There is No Such Thing as Religious Freedom Apart from Liberty as a Whole

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Published on: April 3, 2015

Apparently many conservatives and Christians have been outnegotiated, if not intellectually seduced, by the incoherent notion that “religious freedom” can be carved out and protected independently of liberty as a whole.

We now have state legislatures hopelessly and incoherently attempting to reestablish “religious freedom” after having already conceded liberty as a whole.

To have liberty means that we have the freedom not to support the government schools and universities with our tax dollars when they are the enemy of our Christian tradition.  To have liberty means that we have private property which we can use and dispose of as we see fit and especially to support our freedom of speech.  To have liberty means that our businesses, including all of their assets, are private property.  To have liberty means that we have the freedom to speak out no matter how offensive that speech may be to rival traditions and ways of life.  To have liberty means having the right to commit one’s whole life, including one’s whole business life, to the advancement of one’s religious tradition.  It is the freedom to approach all of our activity, commercial and otherwise, as an intrinsically religious process.  To have liberty means that we have complete freedom of association, which promotes true community by making it the explicit expression of the heart instead of government coercion.  Liberty requires the official recognition, by the state, that only self-organizing traditions can solve social problems including racism.  Religious freedom does not exist apart from liberty as a whole.  For without liberty as a whole we are not free to exercise our religion as an all-consuming set of personal, social, political, and historical objectives.

The evil, and extremely clever strategy of the left, is to establish a system of government which makes it impossible for us to be truly religious, to dedicate one’s entire life to religious values and objectives, for doing so makes the left’s vision of society, “progress,” and history impossible.

What is the point of legislation which preserves the state’s right to punish people for refusing to associate commercially or otherwise, while supposedly protecting this freedom if and only if it is religiously motivated?  This simply puts the state in the position of God — of being the judge of whether or not one’s discrimination, one’s choice of associations, is truly religious.  We cannot establish a specifically religious right to freedom of association.  We either have liberty as a whole — complete freedom of association — or we have no religious freedom at all.  The current objection to legislation which would carve out and protect a distinctively religious freedom of association, is that “religion” is a complex concept which is not stable enough to prevent forms of discrimination which the liberals will not tolerate.  And this is true.

What about someone who claims to be non-religious, or even irreligious, who nevertheless has moral objections to rival value systems to which he therefore refuses to give any kind of aid or comfort?  Should such an individual not have the right to freedom of association?  Does he have to invent some new personal religion in order to secure such a right?

In the long run if we implicitly agree that liberty as a whole can be legitimately regulated by the state, except for religious freedom, then, on the basis of what principle is the state to be prohibited from comprehensive interference with our social relations, demanding that we prove what cannot be proven — namely that our choices are inherently religious?

We must stop fighting for “religious freedom” and, on religious grounds, fight for our liberty as a whole, by insisting that religious freedom is just an aspect of liberty as a whole.

The modern liberal state has adopted the policy that all businesses are “public accommodations” and therefore subject to regulation by the state with respect their social effects.  This cornerstone of the modern state is an absolutely fundamental attack on liberty at large, the liberty to live comprehensively religious lives.  It is a frontal assault on religious freedom which cannot be separated from every other form of human freedom including a generalized freedom of association.

We must focus our strategy on the fact that modern government is an attempt to accomplish exactly what Christ criticized the legalists for: The compartmentalization of the religious life; the attempt to isolate religion in a small corner of a much larger and essentially secular life devoted to temporal and secular goals established by the state.

We must defy modern government’s marginalization of religious faith which it accomplished by not allowing faith to take over human life in its entirety.  But to do so means that we must insist on liberty as a whole as the true nature of religious freedom.  The moment we concede liberty as a whole in an attempt to save “religious liberty”, we have lost our religious freedom.

The modern liberal vision of community is rationalist and secular.  It is just a competing tradition using every means at its disposal, including this phony distinction between liberty as a whole and religious liberty, to defeat the Christian tradition.  Liberals portray liberty as a whole as an extreme opponent of community.   They believe in the myth of universal reason and concomitant tradition-neutral principles of justice.  The communist theorists following Marx understood very clearly that the liberal vision of community could not be achieved if the state allowed people to live comprehensively religious lives.

We have more than the God-given right to live comprehensively religious lives; we have the obligation to do so.  We must now explicitly defy the attempt by any secular government to take that right away from us by compartmentalizing the nature of freedom.

Freedom is not divisible.  We are either free or we are not.  We either have liberty as a whole, or we have no religious liberty. 

This is such a strong position that it cannot be achieved by any kind of compromise.  Our attack on modern government must become a renewed demand for liberty as a whole. 

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