Did you ever think how much easier it is being bullheaded and stubbornly rigid? People with the gift of seeing things one way, their way, are spared the trials of needing to be reasonable or understanding. It’s a great life when you can make others jump a jig to your hornpipe. Being a thoughtful human being isn’t easy. Perhaps that’s why so many individuals (and cultures, too) don’t bother with it. If you think of all the trouble and time involved trying to be reasonable, you soon reach the conclusion that “off with their heads” has the beauty of simplicity and the satisfaction of immediate relief. Instead of struggling to understand or consider another point of view, you could settle it all with “do as I say.” A one-choice option is the simplest, like selecting an electric coffee pot in the old USSR. They made one kind of coffee pot and it sold for the same price in the smallest hamlet or largest city, from the frozen steppes to the great rolling fields around Kursk.

I mention the coffee pot based on long past visiting the communist world, where I smiled condescendingly at an electric percolator that looked as heavily built as a Russian T34 tank and about as pretty. I’d never seen a coffee pot made with such durability. There was a pot made to survive a nuclear test. My smile would later turn against me from the many, many times I’d be faced with too many choices. If I want a coffee pot, I shouldn’t have to confront sixty choices in make, style, color, price, etc. It’d get worn out just with my looking at the choices and trying to sort them out. Maybe I didn’t need a new coffee maker. What was wrong with my old one? I found too many choices as wearing as too few. I truly wonder at the people who add on and on and on to devices as a seeming attractant. Do I need a phone that will start my car, give stock quotes, and provide currency exchange rates while I’m shopping or on the toilet? I’m perfectly satisfied with a phone that goes ring-a-ling and lets it go at that. I was very content when I could take a walk or go in the woods and not give a rip if the phone rang. People say they don’t want to miss anything. What do you miss? Being annoyed, being hounded, losing peace and quiet: are these things we can’t miss? My employer sees my cell phone as a business aid. I see it as a punishment. But see what I mean by keeping things easier?

The trouble with easier ways is there are always consequences and it is never ever as simple and easy as we’re told or we might hope. Take a simple thing like tolerance. I’m tolerant. Do I need to specify for how long? Do I have to spell out the things I’m tolerant of, the questionable ones, and the no-way-in hell category in advance? You see, a simple thing like “tolerance” isn’t clear cut. Saying tolerance is tolerance doesn’t help the sorting. Let’s say someone says you have to be tolerant of them or what they’re doing. That sounds fair enough, but what if the request (which it can easily be) is itself intolerant, or you’re being told you must be more tolerant of their intolerance? Then it’s anything but easy to settle what’s fair from what isn’t without a lot of negotiation and debate. In many cases, people with a rule book have a relatively easier time of it. They page, for example, through their holy book to find the answer. “Says right here, so I’m right and you’re wrong.” The difficulty of debate with a person who is backed up by ultimate authority is like music with a person knowing only one song.

Atheists point (not without some evidence to back them up) at centuries of bloodshed and division of the human race based on assumptions about the wishes of a being assumed to exist through the words left in translated books or the assertions of followers. Agnostics often take a spiritual approach, saying a brotherhood of men is a more valid connection than a supreme being who may or may not be standing in the wings with his or her eye on us. Believers, on the other hand—well, they know the correct score, depending of course on which infallible divine interpretation they are following. You know the names of the main players and the degrees to which they follow, whether closely or loosely, the precise words given to their god and the often enigmatic and troubling explanations provided by their greatest luminaries. At times this can be very entertaining, until damn fools insist on giving such things legal and political powers to exercise.

Religion, if you ask me, gives us the biggest reason to keep strict separation of church from state. If you love and respect your religious belief, I’d think the last thing you’d want it to suffer is the indignity and slander of having to be political. If not a believer, you simply want all those hordes of faith followers to keep their notions to themselves and let you tend to your own salvation or damnation as you see proper. It is very difficult for society to maintain a religious perspective as a secular state. The task requires constant attention and some adjustment. But those trials are infinitely easier to bear than the price that comes from selling out to dogma. A state that declares itself honoring a particular creed puts all others in a lesser class. They can deny it and make attempts to work around it, but if you found yourself on the wrong side of a church-state combo, you’d know sure enough how that works.

Putting church and state together codifies injustice. It’s an insidious and easy trap to fall into. Take Turkey: ostensibly secular, taking the supposedly principled stand of classing insult or criticism of its primary religious group as a crime against humanity. This might sound good, except there are so many states that would use it as the perfect cover to protect them from criticism. It’s a whole lot easier to slip and slide into a church state marriage than it is to get the hell out of it.