Dying to Believe 

Most of us will never have to die for our convictions. The question of whether we would be strong enough to stand up to a tyranny that would kill us for believing what we do never really enters our minds. But let me pose the question: Would you die for your beliefs?

A quarter of the world’s countries have laws that could land you in jail—or kill you—for believing what you do.

Until just a few days ago, I thought that having to put one’s life on the line for one’s religion was a tragedy that lay in our world’s barbaric past—that this wasn’t something anyone in this century would have to do. But in reading an article, I was shocked to find that 26 percent of the world’s countries have laws against blasphemy and the penalty can be death. 

So I could be found guilty of blasphemy—defined as showing disrespect for a religion or God—in a quarter of the world’s countries? Wow. If, for example, I refused to wear a headscarf I could be guilty of blasphemy. If I converted from one religion to another I could be guilty of blasphemy. And yes, the penalty can be death. I know I already said that, but it is just so outrageous it keeps rolling around in my head. There are currently people in jail around the world awaiting their execution for violating these blasphemy laws.

I tried to imagine being imprisoned for inviting a friend to come with me to my church, and frankly my imagination balks at the concept. But in some countries, it is illegal for me to encourage someone to explore another religion. I tried to imagine being executed because I chose to convert. I can’t. This is 2017. How could this possibly be?

So I revise my question: Shouldn’t we make a world where no one has to die for their beliefs?

I am an American. I truly think that freedom of religion and freedom of belief are basic human rights. However, I now realize the degree to which people in a large portion of the world do not have these rights extended to them.

I don’t really know the answer. But reading that article woke me up to the reality that freedom of religion has NOT been won for the world’s population even though we champion the idea here in the United States. We have to realize that the things we take for granted every day are rights that don’t exist everywhere—far from it.

So I revise my question: Shouldn’t we make a world where no one has to die for their beliefs?


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