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View Full Version : Should there be unrestrained freedom of religion ?



Coriolan
01-08-13, 11:33
I will state it outright from the start. I am not religious and I do not like proselytizing religions and people who tell me what I should believe in. The world has been shaped by American ideals since 1945 and one of those ideals is freedom of religion. I am in general in favor of most forms of freedom as long as they do not restrict other people's freedom or encroach on their wellbeing. That is why I have a problem with freedom of religion. Give Christians and Muslims complete freedom to exercise their cult and soon you end up with missionaries knocking at your door trying to convert you, or religious zealots trying to instill their values in schools or on other people.

Religion is not just a belief system, it is also a set of values, and some of them are incompatible with the laws and values of many developed societies. The wave of liberalization of gay marriage through the Western world is a good example that modern values are at odd with traditional religious values. That is why I strongly believe that freedom of religion should be subordinated to a country's legal system. The law must always prevail over religious values and dogmas.

My other problem with religious freedom is that religion often infiltrates education and that many religious dogmas claim things that go against science. Science is the central pillar of modern society. Without science there would be no modern technology, no modern lifestyle. Is it acceptable that let adults mess with children's heads by teaching them that evolution is a myth or that there is a human-like god with supernatural powers that can influence their lives or want them to carry out some "divine missions" on earth ? This can be very dangerous. Even if it is not, it hinders many vital freedoms, like freedom of thinking, and put these children at a disadvantage compared to other kids when learning about sciences. Fundamentalist religious education can lower your kids' grades and prospects in life. So is it ok to authorize it just in the name of religious freedom ? Is it idea of religious freedom more important than other freedoms and success in life ? Certainly not. This is why I propose that religious freedom must always be subordinated to other freedoms. Religious freedom should be a conditional freedom, one that can exist only if it respect other values of a modern secular society.

LeBrok
01-08-13, 17:28
Great synthesis Coriolan, I'll address most later.
I would like to mention quickly, that you shouldn't sell Europe short. First written freedoms of religion acts showed up in 15th century in Hungary, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and England, way before US.
In ancient past most major empires had to enact some forms of religious freedoms to assure peace within multicultural character of empires. Otherwise people are quick to kill each other in name of gods.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion

sparkey
01-08-13, 18:07
Whoa, flashback. My patrilineal ancestors fled Switzerland because of people there saying there shouldn't be freedom of religion.


I am in general in favor of most forms of freedom as long as they do not restrict other people's freedom or encroach on their wellbeing. That is why I have a problem with freedom of religion. Give Christians and Muslims complete freedom to exercise their cult and soon you end up with missionaries knocking at your door trying to convert you, or religious zealots trying to instill their values in schools or on other people.

"Missionaries knocking at your door trying to convert you" doesn't restrict your freedom, and doesn't encroach on your wellbeing unless you have the thinnest skin of anybody ever. "Religious zealots trying to instill their values in schools or on other people" also doesn't restrict your freedom in any meaningful sense of the term, and only may encroach on your wellbeing if they succeed. But be honest, is the trend in Europe toward the success of the values of religious zealots?


Religion is not just a belief system, it is also a set of values, and some of them are incompatible with the laws and values of many developed societies. The wave of liberalization of gay marriage through the Western world is a good example that modern values are at odd with traditional religious values. That is why I strongly believe that freedom of religion should be subordinated to a country's legal system. The law must always prevail over religious values and dogmas.

When we're talking about "freedom of religion," we're not talking about freedom to change the legal system. The phrase implies freedom of practice; basically, the freedom to adhere to a religion as long as it doesn't infringe on the freedoms of others.


My other problem with religious freedom is that religion often infiltrates education and that many religious dogmas claim things that go against science. Science is the central pillar of modern society. Without science there would be no modern technology, no modern lifestyle.

Science will be fine, even with freedom of religion. In fact, freedom of religion is a pull factor, and may bring in scientists if the circumstance is right. The US was a popular destination for Jews in the 20th century, and that worked out great for us.


Even if it is not, it hinders many vital freedoms, like freedom of thinking, and put these children at a disadvantage compared to other kids when learning about sciences.

How do you define "freedom of thinking?" Because for someone who cares so much about it, you're awfully eager to restrict the freedom of people to think what they want about religion.

There is, of course, an easy way to counteract incorrect religious teaching: Make public curricula scientific. That already happens everywhere in the Western world. At the same time, I'd argue that it's healthy for the society to allow alternative education. Having all eduction framed one way causes the society's thought to be framed too heavily. Allowing approved public schooling, for example, will likely lead to statist framing.


Is it idea of religious freedom more important than other freedoms and success in life ?

This is a false dichotamy. Freedom of religion doesn't take away your freedoms, and belonging to an organized religion will often increase your chances of success by giving you connections.

The idea that wellbeing is something that allowing religious freedom necessarily diminishes is nonsensical to me. It's impossible to measure, and even if we're talking about individual statistics, irreligious people don't always beat religious people in that category. Suicide rates are much higher among the irreligious, for example.


This is why I propose that religious freedom must always be subordinated to other freedoms. Religious freedom should be a conditional freedom, one that can exist only if it respect other values of a modern secular society.

Your proposal is far from clear. What are you going to do, lock up Amish people? If all you're suggesting is that we need to protect the legal system from religious social conservatives, then fine, go for it, but doing so won't touch freedom of religion in any meaningful way, because religious freedom and a liberal legal system work fine together. If you're suggesting something more, keep this in mind: No matter what you do, people are going to be religious, and they are very attached to their particular traditions. Trying to suppress them will just drive them underground or cause them to mask it with more acceptable terms. If you want them to respect and participate in your legal system, it's much better for everybody to accommodate them.