My husband and I were at a beach resort last year for his business trip. I walked around in jeans, sandals, and a long-sleeve white dress shirt (at the time, no headscarf). Still, I was self-conscious of the fact that most everyone else at the resort was in full summert-time-on-the-beach gear (e.g. shorts, tanks, bathing suits). But whenever me and my husband (who was also in jeans and dress shirt) spotted someone else with pants on, especially on the beach itself--we remarked: "Look, they're wearing pants too!" And it made me feel better. I am assuming that none of those people were Muslim, and I can not know if they were religious. All I know is that they chose to wear pants when they could have worn shorts like everyone else on the beach. For some reason, they were more modest than others.
Now, here are other examples of non-religious folks practicing modesty of dress:
1) A woman who loses a lot of weight but is still insecure about her body, so she covers up and dresses down by wearing loose, long, plain clothes.
2) A woman is against consumerism and the exploitation of women in society, so she covers up and dresses down by wearing loose, long, plain clothes.
3) A woman works in a male-dominated profession, so she chooses to wear conservative clothing to reduce any sexual discrimination or harrassment.
Ok, so...now the question is...
Do you need a religion or God to dress modestly, i.e. to have values that dictate your choices in life? From the above examples, the answer is NO. I once heard an atheist say "Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I don't have any morals." I'm sure a lot of people feel that way. They don't need a religion, a god, or a set of rules to be "good, decent, moralistic, polite, law-abiding citizens." They believe human nature is pure/good and does not need an organized religion to dictate and monitor and supervise their choices in life--including dress. They don't need a book of God's Laws to tell them how to make good choices and practice good behavior--because being good is its own reward.
...But laws and codes are meant to keep the bad seed from ruining it for everyone, aren't they? For the flawed ones...and aren't we all a bit flawed? Easily tempted? Easily distracted and curious?
What if there were no speeding laws? Some of us would drive slowly because we are "naturally" cautious, still most of us would get caught up in the power, freedom, thrill, independence, and the impatience to get where we want to go--or just go faster than the next guy--so we would go without care--without a seatbelt...And eventually hurt ourselves and others as we zip along and eventually meet disaster.
So yes, there are A LOT of people without a religion who practice excellent and productive human behavior. And I respect them for that.
Then there are those people who need a structured or organized religion to keep themselves "in check," because perhaps they're not so excellent or productive or decent in their "natural" state. And I respect their struggle.
I think all that is good comes from God. God is Good. And religion allows us to understand why and how that is.
So who decides what is "Good"? Is it just common sense? What is common sense?
–noun sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.
[Origin: 1525–35; trans. of L sénsus commūnis, itself trans. of Gk koin aísthésis]**
I think most of us would agree, it's "common sense" to follow the rules that most religions and civilizations follow (No killing, No prostituting, No stealing, No cheating, etc). But how does common sense turn into that "specialized knowledge or training"? I think it comes from understanding God. And religion can help you gain the knowledge and training to begin to attempt to do that. Of course, I personally believe that Islam, and Shia Islam specifically, is the best way.
What do you believe? How do you decide what is good? What is common sense?
I know a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf. A stranger approached her in a public mall and after some trivial dispute on proper play-area behavior for children, the stranger pointed at the Muslim woman's headscarf and said,
"You have no common sense."
I would ask that stranger woman why wearing a headscarf is against common sense. I would love to know what makes her believe that, and what makes her believe it was necessary to tell the Muslim woman that. The stranger woman claimed she was not being prejudice. I would love to know what makes her believe that, indeed.
I look in the mirror and say:
Know that all Good comes from God.