While visiting Philadelphia, and Independence Square, in the heart of the city, to be precise, I found myself surprised to find a statue dedicated to religious liberty in the place where history weighs heavy in terms of freedom, as both the site of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.
I believe that’s one of the great things about this country. The statue, furthermore, has only recently been moved to the square. A few years ago, it was placed in another corner of the city, in a less visible and less meaningful place. Which means that the fact that is stands in the square today is not simply a relic of the past.
At a time when Spain, in particular, and Europe, in general, are questioning the existence of God and anti-religious sentiment is rising, coupled with the rise of various quasi-totalitarian movements which do not accept or respect different ideas, I arrived in the USA and, in its most historic square, found two of the nation’s most meaningful pieces of history side by side: Liberty Bell and the Religious Liberty statue.
It’s a sign of something that we’re all accustomed to seeing on the back of every American dollar: the lettering on the reverse of every banknote reads “In God We Trust”.
In fact, in a recent survey carried out by Gallup among American citizens, 91% answered “yes” when asked in they believed in God or not.
But that’s not the really important thing. In the same way some of us believe in God, it’s clear that there are many others who do not. And let me make clear I have the same respect for those who choose not to.
Drawing on the basis of my belief that God exists, and we exist thanks to God, I am obliged to respect people who choose not to believe in Him, and do so willingly. I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, made us fundamentally free. He made us intelligent, discerning, and able to make decisions for ourselves, above all in terms of our own personal spirituality, to allow us to believe in Him or not, so that we would also be free to choose to accept Him into our lives or not, depending on how we choose to live: “Actions, not good arguments, are love.”
There’s nothing strange about that. It works the same way for an intelligent person in a relationship. He or she lets the other decide to show their love freely. And the freer they are to do so, if that love is returned, the closer and happier the relationship is. There are, of course, times in life, when love is not easy. But that is when loves shows its true colors. Those of us who are in relationships know and feel that. And, without a doubt, it’s something God knows better than we ever can and He puts it into practice.
When a relationship is sincere and we make an effort to sustain it, love is put into practice and can make the people in it very happy, free from the suffering, pain, and sacrifice that it might require. But, let’s not forget, independent of whether you believe in God or not, happiness is most keenly felt when it arises from having overcome previous hardships.
For me, those that do not believe in God are missing out. Because, if you don’t believe in God, in the existence of a Supreme Being who will, one day, call us to Him, your are unable to live in hope of that meeting and the hope of eternal happiness and fulfillment, without limit in time and space. Those people will surely also enjoy other things which those of us who believe in God do not enjoy. But it’s worth remembering that not just those of us who believe in God should respect those who don’t. Those who don’t believe should also have respect for those of us who do. And that was the message that so impressed me in Philadelphia’s Independence Square, where both the Liberty Bell and the Religious Liberty statue stand.
Congratulations to the Americans for this sculpture and for the message behind it.