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Speaking out: It's time to examine our belief systems

Speaking out: It's time to examine our belief systems

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The United States and the world have enough faith groups. We don’t need more and can do with less. World religions and religious splinter groups have been a source of never-ending violence.

Once there was a plethora of gods. Various gods had various functions. The goddess for fertility was Aphrodite who was the mother of Eros, the goddess of sex. The gods for safe passage over the oceans were Poseidon and Neptune. Throughout human history, gods lost followers and new gods emerged with greater powers.

In world religious thought there evolved a popular idea that there was only one god. Monotheistic theory sprung up between Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The three faith groups have a common human connection in the historical Abraham. The reformers/new interpreters who rose to prominence led those three faith groups into horrendous conflict and violence. Governments would jump on the side of a group and impose brutal sanctions on the offending other groups.

Historic religious groups and modern-day religious zealots could trademark their violence. Burning thousands of women accused of being witches on a stake, strangling scholars for translating the Bible into a forbidden language, Papal-led crusades to kill Muslims, bombings in Northern Ireland, suicide vests and improvised explosive devices. Storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 with a flag that said “Jesus” on it, shouting “hang Mike Pence.”

Two things are wrong with groups claiming religious freedom to defy the laws of a secular state. No belief in a divine being and the practices of worshiping that deity is based on anything more than repeated imaginings. No person knows if there is a god or gods; they can only believe there is. People have the freedom to believe or not believe. The U.S. Constitution protects that right and the right to practice rituals and ceremonies common to belief systems.

The U.S. Constitution protects people from the excesses of religion and prohibits government sponsorship. You may believe in witches, but you cannot extend that belief and write a procedural manual for trying women as witches and burn them to death. You can believe that your god doesn’t like same sex marriage, but if you are a publicly chartered business, you can’t discriminate against people based on that belief system. Why? Because no one knows what their god does or does not like.

The philosopher and lecturer William James said the value of a belief systems is in its utility to the believer. Does it bring you happiness, peace, comfort, meaning and purpose? If so, good for you and good for it. But belief systems also have social consequences. For most of human history, women have had to fight for equal rights with men. Religious belief systems were used to oppress women and still are. Slavery was justified by quoting scriptures in the Bible. A childhood Sunday school friend of mine wrote she believes Donald Trump was sent by God to be president.

In a business class in college, the instructor passed out cards that said "BS" on them. Students were encouraged to wave the card if they thought a concept being taught was not true. It encouraged attention and debate. In business, an accurate understanding of reality really matters.

It is time to examine the social consequences of belief systems and call out those systems that degrade and hurt people. Religion, bereft of human compassion, has little value to a person or a society. Millions of people worldwide are checking “none” as their religious preference. They are waving the BS card.

Bill Patrie has been recognized for his work as a cooperative developer by the National Farmers Union, the Association of Cooperative Educators and the National Cooperative Business Association.


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