Independence And The Hindrance Of Religion

One of the values of the modern civilized society is the freedom to select religious philosophy that one would like to follow. This crucial part of personal independence may not always be there in real life. Maybe we need to work together to collectively protect it and ensure that this important tenet of our free society remains alive.
Independence and the Hindrance of Religion
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The Concept of Free Choice

"Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains," these words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau were not used to refer to the impact of religion, but they can still be used to refer to one of these 'chains' that man has voluntary placed on himself in the form of religion.

Independence revolves around free choice. On the contrary, religion begins with submitting oneself to a greater supernatural phenomenon and a host of people and practices in the name of that almighty, supernatural power. Human beings may not be a master of their destiny, but they are the

masters of their own free will, called 'independence', which they greatly value.

Attack on Independence

This valuable asset called independence is attacked by many factors from all sides, and in many ways. Sometimes it becomes a casualty to our own circumstances. At other times it is forcefully taken away by forces that are far beyond our control. Religion is one factor that overshadows the mind and psyche of people in such a way, that they submit their independence to it while using that very free will, which they value as one of their most precious assets.

Thus of all hindrances imposed on independence, the one imposed by religion is unique in the sense that it is imposed using that very independence. One may argue that such voluntary acceptance of religion amounts to the very exercise of independence, and hence should not be treated as a hindrance. However, the reason why acceptance of religion is not an expression of free will is the fact that irrespective of the theories and the law, in practice, it is not open for a person to change religion without paying a cost, sometimes huge, in terms of social repercussions.

Thus, it is rare for children not to continue with the religion practiced by their parents and ancestors. Most of the time, factors like family, friends and familiarity restrict this freedom by taking away the free choice of changing one’s religion. In fact, changing a spouse is far easier than changing religion... a fact that may highlight how strong are the chains imposed by religion.

Hindrance on Religious Independence

The reason we are discussing this topic today is that the hindrance imposed by religious affinity on independent decision making has become one of the important sources of imperfection in our social institutions. What is worse, it can even prevent rational human beings from independently asserting their opinions and views on issues that are related to religion, and thus often allow some fanatic groups

to hold sway over societies, communities and even nations.

Thus we have examples of whole nations, with rational individuals, plunging into terror and killing in the name of religion. These rational individuals may not personally endorse it, but they are unable to oppose it either because of the chains of religions tied around their free will and expression.

All this happens because of the hindrance on independent rational thought imposed by religion!

Religious Independence, Democracy & Markets

There are many social and political institutions that depend upon independent decision making abilities of individual members of the society. The two most important of these are democratic government and free market. Democracy depends upon the exercise of vote on the basis of independent judgement devoid of affinities and loyalties on any ground including religious ones. If this free expression of choice is not permissible, then democracy has little meaning, and that is one of the reasons that in certain nations, democracy is neither advocated nor considered necessary.

In any case, if people are already bound in thick chains of religion that they cannot ever get rid of, democracy hardly leaves them with any real choice. In case of free market too, independent individual decisions are the very basis of its efficacy. If behavior of individuals is based on a motive other than maximizing of their utility, then the market is bound to be inefficient. As a result, the social welfare, of consumer as well as the producer is adversely affected.

Religion not only hinders our institutions, but also creates an impediment in the expression of free will. The world over, people are being gradually forced to choose between religion and independence, and some do opt for the latter, though as I said earlier, most people are still not in a position to exercise their free will in choosing their religion. Modern thought is all about breaking the chains that bind mankind. Religion is also one of them. This does not mean that religion needs to be shunned. It only means that independent objective thought and the free exercise of one's judgement and discretion should be allowed to prevail. Religion should continue, but the chains imposed by it need to be done away with.

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