I grew up in a conservative family and religion, and have recently begun attending my church again after a long absence. I've been thinking about how to justify, both to myself and to those conservatives around me, the fact that I'm a fairly liberal person. I think, in the end, it all comes down to a matter of choice.
I think choice is a very very important part of religion. If you force someone to believe something they have every right to reject it. Forcing someone to be baptized doesn't mean they are baptized in your religion, they have to choose it before any real baptism takes place. Baptizing babies is ridiculous. They're too young to choose. I firmly believe that until you are old enough to understand the choices you make, you are in a state of grace as far as heaven is concerned.
We indoctrinate our children. By we, I mean people of all religious faiths. Perhaps we need to give them more room. Innocence based in ignorance is unfit to protect itself, after all. And yet innocence is what parents go for, and that's impossible to provide in this world. It's better to let children know about the problems they will face so they know how to deal with them, than to expect them to deal with situations that are thrown at them unexpectedly.
Let's think about bacteria. When children grow up in a sterile environment, they become susceptible to dangerous bacteria because they were never given a chance to develop a resistance to them.
It's much much better to give a child the skills and answers so they can go out into the world and not have to deal with those things for the first time in a hostile environment. Sex education should be done by the parents, before the kids are even too curious. Explaining of values should be done by the parents. Indeed, the parents are responsible for making sure the child is ready to face what they will hear on the playground, on the streets, from their friends. It's a failure of parenting to not give a child that defense. The thing is, if every single person believed exactly as you do, and everyone was of one mind about morals, then teaching your children how to deal with life wouldn't be necessary. But when in history has that ever happened? For real, and not something imposed by leadership?
But it's more than just providing the proper defenses to the children. It's also about letting people, children and adults, choose for themselves what level of morality they want to follow. There are so many good and logical reasons to have high morals but instead of teaching people what those are we pass laws and try to force people to obey.
If you force people to act a certain way that they do not believe, then they will become resentful and rebellious. And rightly so. Forcing morality on people is not a good thing. It is an act of evil. In a truly good society, people will act morally because they want to, not because the government says they must or they will be punished.
In order to get people to act morally, you need to educate them, not to throw them in prison. And in order to educate people, you have to make sure first that they are in a state that can be educated. To be able to be educated, a person needs to know that they have control over their own life. And control over your life in today's society means simply that you have a job, shelter, food, and health care. So without the bare necessities for life, education is useless. You can preach all you want at the soup kitchen, but it won't sink in or even register properly unless people have control over their own fates.
So, the basics for people learning to be moral is that they have control over their own lives. To have control over their own lives, the basic needs of the person must be met.
Which political party attempts to make sure basic needs are met by providing health care, trying to improve the job market for the poor instead of just the wealthy, and works to make sure people have houses and food?
I have to say that the Republicans, at least in recent years, have utterly failed at all those tasks. The main concern of the Republican party seems to be making abortion illegal (legislating morality = evil in my opinion) and getting rid of taxes so the rich can get richer on the backs of the poor.
Meanwhile, the hapless Democratic party tries to get the economy under control while being hindered by corporations greedy for profit, tries to make sure everyone has health care while being hounded by insurance corporations terrified of losing their cash cows, tries to provide food and shelter assistance while being told off by Republicans who have no problem wasting billions on wars of aggression that profit mercenaries and oil barons while killing thousands of our soldiers and millions of civilians. They aren't effective because they are a group of people with different ideas trying to work together, instead of a crusade of lock-step control-freaks trying to force their ideas on all.
You might say there isn't much choice between them, but I'll go with the ones who are trying to make it better instead of the ones who are totally owned by corporations and only want to make sure millionaires get a tax break.
And so I'm a liberal. And I guess I can justify it to myself at least, even if other people don't accept my opinion.