Holy Books in Glass Cases: When Religious Freedom Turns Absurd


Robert U. Rational

“Holy Books in Glass Cases: When Religious Freedom Turns Absurd”

Ever wondered if your next Bible Belt neighborhood barbecue could legally double as a witch burning, if you claimed it as a religious practice? Of course, before you start planning a themed party complete with pitchforks—or wood stacks, for that matter—let’s consider where we draw the line between religious freedom and outright absurdity.

Imagine a group of us, overnight converts to an extremist belief system, declaring it our religious right to reinstate some Bronze Age justice. Think beheading the non-believers (or in modern terms, those who talk during movies). Could we pull it off under the guise of religious freedom? Highly unlikely, unless we fancy a stint in maximum security.

And what about “applying Biblical principles” with such vigor that stoning for minor transgressions becomes the norm? Or amputating a hand for a trivial theft? “Sorry, Timmy, but it’s your third stolen cookie. Rules are rules.” It sounds like a plot rejected from a dystopian novel, yet these ideas are popping up in courts worldwide under the banner of religious freedom. What suffering caused by applying absurd religious rules and prescribed punishments should be admissible in a church court? Stoning? The burning at the stake? Cutting off hands? Flogging? Imprisonment? Let’s not just talk about physical punishment. How about psychological punishment?

Consider the practice of mandated shunning – a mandated social death sentence cranked up to biblical proportions, demanded by some high control religious groups. Isn’t being disowned by a trusted group just another form of social stoning? Instead of pelting someone with stones, you are prompted to give fellow members in the group silent treatment and cold shoulders, thereby punishing those who dare to step out of line or question doctrine. It is the emotional and psychological equivalent of stoning, but with invisible stones. What do you think of this loophole in religious freedom? Should we just accept this kind of suffering caused under the guise of applying religious rules in Holy books and religious freedom, and close our eyes and ears to this?

Take, for instance, the extreme measure of stoning someone because they failed a virginity test on their wedding night. It may sound like a rejected subplot from a very dark romcom, yet these are the kinds of practices some might advocate in the name of religious freedom. Mandated shunning, recognized as organized bullying, fits right into this absurdity parade. It’s a punishment that’s both medieval and sneakily non-physical, yet its impact on mental health can be devastating.

Here’s the clincher—the big finish everyone’s been waiting for: Human rights belong to humans, to individuals, and should triumph over any “religious right” claimed by any organization that harms another person’s general well-being. Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells it out: No State, group or person, is allowed to steal someone’s human rights, their religious freedoms, nor to harm others physically or emotionally.

What should we do with these so called Holy Books? Would it be called a Holy Book if one would write the same content these days? They are important historical artifacts that show our search for meaning and social order. Let’s respect and study them and at the same time, let’s identify the age-old extremism in these books, name them as a violation of human rights and criminalize them. These Holy books belong in museums where we can appreciate their impact from a safe distance – but where they are also exhibited as sources of extreme inhuman acts. Or should the witch burners be made saints because they practiced what is written in a holy book?

Remember, the freedom to believe as we choose is a fundamental human right, but so is not getting stoned—or shunned.

Closing Thoughts: Holy books should inspire us spiritually and should not prescribe harsh punishments that violate human rights. Human rights should take precedence over extremist thought and interpretations of it.  Human rights belong to individual human beings. A “Universal Declaration of Organizational Rights” does not exist, nor should it.

You can help bring an end to the evils of mandated shunning by sharing any experience you or a loved one has encountered at the hands of an organization that employs this practice that has passed its expiration date for several decades. If you accept that they cut off your hand because you committed a petty theft and you do not standup, then justice will not be served with acknowledgement. There is no crime, no criminal and no victim. So, tell your story and tell about the pain and damage you suffered and are suffering at shunningisacrime.org. Together we will make this world a better place!