ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
Sometimes a piece of snail mail can trigger something that we want or need to research to get a better perspective on, and that is exactly what happened to me this week.
Just as I’ve always been a big fan of our God-given gift of free will, I know that many people do not believe in God, which likely means (to them) that a God that isn’t real cannot give them the gift of free will or any other gift for that matter. But here’s the thing: if they
don’t believe in God, does that mean that they don’t believe in free will either? (Of course not; they don’t need God to believe in free will.)
Obviously, free will — the right to make our own choices — does exist, even if we make a choice that happens to be against the law, or is contrary to what some other authority, such as parents, teachers, religious advisors, or our own moral or religious code teaches, advises, or demands. So, choices can still be made, regardless of who doesn’t like them, or what consequences can befall the choice-maker, as is well evidenced by our overcrowded prisons, reform schools, and all the difficulties with discipline in schools and in the home.
Family dynamics today — even going back over 50 years ago — are not at all like “Leave it to Beaver” or Father Knows Best.” Family counseling is big business; depression because of relationship difficulties is rampant, and the stress resulting from the chaos in those
relationships, coupled with everything else we’re contending with, causes severe physical, mental, and even spiritual suffering or pain.
It all comes down to choices, and making our own choices clearly means that we believe we have the right to do so. Does the government give us that right, or is it one of our intrinsic rights? If it is intrinsic, how did we get it? Whether or not we actually can exercise that freedom to make our own choices, don’t we all feel we should have that right? (With a few exceptions, of course, such as children who are not of choice-making age, the mentally incapable, and those who are under the authority of teachers, the law, leaders they have agreed to follow, and the military or such.)
Even in those cases, there are still situations in which they will make their own choices, such as we all do, regarding which colors they
like best, which foods they prefer (even if they are given or fed the foods they don’t like), which people they like better than others,
what kind of games, books, music, or shows they like best, and so on.
Whether or not they can do anything about their choices, they can still have their preferences. Children may spit out the foods they
choose not to eat, put up a fuss over wearing pink or orange, and not pay attention to the stories that don’t interest them, etc., while
rebellious teenagers may decide (choose) to steal, hang out with gangs, run away from home, etc. Think about the things you choose
every day. We all make choices, and no matter how or why we make them, we tend to believe it’s our right to make those choices. As do I.
Well, back to why this column is about choice. Some people think their choices are not only better than your choices, but that they’re more important as well. Those who are Christian believe that it is better to be Christian than any other religion. Those who are
anti-religionists feel that it is more important to have the right to not be subjected to the proselytizing of Christians. And because
Christians may feel that the anti-religionists may choose to ignore them, they do what they feel they must do because it’s their duty —
their right and their choice — to save the souls of those who don’t know God. The anti-religionists, while they’ve heard of God, and know how to find out more about him, are not at all interested in doing so. That is their choice.
Nobody likes to be forced into thinking like somebody else; if it isn’t their choice to change their own thinking, they feel like they’re under a dictator. When I was a teenager, my father wanted me to only have thoughts that he approved of. Even though he was a
dictator to me, I knew that he could not read my mind. He could dictate what I could or could not do, or where I could go, and even
with whom, but not what I could think.
He never won me over to his way of thinking and he never would — not by force and not by his attitude. I would dare say that no one would want or enjoy to have their thinking force-changed by anyone — not by those on the other side, whether it be blue or red, Christian or Atheist, Pro-lifer or Pro-choice, or any other set of opposing choices or beliefs. If we want to be able to make our own choices, we have to be willing to allow that for everyone, no exceptions (except as noted above), no matter how much we don’t like what a person chooses. To force our choices (because we think we know better or are more important) on another who does not want that kind of “guidance,” definitely makes the one being coerced into thinking another way a rebel in resisting going along with that change.
Those who “go along to get along” are never happy with their position and will change back to their authentic selves as soon as it is
possible to do so. Those who coerced those who fake-changed over to their way of thinking didn’t really win anything. You can’t force a
way of thinking.
If it all comes back to something resembling religion (and I’m not talking Christian versus all the other religions in the world), I can
bring it back to the way Jesus taught. (And just to make it clear, Jesus was not Christian; his religion was just to do the will of God,
his Father.) Jesus did not force his ways or his teachings on anyone.
He simply told people the truth and let the untruth fall away. Not Christian truth, not Jewish truth, not any truth but THE truth.
So in light of what certain groups or organizations out there are trying to pass off as truth by exaggerating this, or leaving out
certain details of that to make their truth look more appealing, we can only hope that those who are on the far side of THE truth, no
matter their religious or anti-religious proclivities, at the very least come to finally see the value of the way Jesus taught: just
offer the truth and let the untruth fall away.
And yes, that does take knowing the truth, no matter what side you are on.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.