The world is a beautiful and amazing place. But – packed with a variety of people with different beliefs, cultures and backgrounds – it's also a complicated place. Over the course of world history, there's a regular pattern of both intra-country and inter-country tension. Oftentimes, that turbulence – no matter where it comes up – has one common theme. Religion.
Each world citizen should have the right to practice a religion or not. Similarly, all people should have an equal right to express their beliefs without fear of discrimination. Sadly, that's just not the way things work.
Here in the United States, we can't begin to make meaningful strides toward that ideal world goal until the government fully honors a fundamental freedom guaranteed in our Bill of Rights: keeping government out of religion. Completely.
For starters, the government has no business using our money – taxpayer money – to fund what are commonly known as "faith based initiatives." Especially those that don't agree to not discriminate in the way in which they hire or deploy services. Similarly, in the 1960s, the Supreme Court proclaimed the unconstitutionality of school-sponsored prayer. Yet there is an unrelenting – and well funded – effort to promote specific beliefs within schools. A student's right to, also, express a religious/non-religious belief should not be guided or nudged in any particular direction.
It's not difficult to determine what happens when this kind of funding and persuading occurs – religious minorities and non-religious people suffer discrimination and fiction-based stereotypes are perpetuated. Stereotypes that implicitly teach our children that non-Christian religions are weird and that non-religious people (gasp!) are the devil in disguise.
This kind of bias, clearly evident in government and schools, fosters an environment of fear and hate.
Heck, even within families, talking about religion is oftentimes about as much fun as debating abortion. Funny/sad story... Having traveled so much of the world, we're always interested in learning more about local citizens – what they eat, what they do, what makes them tick. This includes learning more about the religions they pursue. A few Christmastimes ago, my mom spotted a book on Buddhism that we had picked up in Asia. Thinking we had "chosen Buddhism," she nearly had a stroke.
We want to advocate for a country and a world where church and state are separate and where people are not discriminated against because of their views on religion.
Currently, in order to walk the talk and to start that advocating in earnest, we are in Washington D.C. to stand with those who choose not to practice a religion. The Reason Rally is staged to be the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history. Stay tuned.
We know people have deep convictions about this topic. What's your take?