The End of Religious Freedom?

What is religious freedom? Is it the freedom to worship or otherwise interact with God, gods, or other things and entities as one sees fit? Is it freedom of conscience in terms of the supernatural? If religious freedom also involves the right to live out one’s religion in the public sphere, how far does that right extent? If religious freedom involves the right of churches (and like organizations) as well as individuals, to what extent do they operate independently of state control? Steven D. Smith’s The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom is an elegy for an expansive understanding of the “first freedom” protected by the First Amendment.

Smith intends to dismantle what he terms the “standard story” of the history of religious freedom in the United States. In this version of U.S. History, the founders wrote Enlightenment-inspired separationist principles into the Constitution, nineteenth-century Americans departed from them and oppressed a host of religious minorities, liberal justices after 1945 rediscovered the correct interpretation and application of the First Amendment, and evangelical theocrats mounted a failed efforts to return to the bad old days.

In Smith’s “revised version,” early Christians paved the way for religious freedom by privileging the individual’s interior relationship with God and by suggesting that church and state operated within separate jurisdictions. The Enlightenment “served as a conduit” for importing these Christian principles into the American republic. Although there was some discrimination against minority religions, Smith sees the first century and a half of U.S. history as a “golden age” in which Americans pragmatically lived under an “open contestation” between providential and secularist interpretations of the Constitution. Then, in an understandable search for consistency and constitutional principles, the modern Supreme Court rejected that settlement and raised the secularist principle of neutrality to an axiom. That consistency has often proved elusive, however, leaving both providentialists and secularists frustrated, the former because their views “have been officially declared heretical” and the latter “because of what they see as a failure to live up to secularist commitments.” Now, Smith suggests, the nation is blindly hurtling toward “the conclusion that there is no justification for giving special protection to religious freedom” and that to make exemptions for religious freedom “seems to some theorists to discriminate in favor of religion … and thus to violate fundamental commitments to equality.”

This is an important book. I recommend reading it in comparison with David Sehat’s Myth of American Religious Freedom, which arrives at a rather different conclusion. Sehat’s view of the nineteenth-century unofficial Protestant establishment is far darker than Smith’s. Sehat agrees with Smith that post-1945 justices blatantly applied their own wishful thinking to the views of the founders, but — unlike Smith — he feels that through their invention of a separationist founding and early republic “they have given up the most compelling argument for their own jurisprudence, which was originally to liberate the individual from religious oppression that used the apparatus of the state.” In short, Sehat largely embraces the separationist and egalitarian jurisprudence criticized by Smith.

The most provocative section of Smith’s book comes in his discussion of a contemporary struggle between “equality” and “religious freedom.” Formerly allies, the two concepts — as articulated by certain advocates — now find themselves at odds. As Smith explains, whereas many earlier Americans linked fundamental equality to the creation of all human beings “in the image of God,”  modern exponents of equality “usually do not invoke religious [or any] justification for the claim of equal worth.’” Moreover, proponents of certain forms of equality in particular strongly view “religious liberty as an obstacle to their objective,” because because groups and individuals use claims of religious freedom to justify the unequal treatment of women, gays and lesbians, and others. Smith continues to argue that “traditional religion” and “contemporary secular egalitarianism” are fundamentally incompatible. He suggests that secular egalitarianism “resembles a secular version of Christendom, under which it was assumed that government should act on and impose a favored orthodoxy.”

I think there will be bitter conflicts between secularists and traditionalists over the coming years, as there have been for decades now. And traditionalists will probably lose most of those battles. The tax-exempt status for colleges and universities that forbid homosexual relationships or in any other way discriminate against gay and lesbian students? Should the IRS choose to revoke such institutions’ tax-exempt status, I do not see how the Supreme Court could do anything but affirm that decision (on the basis of the 1983 Bob Jones case). Adoption agencies run by religious organizations? Egalitarianism will trump pluralism and certain forms of religious freedom.

Still, I think some of this struggle is overblown. Ten years ago, slightly deranged commentators suggested that the United States was on the verge of being taken over by evangelical theocrats. Today, the rhetoric on the other side suggests that the contemporary Democratic Party is bent on relegating all religious expression to the private sphere. Certainly, there are a small number of fervent theocrats and a probably somewhat larger number of ardent secularists out there. Still, I hardly think the bulk of today’s Democratic Party or progressive movements are bent on defining away religious freedom (even understood somewhat expansively), and as Smith notes, the Supreme Court batted away an Obama administration challenge to expansive “ministerial exemptions.” Moreover, given the very “myth” of American religious freedom well described by David Sehat, most Americans continue to cherish the idea of religion’s free exercise.

  • Nathaniel

    A “golden age” for religious freedom?

    Is this is the same time period where people killed each other over what version of the Bible to use in public schools?

  • John Turner

    Yes, that would be that same time period. I wouldn’t use the term “golden age” myself in connection with that era (and I certainly think there is a much higher level of religious freedom today), but I would still suggest that the United States of the nineteenth century had an unusually open religious marketplace by historical standards.

    • Nathaniel

      Okay. That’s definitely a more balanced view of that era.

  • GordonHide

    I am a non-American atheist and as an outsider looking in it seems to me the current disputes are about religious privilege rather than religious freedom. The religious appear to be asking that they be allowed to ignore the law obeyed by everybody else and do so to the detriment of minorities who are thus denied an equal place in society.

    • John Turner

      That’s a great comment, Gordon.

      There probably is a fine line between religious “freedom” and “privilege.”

      Was it religious freedom or religious freedom for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to get an exemption from school flag salutes? Religious exemptions to otherwise applicable laws could always be understood either way. If one believes in an expansive definition of religious liberty, it makes sense for the government and the courts to grant those exemptions. At the same time, granting those exemptions threatens to undermine laws.

      The court’s current jurisprudence suggests that those exemptions should be very limited, but that governments may not pass laws targeting the religious expression of particular groups.

      • GordonHide

        Any instance where a religious group gets to ignore the law is a religious privilege in my view. That’s not to say that such privileges shouldn’t be granted. They certainly should where they have little or no effect on the rest of us.
        In my view religious freedom as opposed to privilege is having the absolute right to practice a religion and live by its tenets so long as the law of the land is adhered to.
        Certainly the kind of thing we see in Europe where various religious practices are banned even though such practices have no effect on the rest of us is inimical to religious freedom and indeed inimical to everybody’s freedom in my view.

      • Asemodeus

        “Was it religious freedom or religious freedom for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to get an exemption from school flag salutes?:”

        Everyone has that right. The government cannot force you to pledge to anything.

  • David Tiffany

    I think this debate will go on until Jesus comes back. Then there will be freedom to worship Him. There won’t be freedom to worship something or someone who is not God. Jesus said those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth.
    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

  • Antiphon411

    The reason that the religious liberty question leads to so much confusion and handwringing (on both sides) is because it is a nonsensical idea. One might as well debate a point from Dr Seuss.

    The concept of religious liberty can be expressed in terms of rights. A man is free to worship God in the way he chooses or he has a right to so worship. Rights, of course, correlate to obligations. We have a right to educate our children because we have an obligation to do so.

    So man has a right to worship God because he has an obligation to do so. This is because God has a right to be worshipped. Man has a duty to do so and, therefore, a corresponding right.

    Now this does not apply to false religions. Zeus does not have a right to be worshipped because he doesn’t exist. From a Christian point of view, the pagan religions of Hinduism and Buddhism have no proper right to worship. Nor does Islam nor Talmudic Judaism. These “religions” either worship a false god or worship the true God wrongly. Of course from the Catholic point of view (my own) the Protestant sects do not enjoy religious liberty either. The principle is enshrined in the old saw: Error does not have the same rights as truth.

    Men have an obligation to worship God as He wants to be worshipped. They do not have a right to worship (or not!) willy-nilly.

    The whole question of religious liberty is fraught with difficulty precisely because it is located in a supposed human right to worship rather than the true divine right to be worshipped.

    As Pope Leo XIII wrote in his 1900 encyclical Tametsi futura prospicientibus: “The world has heard enough of the so-called ‘rights of man’. Let it hear something of the rights of God”.

    • Asemodeus

      “Now this does not apply to false religions. Zeus does not have a right to be worshipped because he doesn’t exist.”

      The state doesn’t get to decide what is and isn’t a religion.

      • Antiphon411

        But you are coming at the question having already bought the notion that religious liberty is a right, when it is not. The State is, in fact, obligated to worship the true God as much as the individual is–as Pope Pius XI taught in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas establishing the Feast of Christ the King (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas_en.html)

        Let us take America as an example. When the nation was founded the population was almost entirely Christian. They knew that Zeus didn’t exist, that Hindu paganism was wrong, and that Talmudic Jews worshipped God wrongly. In other words, almost every American man knew Christianity was the correct religion (though as Protestants they had an incorrect opinion about what Christianity was).

        As Christians they had an obligation to worship God individually (privately) and corporately (publicly). It was wrong for them to say that Jews and Hindus and Zeus-worshippers had a *right* to their beliefs.

        Now, a man has a right not to be coerced into a belief, so even in a Christian state the government cannot compel belief, but it can suppress the public expression of erroneous beliefs.

        The foundational principle of religious liberty is denying God and Our Lord *Their* rights.

        • Asemodeus

          “But you are coming at the question having already bought the notion that religious liberty is a right, when it is not.”

          First Amendment protections.

          ” The State is, in fact, obligated to worship the true God as much as the
          individual is–as Pope Pius XI taught in his 1925 encyclical Quas
          primas establishing the Feast of Christ the King”

          Again, the state cannot establish a religion, which means that they cannot define what is religion. You are having a awfully hard time with your reading comprehension.

          “When the nation was founded the population was almost entirely Christian.”

          Which is a categorical fallacy. The colonists may have had been christian but there were dozens of different sects of christians, all of which thought they were the one true religion and fought amongst themselves for state power. The quackers were notorious for this, and several of the colonies made is explicit that papists cannot serve in government. When the Constitution was being ratified the founders realized this problem and made sure that no one religion can be given state power, like they were in Europe.

          “It was wrong for them to say that Jews and Hindus and Zeus-worshippers had a *right* to their beliefs.”

          In spite of every enlightenment ideal of the time saying that people had a right to their faith, regardless of that faith.

          “Now, a man has a right not to be coerced into a belief, so even in a
          Christian state the government cannot compel belief, but it can suppress
          the public expression of erroneous beliefs. ”

          First amendment prevents any religion to be the state religion. Have you been paying attention?

          • Antiphon411

            The problem is not reading comprehension, but that we are talking about two different things.

            I am addressing the incompatibility of the notion of religious liberty with Christianity–you seem to be stuck on the US Constitution (I feel like I’m at the Blaze or something).

            Most Christians, quite erroneously, think that religious liberty is a good. They think that somehow they are honoring God by prattling on about it and making sure everyone’s got it (whether he wants it or not!).

            I am directing my argument at Christians and showing that the error of religious liberty is not in keeping with God’s right to be worshiped.

            And so, I am not talking about the USA and the Constitution has no relevance to my argument. But on the topic of the US Constitution: I find it interesting that you seem to hold it as some sort of sacred text. The Constitution is nonsense. This is one thing the far left in USA and I agree on.

            As for the Enlightenment origins of the error of religious liberty, you are right. The Enlightenment was also a good deal of nonsense. It is no wonder that they came up with the ridiculous notion of religious liberty.

            And now let’s finish the discussion by noting how fanciful the idea of religious liberty is. No religious person, except of course for gullible “Christians” would ever buy it. When things start to fall apart, you liberal types are going to be in for a very rude awakening. When nature and supernature reassert themselves, look out!

          • Asemodeus

            “I am addressing the incompatibility of the notion of religious liberty
            with Christianity–you seem to be stuck on the US Constitution (I feel
            like I’m at the Blaze or something).”

            I couldn’t care less about your one specific definition of Christianity amongst the countless and contradictory definitions of Christianity that you Christians bring to the front.

            “Most Christians, quite erroneously, think that religious liberty is a
            good. They think that somehow they are honoring God by prattling on
            about it and making sure everyone’s got it (whether he wants it or
            not!).”

            See above.

            “I am directing my argument at Christians and showing that the error of
            religious liberty is not in keeping with God’s right to be worshiped.”

            See above. Also it is rather comical to think that if such a being existed it would cherish such worship. It’s a large anthropomorphized assumption on the cosmos.

            “I find it interesting that you seem to hold it as some sort of sacred
            text. The Constitution is nonsense. This is one thing the far left in
            USA and I agree on.”

            Unlike theists I actually uphold to the law as stated in the Constitution. You could learn from my behavior.

            “And now let’s finish the discussion by noting how fanciful the idea of
            religious liberty is. No religious person, except of course for gullible
            “Christians” would ever buy it. When things start to fall apart, you
            liberal types are going to be in for a very rude awakening. When nature
            and supernature reassert themselves, look out!”

            Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because
            if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more
            than that of blindfolded fear.

            -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

        • Nemo

          Prove that your particular interpretation of your particular dogma is true. Then we’ll talk.

          • Antiphon411

            What a ridiculous request. How would one discuss doctrines 2000 years in the making in a blog comment? The teachings of most religions and philosophies are not reducible to the length of a “tweet”–yours, I suspect, are.

          • Nemo

            Your goal is to deny freedom of expression and thought itself. And if it could be demonstrated absolutely and beyond any doubt that your particular dogma was true, then you might have a case. But until you can demonstrate that Yahweh exists and had a kid who went emo for a weekend, you have no more ground to ban a belief that Yahweh exists and didn’t have a kid than a Jew does to ban your religion. And what, exactly, do you support doing to someone who worships a different deity anyway? You speak of your particular deity having a right to be worshipped, but the modern world tends to recognize a demand for reverence as indicative of inadequacy.

          • Antiphon411

            Oh, well! The modern world! My, my!

    • Lark62

      Wow. I have no obligation to worship anybody’s imaginary friends. Have you read the bible? Did you read about the genocide? Did you read the approval of slavery, and rape, and selling one’s daughters for cash? On what possible basis does the god of the bible “deserve” to be worshiped?

  • Asemodeus

    This is all well explained in The Authoritarians. The problems we have as societies of humans is that a chunk of us have the personality defect known as authoritarianism. People whom submit themselves far in excess to established authorities, which have been historically kings, politicians, and pastors.

    Sociopaths can only get into power and stay in power if there is a general apathy or adoration for their rule. Some people want to be ruled by a tyrant and they are almost always religious fundamentalists and have extremely broken minds and intellectual capacities.

    These people are also extremely ethnocentric. Not only do they think everyone should behave and look and believe the same way, but it is their duty to force everyone into that standard. They are uncomfortable with the idea of being not normal and want nothing to do with people they view as irregular.

    This is the source of all of the bigotry and hate the religious right has in this country. It is only just now becoming a issue since they were able to majority elect social dominators to rule over them, which has becoming less and less powerful over the decades.

    There is also the categorical fact that 200 years ago, anyone that they really hated, they could just kill out right. They cannot do that in large numbers anymore, which leads into other form of bigotry that have been stopped by the courts.

    • Allan Ray Hollis

      What a hodge-podge of projections and pure nonsense. Your comments do apply to the sociopaths currently in power who achieved their positions by means of people who apparently want to be ruled by a tyrant; but they are anything but religious fundamentalists, although they may have broken minds and intellectual capacities. It is also correct to suggest that progressives tend to think that everyone should behave and look and believe the same way — i.e., THEIR way. The religious right have no corner on hatred and bigotry, my friend, in this country or anywhere else.

      • Asemodeus

        That is actual projection. Progressive democrats are just fine with having fundamentalist Christians live and operate within their faith, just as long as it doesn’t encroach on other privacy and religious faith.

        But since these authoritarians cannot be happy until everyone is like them, they are constantly trying to police the behaviors of people using their religion. This is the rationale for their opposition to abortion, even though they don’t ever have to get one themselves. It is also the reason for their irrational hatred of gays marrying, a event that has nothing to do with them but still think that they have the right to police it.

        When you hear teabaggers cry out, “Let’s take back America!”, that is a authoritarian cry to arms. They view themselves as the true americans and anybody that doesn’t think exactly as they do are Atheist fascists Marxist communist Muslim terrorists.

        “but they are anything but religious fundamentalists”

        Christian theology is built around the idea of one supreme ruler that is both all knowing and all powerful. That makes the more fundamentalists of christians hard wired to accept authorities that act in such a manner, and will do everything to excuse his behaviors when he eventually fouls up.

        Which is why you still see people today that think the Iraq War was a good idea, and that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, in spite of every evidence pointing in the opposite direction. Bush said he did, and therefore he did. No thinking required.

        The primary reason why the religious fundamentalists have been losing power is the difference of sociopaths that have been brought up for nomination in the republican party. You can break down sociopaths into two groups: Those that fake their religious convictions and those that are the True Believers(c).

        The fundies were effectively vaccinated against the former by the latter, which was Bush Jr. Bush was a true believer and that resonates with the religious crazies. They got so used to genuine religious tyranny that every other republican politician hasn’t been able to measure up. McCain and Romney are not true believers, you can easily tell.

        Sure, there are some republicans whom were at the same level of Bush, but none of them have the capability to run a national campaign. That, and the ruling class won’t allow anyone but their own to get the nomination.

  • Lark62

    Religious freedom means I make my decisions for myself. Demanding to be able to make my decisions for me does not qualify as religious freedom. Using the government to make other people participate in your religious ritual is not religious freedom.

    You may not set up a routine that results in my children praying to someone else’s god at school. It does not in any way infringe on your religious rights when you are forbidden from forcing your religion on me and my children.

    Taking down a prayer banner at a public school, keeping the content of city council meetings secular, etc. etc. does not infringe on the religious rights of any person, because no one has the right to make another person participate in their religious ritual.

    • Antiphon411

      Your comment illustrates my argument nicely. The error of religious liberty is incompatible with Christian Faith. It is a Liberal idea and ultimately atheistic because it fosters religious indifferentism. I am not here to convert you, but rather to point out to my Christian friends that they should see religious liberty for what it is.

      Incidentally, you should know by looking at the world around you that the removal of religious things from the public forum is an infringement on the religious rights of religious people. Most religions I know of are total world-views. (A possible exception would be Protestantism, which has always seemed a little half-assed to me.) Just as the Mahometan wants his state run according to sharia law, so too the Christian should want his whole society permeated with the Faith: God should be a beginning and end to all things.

      Religious liberty is not a grown-up idea. To suggest that anyone, apart from milquetoast western Christians would allow themselves to be limited by the notion of religious liberty is absurd. There are really only two appropriate responses to a given religion: embrace it or suppress it.

      But let us be honest, the latter is precisely what your ilk is aiming at with its commitment to religious liberty! If we cannot be friends, let us at least be honest enemies. I shall not lie to you and you will not–I hope–lie to me.

      • ThisIsTheEnd

        Do you regard democracy as being incompatible with the Christian faith?

        • Antiphon411

          Once my answer would have been an unequivocal “Yes”; now I am more ambivalent. Theoretically one could have a Christian democracy or republic. It would be necessary for that state to recognize and confess that authority came from God rather than from the people. Divine and natural law would not be open to change by vote of the majority or its representatives. In other words, a Christian republic or democracy would look very different from the USA.

          Practically speaking I doubt that this could ever occur. Democracy’s flaw is a natural one. Authority cannot be spread among an entire population–it must have a source. The ruled cannot be the ruler–that makes no sense. We see nothing like democracy in the natural world.

          We might perhaps imagine a workable democracy (Christian or otherwise) coming into being among a small population that is religiously, ethnically, and morally homogenous. Even Athens, however, which met these criteria, still had an unjust democracy.

          I think that democracy is best avoided by all sane men be they Christian or pagan.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            I’m not a Christian but it seems to me that both the OT and NT have a wariness with regards to the rule of kings and emperors. The early Christians (and likely Jesus himself) thought that the fat lady was gonna sing in their lifetime anyway, so questions of governance wasn’t a concern

          • Antiphon411

            One should indeed be wary of kings and of all governments.

            You are right that there is very little in the way of political philosophy in the books of the OT or NT. Catholic political philosophy developed over the centuries rooted in the soil of Greco-Roman political philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).

            I would say that monarchy is the most natural form of rule. A king rules over his people just as God rules over the world, the Pope over the Church, and the father over the family. This does not mean that there is no room for abuse or misrule; a king needs checks on his power (if not on his authority) and these are provided by the barons and the commons (and a strong Church, of course).

            The age of Christendom was a delicate balance of different sources of power all revolving around a single source of authority. There was a great deal of freedom because of the tensions.

            Our own present age of uniformity, wherein power and authority are collapsed into one and held by the State alone, will see less and less of freedom. We are entering a Dark Age.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            I’m from the UK. We have a constitutional monarchy; nice bunch if a bit too expensive.

            There’s more cooperation in nature then popular imagination credits but certainly for our species, the biggest and baddest ape gets the crown.

            Democratic Europe is a much less bloody continent then Monarchy Europe. The problem with kingship is that exiting the right vagina doesn’t confer competence. Same problem with dictators handing power to their sons, Junior may not be as psycho or as cunning as Papa.

            But I’m with Winston Churchill when it comes to viewing democracy as the best of an imperfect set of choices.

          • Antiphon411

            “Democratic Europe is a much less bloody continent then Monarchy Europe.”

            A surprising assessment. It would seem to me that the post-monarchical twentieth century could plausibly claim to be the most bloody century in European history. You might say that Mussolini and Hitler were not democrats, but their parties arose in and came to power through a democratic situation.

            “The problem with kingship is that exiting the right vagina doesn’t confer competence.”

            And yet emerging from the polls does? The difference is that in a monarchy the heir is educated and raised to be a ruler. In a democracy this is far from the case.

            You say that you are a UKer. I wonder whether you would have an easier and quicker time coming up with five bad kings or five bad prime ministers. I should think the latter. After all, you need only list the five most recent from the party opposed to your own.

            Personally, I would have taken George VI as a real ruler over Churchill any day of the week and eight times on Sunday.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            Nazism and European fascism emerged from democratic states and not from democratic processes. Democratic Europe emerged post WW2 and even then Spain, Greece and Portugal were fascist dictatorships well into the 1980s. So no comparing the peace of Democratic Europe with the bloodshed of Monarchy Europe isn’t a surprising assessment.

            So now the focus is on education. Yes Monarchs are well educated but so are Presidents, Chancellors and Prime Minsters. I thought your advocacy was based on the Great Chain of Being and not education.

            Five bad kings? Sure: Edward II, Edward VIII, James II, Charles I, Mary I (Queen, but still…), King John, Harold II, George III.

            Which is more then 5. In the space of three minutes. And I’ve even thrown a Queen in as well.

            “After all, you need only list the five most recent (Prime Minsters) from the party opposed to your own”

            Like I said I’m not an American. I can’t even comprehend how anybody can assess national politics that way.

            I’m finding it hard to take you seriously.

      • Lark62

        Great. Go find an island someplace and create yourself a nice theocracy and have fun. Remember to start up a nice inquisition, because fear of torture is pretty much the only way to keep people in line.

        For the rest of us, we agree with Thomas Jefferson,

        The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

        Fortunately, the Constitution of the United States of America prohibits the kind of despotic theocracy you advocate. There are probably several hundred versions of Christianity active in the US today, along with hundreds of other religions including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikh, Hindu, Atheism, paganism, various Native American beliefs, and more.

        What, exactly, do you propose to do with all the Christians who don’t believe just right, plus all those other heathens?

        • Antiphon411

          Larkie, don’t go getting your knickers in a knot; nobody’s establishing any “despotic theocracies” or ginning up any inquisitions. That age is over, sadly. It is your turn now. Just show me where to line up for the lions. I might also suggest that your atheist friends over the past century have introduced levels of terror and oppression that the Inquisition never dreamed of.

          Incidentally, the time may come soon, if you’re not a woman (which you may be), when you might want to start formulating your thoughts in something other than cliches.

          • Lark62

            My knickers are fine, thanks for your concern. So glad you didn’t resort to cliches, or such.

            I’m baffled at your sadness at the passing of the age of inquisitions and despotic theocracies (“sadly” was your word, not mine). Mistreatment of humans by other humans is not a christian failing or a non-christian failing. It is human nature, and christianity does not add one iota of positive moral difference as mankind gradually moves toward a more moral society.

            Religious liberty is one of the values adopted as mankind becomes more moral.

          • Tripoli

            Wow. Theocratic, pseudo-intellectual, AND sexist. Well done.

            “Your atheist friends over the past century have introduced levels of terror and oppression that the Inquisition never dreamed of.”
            Huh. How many deaths/genocides were carried out in the name of atheism? (Hint: zero. Some were carried out by atheists in the name of political power, but never in the name of lack of belief.)
            Now, compare that to the number of deaths comitted in the name of God/Allah/etc. over the past century. Besides the millions just during WWII, there’s been a pretty steady streak of killing in the name of religion for… pretty much all of recorded history.

            But that’s only because religion makes a handy excuse for psychopaths, if twisted sufficiently. Since atheism by itself is not a philosophy, faith, or even a unified set of beliefs, it’s really hard to do anything “because atheism told me to.”

      • Tripoli

        “To suggest that anyone, apart from milquetoast western Christians would allow themselves to be limited by the notion of religious liberty is absurd.”

        I guess Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, Buddhists, Shintoists, atheists, agnostics, and Jainists don’t exist, then? You’ve effectively ignored nearly a billion people with that statement.


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