What is Religious Freedom, Exactly?

I’ve been on a kick lately about false statements that fundagelical Christians are getting force fed. One of those things is equating religious privilege with religious freedom. Essentially it’s a continuation of political rhetoric to keep fundagelical Christians voting a certain way. After Hodges and the legal ability of homosexual couples to get married anywhere in the U.S., religious freedom is the new phrase that is supposed to rally the soldiers of Christ.

Why isn’t it really religious freedom, though?
In a nutshell, religious freedom is about having privately held beliefs due to any arbitrary standard. Call it conscience, spirituality, or some other thing – people have a right to believe whatever (and I mean whatever) they want. Importantly, you don’t exactly have to justify those beliefs to anyone. They can just exist, and nobody can force anyone to believe otherwise. This freedom protects me being an atheist just as much as it protects someone being a Christian.

What it does not mean is that people have the freedom to act upon others because of those beliefs. I cannot lock children in a church basement until they memorize the Book of Revelations. Missionaries can’t break the legs of people who refuse to convert. Jewish or Muslim people cannot stone women who do not obey archaic honor codes handed down by their holy texts. Their religious freedom ends when they do more than just believe a certain way.

Despite this, so-called religious freedom is still a thing that terrifies religious people.
Christians are being told that godless liberals are doing everything they can to unfairly deny religious people their rights. The problem with this is that these rights are actually privileges. Churches cannot make law, and our laws do not recognize one faith over another. This has been settled for many years, and it’s only been an issue recently as religious people have become more politically active.

Indeed, political faith is predicated upon nothing but lies. It twists words until mentioning a creator suddenly becomes a miraculous endorsement for Christianity (though, which version still escapes me). In an Orwellian twist of fate, many Christian speakers are doing their best to claim some enchanted past where religion was promoted by the state and everyone lived happily because of it. Such a religious utopia is macabre fiction.

What I’d like to tell people who are worried about their religious beliefs.
Atheists and non-religious people are not the Christians of several decades ago. We have used the law to protect public spaces rather than force our will upon them. We have not used law enforcement to harass people who believe differently than us. Everything we have done is a matter of public record and scrutiny. No speeches behind closed church doors were needed to get away with anything.

In fact, religious people really ought to ask themselves why they have publicly lost so much over the past few years. Every loss they have suffered has come about because they wanted to force their practices on others. Simply put, if they didn’t assert their privileges so much, they’d still probably have them.

As an atheist, yes, I would like to see religious institutions be replaced by more socially, ethically, and logically mature ones. I would like to see people research beliefs they can prove rather than argue about whether grape juice or wine is the right way to eat their savior. And yes, I actively would like to help people leave their faith behind them so they can be free to pursue being the good person they really want to be.

None of that means I want to use public resources to actively silence people that believe differently than me. Such an endeavor is fruitless and sadistically tyrannical. Many other godless heathens like me would agree. Rather than be worried about something that isn’t going to happen, try worrying about what you’re doing to other people.

6 thoughts on “What is Religious Freedom, Exactly?

  1. I think many of them are panicky because when religion can’t force people physically or mentally, they begin to lose power. Without people believing in their God, their religion is dead. It’s not god who has the power. It’s people.

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  2. religious freedom is the freedom to personally subscribe to and practice your particular brand of faith without persecution or criticism. the problem with this is, as we all know, what is believed and practiced Personally rarely stays just Personal. in fact, as many of us know from first hand experience as deconverted christians, the whole point of the gospel of jesus is to spread it and make disciples/converts of those around us and change society as a whole in conformity to christian and biblical principles.if it stayed Personal, it wouldn’t be the Gospel now would it?.

    so it comes down to the shorter meaning, Freedom to believe and practice one’s Personal Faith, anywhere and in any way and on anyone, without persecution, hindrance, criticism or accountability for the actual truth or damage of that practice.

    “you can tell me i’m wrong, but don’t tell others or try to stop me from my practice, no matter how damaging or offensive to others it might be.It’s my right to offend, not your right NOT to be offended. so F-off, with Love and In Jesus’ name of course”

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  3. Well said S.B. I think you put the case in a way that even those religious people who claim to be the victim can see how clear wrong they are in their treatment of others. I hope they can see themselves in this post as I can see them in it. Be well. Hugs

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