In recent times, I have been reminded of the saying “one man's meat is another man's poison” but in the context of rules and regulations so perhaps it would be more appropriate to say “one man's security is another man's prison”. Our lives are subject to control in many different ways – from an early age we are told how to behave, to conform, to fit in. This can continue into later life and many people feel unable to break free of this conditioning and assert their own beliefs, or at the very least to find the freedom to explore their own path and to make their own mistakes. Are the Amish communities limiting their experience of life or simply protecting themselves from the less savoury aspects of society?
As a result of the increased violence and terrorist activity in the world, we are subject to an ever-increased amount of laws and regulations designed to limit the possibility of further attacks. Our correspondence is monitored, our streets scanned with a multitude of cameras, our civil liberties are restricted, all in the name of protection. To some this is a comfort, a sign that we are being cared for and losing some of our freedom is a small price to pay for an increased feeling of safety. However, to others this is an unacceptable infringement of the concept of liberty; can you really trust those that are keeping an eye on us? Are their motives benevolent or malevolent? To quote: “who watches the watchmen?”
The same is the case with our systems of faith. A religion that imposes a strict set of rules and code of conduct may to some be providing a guiding light, a comforting sense of direction through life. On the other hand, it may be seen to limit free-thinking and freedom of expression. Certain scholars have argued that the Old Testament, a central component of several major world religions, had been written, or altered, to reflect the wishes of the ruling elite at the time. Take for example, the story of the creation of humans. In some ancient versions, Adam and Lilith were created equal but she refused to lie beneath Adam (i.e. accept his dominance over her) and fled Eden as a result. Variations upon this story have her banished from Eden and turning into a sex-crazed mother of demons. Other (more recent) ones omit her from the story completely, focusing on Adam's subsequent partner, Eve, who was said to be born from him, and therefore demonstrating that females are subservient to males. Is this the word of God or the wish of man?
It all depends on your viewpoint and this is the crucial matter: YOU are the important person in your faith. We are all an essential part of the Force, with an equality that honours the divine within each person. Does your faith serve your purpose? Or does it serve others above you? Does it serve anyone at all? Only you can answer that, just as you are the one to determine your acceptance of the systems that you engage with. There are far too many places in the world where freedom of expression is not allowed, where persecution, prosecution and execution go hand-in-hand if the law of the land (usually claimed as the law of God) is not obeyed.
If you have the ability to choose your path, then honour it with very step you take. All too often, freedom is taken for granted and is only realised when it is taken away. So ask yourself what YOU need. Examine your community: your faith, your place of residence, your circle of friends, even a site such as this. Do the rules of that community serve your purpose or do you feel restricted by them? Do they offer you the chance to develop and learn within a safety net of monitored behaviour? Or do they limit your possibilities? Security or submission – the choice is yours.