Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Following My Conscience

Every once in awhile I see political or religious leaders speaking of women's rights. These are mostly (but not always) men who know nothing of what it means to be a woman. They claim authority based on their adherence to a religion or some public policy. They profess to be following their conscience.
What conscience? I know from being an ex-member of the fundamentalist Jehovah's Witness religion on the far right of the spectrum that there are various definitions of conscience. According to Wikipedia, conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong.
Some religious people claim they have a "Bible-trained" conscience. In fact, I was one of those people who used to believe my conscience was Bible-trained. I also used to believe that going door-to-door marketing the religion was a way of being "spiritual." Now, I know that I was just following religious rules. It's easy for me to differentiate now, but not while I was steeped in the indoctrination of belief.
To me, the exercise of conscience, by its definition, means that a decision to act a certain way is made by me, internally. Now, I know that conscience is truly an "inner-knowing" that guides me rather than the rules of a religious order.
The Apostle Paul writes:
For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them, and between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.—Romans 2:14-15 (NWT)
The Apostle Paul himself admitted that people who do not know the Bible nevertheless had a law naturally written within their hearts. In other words, they had "common sense" to treat one another with respect naturally, without having ever read a scripture.
To me, that means that we do not need a religion to dictate to us what was right and wrong. These "biblically untrained" people noted above knew this intuitively. And sometimes they knew more about respect instinctively than religious people, who were swayed adversely by extreme religious views.
I believe everyone has the right to choose their own beliefs, without being judged for it. People have the right to change their beliefs, too, without being condemned for doing so. The Jehovah's Witnesses shun their members who leave, in an attempt to force these "erring ones" back into the fold. I trust religions who take this action as a form of punishment will step into the 21st century and realize it is time to stop trying to control their flock. It is time to acknowledge the inherent faculty of intuition.
It is time to honor this gift of intuition in each person, aside from religious doctrine.
I welcome your comments.

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