RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS NOT REALLY ABOUT RELIGION

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Religious liberty isn’t really about religion

Jean-Francois Orsini, Ph.D.

 

I must have been seven years old. I vividly remember this instant in my life while I do not remember any other experience I had at that age. I was looking through the kitchen window at the street below. It was a very dark night but the street was brilliantly lit. All of the sudden, I had these terrible questions: “what I am doing here? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What does it all means?” That I was in a kitchen had nothing to do with my questioning. That it was at night had nothing to do with my questioning. That we lived then in Morocco had nothing to do with my questioning. It may have been a profound sense of solitude I felt at the view of the empty and still street below and the powerful lights that where illuminating it for the benefit of not a single soul at that moment.

This were the first questions I had asked myself that had a clear philosophical bent. I felt they were very important questions at the very moment I experienced them even at this tender age. I now know they were very important questions. Because they still are very important not only to myself but also to everybody. They are the basic questions of metaphysics.

Everyone at some time or rather in his existence has asked himself the same questions. Most people probably ask them at or after the age of 7, as it is the threshold of a new understanding in this “year of reason”. These questions need to be asked because they are part of the process by which everyone grows; a process that needs to be completed in order to establish for oneself one’s own self-identity.

We want to know what is the great scheme of things in order to be able to situate ourselves within a greater cosmology.

Some of us are educated in a religious system which answers these questions. But, in reality, asking oneself these questions is a test or our faith in our religious system. Many do not care to probe the validity of the tenets of our religion by pursuing them in all their rational consequences. Many of us may not have been taught, early enough, the fine points of the doctrine that should provide full conviction that the paradigm offered by the religion is valid. Consequently, shocked by many hard realities encountered in their everyday existence, many lose confidence in the validity of their earlier faith.

For the religious mind, existence has a meaning. God created the world and has given a purpose for each element of this creation. Every bit of our surrounding environment, each one of the situations we may encounter can be explained to be a consequence of a creation by this divine intelligence. For the religious, life, then, consists in fully understanding all the extraordinary and well-ordered richness of the natural order as well as to lead a life pleasing to our creator upon which we depend for everything.

For many other people, the world has no meaning. Life has no meaning. They cannot accept any rational explanation for all the confusing and incomprehensible, in their apparent – but superficial – inconsistencies, situations they have experienced in their lives. The world has no meaning; least of all, any meaning provided by any religion.

How do members of this latter group see themselves in that world which has no meaning? Many of these members just cannot find for themselves a comfortable place they could accept in that cosmos they apprehend but do not comprehend. So, for most members of that group, a permanent sense of depression is their lot.

But the survival instinct is strong, and many in this population try to fight this depression while still not subscribing to the idea of a world which has been pre-ordered by an intelligent being. Their philosophical project? If life has no meaning, they have full freedom to create its meaning by themselves.

Essentially, as each unbeliever is prone to develop his own philosophy of life and live accordingly, a society of such individuals tends to be totally chaotic and anarchistic.

Sometimes, somehow, these anarchists come to socialize and agree on some self-serving values and fads under a banner known as “political correctness”. Thus, they come to militate for a society where children are of no value until they are born and welcome. A society in which each person can decide which sex he chooses and be regarded accordingly by others. Anybody can marry whomever he feels attracted to… soon to include several people, blood relatives, and even things… as the news tells us that someone has even requested to be married to his computer!

The point is that a segment of the population has a sense of a pre-ordered arrangement of the entire world and their existence in it. Others in the same population, do not have that sense and insist on being able to inject their own preferred, artificial, vision of what anything and everything means. And there are all more strident and adamant that the rest of us must go along with their rigmarole that it is the only solution that helps them fight the depression that would otherwise engulf them. These people have invaded the talkative professions: the education, the media, the law and politics. For them the rest of us are the deplorables.

There is a fundamental and serious social problem in that situation. Nowadays, in most countries, the implemented political philosophy assumes that not believing in any order of the existence must be the default view. Arbitrarily it is decided that the view that the world is pre-ordered, along with its logical consequences and rules, must be a minority view which can only be accepted by the body politics with the terms that it is to be allowed but only to approved subgroups and that it requires important legal controls. Where there was liberty of religion there is only now left liberty of worship.

It needs to be said that the order of ideologies that claim to propose an alternative cosmological and therefore political order, do not qualify here. For they do basically bypass the recognition of a pre-ordered universe. They are consequently still unstable and dangerous.

Why is this so? Why are most governments discriminating against those good people who believe in a happy arrangement of people, places and situations and who are willing to respect these orders? Why do governments give preference to the other group who is willing to question any value and rework what these values are and impose their decisions on the rest of the population?

Isn’t this the ultimate discrimination? Aren’t people free to see a pre-established order in the world or not? Why would governments favor arbitrarily one group over another, the order deniers over the order lovers?

Isn’t the role of governments to assure law and order to their people? How can they better achieve this responsibility by backing the individuals and organizations who refuse the idea of a pre-eminent order? But pretend they can see their own values in the penumbra of the laws. Would not choosing instead to prefer the order lovers, in their laws and institutions, be preferable so to facilitate rather than complicate the work of governments? It seems that the US Constitution did understand the argument. Therefore, isn’t it why the left adamantly seeks to undermine the Constitution?

 

Jean-Francois Orsini is a double graduate of and holds a doctorate from The Wharton School. He is a past prior of his third order Dominican chapter based at the Dominican House of Studies of Washington DC. His last book, Love is God, seek to demonstrate that what the love that the world confusedly seeks is the love of God.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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