Freedom of Religion

In my series on freedom, I have already mentioned the various freedoms. There is freedom of speech, expression, association and excellence. This is the final freedom, and in some ways it is the most important freedom. Freedom of religion is the freedom to be as religious as possible; to choose the highest good and order your life after it.

Freedom of religion is just like any other freedom; it is the freedom to do something good. The particular freedom this allows is the freedom to be as religious as possible. Many people do not reflect on their lives. Some do and wish to order their lives after a particular that they think is most important. Those who wish to do so have that freedom. Ordering your life around something that is good is a good thing to do. The more consistently your life is ordered around something good, the better your life will be. So this could also be considered a freedom to improve your life.

Freedom of religion is not a freedom to practice any religious activity at all. If a particular religion elevates a good even though that good is not the highest good, then particular practices of that religion may not be good. For example, let’s suppose that a religion elevates one of their members to godhood. They believe that they should do whatever this person says because they are very wise and enlightened. If this person should command that they steal all dogs from their neighbors because dogs are holy, then the freedom of religion does not permit them to do so. The fact of the matter is that their particular religion does not choose the highest good. That is why their particular religion sounds rather silly.

Freedom of religion does allow for rational inquiry on all subjects, the permission to disagree and all of the other freedoms. It is for this reason that freedom of religion is the most important freedom. Freedom of religion allows for the freedom of speech so that we can convince others. It allows for the freedom of expression so that we can creatively express our religion. It allows for freedom of association so that the religious can meet together and freedom of excellence so that all skills can be used in service of a religion. Since religious disagreement and conversion can only be resolved by rational inquiry, freedom of religion will promote rational inquiry on all subjects in order to resolve religious disagreement. Finally, as religion is most important to individuals, freedom in the most important area guarantees freedom on all other areas.

Unfortunately, this issue is clouded by the fact that a major religion (Islam) often encourages its members to commit violence, convert by force and subvert freedoms by using our freedoms against us. If a religion were the highest good, then it would not encourage its members to do bad things. So freedom of religion will and does allow for restrictions against such religions in order that other citizens of the country will be free to practice their own religions. It will even allow for citizens to leave the country and go a place where they are free to be violent with each other.

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I have obtained an MA in philosophy from Western Michigan University. Over the years, I have been interested in philosophy, religion and politics. My philosophical interests have shifted to a focus on applying the philosophical understanding of Aristotle and Aquinas to modern problems in philosophy.

2 thoughts on “Freedom of Religion”

  1. You clearly haven’t read a lot about Islam have you? I have read lots of your posts and in the world in which we live where even deception and lies are not only a possible option but also a good option at times..saying things like “Islam often encourages its members to commit violence”..or “conversion by force” seems more of an argument from the majority(maybe a brainwash by the media and the society ) and not an objective analysis of the texts (scripture) themselves.. You seem to be an objective person from your posts so such armchair views l feel shouldn’t be part of your posts. I am a Muslim and I would like to take this opportunity for you to read a good translation of the Qur’an(Muhsin Khan) along with what we call the “Tafseer” ( Exegesis) of the Qur’an ( Tafsir of Ibn Kathir) and another book called “Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam” since the last book mentioned speaks about philosophy, you might be interested in it. To help you out in your search for objective truth about Islam itself I would like to also help you with the steps to it.. The first reference point for you must be the Qur’an along with the “authentic” hadith and then the understanding of these texts by the people who directly witnessed the revelation of the Qur’an and who were the companions of the Prophet(may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself and understood it based on the understanding revealed to him. This will save you from the many “deviations” which many “muslim” people have followed. And this has to be the best method from an objective stand point; since to know about a particular “ideology” the best reference points are the text(scripture) and then the people who witnessed this ideology closely( I am obviously not referring to the enemies of this ideology since even they would have witnessed it) and then understood it on correct terms. The books mentioned above are written by author’s (scholar’s) who have followed the above mentioned steps, so that will save you from starting with the wrong foot. I hope and pray that Allah leads us all to the right path.

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