When’s the last time you considered clones?

Harry Drabik

You would be correct to wonder how the title line connects to a reflection on religious faith. Most who know me would (I suspect) gladly and heartily say I’m not what they and many others think of as religious. They’d say this because it is readily observable and mostly true. I’m not a conventional believer and have not been one since my teen years, when I found more doubt than certainty in what I was told had to be accepted to become a confirmed believer. I never got there.
This did not make me hostile to religion or to the many very nice and often touchingly sincere people of faith who are anchored in their faith. What works so well and at times wondrously for them did not do so for me. What did happen was that I grew more and more wary and skeptical of things religious. For the teenage boy I was at the start of my religious stand-off, this was as easy as standing in front of the refrigerator intent on making a quick “catch” of something unlikely to be missed but appealing enough to the tastes of a two-legged garbage can outgrowing pants quicker than ivy shoots branching up and out in overnight spurts of vegetable athletics.
The problem with my boyish wariness and skepticism was its slow and debilitating growth into cynicism. Among those who knew me before my teenage retreat from religious faith were some aware (at times painfully) of a boy prone to the wicked humor of sly cynicism. Circumstance and inclination found a good wedding place in me, with the result that for a very long time I stood well (and I confess often arrogantly) outside the fold. I would not accept and did not want faith of any form if it came at the price of sacrifice of the basic human right of a human to be what he or she feels and knows from deep inside is best for them.

Some of strong faith will point out that I miss the point and that real human fulfillment is reached through sacrifice of self. That may work for and serve them. It did not do so for me. I could not in good faith and conscience say I believed what I did not feel. What was true and motivating for others was not so for me, and I felt like a liar and fraud when pressed (ever so lightly though it sometimes was) to submit to an order or faith not in synch with my needs or gifts. That, I believe, is true for all of us. Unless forced or coerced to do otherwise, we will believe and follow according to the call of our personal needs and the capacity of our natural gifts to contribute in society.
Some, likely you among them, will say that what I’m writing sounds pretty dang religious for a person known as “ye of little faith.” Spot on: it is religious in the distinctly American tradition valued by many of the nation’s more active founders intrigued and inspired by the religious concepts of deism and natural religion. You see, there is no First Church of Deism or a Minnesota Synod of Natural Religion. That is because the things contained in them have to be picked out piece by part in the mind and conscience of the individual. If you consider it, think how much emphasis and faith the Founders put on our individual abilities and drive to tackle these elemental issues using our own free will, our own devices, and thereby reach our own conclusions. They had faith in us, and so it makes me writhe with displeasure when the right of individual determination is cast aside for some grand scheme of all-bow-down or everyone-march-in-lockstep. Such things are not the traditional American way. Those things are, more likely, mere current versions of what so many wished to avoid on the soil of the New World. That lofty design, as we know, was not especially kind or appreciative of native populations, but then humanity has thousands of years’ evidence of abusing others with only a few and far between exception to the rule of winner-take-all or tyranny-by-numbers.

For a long time I didn’t appreciate the essential value of firm skepticism. It is not, after all, rooted in doubt. It is based on a solid base of observation. Does nature deluge us with identical clones of plant or animal? Is humankind a set of clones distinguished only by splitting into gender and color of skin? Nature favors diversity as an adjustment to change. That is why we are not all the same in appearance, skills, interests, or intuition. Difference is the hallmark that nature stamps on every piece with infinite patterns of finger whirls that say you are not I and I am not another. Variety is not the spice of life; it is the essence and meaning of life.
From there I step across to assert that a strong secular state committed to defense of religious freedom is society’s best defense against faith tyrannies. Discriminatory or anti-social beliefs are permitted but should NOT be defended one bit more than we’d protect gender abuse or sexism in our workplaces and public lives. In my estimation, a belief that considers people as faith clones is little more than a suspicious cult taking advantage of our freedom and good will in order to stamp natural diversity into conformity, uniformity, and social death by draining our lifeblood of freedom. I think we are wrong taking sides in any religious conflict. If a group is not committed to secular standards, let it stand alone with no U.S. blood and sacrifice on its side. Does a “better” side exist when neither upholds our standards of freedom? Let those who want clones of faith and act see where it takes them, and let us defend and celebrate the joys and trials of freedom no clone will ever know.