Wednesday, March 22, 2006

State Religions...

Following their defeat in World War II, the Emperor of Japan issued a statement renouncing his claim to being a "Living God", and Japanese believed the hubris of an Empire's lust for territorial conquest blinded it to matters at home. The U.S in post-war reconstruction required the Japanese to disband their state support for Shinto, which from the mid-1800's to that point had been the State-sponsored religion. While I'm sure there was initial resistance to the move at the time, Japan has prospered and Shinto has matured into a less-militant and more private, home-based religion with little ill effects.

Obviously, this was pushed for by the U.S. in self-defense as much as it was for the good of the Japanese people. A conquered nation of individuals still adhering to the tenets of Emperor-worship and other divine ideals such as kamikaze would've caused endless trouble for Americans and possible fueled a future reemergence of Japan as an enemy (see Third Reich, Germany, 1933, Establishment of). By discrediting and disbanding a state religion that up to that time had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of individuals on both sides in the war, Japan became a safe and prosperous nation.

Afghan man faces death after leaving Islam for Christianity

Abdul Rahman told his family he was a Christian. He told the neighbors, bringing shame upon his home. But then he told the police, and he could no longer be ignored.

Now, in a major test of Afghanistan's fledgling court system, Rahman, 42, faces the death penalty for abandoning Islam for Christianity. Prosecutors say he should die. So do his family, his jailers, even the judge. Rahman has no lawyer. Jail officials refused to let anyone see Rahman on Monday, despite permission granted by the country's justice minister.
Even though the Taliban was defeated 4 years ago, Afghanistan law is trumped by Islamic sharia law, which according to the prophet Muhammed demands that anyone who leaves Islam should be killed.

Should the U.S. follow historical precedent and disband Islam as the Afgan state-sponsored religion? Can we afford to? Can we afford not to? Obviously the times and circumstances are different - as far as I know, Shinto was not widely practiced outside of Japan. Islam is practiced around the world, and in the U.S.

The big quandary is for the U.S. to push for the freedom of the individual, Rahman, to practice his religious freely, we should also push for the Afghans to practice their religion freely. And in their religion, leaving Islam = Death. Where do you draw the line? Do we make the unilateral, humanitarian choice for them that while all religions are created equal, some Religions are more Equal than Others? Do we assert that it's a crime against humanity to murder someone for their religious choice? If so, do we prosecute that crime with deadly force (effectively breaking our own law by enforcing it)?

It's a tough, tough question. I would imagine it would inflame more passion than it would protect. But it's a horrible practice to kill someone who dares leave your religion. Should we be politically fair or morally practical?

Can I go back to bed?

UPDATE: There are reports that he may be freed - but the courts are hemming and hawing. International pressure can be a productive thing, especially when it's the right thing to do...

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