Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is widely considered to be a human right. But by the very definition of a human right, it is the right of a human being, not the right of a deity. There can be no right for a deity to impose his or her rules over humans and call this a human right. It might be a divine right, but this is certainly not what human rights are supposed to be about.
Religions are a community of believers at best, and no human right protects the privileges of communities, human rights only protect individuals.
The term "freedom of religion" was actually based on the concept "freedom from religion". No individual should be forced by the state to obey certain religious doctrines. Every individual should be free to believe whatever he or she wanted, no matter what the predominant religion of his or her country was. This is what freedom of religion is about.
Unfortunately today religious community abuse the term "freedom of religion" to enforce their doctrines on others.
A recent example is Germany, where ritual circumcision of minors has been banned by a court decision. Now Jewish and Muslim organizations claim that their human rights, their "freedom of religion" has been violated. They fail to understand that their religion does not enjoy any freedom under the protection of human rights. Only individuals, in this case underage children, enjoy any protection of human rights. They are protected from physical mutilation by their parent,s before they are old enough to make such severe decisions on their own.
The whole issue of "freedom of religion" seems to be too complicated for religious people to understand. They don't understand that it only means that nobody can be told what to believe. It does not protect any faith or any religion.
The best solution would be to avoid further confusions and abolish the idea of "freedom of religion" at all. Religion should not be mentioned in the context of human rights. The right of everybody to hold any opinion he wants and not to be persecuted for it, is already protected by other human rights. There is no need to mention religious opinions separately.
Organized religions should not have a right to their existence. Religion is a mental disorder. To protect a religion is like protecting schizophrenia. It is time to strip religions from any kind of privileges or protection. We might not want to force religious people to undergo treatment for their mental disorder, but they should certainly not get any special acknowledgement for it.
Religion is no value, it is a erroneous method of thinking. It is a serious problem that affects the capacity of logic reasoning. Therefore measures should be taken to encourage people to overcome religion. Furthermore we cannot allow people that suffer from religion to make important decisions, which means their political rights need to me restricted, if it becomes obvious that they make decisions based on superstitious believes instead of reason.
It would be wrong to show tolerance towards religion, just as it is wrong to show tolerance towards any other mental disease. They are diseases and as such they are a problem.
If humanity wants to become a truly intelligent lifeform, we have to overcome religion and other forms of superstition. It is time to take decisive measures against religions. We need a zero-tolerance policy against any kind of public expressions of religion.
Nobody can be told what to think, but there can be limits to what he is allowed to do in order to prevent harm from others. And spreading a mental disease is certainly harmful for others. Making statements that you can't prove, is wrong, and it should be treated as such. Therefore religion needs to disappear from the public.
Religious people have been treated with too much leniency for far too long. We have to treat them as what they are - as some sick people.


  1. You say in this post:
    The term "freedom of religion" was actually based on the concept "freedom from religion".
    Interesting concept and one I haven't heard before. Do you have references to back up this statement, or is it simply an opinion of yours? No problem if it is a personal opinion as that is a basic human right.

    I disagree with some of your comments about mental illness. While I believe that fanatical worship is a genuine mental illness and can be diagnosed as a delusion, not all religious people are suffering for a mental illness. Many are simply questioning their place in the universe and the nature of existence and creation. Questions I have pondered myself, and I am an atheist.

    I also disagree with a statement you made in the last paragraph:
    It would be wrong to show tolerance towards religion, just as it is wrong to show tolerance towards any other mental disease.
    In Australia we are very tolerant of people suffering from mental illnesses and offer support where we can. I'm not sure if you are genuinely intolerant of those with mental illness, or if this is just a case of meaning being distorted through your use of language.

    Interesting blog though.

    1. One of the first documents that established the concept of human rights in a legally binding form was the "D├ęclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen", which was adopted by the French "National Constituent Assembly" in 1789.
      Religion is only mentioned in article 10: "No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law."
      In this article the individual is protected from being persecuted because of his opinion, including his religious beliefs. It does however not protect any religious institutions or his right to practice religion ceremonies. On the contrary, religious practice is explicitly limited to the boundaries of secular law. Secular law on the other hand is not required to make any concessions to religion. There was no other article that protected religious practice. So religion of any kind did not enjoy any rights at all, when the concept of "human rights" came up. Religious freedom was only part of the general right of an individual to have an opinion without fearing persecution.
      While this declaration was only theory, we can also look at how things were handled during the French Revolution where human rights were established for the first time in Europe. The clergy was along with the aristocracy the main target of the Revolution. Clerics were systematically executed under the guillotine and religion was effectively suppressed. Obviously the first fighters for human rights wanted to rid the world of this phenomenon, not establish privileges for religions.

      Regarding mental illness, I seriously doubt that even in Australia a mental illness is "tolerated". Or are there no psychiatrists and mental hospitals in Australia? Mental illness is treated, not tolerated. Or would you defend the right of a mentally sick patient to be schizophrenic and to practice his schizophrenia freely without interference?
      A mental illness is harmful for the affected person and possibly to others. This is why measures are taken to cure the person from his condition.
      it is not different from religion. Religion harms the affected person and causes him to make irrational decisions. Entire civilizations go into stagnation and decline when religiosity increases. And as we can read daily in the news, people infected with the religious virus frequently pose a threat to others and the public in general. Therefore leaving them alone or tolerating them is not really an option. They need to be treated or at least confined to prevent harm from the public.
      Unfortunately our current situation is that the few mentally healthy people are hopelessly outnumbered by a sick majority. What can we do in such a situation?

  2. In the last portion of your statement you write, "Making statements that you can't prove, is wrong, and it should be treated as such. Therefore religion needs to disappear from the public."

    Really? Should we toss freedom of speech out too? This kind of thinking can only progress into book burnings. Only, this time, they'll be anything supernatural and possibly even philosophical in nature due to the latter's guilt by association. I give you Albert Einstein...

    It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear--that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

    I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

    Now, I do not wish to misrepresent him there as professing to believe in the common and lazy-minded ideas propagated by many a religious institution. Establishments that, in my personal belief, exist solely for the purpose of controlling the minds of individuals. However, it appears that Einstein did have an unconventional perspective.

    Allow me to paraphrase the Bible here: The Pharisees had brought a young woman whom was caught in the act of adultery asking if she should be stoned as the law dictated. He replied with, "Whichever one of you has not made a mistake can throw the first stone." That has value in a world filled with hatred and persecution.

    Not all ideas that could be considered religious in nature are detrimental or even delusional. Has it ever occurred to you that, as is the case with so much of history, sages too were misunderstood and misrepresented?

    I'll leave you with the link below. Watch it and listen to how the students react to the teacher, and consider all the prophets, sages, and wise men who have come and gone before.

    1. I don't see how freedom of speech is related to freedom of religion. Freedom of religion, as it is wrongly interpreted by today's laws does not protect the right of individuals. It only protects the rights or privileges of the gods or of institutions that claim to speak on behalf of the gods.
      Freedom of religion is not worth protecting. There is no rational argument for religious believes. It is just pointless. Why should this be protected.

      Banning any religious expression in public doesn't get us closer to book burnings than the restrictions on pornography do. Pornography is banned from public display, so that children don't see it. But religion is far more harmful to the healthy development of children than pornography could be. Therefore if we restrict access to pornography, we should even more so restrict the access to religion.

      Albert Einstein was a human with human failures and weaknesses. Just because he was generally an intelligent man, it doesn't make everything he said true. This would be what is called "book authority", and goes against the principles of scientific thinking.

      When Jesus defended the adulteress, it can hardly count as argument for religion. Jesus took a stance against religion here and against religious laws. The religion of that time punished adultery with death. Jesus opposed religion here on philosophical grounds just as he did at many occasions.
      The whole life of Jesus was marked by a struggle against religion, not for religion. It was not without reasons that he got executed for blasphemy at the end. So the fate of Jesus is just another point why religion should be banned. Had the Romans cracked down on the Jewish religion just as the Seleucids did before, instead of guaranteeing religious freedom in the Empire similar to our governments today, Jesus would not have been sentenced to death.
      The case of Jesus is quite a modern topic in a time when religious groups want to establish blasphemy laws, the same laws that Jesus was killed for.

      You are confusing philosophy with religion. Religion is about gods, about rituals, about spreading unproven beliefs and imposing your own values on others. Religion has integrated some philosophical thoughts. But it doesn't justify them based on reason, logic or ethics, but based on a divine law. This divine law may coincide with humanist ethics, but it doesn't need so. And in any conflict between divine law and humanist ethics, the divine will overrides anything else - because the will of the gods is considered a mystery and can't be understood by human reasoning.

      If we ban religion, we don't need to give up philosophy along with it.

    2. That is just it though... how and where is that line drawn between philosophy, spirituality and religion? It's quite easy for things to spill over and have unintended consequences. There are a great many injustices carried out by our imperfect legal systems. I'm not sold on the idea of giving conviction statistic seeking DA's another tool to abuse people with; authorities persecuting people with legal technicalities in a way that is not in concert with the spirit of that law.

      Like you, I have many issues with institutionalized religion. But, many a philosophizer proclaim themselves "spiritual" or even "religious" in their teachings. I'd rather not see these people snuffed out by a poorly written law. That said, I do see your point though. The novella titled, "The Myst" by Stephen King illustrates it perfectly.