Passover has started. Normally met with an infinitely long before meal participatory service in which you tell the story of Pesach about fifteen different ways, discuss plagues, spill some wine/juice and eat too much.
Instead, I spent some time thinking about the current world and the issues of religious freedom. In audio n the car, I am currently listening to Kenneth C Davis – America’s Hidden History. With an excellent background provided in the numerous conflicts occurring in Europe from the 15th Century onward, Davis views the early history of exploration and conquest of the New World not from the sweetly painted fiction taught to school children but against the harsh realities of people and their belief systems. What might seem benign becomes rapidly apparent as intrinsically connected to the Protestant/Catholic – conflict in both England and on the Continent. The idea of the French-Indian Wars (the New World side of the European Seven Years War) being started by George Washington due to inexperience and stupidity is clear when viewed from the perspective of “religious freedom.”
The English founders of the New World were looking for freedom to practice their religion. Not for freedom for anyone else to practice theirs…… Which clearly explains the lack of Catholics, Jews and other strangers in the Massachusetts Bay Colonies and the later popularity of Maryland with non-Pilgrim/Puritan settlers.
The book is both interesting and entertaining. I have both paperback and CD and am willing to loan it to anyone who might be interested.
Fast forward to today. As I look back at the historical departure of the Jews from Egypt – I am struck by two things. The first is the stubbornness/refusal of the Jews to assimilate. The second is that fact that they did not try to impose their beliefs on the Egyptians, rather choosing to leave. I look around the US – fundamentalists want legislate my personal morals. I just want to be left to do my own thing and not force my beliefs on them. There are plenty of faith groups who – while having “the answer for themselves” don’t see a need to restrict/regulate/denigrate those outside their own group. Then there are those who, from religious belief or fear, can only see that I am not part of their group and so am wrong.
Meanwhile, I just spent six months in Afghanistan, trying to support the idea of freedom and choice for many to whom it is completely irrelevant. Those who would have happily executed me as one more infidel and a risk to their belief system. Working along side some quite interesting fundamentalist Catholics and Christians who were very uncomfortable with my religion/belief system. I am not sure which poses more personal danger to me. Probably the later.