I am a Christian. I believe that when sperm meets egg a life is created which it is immoral to end. I believe, not only that there is a God, but that there are specific lives that he would ideally want us to lead. I was raised with the notion that it was immoral to be attracted to someone of the same gender, to question that gender, to deny that gender, to alter that gender—that the only true belief existed within the confines of the biblical chronology that I was made to memorize. All of these things were facts, and learning to move away from them has been an all too-long process, but I think I’m beginning to figure it out.
I was raised to believe that my religious affiliations defined me and I should be incredibly vocal about them—that standing up for what I believed in would intrigue people as to what there was that was so worth believing in, opening up an opportunity for me to “share my faith.” What I was never told, however, is that standing up for what you believe in can hurt more than attract, and can systematically deny people their human rights.
I am exceedingly grateful for being made to look at all-too colorful slideshows about John Locke and Voltaire throughout school, because I learned that our nation’s separation of church and state is exceedingly important and any action of mine which would threaten to undermine that is nothing but disenfranchising. I learned that human rights are defined by societies as they evolve and shift, that they do not claim to be preordained by any greater being but represent simple equality as we struggle to put into practice what that means.
Not only should church and state remain separate in what they attempt to accomplish, but they naturally do. Government and its laws are something inherently more practical, more public, less subjective, designed to protect people who may be otherwise unprotected. Government is an evolving ideology, taking many different forms to meet the needs of a population in a given time and place.
Religion, however, is one’s personal beliefs about the purpose and significance of life and what comes afterwards; it is wholly unconcerned with the laws that govern each unique state created on Earth—it is a greater set of laws, made valid in the mind of an individual to govern their life, which in no way implies that they should be prescribed to a greater body of people who have not chosen to believe in them. Laws created by a democratic governmental body are designed to be agreed upon by the people and constitute their own regulations surrounding how to best live their lives and let others do the same. Religion is a personal choice, just as what you do with your body and whom you marry is as well. If one’s mind is governed by a certain moral ethos, then it is inexorably their prerogative to choose not to get an abortion or question their sexuality or gender, but it is never their prerogative to dictate other’s behavior, for that is simple discrimination.
Thus, as I attempt to leave behind my upbringing and be more accepting, I fully recognize, and believe others with strong beliefs also should, that it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether I—or anyone for that matter—hold the belief that abortion is “immoral”, that homosexuality is “unnatural”, or that other religions are “erroneous”, because the sphere of that jurisdiction is limited to one’s own cranium. The idea that personally held beliefs derived from a religion can and should be replicated and imposed upon groups of individuals who do not hold the belief to begin with is extremely undemocratic. Government seeks to protect the rights of people that they believe they are being denied and thus if women, members of the LGBTQIA community, or religious minorities feel that they are being kept from receiving opportunities that they deserve and/or are afforded to others, a change is needed, and it’s not going to be a change that is filtered through funnels of religious opinions that have no bearing in a secular argument.