Thursday, July 9, 2015

What Is Religious Freedom?

Congratulations on your religious liberty!  Here is what you've won:

  • You have the right to believe any damn thing you want in the privacy of your own mind, regardless of how absurd it is, how far removed from reality and provable fact, or how anathema to morality and ethics it may be.  
  •  um . . . that's . . . pretty much it, I'm afraid.

Please note that religious freedom does not grant you any of the following:

  • The right to go to church.  This is not a guaranteed right for anybody. However, you may exercise this privilege in certain cases, provided that you first work hard and buy a goddamned car.  It's what everyone knows they ought to do, because it's simply the right thing to do (according to Saint Jeremy of Clarkson).
  • The right to impose your beliefs on others.  Even if God tells you it's ok, it's still not actually ok. Refer to the "golden rule."  (God sometimes forgets that he issued that one, so help him out once in a while.) 
  • Your beliefs enshrined in legislation.  Larceny was made illegal not because it is a "sin," but because it is a gross trespass upon the right of an individual to retain his lawful property.  Good government does not pass laws or create policy on the basis of religious belief.  The ten commandments never were the basis of modern jurisprudence, nor can they ever be.
  • The right to break laws you don't believe in.  Break them you may, but "religious belief" is never a valid defense and you will be fully culpable for any penalties that your wicked lawbreaking incurs.   
  • The right to be insufferable.  Golden rule, again!
  • The right to judge and discriminate against those who do not share your private beliefs. If "religion" is your reason for doing shit like this, then man do you have some fucked-up ideas about what religion is supposed to be for.  And you wonder why religion is in general decline in the world. 
  • The right to express your religion publicly.  Most of the time you will not be materially impeded in this regard, but in cases of e.g. school dress & jewelry policies, you could be prevented from displaying your idolatrous religious iconography.  Where security and identity are a concern, the State has the right to require you to remove coverings over your face, even if your religion prohibits this.
  • The right to murder small children.  You're thinking, "WTF?"  No, this actually happens quite a lot, sadly.  Certain religious people do this by attempting to deny life-saving medical treatment to children on the basis of their bizarre and easily disprovable religious theories.  This is child abuse and is against the law for very good reasons.  Religious freedom, they say, makes it ok; but they are lying.  It is not ok.
  • The right to over-populate the planet.  Why are some religious people still going around the world telling poor people not to use contraception?  This is evil.  I oppose the practice of not using contraception at all times.  One should only have children when one can guarantee their adequate provision and if one is capable of being a suitable parent. 

Enjoy your one (1) religious freedom!  

UPDATE:  The Masses Respond

"I'm a religious American, and that alone gives me the following Special Rights you forgot to mention.
1. The Right to tell as many people as possible about my totally awesome beliefs.
2. The Right not to be criticized, persecuted or ridiculed in any way for my beliefs while telling everyone about them.
3.The Right to PRACTICE my religious expression at any time and in any place that my religion requires me to."

Ahem, no.  The things you mention are not Rights, but Freedoms, some of which do not actually exist (see below).  Also, any freedoms you have are not extended just to religious people of the favored faith, but to anyone and everyone no matter what they believe or don't believe.  

1.  The right to tell everyone about your religion.  You have the freedom of free speech to say what you want within certain limits (e.g. "fire in a theater" limits.)  But the legislature is also free to restrict nuisance activities or speech that is causing problems.  Just because your message is religious in nature does not give it special priority over any other form of speech.  This is because the law cannot properly determine what is religious speech and what isn't.  One cannot allow "hate" speech or inciting to violence just because someone somewhere claims it is their religious belief.  Therefore all speech must be evaluated equally and have the same limits without special regard as to whether it is religious in nature or not.

2.  The right for you not be criticized for your beliefs.  Never.  If you say something in the public space, you do so with the understanding and acceptance that anything you say can and will be stress-tested to the limit.  You can and will be criticized (fairly or not), ridiculed (deservedly or not), and required to defend your statements.  That is the agreement.  Deal with it.  There is no special "protection" for religious claims, and no one ever anywhere in the history of everything has ever promised you freedom from criticism.  That is simply not a thing that exists.  So, in other words, No.  The only place you can expect to never be ridiculed for the things you believe is inside your own mind, and so that is the best place to keep your beliefs.

3.  The right to religious expression.  In a free society with true religious liberty (if such a place existed), the law cannot and must not distinguish between one subjective belief and another.  Therefore there is nothing to prevent people from claiming religious belief for almost anything whatsoever that they may wish to do.  You may be in a fortunate special case for which almost all (probably all) of your religious observances involve perfectly legal activities that are appropriate for their time and place.  But this is not the general case of all possible beliefs and observances that could potentially exist.  Therefore - which would you say ought to take precedence?  A person's subjective beliefs and whims?  Or the objective law of the land?  Of course it has to be the law that takes precedence so that people don't do things like murder small children out of a silly religious antipathy for medicine, ritualistically mutilate small furry animals, or embezzle money out of a sincere religious conviction that god wants them to have the money.

But if you try to compromise and bestow special privilege upon one religion deemed to have "acceptable" practices, while prohibiting religious beliefs that the law deems "unacceptable," then you no longer have any true religious liberty at all.  It has been completely done away with.  You really do have to treat all religions equally if you are to have religious liberty.  In other words, true religious liberty depends on the law having no opinion of what is religion and what isn't.

You do not have the right to practice or express your religious observances anywhere, anytime.  All your acts whether religious or not will either comply with the law or be subject to its consequences.  You have the freedom to try to practice your religion, but society and the government are not required to let you do anything whatsoever, do not need to help you do it, nor are they required to assure you succeed in everything you want.

There is a difference between rights and freedoms.  You are often free to try to get your way, but you do not have the right to always get your way.  The one right you do have that cannot be taken from you is the right to believe any damn thing you want in the privacy of your own personal brain.  And that truly is the limit of your religious rights.