13 December 2007

Confusion About Freedom of Religion

Huckabee is on the cover of Newsweek. He's a likable guy. (My favorite quote of his is, "I'm a conservative, but I'm not angry about it.") He is seemingly compassionate and principled. The Republicans could do worse - much worse - in their choices for nominee.

But reading about Huckabee and Romney and their religious beliefs, (Huckabee saying he was going to bring this country back to Jesus, Romney talking about the dependence of freedom on religion) I had to admit to feeling more than a tad irritated. Okay. Angry.

In the West, we've got a simple and powerful formula for religious freedom. You are free to worship (or not) any way your conscience suggests you should. You are not free to bring that religious belief into the social arena. You cannot use your God as an excuse to abrogate the rights of others or as a basis for law.

Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Muslims and Smurfs are welcome to worship in this country as long as they express no aspiration to impose their beliefs onto the rest of us.

I grew up in, and still embrace, a faith that doesn't even make up 1/10th of 1% of the population. We don't own church property (we meet in homes) and our ministers are homeless. I was raised to be suspicious of organized religion and to this day am leery of paid ministers and church buildings. Yet even in my faith there are people who stupidly get excited about imposing their beliefs through policy. To me, nothing could provide more evidence of thoughtlessness. The best we can hope for is freedom to believe what we'd like. The instant someone starts to talk about imposing their beliefs onto others, that person ought to be shouted down in the public arena rather than lauded as a man of principles.

I understand conservatives in Europe who are hostile towards the Muslims who talk about changing European society. I don't blame our early American leaders who were hostile towards Catholics and Anglicans and other religious sects that hadn't learned how to stay out of the public arena. I simply don't see freedom of religion as a license to sneak religion into politics.

Freedom of religion for the individual and freedom from religion for the community. It's not a difficult concept, but any other formula just leads to madness. The next time someone decries the fact that things have gotten so secular, just sigh and say, "Yes. Isn't it lovely?" It is, in fact, religious people who ought to be the most happy about this.


Dave said...

Someone who understands the First Amendment.

cce said...

Here, here or is it Hear, Hear? Anway, well said and so obviously true and sane and reasonable an argument...I'm not sure why evangelicals exist but for the fact that they can't contemplate even the possibility that they might be wrong about their particular version of God and religion. Absolutism scares me.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Well said, Ron.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

My belief is that the 1st Amendment not only protects citizens from government established religion, but protects religions as well from the same. Too many zealots seem to believe that everyone should believe as they do. I thank God for the First Amendment.

ThomasLB said...

Now that the government is giving money to "faith-based" charities, there is an incentive for non-believers to join the church and assume positions of power.

If churches really believe what they preach- and aren't just using their religion as a means to an end- they'll want to stay far, far away from politics.