Today I saw a person praying openly and at considerable length, and I was reminded of what freedom of religion is.
I was reminded because prescribed ritual behaviour makes me quite uncomfortable. However religious freedom, freedom from religious persecution actually, means that my discomfort was my problem, not his.
Centuries of monotheists persecuting people of different faiths necessitated that secular societies advanced the principal that you should not attack anyone just because they do not conform to your views on religion.
So while I sat their and the praying continued I was not only aware of my irrelevant discomfort, but of the climate in the room as people whispered and pointed and checked to see if, in an historic context, there was something intolerant they needed to do about the “other.”
I remember IRA bombings in the news. I am belatedly aware that there are conservative senators in Canada who think the cultural genocide of my country’s first nations was not so bad if some of the victims were successfully indoctrinated to Christianity.
So, what is my point? I am not very certain. I am dismayed by the surge in public religiosity particularly among white Christian evangelicals in North America, which I can only put down to a failure in education. However what I am certain of is that the whiff of intolerance I experienced today is not a healthy response to anyone’s faith.