When “Live and Let Live” Takes a Backseat to Dogma

First off I want to consider the definition of oppression. There are a few correct definitions for the word and one of them is as follows:

 the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.


I think it might be fair to say a gay couple wanting an official, legal recognition of their love and devotion to each other might feel oppressed in a society that considers their union illegal, immoral and indecent. This is especially true when straight couples, whose love for each other isn’t necessarily any greater, are granted rights and privileges denied to gay couples merely because some consider homosexuality a sin.


A young woman, certain now isn’t the right time in her life to become pregnant might feel oppressed by being denied birth control or abortion benefits through the health insurance plan where she works. It’s included in most employee health insurance plans but the owners of the company she works for have a religious objection to it. They went out of their way to make sure she couldn’t get such benefits on their health plan. She has friends who get birth control through their company’s health plan with no hassle but she must jump through additional hoops to get the same benefit. Knowing you’re considered a sinner in the eyes of people in a position to deny you a pay raise or career advancement has got to feel at least a little bit oppressive. I don’t think anyone can argue the fact that most self-righteous people have no qualm about discriminating against those they consider immoral and weak of character.


So why is it that I keep hearing so much about religious liberty being under attack in this country? So many (mostly republicans) complain that their religious freedom is compromised by the fact that some people want birth control or want to be in a same sex marriage. I have difficulty understanding how one person’s lifestyle choices can prevent another person from following whatever belief system they choose. Are they saying that since birth control and gay marriage are against God’s will (in their opinion) they may be guilty by association if they don’t strongly oppose these evil acts? Do they believe a righteous God would hold them accountable in the afterlife for not preventing the perceived sins of other humans? After all, no one is suggesting that they themselves should become homo-sexual or take birth control pills.   


It occurs to me that people wanting to impose their belief system on others are no different than extremist Muslims practicing intolerance of religious minorities in the middle east. Such religious fanatics would consider Christians sinful for not facing Mecca when they pray. They would consider invoking the name of Jesus Christ in prayer an abomination. Images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or Saints would be highly offensive to them and would surely be banned. How about pork or alcohol or women singing in public? All of these things are sinful to fundamentalist Muslims who oppress practitioners of any faith they consider flawed or too permissive.


How is attempting to force moral standards or religious doctrine on anyone in this country any different than religious fanatics anywhere in the world trying to impose their brand of religious dogma on those they consider infidels?


The over-riding question here is why religious fanatics of any stripe are so compelled to make everyone else see the world through their lens? What about “live and let live” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Would the fanatical birth control objectors that own Hobby Lobby be OK with someone trying to force them to live under a different interpretation of wrong and right or good and evil? Would the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples accept being told she must cover herself from head to toe, walk 10 paces behind any man and relinquish property ownership and voting rights? I seriously doubt it.  These may be considered more extreme examples of oppression but in spirit, they’re the same as trying to tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies or telling someone who they should or shouldn’t love and marry.


The way I see it, the only religious liberty under attack in this country is the self-given liberty some Bible thumping fanatics exercise as they try to oppress other people’s freedom of choice and self-determination!

Published by Bill Hoover