Websites and articles like these, make this post necessary:
I grew up without religion. When I turned 17, I had a spiritual awakening and began to modify my behavior accordingly. I quit drinking alcohol completely. I gave up iced tea and coffee, which in the Southeastern United States is akin to giving up water. I decided to be chaste (not that I had any experience otherwise). I also began to see the world in very black and white ways. Suddenly, I felt that anyone that didn’t want to live the same standards as myself was wrong. I judged people. When I was 19, I decided to become a Mormon missionary, and I was called to serve in Costa Rica for two years (1993-1995). During this time, as a lay volunteer, all I did, all day every day, was go around and talk to people about my beliefs. This experience had the effect of allowing me to see the world in something besides black and white, or shades of gray. I saw the world in color, and realized that there was more than one way of doing something--that many people, most people in fact, were able to be moral and ethical without identifying with a certain religion, or any religion for that matter--what Kant might have called an autonomous morality.
This awakened me to the realization, that in trying to live my life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, I was doing the exact opposite, and essentially ignoring his warning in John, Chapter 8, that the first stone be cast by one who was spotless. I was judging unrighteously, blissfully ignoring my own sins. And also, while a missionary, I realized that I might be wrong, that my spiritual awakening might be a farce, that this is all there is to our existence. I do not believe that it is, but I have no way of proving that it isn’t. I believe in God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern-day revelation by prophets. I cannot prove that they are right, but it is what I believe; it is my hope and faith. All I could do, as a missionary, was share what I believed, bare and bear my testimony of what I believed, and then invite others to do the same. If they felt the same as I did, great. If not, then they have every right to not live according to the same precepts that I hold dear.
I am in a small minority however. I’m not claiming to be enlightened, but I do realize that tolerance of others culture, practices, and habits come from peeling back the layers of ignorance that we allow to crust over our eyes when we cling to a belief that we have not fully examined. I still believe in my religion; I most likely always will, and I also believe that each and every person has the right to live their life according to the dictates of his/her conscience. I feel that most people who claim to follow Christ, do not feel this way, especially in the United States. This causes problems.
And, I get the feeling (to overuse that word), with the increase in Protestant private secondary schools, homeschooling, and the like, many people are trying to shield their children from the world. I find this most disturbing. Children need to be taught correct principles, and then be allowed to govern themselves, provided there are consequences for poor behavior. Part of this is allowing them to experience the diversity of the world. And a huge part of this is the experience of a rigorous liberal arts education.
How boring would it be to grow up and never have any of your beliefs and ideals questioned? You would be woefully unprepared for the 21st Century. So, when I hear politicians and pundits rail against the liberal, nay leftist, and by association in the United States, “godless pinko Communists,” in higher education, I think to myself, “How scared do you have to be in your own influence over your child, that some professor might make them abandon all they’ve ever known.” I’d hope that conservative parents would want their children to have their beliefs questioned, that much like the Amish allowing their children to go out into the “lone and dreary world” that they would see the value in questioning their own values to make them stronger and more refined. How do you know if you really believe in something until after the trial of your faith?
There is no liberal bias in higher education. What does bias even mean in that context anyway? Higher education is a process by which we turn children into adults, capable of thinking for themselves, and not just parroting back what their parents have told them. To use conservative religious terminology, Adam and Eve had to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that they might know the bad from the good (with “bad” and “good” left up to interpretation).
The most important thing to remember in all of this, is that as much as another’s beliefs might annoy us, maturity and civility demand that we respect them and recognize their right to hold them as dearly as we hold our own. I hate politics in the US right now. It’s all “if you’re not with us, you’re against” rhetoric engendered by egg-headed politicians stumping for votes, and pundits desperate for ratings.
I mean someone actually published a book called Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder. Seriously, how does that help? The right needs to just calm their asses down. To all right-wing Christians, what Jesus said in Mark 12:31-33 wasn’t a suggestion; it was a commandment.
I am not a conservative. I am not a liberal. I am rational moderate that wishes we could all just get along.