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View From Afar: States Cannot Legislate Morality

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John Issa

By JOHN ISSA

THERE are many religions in the world with a very large number of followers. The five with the largest are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and non-religious or atheists.

Within each group there are subgroups - but I won’t get into these. That is not necessary for the proposition I wish to put to Tribune readers and for the conclusion I wish to draw.

Each group generally believes that it has the “truth”. Additionally, there are beliefs that they all hold: here I am referring to beliefs about not killing, stealing, lying and such like.

The differences often have to do with marriage, sexual mores, eating habits, holy days, types of prayer and worship, modes of dress, the afterlife and such.

We also need to remember that we are not referring to fringe groups but are talking about groups with numbers of over 2.3 billion in the case of Christians to 400 million for Buddhists, the fifth largest group. Atheists number about a billion. Thus we see that there are some overlapping beliefs, but there are many differences and each group thinks it is right.

That’s fine and there is also nothing wrong with trying to convince someone to change their belief to your own. What, however, is wrong is when one group dominates a nation and then tries to legislate their religious beliefs. If one’s action does not harm another it is not for the State to get involved.

There are numerous examples in history that when nations have tried to legislate religious beliefs, disaster always follows. But we don’t have to look backwards, we just have to look at the examples which exist today.

Let us learn from the past and what we see around us today.

• John Issa is executive chairman of SuperClubs. He is writing regularly in The Tribune.

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