If someone says the word Freedom, what comes to mind?
Is it “We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?” That’s a good answer, to be sure.
Perhaps it’s a slogan, like “live free or die”, “born free”, or “the best things in life are free”. Maybe it’s that scene in Braveheart when William Wallace cries “FREEDOM!” as his final word. These, and a thousand other quotes, songs and movie clips may spring to mind when you think of “Freedom”.
What about freedom as it relates to religion?
You could default to the political angle opining about cultural change, and the forbidding of Christmas pageants, or Crosses, about businesses being bullied into violating to their convictions, Chaplains barred from mentioning the name of Christ, and so on.
Or, maybe religious people have been a real source of grief. Maybe you’ve encountered those who excel at emphasizing your sins and failings, but really suck at offering love, compassion or hope. Those who think themselves superior to people they call different. Or others who have used the church to gain power, prestige, or personal gain. If any of these have been your experiences, you may struggle even to imagine freedom and religion as compatible terms.
It might be that you have bought into the cynicism of (so called) “New Atheism” and believe that all religions restrict freedom in every meaningful way. Maybe you don’t even differentiate between Jihadis and Jesuits, Wahabis and Wesleyans, but throw every expression of religion together into one heap.
You might sport a “science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings” bumper sticker. You might see beheadings by zealots as the ultimate flower for which every religion contains the seed. These more cynical views can only be magnified when a stand has been taken (on religious-moral grounds) concerning some aspect of life you consider “none of their business”.
However friendly or hostile you might be to religion, there is an important aspect of religious freedom you probably have not considered.
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