Freedom for? of? from?

Yes!  Somerville in Canada wrote something about religious freedom.  We would do well to study and digest her insights to prepare us for the onslaught.  It might be a while now, or not.  We need to be super clear as to what religious freedom is, who are the people trying to demolish it, and what we can do about it.

The word “secularists” is important:  we need to make a distinction between a secular society and one that espouses secularism.


 Quebec secularists want to convert the province to one based on strict secularism, laïcité, which is not neutral regarding religion.  It is a belief form and ideology, much like a religion, a principle edict of which is the active exclusion of religion, religious people or religious views and values from any public input, influence or role.


Examining different aspects of the concept of freedom of religion makes this distinction clear:

Freedom for religion:  there is no state religion and the state does not interfere in religious matters.

Freedom of religion:  there is freedom to worship and practise one’s religion according to one’s beliefs.

Freedom from religion:  religion is barred from the public square.

Freedom for and of religion are protected rights and valid components of a secular society.  Freedom from religion is neither;  it’s a manifestation of secularism and a breach of freedom of religion, as well as a form of breach of freedom of speech and of belief and, sometimes, of freedom of conscience.


But “sanctity of life/respect for life” is not simply a religious precept.  (I prefer the term “respect for life,” rather than “sanctity of life,” to avoid religious connotations and associations.) What German philosopher Jürgen Habermas calls “the ethics of the (human) species” and I call “human ethics,” which must guide secular societies such as Canada, also embrace this principle.


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