing it with one particular religious belief, is always going to be difficult. In the USA, the division between a firmly held religious belief and a firmly held political belief isn't cut and dried.

If we look at the attempt to ban a book because it presents offensive viewpoints to a certain religion, we have to hold it up to these tests:
"Does the existance of this book somehow limit the ability of the offended group to practice its beliefs?" No, usually. "Does it create a hostile environment in which those offended find it hard to practice their beliefs?" Well, maybe yes.

This debate seems silly when the book at issue is Harry Potter, but what about "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? I have the painful ability to see a lot of different viewpoints and shadings involved in this issue, all of which have some validity. What I don't have is the wisdom to figure this out, and come up with an answer, or set of answers, that enables the largest number of people to live their lives happily in the practice of their beliefs, without fear of people who don't believe the same way.

BTW - why don't we ever hear about fanatical Buddhist fundamentalists...