Demanding Religious Liberty

“Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live.”

— Leo Tolstoy

I am a religious anarchist, I believe in the supernatural and I consider myself to be rather cool. I’m no slave to my gods and I don’t think I’ll burn in hell for displeasing them. I won’t lie however, there is a history of  antitheism in the anarchist movement but I find it alienating and frankly disgusting. In a paper entitled “Religious Anarchism” I find various examples of Daoist, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim ideas intersecting with anarchist philosophy. This isn’t wrong and it shouldn’t be wrong. Simply put I don’t agree with the antitheist rhetoric that many anarchists indulge in.

Religion can be very authoritarian especially with the fundamentalist sects of any religion or even fascist elements some religions seem to indulge in.  I strongly feel personally that revealed religions – religions that lay down “laws” from “God” to man, that command people to love, to behave in this way or that, are very insulting to the human spirit.

Here is my thinking on the subject: by the time you have to command someone to love, or use, as a justification for why people should behave decently to others a “holy book” that has “God” as its author, you are already too far removed from the source of true decency to be able to do any good. By the time you have to tell people “love one another”, people have already forgotten how to love, and why.

 Humans naturally do know how to behave, how to care for others and protect others. They know how to love, make bonds, nurture, and live. At least, they used to- perhaps it is a reality now that the “civilized world”, after many generations of organized, revealed religious influence, has become reduced to a massive kindergarten class that needs a ruler-wielding teacher standing over them telling them that they should behave this way or that, but this was not always the case.

My ancestors didn’t attack other people because those others didn’t worship Odin and Thor. My ancestors didn’t have priests or imams wandering around with them, preaching crusade or jihad. My ancestors never would have been so warped. That such cruel twists of Fate could have entangled us is a sobering lesson about what happens when people give way to massive group assimilation and fear.

And yet… I value religious freedom. People should be allowed to believe as they believe, but being tolerant of others faith is seen a sign of respect and acceptance. Is tolerance not a virtue to be admired and strived for in today’s  society?

It is the very nature of tolerance that offends me. Tolerance requires permission. When someone tolerates something they are allowing it or approving of it through their own forbearance. The word and condition implies that there is inherently something wrong with or inconvenient about the tolerated activity. Only with the kind permission of folks who are willing to put up with such activity will it be allowed. Tolerance is by its very nature condescending.

The ideal that folks are actually suggesting is acceptance. However most people don’t really accept deep seated beliefs that are contrary to everything they believe. A Christian who sincerely believes in the absolute truth of the Bible or a Muslim who is carefully following the teachings of Mohammad simply cannot with any spiritually honesty accept the worship of Heathen Gods. It would be directly in opposition to the most profound tenets of their faith. No one can realistically expect this of anyone nor can such acceptance be forced through statute.

So if tolerance is unacceptable and acceptance is unrealistic what is left? Is there a societal condition that will allow me to live my life and worship my Gods and Ancestors without the permission of others? Yes, there is indeed a better principle. There is a virtue, a social paradigm that is the highest expression of such living. Liberty.

The Founding Fathers recognized the simple, basic human importance of liberty when it was placed as one of only three named unalienable Rights in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…

Unalienable Rights were seen by the framers to be nontransferable, above repudiation and not awarded by another. These are inherent states of the human condition. Liberty in the context of this declaration is the individuals immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority and the individual freedom from compulsion.

In modern Western society the ideal is the same. I have the liberty to not be forced to believe that my folk were created by a Middle Eastern deity. Christians have the unalienable right to believe to believe people were indeed created by such a being. We then both have the liberty to venerate our respective Gods in whatever manner we choose provided it does not infringe upon the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness of another. Once we recognize each others liberty we can then begin to find a mutual respect for each others right to do as we please.

With the recognition of liberty there is no need for condescending state of tolerance between men. There is also no need for the unrealistic concession of acceptance. With liberty we simply recognize the individuals right to believe as he pleases and his freedom to follow that belief. It is simple, it plants the seeds of respect, and it quells most religious arguments. I may believe Christians are wrong in their assessment of the divine but I fully recognize their liberty to think as they choose. I simply expect the same from them.

I believe that every person has the right to believe and worship the way that they want, every person has the right to make their own choices and take risks whether or not they may seem harmful to themselves. However, I do not believe in doing things or making choices that harm others. Any ancient text — including the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, the Upanishads, The Republic, City of God, to name just a few — has sentences that can be taken out of context by extremists in attempts to rationalize behavior that most modern followers or readers would reject as inconsistent and unacceptable in this day and age. I believe we must stand against such acts, and the spin and propaganda they represent, before they take root.

Freedom of religion means that you may believe anything that you want and you may worship freely so long as it does not impinge upon the freedom of others. And the moment an anti-theist or religious fundamentalist/extremist tries to infringe on my religious beliefs then my religious  freedom is being violated. Period. 

I do not beg for tolerance. I do not expect acceptance. I do however demand liberty. And that liberty extends to everybody else regardless of religious belief or lack of it.


~ by ladycat123 on September 14, 2011.

One Response to “Demanding Religious Liberty”

  1. […] from the themes of this post in which I demand religious liberty as essential to anarchism, I wish to to attack the idea that religion is somehow anti-anarchist in this […]

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