Religious Beliefs Are Not Private

This much is certain: The greatest thing each person can is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally—weakness, fears, and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guide of weakness.” ― Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

I often see people irritated when others espouse political opinions based on their religious views. When it comes to issues like politics, money, or sex, religion is often seen as an unwelcome guest, like the distant uncle you only invite to dinners because he’s related to you. Their presence is begrudgingly acknowledged and then he is cast aside to the table of ‘faith’ and other opinions, along with the rest of the children. After all, this is the 21st century for goodness sakes. Behind this behavior is a question that isn’t asked but thought – why do people even need religion in the room for such things? After all, most matters of science or politics or economics or morality are worked out by individuals without any reference to religion. The scientific method has given us great progress in many areas of development. So the role religion now plays is no longer metaphysical or even moral authority but a mystical storeroom to house things we don’t understand. As the 20th century philosopher Wittgenstein put it, “of what we cannot speak we must be silent.”

It seems like the pressure to separate religion from other spheres of life is most clearly seen in Western politics. Religious beliefs are told to be discarded like shoes, before one enters the halls of public debate. To believe homosexuality is a sin, or that it is ‘morally’ bad for the whole society, is a private matter to be held but should be prevented from influencing public policy. Many Christians are surprised by the antipathy towards religious views in public. They shouldn’t be. The separation of religion from politics and other spheres of life is simply the consequence of allowing people who don’t understand religion to determine what it is. And by people, I mean secular humanists.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

To genuine believers of any religion, true religion is worship. And true worship is the dedication of one’s whole life to the object of worship, be it Allah or Jesus. If you’re religiously illiterate, or perhaps merely confused, then a quick way to avoid thinking too much about religion would be to parrot the line “it is about being a good person”. But that would be the religion of humanism and not anybody else’s. For Christians, worship is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It means conforming every thought, feeling and action to God. Muslim worship is the expression of ultimate submission in its observances.

I can understand that it’s scary for the agnostic or humanist to imagine submission to any one but themselves, especially if they’ve done it all their lives. But that is precisely what faith demands. Faith transcends what one does on the weekend, because its very claim is transcendent. Secularism sees religion as mere opinion but the religious man or woman recognizes it as truth. To a secular world, and those whom don’t understand, true religion and freedom of any religion is the freedom to get together once a week and be a moral person (I have yet to hear a valid consensus of what it means to be a moral person). It would be funny if it wasn’t so true. But to ask a religious person to have their beliefs at home but leave it at the door of public opinion is not just the opposite of religious freedom but hypocritical. Really, it is to ask the person to be you and to share your secular beliefs. If Muslims want to implement Sharia law in Australia, then the fairest thing would be to allow them to hold that view and tackle the claims of Islam itself. Or restrict such a view from entering Australia. But to spout phrases like “it’s a religion of peace” or that it’s about “being a good person”, like all religions, is to express one’s ignorance and escort religion back to the nursery room of faith. Religion is more than that because God demands much more than that.

What the Yes Campaign is Really About

Courtesy of SBS Australia


“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

Amidst the world of flux and change, there are timeless principles that remain the same. When it comes to human behavior it is this, that your emotions and actions have the power to confirm your professed beliefs or contradict them. After all, Jesus said, “but what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matt 15:18). This is an important principle to keep in mind. It is far too common to hear one deny whatever a speaker may say with the excuse that he cannot see into their hearts. A man attempting to address an issue concerning females must of course undergo the miraculous transformation of growing a uterus before being granted the sacred privilege of speaking. While shared experience helps breed understanding, it does not mean that a lack of it nullifies the truth being said. I do not need to be a thief to say theft is wrong. What I say, therefore, I say as a human being who knows the way my heart behaves. Just as the action of snapping at wife contradicts the profession that I love her, the actions of the LGBT community (with exception) during the Yes campaign denies that it is fundamentally marriage that they want.
This may come as a surprise to many as the most common argument for voting yes in the plebiscite is that people have an equal right to marry the person they love because love is love (I have yet to discover what that means). This is problematic for 2 reasons: firstly, the LGBT community, or anyone for that matter have yet to demonstrate that marriage is a right, whether it is from a UN (United Nations), humanistic or religious standpoint. Secondly, the argument carries the unspoken assumption that marriage as it is currently defined, is denied to anyone who professes to be a homosexual. Neither assumptions have proven true and the reality is that those whom identify as homosexual have the same opportunity to obtain a spouse as the next person. The reason such a person would not want to do so is because their sexual desire limits them from entering a relationship that is defined legally as marriage. I do not mean that their sexual orientation causes a societal or legal limitation from entering such a relationship but rather that it morally constrains their will to act in such a way. After all, every person acts in accordance with what they want. But as Schopenhauer would put it, “what we want is not up to us”. Therefore a better argument (logically speaking) would be to vote yes on redefining marriage in order to allow such a relationship to be deemed marriage. However, I suspect that doing so deprives much of the movement’s public relations firepower and the edginess that has come to define it. In our age of social media, it is the inflammatory that sets itself apart in the streams of information that daily pass through our minds, rising up to grasp the fragmented moments of our attention.
Suppose then that the proponents of marriage redefinition as I now call it, recognize then that no homosexual finds themselves deprived of the ability to marry another and redirect their efforts towards securing the recognition of homosexual relationships. This is another predicament that the No campaigners find themselves in. Can one man not receive the same benefits as another married man upon pledging his heart to another merely because his partner happens to be one of identical gender? However, one does not have to look far behind to find that this has not been the case. The Rudd government in 2007 implemented the same benefits normally restricted to married couples to include de facto and by nature homosexual unions. This means that the same sharing of assets and kinship would be obtainable for those outside the conventions of marriage.
Yet the campaign marched on to the climax of 2017 with an intensity seemingly oblivious of the knowledge that the privileges that it once so desired were now granted. Further inspection had shown that marriage was not an institution denied nor its benefits, once legally approved. What then was the goal of this campaign? Was it simply a matter of time before the emperor’s clothes were exposed for what it never was or was there something more subtle behind its campaign, loss amidst the unforgiving march of equality, invisible except to the most astute observer?
At the end of the day, when the boots stop marching and the dust settles, perhaps what the Western world will finally see is that what the campaign wanted all along was something that it had never verbalized: that the sexual relationship between two identical genders be revered in the same way that one between a man and woman has since the advent of Christianity in the Western World near 2000 years ago.
To understand the significance of the social reverence that the LGBT community so desires of their relationships, one must also understand the history of its community’s murky relationship with society. Forever a minority, homosexual activity occurred in the shadows of secrecy, subjected to rejection and shame in the public eye until its coming of age in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. For an individual whose identity is defined by their sexual orientation, a relationship with another of the same identity is the ultimate expression of what it meant to be them. If I, a heterosexual, were to define myself purely by my sexual desire for a woman, I would believe that my identity obtained its fulfillment in a relationship with a woman. A union between the two of us would be the ultimate expression of who I am and what I love.
To reject such a relationship then is to reject all that it means to be me; who I am and what I love. What happens in the rejection of one’s identity? In the eyes of the LGBT community, the problems of guilt, shame, depression, self harm, and suicide. These were attributed to the perpetrators of this rejection, society at large rather than the desires themselves. Perhaps overlooked, it was never the legality of homosexuality that was the core of their conflict. Rather it was the fact that society disapproved and rejected the relationships that defined the LGBT person’s very selves that led to the existential angst felt by such individuals. Does one really think after such a time, the LGBT movement would be satisfied with the same legal benefits of marriage without reforming culture?
As votes begin to be posted from house to house, those who vote Yes should do so understanding this: marriage was never the crux of the issue. It was merely the tip of the iceberg. Until all people recognize homosexual relationships as the same as marriage and give it due reverence, the march will continue. Resolute, relentless and unforgiving, its opponents will always be seen as roadblocks to progress, clutching at the vestiges of its darker past.