Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Faith Is My Right

Never thought I'd put the slogan/motto of a Catholic girls' school as the title of a blog of mine, but there it is. Actually the real joke is that it isn't the slogan at all, which I read wrong, with me completing a semantic pattern that came naturally to me, while in truth it was all far more...well, 'Catholic'...namely 'Right' was actually 'Light'. Ahh, yes, now that makes much more sense! Still, this error in perception and inference still produced some interesting thoughts, which I'll 'share' with you.

Being of a libertarian (with a small 'l'!) inclination, the slogan--as I erroneously quoted it!--strikes me as self-evidently of merit and, if there are such things as 'human rights' to be considered 'inalienable'--no matter about the 'who' granting them, that being deity, nature or simply, as is actually the case, other people, from time to time and as they see fit--then surely the right to believe what one chooses to believe, however that 'choice' is made, should indeed be a right granted to everyone.

'Faith', of course, is just a terminological placeholder for 'belief', 'opinion', 'conviction', etc. And it is also obvious, at least to me, that, apart from the 'right to faith' aspect of the matter, not all faiths are created equal, if you will. Not all of them have the same grounding in demonstrable reality; though of course we have to be careful about what said 'reality' actually is!

There is another issue, too, namely that of 'choice' and whether a given instance of the concept 'choice' qualifies as such. Again, as one of libertarian persuasion, I am inclined to 'default' to assuming that any choice to believe this but not that qualifies as such--and that any argument by detractors from all quarters questioning it, usually with some excuse for why a choice wasn't either 'free' or 'informed' or 'educated' or whatever nuncupatory excuse they come up with...that any such argument is very probably self-serving on behalf of those making it, a slave as it were to whatever their personal agendas are.

Said 'default' position may be amended according to evidence presented, but by and large the right to think as one wills is about as sacred a human right as I can think of; second only to the right to live--and actually more pervasive than that, for even if deprived of the right to live by contingency one should still be allowed, in one's last moments, to think what one damn well wants or feels inclined to think. And 'faith' is just one aspect of thought, so naturally it's covered under that umbrella.

This all came up because the other day, on a Brisbane suburban train, I sat opposite a mother and daughter, late 30s and early teens, respectively, who, by dress and mannerisms gave me food for thought and made me wonder about who they were, what their relationship was, and so on. The girl wore a very neat and tidy school uniform, and the mother was dressed equally tidily. The girl, on her lap, had an immaculately clean school bag, with the emblem of the school and (most of) the slogan that titles this blog.

While I found myself nodding internally as I (mis)read the slogan, it also occurred to me that there's a corollary to it, the flipside of this particular Janus head. For these people with their in-your-face faith aren't just instances of some general principle of freedom-of-thought-choice, but of an emphatic choice with far-reaching consequences. Also, the girl's choices of what to believe, or so it might be argued by atheists--who provide some of the worst examples of I-know-better agenda-mongers--were possibly not of such a nature as to exhibit a sufficiency of 'freedom' to begin with; probably having been brainwashed, as it were, from day one of her existence. I have no concrete evidence for this, but there's plenty of the 'circumstantial' kind. If you had seen that mother and watched the interaction between the two...

Still, I ask, who isn't in some way or other 'brainwashed'? At the very least we are 'heavily influenced', and, if exposed to excessive degree to one thing and isolated from others, we are what may be called 'imprinted'. In either case, it's probably very hard to get rid of. And, yes, the same applies to being 'imprinted' with or habituated to ways of thought that are skeptical of certain things. Got to be careful with the stones in the glasshouse here. For the fact is that everybody lives in a glasshouse.

Anyway, about the flipside...

The corollary to My Faith Is My Right is To Live With The Consequences Of My Faith Is My Obligation.

And that's where the shit hits the fan, of course. Because even if you don't consider it your duty, life will make you live with the consequences of your thoughts no matter what you think. People are very good at asserting 'rights', but by and large they do far worse at accepting the associated obligations. And, with the Principle Of Cosmic Equipoise reigning supreme everywhere--even if usually it's more statistical than readily-quantifiable and usually rather convoluted at that--that makes for a significant mismatch between what they think is and should be, and what really is.

So, I wondered about the future, because that's what I do; trying to spin the yarn of the lives of these two people beyond the ten minutes or so they sat opposite me on that train. Two main lines of possible scenarios: ultimate submission or eventual rebellion. For that girl wasn't stupid. Subject to mother's thumb and probably smothered in her world view; but not stupid.

Submission or rebellion?

The things we'll never know...

The things we think about when we mis-read something, with a single letter obscured by the loop of a carry-handle...

No comments: