Even though democratic, “free” countries like the United States guarantee that the government will not stand in the way of ones’ freedom to establish a religion and practice that religion as they see fit, there are still significant challenges to true religious freedom in practice – ones which the author would submit get overlooked by the majority of people out there.
In reading the comments on this site and others, I decided to write something out to elaborate some of the challenges to religious freedom that exist even in countries and societies where religion isn’t constrained by the law.
Yes, Obviously it Could be Worse
At the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts, I saw a very moving performance by Shen Yun – a dance troupe made up almost entirely of Chinese members of Falun Dafa who cannot practice their religion in China. The troupe uses the arts to spread the message that whilst they have a deep and profound love for their country and their peoples’ varied ethnic heritage, they are the subject of intense and brutal persecution for simply wanting to peacefully practice their religious beliefs. In China, they are subjected to imprisonment, torture, and worse – simply for their beliefs.
It’s just as bad in a number of other countries where religious freedom is not guaranteed and where practice of another religion is forbidden – such as in Saudi Arabia or Iran.
So obviously, for us in the United States, or in other countries of the “free” world, we definitely enjoy a basic freedom that others do not have. But that’s not the subject of this post, nor the purpose of this site. As even in free countries where the law says that we are free to believe and practice as we see fit, there are still significant and in some cases quite insidious challenges the individual believer faces to religious freedom.
Pursuing an Anti-Religious Agenda in a “Free Society”
The majority of us are simply trying to get on with life, pursue happiness how we can, and with respect to religion – to find a belief system that resonates with what we innately believe and hold to be true. The majority of us also accept that there are many belief systems out there, and that not all of us believe the exact same thing – therefore the honest respect of the other fellow’s religious beliefs is the way to get along best with your fellow men & women.
Some people, however, would rather pursue the dark side, and instead devote their energy to invalidating the religious beliefs of others and to forcibly change individuals away from their religious practice due to either
(a) They disagree with all religion, or
(b) They disagree with your religion, or
(c) They have another agenda which they perceive your beliefs are standing in the way of.
In a society like China, those people in the above three categories can simply work themselves into positions of power, and then have absolute success at suppression of religion due to their legal backing, and can – with full backup of the state – have you arrested, tortured, killed, deported, etc.
However, in a country which guarantees religious freedom, they have to resort to more insidious means of assaulting your religious freedom. And from what I’ve seen, those means usually manifest themselves as the following:
Per the Wikipedia article on such, deprogramming:
“…refers to actions that attempt to force a person to abandon allegiance to a religious, political, economic, or social group. Methods and practices may involve kidnapping and coercion.”
Now, the naive wouldn’t think this is a widespread practice, as whilst convincing someone to leave their religion is not illegal in the USA, kidnapping surely is. And so is physical abuse. And yes, deprogrammers do that. Just look to Rick Ross – a criminal deprogrammer who’s also got excellent, burglary and dehumanization skills.
But deprogramming, in the age of the Internet, has gotten more insidious and more efficient. You see, the same basic practice that deprogrammers Rick Ross and Ted Patrick used on individuals is now being employed by violent anti-religious media-chasers like Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder.
Ted Patrick’s 5-step guide to deprogramming starts with:
(1) Discredit the figure of authority: the leader
Rathbun and Rinder are hard at work at that with respect to Scientology, though they unfortunately only end up making themselves look stupid through painting themselves into corners with their layered lies. Though still, one has to understand what they’re trying to do. When you listen to someone spouting off, deliberately focusing first and foremost on making outrageous and unproven claims discrediting the leader of a religion to you – realize what they’re trying to do.
Similar efforts have been made against other faiths, such as the Unification Church.
The next step in Patrick’s deprogramming process is:
(2) Present contradictions (ideology vs. reality): “How can he preach love when he exploits people?” is an example.
Such is then, also, an ideal practice to be done large-scale by folks like Rathbun and Rinder, where they use small bits of truth laced in with their whole-cloth concoctions in an attempt to make people doubt what they think about their own religion. Con Men like Tom DeVocht can then be brought in to make things more convincing, and then you’re well on your way to a deprogramming spree.
The point is, if you can’t legally prevent someone from participating in a religion, you can instead – on either a small or large scale – use lies, coercion and deceit to pry people away from peoples chosen religions.
Hatemongering and Bullying
And then, if lies and deceit fail as an assault on your free practice of religion, then you can always turn to downright bullying.
Virtually every religion in history has had its version of bullies that attempt to shoo people away from their churches or places of worship. The internet-coordinated hate group called “Anonymous” is little more than a network of bullies attempting to dress up in masks and spook people away from Churches of Scientology. The Anonymous members themselves call these gatherings, “Raids” – where they recruit unsuspecting college students and dress up in masks and then hurl insults at parishioners attempting to enter their Church.
Obviously, this commonly oversteps legal bounds, but my point here is in the framework of religious freedom. This practice in and of itself is an assault on religious freedom as it seeks to make it uncomfortable or unsafe to be a member of a certain religion.
Thankfully the bullying of Anonymous has only drawn more attention to Scientology, thus further increasing the Church’s numbers, but the hatemongering it engenders is not without toll – with dozens of death threats, calls for murder, suicide, etc attendant with these hardly good-natured raids.
Religious Freedom Watch, as a website, exposes those who – by their actions – attempt to infringe upon the religious freedom of those living in countries where such freedom is actually guaranteed as a right of citizenship.
It’s important that we all keep our eyes open – not only for those reproachful actions by governments that suppress peoples’ basic right to practice their religions freely – but for those other actions in free nations which seek to covertly undermine religious freedom for us all.