Think About This at Easter

One short thought on freedom of religion:

If we continue to define “freedom” as the right to believe and spread to others without opposition, all these myths, superstitions, fantastic stories – lies, to put it bluntly – that’s a damned poor freedom, isn’t it?

If we redefine it to designate the absolute right of every person, and especially every child, to know true things, that is a VERY different take on freedom.

As far as U.S. and broader world culture is concerned, it’s also a freedom we have not yet had.

  • machintelligence

    True enough. But now we get to argue about what truth means.

  • http://cornelioid.wordpress.com/ Cory Brunson

    Freedom from indoctrination, perhaps? I like it — like freedom from coercion or from self-incrimination. Free access to the facts and tools we use to make up our minds.

    And you’re right — as far as i know we haven’t encoded it as an American right, and we need to be reminded of that. Meanwhile, you prompted me to check out the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and they have this article, 19, coming up on the heels of freedom of religion:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    I wouldn’t say it comes close, but it’s looking in the right direction.

  • Beth

    If we continue to define “freedom” as the right to believe and spread to others without opposition, all these myths, superstitions, fantastic stories – lies, to put it bluntly – that’s a damned poor freedom, isn’t it?

    Like the old joke about democracy, it is the worst sort of freedom except for all the other forms we humans have devised. The current situation in the U.S. is as free in that regard as any I am aware of. You are free to spread your beliefs, while others are free to oppose you by spreading their beliefs in the same manner. Are you advocating silencing others through some official means? If this is not what you mean, I hope you will clarify it for me.

    “And what is ‘truth’? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?” – Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar

    If you consider how slippery the definition of ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ actually is, I hope you will realize it’s best that we retain that “damned poor freedom” as opposed to exchanging it for a lesser one wherein someone else gets to decide what is ‘truth’ and can be allowed to be spread freely and what is a ‘lie’ and cannot.

    • http://cornelioid.wordpress.com/ Cory Brunson

      You and i seem to have taken very different interpretations away from this post. I’m not convinced that ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ are terribly difficult to define meaningfully, but i do recognize that there’s no reliable authority to imbue with the responsibility of giving out truth and pointing out lies — we’ve all got to learn for ourselves, and we can’t do that if we’re denied basic tools of thought. So, if we set aside the “What is…?” problems, can we agree that the freedom of unimpeded thought is one we should demand?

      Not to speak for the author, the freedom i don’t see that we necessarily have in the U.S. is free access to information and reason during our formative years. I don’t know that indoctrination — teaching against questioning certain beliefs — can/should be prohibited, but i don’t see why punitive control over the asking of those questions c/shouldn’t be.

      • Beth

        can we agree that the freedom of unimpeded thought is one we should demand?

        I think so. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘unimpeded thought’. How does one go about impeding other people’s thoughts?

        i don’t see that we necessarily have in the U.S. is free access to information and reason during our formative years.

        Are you talking about the ability of parents to control access to what information their kids have access to? If so, this is a very tricky issue, since it’s bound up with keeping children away from age-inappropriate materials, which is a parental responsibility.

        I don’t know that indoctrination — teaching against questioning certain beliefs — can/should be prohibited, but i don’t see why punitive control over the asking of those questions c/shouldn’t be.

        I’m not sure what you mean by punitive control over the asking of those questions. What punitive control are you thinking of? Are you referring to parents punishing children for asking certain questions? Certainly a bad parenting practice, but punitive responses in general are not considered a good parenting practice these days.

        • http://cornelioid.wordpress.com/ Cory Brunson

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘unimpeded thought’. How does one go about impeding other people’s thoughts?

          I think i can address everything you asked on these terms, plus that by “punitive” i just mean “having to do with punishment”. Basically, thought impediment might take the forms of information control and inquiry repression.

          For a Christian parent to raise their kid in the Christian tradition and teaching them as facts what Christians generally believe, i dislike but don’t think is a violation of freedom. That violation comes, as i see it, when the parent forbids their kid from reading other religious texts, or blocks their Internet access to sciencey sites, or threatens them with damnation, hatred, torture, or even time-out for so much as asking questions, talking to non-Christians, or even criticizing aspects of Christianity. This strikes me as a fundamental-enough right to transcend the family’s right to privacy and the parent’s guardianship over the kid, even if the parent does believe literally that questioning the faith results in damnation. The psychological welfare of the kid comes before the right to practice that ugly belief.

          That’s my own, only perfunctorily thought-through take, anyway. Of course the lines are fuzzy but that doesn’t make the distinction differenceless, and a declaration of this right doesn’t imply any particular action being taken (like invading religious homes).

  • Navigator

    Just a reply from the “pink collar” ghetto:
    There is currently a rather heated discussion on the NursingTogether website. A dedicated Christian posted an article “No Nurses Are Athiests”.
    An athiest nurse posted a very thoughtful response “I am an Athiest Nurse”. Just watch the fireworks that resulted. Nurses writing in, You can’t be a good nurse (or a worthwhile human being) if you don’t believe in MY GOD. And of course, damning us athiests to burn in hell.
    Very sad to see this going on in my beloved profession.

    • Beth

      Could you supply a link?


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