Religious freedom differs from tolerance

April 15, 2015

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

The “religious freedom” laws taking place in Indiana as well as other states in the news lately have created a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of religious freedom and discrimination.

This is no new feeling when it comes to religion, however, since it has always been somewhat of a taboo topic in general. In a society where people are either constantly walking on eggshells to avoid conflict or, conversely, posting aggressive statuses about their political and religious opinions and attacking the opposite views, religion becomes a conversation we learn to avoid.

On a college campus, things change a bit. There are student orgs specifically designated for various faiths, classes about different belief systems and plenty of opportunities to create a public forum about religion.

So why is it still such a scary topic? Even on campus, religious intolerance is present.

Regardless of how this issue began or where it continually comes from, it needs to be addressed and changed quickly, because religion isn’t disappearing from the face of the planet any time soon.

It is estimated that six out of 10 people in the world will identify as either Christian or Muslim by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center. That means it’s time to start respecting other’s beliefs and understanding not everyone is going to share the same ideas as you do.

Going back to the “religious freedom” topic currently buzzing around the states: it’s not a new story, it’s just with a different group facing the threat of discrimination. While now it is used to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ community, previously it was used as a valid excuse for racism.

Generally, the primary religion associated with this conversation is Christianity, with the Bible frequently being used as a citation for the validity of these arguments. If you follow the Bible, that is completely acceptable in your own life and religious community; however, it should not be forced upon others, especially in a way that discriminates or takes away the basic rights of any minority group.

There is nothing wrong with being a Christian, but there is also nothing wrong with NOT being a Christian. Whether you’re a Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic or any other identity in the world, the important thing is that you respect other’s rights to believe what they want, the same way you expect them to respect and honor your rights to do so.

Religious freedom should grant anybody the right to practice their own faith and beliefs in a way that does not affect others. Freedom is not imposing your ideas on others, but rather not restricting someone else’s rights to practice what they believe.

On a college campus, this is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself about different faiths and go beyond your established comfort zone in order to learn and grow. Surround yourself with people of different faiths and have conversations with them. Don’t argue, just listen and share your own experiences.

UW-Whitewater has several faith-based student orgs to get involved in, ranging from CRU to PSSO to the Muslim Student Association to the Secular Student Organization and everything in between. Even if it’s not your particular faith, it’s still a good opportunity to learn more and expose yourself to something different in a positive way.

Just in the same way that not everyone likes the same music or food, not everyone will share the same ideas on religion, and that’s OK. Diversity, variety and our unique ideas are what make the world, and this campus, a beautiful place.

It’s time to respect one another, even if we don’t agree with them, whether that be political or religious or any other personal belief. Just because you believe in something doesn’t give you a right to impose that belief on others or restrict their rights.

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