Taking Our Freedom for Granted
Our country was founded on the idea of freedom: freedom from a king, freedom to believe in whatever one wants to believe in and freedom to openly express these beliefs with others. Through careful examination of what the authors during this period of history were expressing, I have found a greater respect for our freedoms. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine are all familiar names to high school students in the United States. However, their principles are not familiar and I was shocked to learn that I had not previously read a majority of the works these men created to provide a foundation for our country’s belief system.
Due to these works, I realize how much I have taken our freedom for granted. These men had radical ideas: the government can’t impose a religion on us, religion has nothing to do with the church and questioning one’s beliefs is vital to their faith. While learning where our country’s religious roots were first planted, I’ve also learned just how important it is to question and probe everything we’re told. Why do I go to church? Because I’m supposed to, because my parents do, because that’s the “rule” set by my religion. If I were to stop attending church, I would be a bad Christian. However, isn’t it true that if I attend church yet do not truly believe in what I’m doing, this is just as bad? Paine wrote, “When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime” (644). I believe Paine is saying that to tell yourself that you do believe in attending church when you know deep inside you are having doubts and wondering if the church is good and holy, it is just the same as lying or committing a crime. Everyone needs to find their own belief that they can stand firmly behind and proclaim without doubt. Paine believed this to be vital: “But it be necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself” (644).
Something in Paine’s words, “My own mind is my own church” (643) really struck me. Going to church doesn’t mean anything unless I know what I feel and believe inside my own mind and body. The church is not the final word on how I have lived my life; the only one judging my actions that matters is God. Paine wrote, “All national institutions of churches…appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit” (644). While my view of church is not nearly as harsh as Paine’s, I agree that churches have their own agendas and priorities that don’t always focus on each individual’s religious journey. While churches are beneficial to some, helping them focus and hone in on what exactly they believe and therefore how they want to live as a representation of that, for others the church is too confining and hypocritical. How does the preacher really...