Freedom of Thought―Releasing Imprisoned Ideas
“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.”
Humanity, as we know it today, is a result of thousands of years of evolution of the human intellect and the development of several civilisations over the course of that duration. Modern societies being incredibly diverse and consisting of people from a multitude of backgrounds play a massive role in shaping an individual’s views. The problem, however, lies in the fact that society compels us to have certain beliefs because of who we are, instead of how we think. Even though we love talking about freedom of thought, ever so often we tend to discourage it.
Most of the time, theists do not think about religion objectively. According to a Pew poll, 60% of religiously affiliated Americans believe that their holy scripture is the ‘Word of God,’ i.e. it has not been written by human beings. Majority of the population subscribes to a particular religion by virtue of inheritance and not by weighing its merits and demerits against others. In spite of that, people tend to put their faith at a moral high ground with regards to other religions. In fact, 46% of religious Americans believe that it is necessary to preserve traditional beliefs and practices, whereas only 12% believe that modern methods must be adopted. Also, every time someone speaks out against certain aspects of any religion to call for reforms, that individual is deemed hateful just for voicing an opinion. In addition, both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of suppressing such conversations depending on the religion under question. This sort of disregard for dialogue and discussion is an example of subjugation of freedom of thought.
‘Politics and Society between Elections 2018,’ carried out in India by the Azim Premji University and Lokniti found that 55% of Indian voters were more likely to elect a leader from the same caste and religion as theirs. Indian voters’ attitude of voting along religious and caste lines, goes to unmask the deeply-rooted prejudice among their minds with regards to caste and religion. In fact, there have been instances of people voting for a party whose ideology they disagree with, only because the candidate happened to be from the same caste as theirs. This type of total indifference towards one’s beliefs is incredibly dangerous since it incarcerates one’s own freedom of thought.
The idea of a pre-decided set of rules to abide by for an individual based on one’s gender is another example of suppression of free thought. Toxic masculinity, a term that has propped up in recent times, has always existed in practice. From a very young age, boys are made to believe that they must be tough and that exhibiting emotion is a feminine trait. Similarly, when it comes to females, society does not let them be themselves—they are pressured into thinking that their looks define them and are expected to meet unreasonably high standards of morality. These demands hinder with the mental growth of children, thus restraining them from thinking freely and, in turn, curbing their worldview as they grow up.
Just like the imposition of gender roles, forcing a political ideology on an individual owing to one’s sexual orientation is also a threat to free thought. Majority of the gay community is politically liberal since most conservatives disapprove of homosexuality. However, gay conservatives do exist and are shamed by members of the LGBT community and even liberals because of their political ideology; this is ironic, considering freedom of thought is one of the fundamental liberal principles. Gay conservatives are shunned out of the LGBT community because of their political stance. On the other hand, many right-wingers do not accept them owing to their disdain for their sexual orientation. Thus, putting them in a tight spot, where they feel isolated and like an outcast even when surrounded by like-minded people. It is unreasonable to assume that the LGBT community is intellectually monolithic since it is impossible for any two people to have the same opinions, let alone a group that consists of millions from around the globe.
More often than not, society fails to understand that an individual is not defined by one’s religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity—they are just a part of one’s identity. How one perceives the world and feels about issues is for each to decide for oneself. People cannot be expected to behave in a particular manner just because of what society expects of them. However, many a time people restrict their ideas by holding themselves captive to certain preconceived notions.
For humanity to evolve further, it is crucial that individuals are open to ideas they might be averse to otherwise. Furthermore, one must take the grey area into account in order to have a rational discussion. The human intellect must not be confined to any boundaries so that we can grow to our full potential as a society and as individuals.
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