Religion is undeniably a key element of West Texas culture. Lubbock has the most churches per capita in the nation, and mirrors the state’s mostly Christian religious beliefs.

Religion is important to many, and although intolerance and acceptance of other religions is not a part of Lubbock’s normal conversation in this Christian majority, it is a growing topic for many cities in our nation.

In 2018, a debate on religious tolerance was sparked after a satanic statue made a momentary appearance at the Arkansas State Capitol. In a video of the unveiling, Satanic Temple cofounder Lucien Greaves told protestors and supporters the statue of Baphomet was a symbol of legal equality, tolerance and freedom of conscience and reconciliation. 

The intention behind the controversial event was to highlight the practical lack of separation of church and state, due to a statue of the Ten Commandments also on display on the state capitol’s lawn.  

Greaves told the crowd the temple did not ask that the Christian statue be removed, because he has little interest in forcing his religious beliefs and symbols on others. Some may be offended by the intentionally disruptive statue; however, the argument brings forth valid points and emotions about double standards, religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.  

While the U.S. provides freedom of religious expression for individuals, unchecked intolerance of other religions within this freedom becomes a societal issue. We see this in legal issues such as a bakery making national headlines in 2017 when the owner refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding due to his religious beliefs about gay marriage. 

The couple sued the bakery for discrimination, while the baker noted his First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion. 

This is a perfect example of why there should be a separation of religion and the workplace. All services a business offers should be available to the public, regardless of their religious beliefs. However, as religions intermingle and legality becomes an issue among business owners and customers, the problem becomes a question of who draws the line and limitations.

This is difficult to answer because we are ideologically driven, and religion plays a central role in basic human morals. True separation of church and state is nearly impossible. 

Political beliefs are essentially made up of religious beliefs. Laws and court rulings determine what is right and what is wrong. Compare this to some of the Ten Commandments of Christianity: don’t steal, kill, lie or commit adultery. The groundwork of basic civility embodies that of religious ideology. 

Having a government that functions without religious biases is impossible, mostly due to the government being composed of many people with their own religious beliefs, rather than one all-knowing entity. But our nation was founded on the promise of religious freedom or bluntly put, to each their own, to which we should respect each other’s freedom. 

It is this extremely individualistic religious idea that sets the tone when discussing religious tolerance and acceptance, and it isn’t easy to manage this with the unity of a single country.

Religious freedom is something people have fought to establish for hundreds of years, dating back to the creation of America. But when that freedom was achieved, that still left the balance of managing individual religious beliefs in society with the different beliefs of others. 

When unmanaged and religiously intolerant ideas toward other religions begin to spread, ideas repeated or spoken aloud end up becoming the encouragement of hateful, physical acts against those different religions.

It is hard to recognize religious intolerance as an issue at face value within this framework, and within freedom of one’s own religion, and it is easy to separate oneself with distrust to those who do not share the same belief.

This isn’t an issue in Lubbock where religious tolerance sits between neighborhood disapproval about a mosque being built and whispers about someone who is obviously a religious minority. But in a religiously diverse nation, there is a need for religious tolerance within individual religious freedom. This can only come from individuals being able to open up and be more tolerant and accepting of religions not their own.  This means learning about others, seeking the common human traits within differences in religions — research has shown religious tolerance is increased with exposure and knowledge of different cultures, religions and ideologies. 

Religion can be a powerful and life-altering experience and is important to many in their lives. Comparing religious similarities, opening up and learning about other religions and encouraging and practicing religious tolerance is not only better for one’s state of mind, but for society’s future as a whole.

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