Any liberals for religious freedom? | Commonweal Magazine

The whole point of freedom of religion is that it protects an extraordinary gamut of differing, frequently conflicting cosmologies, spiritual disciplines, and moral codes.  They may include refusing to fight in defense of the nation, rejecting certain foodstuffs or medical treatments, discouraging young people from secondary or higher education, honoring celibacy or condemning a variety of sexual practices, sacrificing animals, drinking alcohol, or ingesting hallucinogens for ritual purposes, prescribing certain head coverings or hairstyles despite school or occupational rules, insisting on distinct roles for men and women, withdrawing from friends and family for lives of silence and seclusion, marching in prayer through neighborhoods on holy days, preaching on street corners or otherwise trying to convert others to these persuasions.

A great many of these beliefs and practices I disagree with.  Some I deplore. Religious freedom means I live with the fundamentalists who describe the pope as anti-Christ and my kind as hell-bound—and with the black nationalist sects who consider me a white devil.  Religious freedom means that I don’t have to send my children to the state schools if I choose not to nor does my Darwin-phobic neighbor.  It also means state schools or state events or state laws should not force people to participate in religious rituals or practices contrary to their consciences.

Religious freedom means that I may very well want to question, critique, refute, moderate or otherwise alter religious beliefs and practices that I find irrational or unhealthy or dehumanizing or, yes, bigoted; but knowing how deeply rooted and sincerely held these convictions are, and how much about the universe remains in fact mysterious, and how much about my own perceptions of reality could in fact be mistaken, and how much religions do in fact evolve over time, I accommodate myself in the meantime to peaceful coexistence and thoughtful engagement.  In particular I refuse to coerce religiously sincere people into personal actions that violate their conscience.  And I refuse to dismiss their resistance to such coercion as nothing but bigotry.

Peter Steinfels, Any liberals for religious freedom? | Commonweal Magazine.

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