Friday, August 10, 2012

The Paradox [or Oxymoron] of “Religious Freedom”

I don’t believe people have a right to freedom of religion. Talk about a great opportunity for someone who doesn’t like me to quote mine… I imagine reading only that sentence, I must sound like some kind of fascist. I don’t like saying it, because it seems anti-American and against the very principles of liberty that I stand for. However, it’s actually my belief in liberty that causes me to see “freedom of religion” as silly and pointless.

Don’t misunderstand me: I have no interest in rooting out religion. I’m no iconoclast. I’m not interested in shuttering churches, much less burning them down. If anything, I would like churches to be turned into museums or libraries. It would be a shame to waste all that stained glass.

I think nearly every aspect of religion is redundantly protected by other, more basic rights, and a specific freedom to practice one’s religion is merely an invitation to circumvent the law.

We already acknowledge this tacitly. We don’t allow cult leaders to sleep with underage children, even if it’s part of their religion. And it’s not just because it’s a cult, either. Pedophilia has a rich religious history, dating back to prehistoric times, up through Greece and Rome, and even today in the Catholic Church… but we still see it as wrong.

Then you have the Westboro Baptist Church, which recently went before the Supreme Court. In my view, their actions are protected free speech. Religion has nothing to do with it. If they were advocating on behalf of a political ideology, I think they would be equally protected. Religion simply doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s right to say what they want.

If anything, religion is more apt to try to prevent people from saying something. In fact, “religion” and “freedom” have no business ever being used together.

True freedom isn’t just the ability to do whatever you want. There is an important aspect of having freedom from others, not just freedom to do whatever you please. We should have freedom from being harmed by others, be they private citizens or government officials. It’s wrong to prey on people, even if it’s part of your religion.

We as a culture wouldn’t stand for someone being stoned to death in a public square for infidelity, yet this is what is mandated in the Old Testament and the Quran. Let’s be honest: we don’t let everyone practice their religion any way they want.

There is one freedom of religion I support, one which is not protected even now. Each individual should be free to practice (or not practice( any religion they want, without threat of retribution from religious followers, including within one’s own family. I don’t think it’s right that parents can “disown” their kids, as if a) they ever owned their children or b) they could be excused of their responsibilities as a parent simply because of what their children believe – or don’t.

There’s simply no reason to give religion special deference when it comes to rights, liberty, or freedom, especially while religious people continue to reject the rights, liberty, and freedom of non-believers.


  1. I totally agree with your arguments!

  2. What couldn't be claimed as a religious belief? The sky is the limit on this one! I couldn't agree with you more about your assessment.


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