Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Freedom of Religion IS Freedom of Expression

HE GREATEST BLASPHEMY against Judaism is probably something called Christianity. Think about it. The wrathful, jealous God of Moses--Yahweh of the ancient Israelites--is turned by Catholic apostasy into a Divine Trinity in which He becomes God the Father to a Son born of a Virgin crucified by His own Chosen People, and a Holy Ghost with tongues of fire that cause people to hear fishermen's voices. Christians owned both the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth which some called the Holy Roman Empire while the Jews would go into 2000 years of Diaspora. But a Prophet from Arabia would found his own religion with its own storied Ottoman Empire and its own ideas of Allah, who had neither Sons nor Daughters in its theology. Yet they all have a common spiritual ancestor in the Man from Ur, the Abraham or Ibrahim of the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim tradition.

But every organized religion is thus, in the ultimate analysis, a towering blasphemy of all the others. Heresy and apostasy are what one religion calls the things it does not believe in, which are often the very Creed and "infallible teachings" of another organized religion. More death and destruction has thus been visited upon humanity in the name of Religion than any other form of human vanity. Paradoxically, the converse is also true: Religion has been the source of the greatest good in human societies.

Man has been called the animal that invents and makes tools. I think Religion is a kind of tool -- like a moral compass -- that guides human beings when we strive "to do good" or "to discern the truth." In a moral dilemma deciding what the "morally correct" thing is to do is like trying to get to the peak of a mountain. But just like physical mountains, there are many trails that lead to the same mountain top. That is why over the centuries, people of all religions have come to the same basic moral positions of what is good and bad in human behavior, even if they still have wildly different ideas of what God or his Prophets might actually look like, or that you are even allowed to wonder about that.Religions, in other words, may violently disagree over what is God, but hardly ever in what is Good and Bad.

In modern consitutional democracies, Religious Freedom has made possible the peaceful, even fruitful, coexistence of the organized Religions. In fact without the coercive powers of the democratic state against all forms of religious intolerance and prejudice, religions would exterminate each other until only one were left standing in any given sphere of influence -- as indeed they have tended to do before Democracy was invented. Tolerance is an ancient human virtue, but Democracy, in particular the Separation of Church and State, is the institutionalization of that virtue.

In this sense, Democracy is a special kind of blasphemy, one that is directed at all religions. Democracy is a religion without a theology, a morality that miraculously secures the existence of religions with virtually any theology, by treating the practice of religion as an exercise in the freedom of speech and expression. This is accomplished in a democratic society by pushing theology into the sphere of the individual citizen's Right to Privacy, behind the wall of a person's right to hold any private opinion or belief and to express and practice it openly. Democracy protects Religion by making it a part of every's citizen's right to freedom of expression. The Freedom of Religion IS the freedom of expression.

It may seem strange that this very wall that protects our private religious opinions and our right to choose any Church in which to worship, is called the Separation of the Church and the State. But Democracy is an apostasy of all Religions because it makes Human Law the arbiter of "good" and "bad" in human behavior, at least with respect to the State's coercive and lethal powers. Democracy leaves Theology to Church and Synagogue and Mosque, yet firmly establishes its own effective jurisdiction over various parts of what someone once called "the moral continent of the conscience."

Thus, when anyone acts in the name of Religion, or claims to be exercising his or her Religion, such acts are exercises in the freedom of speech and expression. Whether such acts are moral and lawful or not, ought to be judged on that basis.

A second spiritual ancestor of all religions really ought to be Abraham Lincoln, whom we might update to the 21st century by quoting as follows: "The world cannot endure for long half-slave and half-free, for either we shall all be slaves, or we shall all be free."

6 comments:

manuelbuencamino said...

DJB,

Here is a view from a moderate Arab journalist. Sorry I don't know how to make links so I am putting the blog address in full.

http://rasheedsworld.blogspot.com/2006/02/re-publishing-cartoons-is-stupid-and.html

I think it's a sober voice amidst all the hysteria surrounding the issue because it prsents both Arab and western views in an impartial manner.

Rizalist said...

I'll check him out too MB

Amadeo said...

In the midst of the all the heat and rhetoric, it is still a question of how this little "green dot" sees this conflict collectively.

The map below tells us graphically how the world is divided:

http://face-of-muhammed.blogspot.com/2006/02/cartoon-war-overview.html

And there is no Gaia here, only fissures and pressure points, all straining to the breaking point.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

DJB,the last post nearly sent me spinning out, if not for your conclusion.

Christians were first called Christians in Antioch. This is the Original Apostolic Christian Church. This was not the Roman Catholic Church or the Iglesia Apostolica Catolica Romana that is of Alexandria. The latter spinned out of the former at the same time that pagan style and pagan target of worship entered the church when even pagan Roman soldiers were declared Christians.

The Apostolic Christian Church continued but the Catholic Church spinned out and emphasized itself as what you call a tool to reach "the peak of the mountain" --which I presume is the Kingdom of God or Salvation-- by WORKING FOR IT by means of RELIGION. Thus you said: "Religion is a kind of tool -- a moral compass -- that guides human beings when we strive to do good."

Protestant Churches of today, however, do not regard themselves as a tool to do good in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Thus, we do not regard ourselves as a RELIGION but as a Fellowship of Christian Believers. For us, entering the Kingdom is by FAITH that Jesus paid for our sins when He died on the cross, you cannot work for it by doing good works.

Ours therefore, is not a Religion, but a FAITH that when we were still sinners Jesus Christ died for us. The Roman Catholic Church of today, especially in our country, does not exemplify a true Christian. Please do not lump all other Christians, especially Protestants like us, with them.

But you are right DJB, MY BEING ABLE TO SAY ALL THESE THINGS IS THE TRUE ESSENCE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

Econblogger said...

DJB,

Democracy as a subversion of religion? It is indeed the logical outcome of the Enlightenment, the rise of a secular culture and secular state, and its social contract with religious individuals. Indeed this freedom gets rammed down your throat - you must tolerate peacefully the acts of "blasphemy" of others. You do however get to "blaspheme" others freely. Unfortunately some (many?)religious individuals, enamored of visions of absolute truth, errect their absolutism above such contracts.

Fire with fire.

Rizalist said...

Econblogger, It's a subversion as well as a protection for religion. By insulating the State from each of the set of CONTRADICTORY beliefs that the churches represent, they can still all agree on the morality and behavior withoug killing each other in the argument.