Freedom of Religion

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / NoHier / Politics /

2016 07 11 I repost this module, will edit & dedup later
The idea of freedom of religion is an absurdity. It’s never existed, it never will: at least not as a steady state.
Any society that believes it has it (such as US) needs lessons in pk’s Lex Lingus Elasticus: if you tighten your meaning of “religion” you can do so only by loosening your meaning of “freedom.”

Politics takes place in the realm of natural language where nothing can be defined.

Nothing can be defined for a series of reasons. Which include: in politics there’s no objective place to stand; speakers of one natural language only cannot be introduced to the idea of objectivity (or definition, or truth …) because speakers of one natural language only cannot be introduced to the idea that there’s anything of importance that they don’t already know.

As already mentioned at, the trick for the US assurance of “freedom of religion” is that Congress gets to decide what’s a religion and what isn’t. If “all” of the citizenry was “born” knowing that “Christianity” is a religion and that both “Catholics” and “Methodists” are Christians, then Congress will always find both the Catholic and Methodist churches to represent “religions.” The peyote-eaters of the Native American Church had no such luck.

The other day I was in a store in which I buy fishing tackle and the owner was going on about our president’s saw that “Islam means peace.” (This, please realize, takes place during Bush’s “War on Terrorism”) (meaning that US gets to treat Afghanistan like Vietnam.) The proprietor was insisting that Islam’s history is one of imperial (i.e., militaristic) expansion. He got no argument from me on that point but he went on to deny that Islam was a religion. (Mike then revealed that he had a Masters in Divinity.) Once you’ve gone that far, other steps aren’t far away.

Consider. What is a religion? Some group’s formally rehearsed set of superstitions? Some group’s idea of “truth”? Something revealed to some but not to others by some numinous presence?

Different “religions” have different ways of identifying members. How can they be one coherent entity? some Platonic Form? Jews identify Jews by lineage through the Jewish mother: if your mother was a Jew, you’re a Jew; Hitler’s Third Reich had altogether different standards of identification: very similar to Senator J.R. McCarthy’s for “Communist” (or Bush’s for “Terrorist”).

One thing that seems to be held in common by more than several groups accepted as “religions” is some sort of cosmology: In the beginning … Fiat lux … And the Crow did this … or The Raven did that. But if we thought hard and did some research, maybe we could find examples without a cosmology. Many would say that a religion must have some belief as a common bond: such as “a belief in God.” Yet there’s no such imperative among Jews: Jews are not required to believe either in “God” or in the cosmology offered as the Torah’s opening. No, your mother has to be Jewish: that’s it.

Are there not however numerous religions that do prescribe some specific belief? The Bible proscribes allowing “a witch to live.” A Sikh may not draw his knife without that knife drawing blood. Surely there’s a religion someplace where a “Hatfield” may not cross paths with a “McCoy” without bringing his testicles home as a trophy.

Excuse me: wouldn’t that be illegal in these United States? How could a legislature of a polity liberal about “religion” author any law without first knowing all customs of all religions? If the guy’s religion says that he must cut your balls off, how can you say both that he has “freedom of religion” and that he can’t do it?

Simple: by being human. By speaking a natural language (and not knowing any other kinds). By being raised in a “culture.” By being “educated” in a “school.”

Culture is not science. Culture is not tautology. Culture is not philosophy. Culture is not epistemologically sophisticated.

bkMarcus, the more aware having married a wife of French origin, tells me that the French concern themselves less with freedom of religion and more with freedom from religion. I must return here and address that delicious concept.

Keywords freedom, religion, definition, natural language
Politics Quotes


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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