Freedom of Religion
New -- 11 November 2010
One of the more cherished freedoms of men in their pursuit of happiness...
...but I digress.
Siriusly, one of the most cherished freedom of men and women is the freedom of religion. This claim of priority is evidenced, for example, by the fact that in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States (said rights having been ratified and made a part of the Constitution on 15 December 1791), the very First Amendment leads off with religion. For example:
Most constitutional scholars would mostly likely assume that the rights contained in the first amendment (or the very first right granted therein) do not necessarily imply a greater importance of said amendment than those in, say, the eighth amendment (the bit about not inflicting cruel and unusual punishment... the latter which, incidentally, tends to be ignored during sweeps week).
Still... one could always argue that there is the implied assumption that freedom of religion may have been foremost in the minds of the authors of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. [In fact, according to the bit about Free Speech, one could argue most anything.] In fact, religion ranks right up there as the first item on the agenda for adoption... a possible example of leading with one’s strength... so to speak.
Possibly the reason for religion being given such a high priority in constitutional matters... as compared, for example, to the right to bear arms, or the prohibition of such things as slavery... is that despite the extremes of religious thought that have so little logical justification or reasons for their existence... and because these same views are nevertheless so popular and sought after (not to mention fought over)... the constitutional authors may have felt compelled to address the religion bit at the very outset.
This priority of religion as a right can be compared to the right to bear (and use) arms and thereby defend oneself (which in turn is predicated upon one’s ability to do so). Or we can compare it to the prohibition of slavery... the latter which was pretty much an after thought... about 70 or so years later. (Come to think of it, the idea of prohibiting slavery might never have even occurred to most of the authors of the Constitution.)
In the interim, the implied rights within the First Amendment have found an increased scope of definition in exactly what constitutes freedom of religion. Today, the popular idea of what freedom of religion actually means has evolved [pardon the pun... perhaps we should have said ‘has blossomed’] into a more precise, legally inclusive description. For example, there is Wikipedia’s introductory version:
This transformation from an Amendment on the limitations of government to the charge imposed upon this same government to "support" and/or "permit" such freedoms... and not just of religion, but of secular philosophies as well... has been in progress for over a couple of centuries. Thus, while the US Constitution did rather get the ball rolling on such issues, there is a rather substantial ‘leap of faith’ [<grin>] in going from the First Amendment in its embryo state to Wikipedia’s somewhat expanded version. In point of fact, Wikipedia appears to be more accurately reflecting not the US Bill of Rights as much as, instead, the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
This “article of faith’ [<grin>], at least, comes closer to the popular version of what we call freedom of religion (or in some respects, far more importantly, the right to manifest one’s belief in such matters). However... things are never quite as simple as one might prefer.
It is worth mentioning that the UN declaration was adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 48 in favor and none opposed... albeit there were 8 abstentions: Byelorussian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, Yugoslavia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. (This might suggest a certain lack of unanimity.) One might also note that the countries voting in favor of the Declaration included: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
And yet, curiously, the current state of affairs is rather dramatically different, particularly in countries with strong religious influence in government. In fact... numerous Islamic countries, for example, enacted in 1990 a different version, known as The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. This more masculine-oriented version guarantees the right of Muslims to be governed by Shari'a Law... and rather importantly for most everyone else concerned... drops the inconvenient gender equality and freedom of [other] religion guarantees. As a result, a Pew Research Center study in 2009 found the majority of Islamic countries had very high restrictions on freedom of religion.  Big surprise!
Clearly, of the numerous countries that originally signed the 1948 UN version, many have had something of a change of heart... sort of an apostasy of certain, original articles of faith... not to mention a change in governments. These evolving [sic] countries include... on something of a positive note: former communist countries... and on a negative note: virtually every country where Islam is practiced as a state religion.
Meanwhile, the good news is that Greenland was and continues to be decidedly noncommittal about such warm-weather matters. (Don’t laugh. With enough global warming, Greenland could easily become the world’s next great riviera by the sea. In that event, freedom of religion in Greenland might be considered an essential environmental characteristic for the jet-setting crowd.)
An inevitable conclusion is that there is no freedom of religion under Islam... despite any knee jerk claim by such governments. In fact, the very tenets of Islam... as reflected in the Koran and other Islamic holy books -- are directed at conquering the world and making Islam the state religion of the entire world. Meanwhile, it has also been claimed, argued, or hypothesized that in a world Islamic state, that there would still be certain rights reserved for non-Muslims. For example, we might note:
It is worth noting the definition of what constitutes a “dhimmi (protected) status”:
Accordingly, it must be emphasized that, under the best of circumstances, non-Muslims do NOT have equal rights... the old traditional rule of practical communism wherein certain people are more equal than others. At the same time, non-Muslims will be required to pay unequal taxes to support the state religion of Islam. Furthermore, even the rights of the Muslim citizens in good standing fall far short of what many people in other civilized countries have come to expect. And this is the best one can hope for!
However, one should keep in mind that not all that long ago, when the Catholics were politically and militarily powerful (and when world conquest was a Catholic goal), that even the equivalent of a dhimmi status was essentially unavailable to any non-Catholic. The Catholics had a simpler response: hang them, bury them with only their feet in the air, drown them, slice and dice them, put them to the sword (axe, hammer, etc.), and/or barbeque them, i.e., burn them at the stake... the latter being the somewhat preferred and much more festive method. The fact many Muslims are using different techniques... such as chopping off heads -- is probably not a major advancement in the freedom of religion as advocated by... well... roughly any other religion of the current age. The good news is that most all other religions bent on world "conquest", appear to be advocating some form of (albeit, greatly reduced) freedom of religion for other religions... even if such assurances might cause skeptics to ponder the possibilities.
The answer is surprisingly straight forward. If we simply note that in all of history, NO dominant religion has never been particularly partial to doing anything for non-believers, heretics, dhimmi, or slaves... and which was not in fact prompted or actively encouraged by the existence of other powers that might find the absolute religious rule of orthodox and/or fanatical priests, Imans, et al... to be just a bit too much. ...not to mention such rule being light years away from the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Orthodox priests (or what have you) who are fanatically convinced of their beliefs being the only possible truth, cannot, by definition, rule in any manner that would not require (under pain of death) everyone else to believe just as they do... and regardless of how simplistic or ignorant said priests' beliefs might be.
This is probably a good point to emphasize the fact that there has never been any obligation for any nation currently a member or applying for membership in the United Nations to actually agree with any UN Declarations on the subject of religion, freedom, or just about anything else. (This fact tends to make all the anti-UN critics, who are yelling for the US to get (the hell) out of the UN... sound potentially quite sane.)
Meanwhile, the UN declaration to which many of even the most dictatorial, state-of-Islam nations had originally agreed... is currently being wholly disavowed in practice. Of course, their signature in 1948 was when the Islamic nations had comparatively little power... and whereas in the days of 1990, oil had brought notably greater power to these same nations. What a difference 42 years make! Wow.
This reversal and disavowal of previous commitments effectively emphasizes the fact that:
When it comes to granting (or promoting) Freedom of Religion, the issue is surprisingly simple:
Furthermore, saying that any religion has an absolute right to practice its various religious beliefs, when said religion is dedicated to subjugating (or killing) anyone of philosophical beliefs other than their own... is an equally insane concept. Note specifically that for those with secular points of view... and who may find any religion to be less than enlightened... any such secularist may find that living under any state religion would very likely be... well... extraordinarily difficult... if not constituting an extremely brief tenure on the living bit. Keep in mind, for example, that the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have much in common (for example, the glorification of the prophet, Abraham)... but that other faiths (Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, et al)... or non-religious secularists... would be and have been considered to be heretical and wholly unacceptable to any of the so-called major religions. In other words: not even a, e.g., dhimmi status for such variations in philosophy.
Secularists (and others) might in fact agree with an interesting concept which was recently suggested by Patrick Carlin... who is a frequent -- if not a lovable and enthusiastic -- gadfly for Trends Research Institute. (Patrick is also the "older and wiser brother" of George Carlin -- and you have GOT to click on that link!) In addressing the problems associated with the horribly ill-advised plan to erect a Mosque within a couple of blocks of Ground Zero of the World Trade Center, Patrick has suggested, instead, that at the same location, a "Religion Free Zone" be established, wherein a very pleasant park of trees, greenery, and streams could be established... possibly for relaxation... even meditations in all its many forms -- as opposed to the regimented restrictions of any particular religion.
More Siriusly, it should be noted that living under a dictatorial religious rule would be a bit like living in Nazi Germany or in Joseph Stalin’s USSR. [See for example, the excellent movie, The Lives of Others] Everything would be just hunky dory, of course... as long as one could and would obey the inane rules. (Said rules which, by the way, could be changed at a whim, or the drop of an alm... or the local ecclesiastical authority suddenly suffering from hemorrhoids).
And oh yes: one would also be required to have the right hair color, the right ethnicity, the right style of dress, the right language (even accent), and the willingness to give up anything new, different, enjoyable, or which might represent independence of thought. And did we mention that inasmuch as all true fanatics can be hyper-sensitive to criticism for and concerning their insane ramblings... one must never, never, under any circumstances point out such ignorant, hypocritical, or pointless ravings. You could hurt their feelings... and in response they would find justification for hurting a great deal more than your feelings. In point of fact:
Such thoughts might just sound ever so intolerant... but consider that particular, relevant subject.
Tolerance has the reputation of being a cool characteristic... but in reality, only in moderation. For example, the one thing most people justifiably cannot tolerate is intolerance, particularly of their own religion, culture, and/or values. This shows up in some truly horrific situations, whenever orthodox, intolerant religions become political... and worse yet... militarily powerful.
The Inquisition of the Roman Catholic variety... not all that long ago when you think about it (i.e., lasting from roughly the 12th century to as late as the 19th in certain parts of the world)... led to some of the most intolerable horrors to ever inflict the human race. This abomination and repugnant reign of terror was due in large part... and, in fact, could likely not have happened but for the power-sharing between the religious hierarchy and the political governments of the day. About the only thing that was able to counter the grotesque excesses of the Roman Catholic hierarchy was the Protestant Reformation... where the protestants quite literally went to war to defend themselves. It can be said, in general, that:
Another aspect of why the inquisitional horror was so complete was due to the tradition and current beliefs of various religions which assume that at some point of history, everything ceased to evolve... and that the truth and understanding of the universe had been irrevocably determined. After that, change was anathema. As Terry Pratchett, et al  have noted:
The fascinating aspect of this statement is that when it comes to rigid cultural and/or religious fundamentalists... there is absolutely NO desire on their part to in fact go anywhere. Instead, every aspect of their actions and belief structures is intended to protect the past, go nowhere, avoid evolving like the plague, and in general cling to an unchanging absolutism. The assumption is that people living one to several thousands of years ago -- without access to roughly 95+% of the intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom concerning the universe -- had somehow already figured it all out.
As an exemplar of such willfully ignorant, wearers of blinders, Catholic culturism became one of the greatest horrors ever foisted upon the world in centuries past... easily eclipsing on a per capita basis the best that Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin could muster in their most demented frames of mind. [And this is not even considering the degree to which the Catholic hierarchy aided and abetted Adolph and Joe in their many aspirations.]
The good news, however, is that -- despite some possible hints of backsliding on the part of Pope Benny -- that in general, the Catholic religion (typically non-hierarchal members of the faith) has... well... grown up in the last century or so. This may have been in spite of the Roman Catholic fanatical hierarchy -- or the fact that the priests, et al were apparently more interested in small children -- but the rank and file did manage to grasp the idea that attempts to force others to believe precisely as they did... was not really a viable and Christian-like course to take. This is due in part to the fact that any given religion has hundreds of different sects, beliefs, and attitudes... even to the point that they are very nearly at war (in some case, there’s no “nearly” about it... they’re even now killing each other). As has been pointed out in Oh Ye, of One Little Faith, there is little or no consistency in the specifics beliefs of any major religion. [Of course... this might, in the spirit of "divide and conquer", be construed as very good news!]
The better news is that most of the world’s religions have in fact... grown up... at least in the sense of not insisting on converting or killing everyone else. Of course, it took the Jews, the Hindu, the Confucianists, the Taoists, and the Buddhists (and others) something over two thousand five hundred years to in fact, actually mature to adulthood. Meanwhile, the Catholics and the new kids on the block, the Protestants, are even now just reaching young adulthood. One might argue that the Christians have just about managed to survive their teenage years... a time when they had been clearly giving their parent(s) absolute hell! (Okay, there are still a few Christians refusing to cease their reckless driving and general rebellion from... just about anything they don’t like. But as a whole, they’re getting there... albeit slowly.)
The bad news... ah, yes, there is always “bad news”... why else have a blog? The bad news... nay, the horrific news is that there’s one major religion that has not had the required two millennia or so to qualify as being out of the teen age years. Yup! You guessed it. The cultural, political and all encompassing state of Islam. (But that's another story... actually several stories. See, for example, Racism and Culturism, The Perils of Immigration, and of course, Holy War.) There are, of course, many so-called moderate Muslims... who clearly may have grown up... but who unfortunately are nevertheless aiding and abetting their less grown up brothers, either by action or inaction.
Now... the almost inevitable reaction to such views -- particularly when it is applied to a religion -- is that it sounds like racism... one of those really scary, politically-incorrect words. This is silly, of course, but to make the point a bit clearer, see the page on Racism and Culturism. (It's not racism.)
The point that must be emphasized here is that state religions are historically (seemingly and inevitably) dictatorial, fanatical, and so horribly out-of-touch with reality, growth, or basic improvements in the quality of life... that they must be resisted by every means possible. It is simply insane for anyone to grant an enemy... and any religion bent upon the conquest of the world (the later which includes you and me) and the subsequent imposition of a single religion... is an enemy. It’s simply insane to grant any rights that this same enemy has made it clear will not be granting the rest of us.
Accordingly, let us suggest a new rule. How about this one?
Yup. That should just about do it. Now if we can just get all (or any) of the members of the UN to accept it.
P. S. Try to remember:
 Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld, Edbury Press, 1999, page 293
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