Because today is the 4th of July, I thought I would share a few things about freedom of thought. It is impossible for a person to be truly free, unless they are in full ownership of their mind and thoughts. A person may be physically free, but if their mind is enslaved, then they are chained. Religion – especially fundamentalist religion takes away that freedom
To be part of a religion, a person must subscribe to a set of unquestionable beliefs or dogmas. Within Christianity, there is much disagreement about the exact details of these dogmas, and as a result there are thousands of denominations, each claiming to have the truth. Once you have signed up to believe in a particular religion, if you start to questions some of the dogma, and verbalize your doubts, you will soon find yourself shunned or excommunicated. In the case of Islam, you may be killed for rejecting the beliefs.
Right from the start, the Bible forbids the attaining of knowledge, and condemns independent thinking.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)
The God character in the Bible places certain knowledge off-limits to Adam and Eve, and attaches a death penalty.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate… Genesis 3:4-6 (ESV)
The serpent character encourages the humans to pursue knowledge, and to not have their thinking controlled by the threats of God. Ironically, the story itself indicates that the God character lied, because they did not die in the day that they ate of it. (Yes, I know that Christians will say that Adam and Eve died 'spiritually' that day, but doing so is imposing a later belief onto the text.)
In the New Testament, Jesus promotes the idea of thought crime. In Matthew 5, he is portrayed as saying that lustful thoughts, and the emotion of anger are, in God’s eyes, the same as actually committing physical acts of adultery or murder, and will be punished in hellfire.
Proverbs 3:5 says to trust in the Lord, and not to rely on your own understanding. In reality, what this means is to trust in what someone else tells you that God wants – be it through reading the words of men in the Bible, or listening to a religious leader. Don't think your yourself, but surrender your mind to the control of another.
Not being in charge of their own minds enslaves Christians. They have to pretend to not like things they do like. They have to self-censor their speech and thoughts so as not to betray to other believers, that they are perfectly conformed to the demands of the religion. Internally they feel guilty and conflicted for not measuring up to the religious standards. Jesus is quoted as saying that his disciples must die daily, and indeed Christians die a little more each day, giving up who they truly are, to be more fully enslaved by the demands of their religion. There is much misery in religion because of this, and it turns people into fakes, who must constantly expend energy to maintain the illusion of perfect conformity. They are like a hamster running endlessly on the wheel, trying to please their god.
Once I left religion, it was a progressive realization of how enslaved I had been. Being in full ownership of my own mind now, is a tremendous thing. It has brought so much peace into my life. I think what I think, not what someone else tells me to. There is no vengeful god sifting through my thoughts. There is no forbidden knowledge. There is no front or pretense to maintain. My mind is finally my own, and I will never surrender it to another. This is the freedom which is foundational to all others.
Written by J. M. Green