Showing posts with label agnosticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label agnosticism. Show all posts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Does My State Have A Law Preventing Me From Holding Public Office?

Texas Longhorns

                I have never considered politics as a serious career option.  I have always held an optimistic view of what public servants can accomplish and given my diverse background, I’ve always thought I could add something to the public sphere.  I am an agnostic with a Mormon family and Hindu in-laws; respecting religious differences is a part of my day-to-day life.  I understand what it means to worry about paying for college and what it means to grow up in a family without money or connections.  Watching my husband – a very remarkable individual – navigate the murky immigration system of this country has given me a deeper sympathy for the realities of immigrant life.  I have a deep respect for education; I believe no individual should be held back from pursuing educational opportunities because of an inability to pay.  I am a wife, a daughter, a neighbor, an intellectual, and a dreamer.  I am, at my core, an American; I believe that people should be given the opportunities to work hard and succeed in life.  However, there is the reality of being elected; I have never considered myself to be a serious candidate for public office. 
Why then, does it hurt so much to find out that the state I live in has a clause in their state constitution that bans a person like me – a nontheist – from holding public office?  Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution states “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” 
So, in theory, if I were to run for public office in Texas and win, I would be required to acknowledge the presence of a Supreme Being.  I am an agnostic; I don’t know if there is a higher power or not.  I do, however, believe that lying is wrong.  I cannot see myself acknowledging something that I do not believe to be true.  In my mind, that is a lie. 
Throughout my life, there have been many obstacles to becoming the person that I am today.  As a girl being raised in the Mormon faith, I was told not to dream of higher education or a career; as a woman, becoming a mother and a housewife was my duty in life.  As someone who decided to leave the Mormon Church, I ran up against the many prejudices against people who make the decision to leave.  As the seventh child in a lower middle class family, I had to fight to make it through college without financial assistance from my parents.  This fight was ultimately successful through a combination of hard work and the generosity of scholarships. 
For every road-block in life, there was a solution available to me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was and what I believed in; when I figured out the answer, I acted in a manner that was true to who I am as a person, in spite of the negative consequences.  But never, in all of my years, have I come up against a law that specifically bans someone of my beliefs from a career choice.  And that is what hurts the most; that the state I have chosen to reside in has taken the official stance that, as a non-theist, I am not capable or worthy of holding public office. 
I may never be in a position where this law becomes an issue.  However, I can verify that there are many other non-theists out there who can contribute to the public sphere in a valuable and lasting manner.  Why is my state banning them from holding public office?  

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Moral System Free Of Religion

          What frightened me the most about leaving the Mormon church --- and losing my belief in a higher power altogether --- was the perception that religion is required for morality.  I was afraid that leaving religion would turn me into a person devoid of values.  I thought I would lose the love I had for people. I was afraid I would lose my inner compass that told me how to differentiate between right and wrong.  And Mormon culture supports the idea that leaving causes a person to become lost.  The authorities taught me to fear the world outside the rigid confines of the Mormon Church.   
          When I first started questioning the Mormon Church, I was not doing so out of toughness or bravado.  I was scared and confused, with no idea of what the future held for me.  I thought my doubts made me a bad person.  I held on to the Church in desperation, praying that I could somehow resolve my issues.  I prayed and read my scriptures.  I attended church every Sunday.  I went to seminary every morning.  I participated in my youth activities.  I followed the admonition that bearing your testimony will strengthen it.  And nothing worked --- I was as full of doubts as before.  I had been promised answers if I was faithful enough but the answers never came.  
          Then one day I said to myself --- “What if there is no God?  What if it’s OK not to know?”  And with that question, all of my issues melted away.  The world made sense again.  But a part of me was still frightened of what being an agnostic meant.  I didn’t know what life would be like without religion to provide structure.  
          Ten years after leaving, I have learned many lessons, the most important of which is that losing faith in God doesn’t mean losing faith in humanity.  Who I am --- the very core of what makes me a person --- is unaltered.  My love for people is still intact.  My sense of what is right and wrong still exists.  The joy I find in life is still there.  And I have found that the stripping away of a rigid belief system has opened my eyes to the inherent goodness of humanity.  I have discovered that good people are found in all walks of life.  Goodness is not reserved for a single group of people but exists in the diversity of the world around us.