Friday, February 18

Christian Moral Rights: Freedom of Religion

Keying off of Mr Herzog at Right2Left and my ongoing essay series on Christian ideas and government. The question arises, does the first moral right on my list, of a right to worship my God include a right to worship other Gods (or no God at all)? Do any of the others on that list speak to this as well?

To cut to the chase (that is presenting my conclusions first), I think that a Christian theory of moral rights and government does imply that other that Christians should not excluded from government by dint of their worship practice. Furthermore, those state constitutional provisions which Mr Herzog mentions are not evidence of sound Christian ethical theory or practice.

In my first analysis of this moral right, I pointed out that the reason I used the phrase my God in stating this right, is that right now Christianity itself is very much divided within itself. As a result, we cannot point to one doctrinal stance of set of principles (be it Calvinist, Arminian, or in-between) and say with assurance that we are right. Aside from doctrine, within Christianity still, there is an even more wide range of worship practice. As a result, seeing that I had transformed the Commandment to Worship, into a right to do so, it seems clear that exactly how I might worship that God is disputed. But how I should worship matters less when deciding moral rights, than the mere fact that I have a right to be free to do so. Therefore, in respect to civil representation of this moral right that I possess, it seems the best solution is to allow for freedom for all to worship their God in the fashion they see best. We are then left with the matter of the "atheists". Atheists, when given the right to worship as they wish, choose to deny that right and not worship at all. When given a right, is one free to give it up? I think, unless there is compelling reasons to think otherwise that you do.

Historically, since one of the parts of the business of religion the molding of an ethical framework, it has been thought in past ages that these atheists have no ethics. This was why people were highly suspicious of them in the past. Anthropologically sadly enough, I would argue that atheists have just as little ethical education as the rest of their neighbors, and as such there is no a priori reason for withholding their discourse from the public square, especially as a group.

Furthermore Scripture supports these ideas. Paul himself warns that we are to be open an loving towards unbelievers. Excluding them from our government strikes me as not exactly satisfying these criteria. We are to deal strongly with our brethren when they sin, stray, or fall prey to heresy, but never with those outside our faith. This is why the exclusion of atheists and other unbelievers strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do and why those state laws Mr Herzog points out are not just a bad secular idea, but bad Christian practice as well.

Oddly enough, in a long gone essay last year I pointed out that in discourse, it is better for Christian legislators to frame their arguments in purely secular terms in order to engage those on the "other side". Conversely the secular legislator might find more engagement by using Christian (scriptural) arguments to couch their rhetoric. Had Mr Herzog taken that tack, he might have gotten further and raised some eyebrows at the same time.