i see religion itself as a very personal thing. if you get some edification, some connection, from faith, then it can be a very good thing. if you don't get any particular edification from it, then you don't have to pursue it. faith doesn't work for everyone, and especially no particular faith works for everyone. i admit this is a very humanist way of looking at religion...but it's the only way that makes sense to me. i resent the idea of another person telling anyone who to believe, or how to believe. i resent the idea of a person trying to claim that one or two particular books are the only ones that can be, or have ever been, or will ever be, divinely inspired. it is a personal choice, involving what motivates something higher inside you. it can be practiced in a solitary manner, or as part of a group, but every person in that group, ideally, should be deriving something profound from their participation.
for my part, i believe there's a higher power out there, one who speaks to different people in different ways...i see this God as being more personal than the purely deist conception of God, the finger that set it all in motion, but definitely not a being that sees science as a cruel trick, a cruel test of faith. he helps people along...but whatever finger he had in creating the world, he used an order generally discoverable by the scientific method.
my thoughts on the matter, however, are neither here nor there with respect to anyone's faith, anyone's religion, anyone's existence but my own. why am i musing about how personal and singular i think religion is? i do it fairly frequently, but this time it is because of a very disturbing photograph i saw:
the first few times i saw that, i thought it had been photoshopped...finally, when i saw it in eric's blog, i realised that it wasn't--that it was actually a statue. a huge evangelical church in memphis put up that statue.
i respect their right to put up the statue, and i respect their right to find meaning in that symbolism. but, it's hard. it's really hard. a crying statue of liberty holding a bible and a cross? one of the central tenets of my idea of religion is that it is personal. flowing from that is my steadfast belief in the separation of church and state.
government is not the source of higher meaning. government is organized society...i will pull out that phrase again, american democracy is supposed to exist "by the people, for the people." it wasn't created for the christians any more than it was created for members of any other faith. government is a set of institutions that exists to ensure that people can live safely and practically. it is government's place to protect citizens' life, liberty, and property. the government can stop people from killing and stealing. the government can build roads, provide welfare and job training, run prisons and police departments--in other words, do things that help its citizens with their worldly needs in organized society.
but, as soon as one asserts that government is a christian government, they are asserting that it is is no longer the government's place to protect citizens' liberty. people of any given faith are free to practice their faith in a society such as ours was designed to be--a secular government with no instituted restrictions on people's exercise of religion. but, as soon as the government takes on the characteristics of one faith, promotes one over all others, anyone who does not believe the faith promoted--establshed, if you will--by the government loses that liberty to free exercise.
i just cannot find conscionable or responsible a worldview that takes away from people the right to fully follow the faith that edifies them unless they somehow fall into the category of people who find meaning in the chosen government faith. i'll just say...i have my own interpretation as to why the statue of liberty in that statue is crying.