Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom Image
Unfortunately, theologians, clergy, and laity are notorious for using common words and phrases to mean very different things. Many believers are certain that there is only one correct meaning to these terms -- the one that they use! Two examples are the definition of who can legitimately call themselves a Christian and the definition of what a religion is.

On this web site, we define religious freedom as follows:

Religious freedom means that an individual or group can:

- Without oppression, believe, worship and witness (or practice freedom from belief, worship and witness), as they wish;
- Change their beliefs or religion at any time; and
- Associate with others to express their beliefs. 1

With the arrival of the new millennium, religious freedom seems to be gradually changing its meaning. When it is discussed in the media today, it usually refers to the freedom for an individual, clergyperson, or denomination to express condemnation, exclusion, denigration, oppression, and/or hatred towards other individuals or groups. Religious freedom used to mean freedom of belief; now its meaning is transforming to mean the freedom to hate others.

Religious tolerance is a term that it tied closely to religious freedom. If a society extends tolerance to followers of all religions -- and to followers of no religion -- then everyone will probably enjoy religious freedom. "Religious tolerance," as it is most commonly defined, means that people:
- Extend religious freedom to people of all religious traditions, even though they probably disagree with most of their beliefs and/or practices.

This definition does not require a person or group to:

- Accept all religions as equally true.
- Avoid comparing the beliefs and practices of different religions or faith groups.
- Avoid criticizing actions, statements, and policies of religious groups when they harm others.

Thomas Jefferson expressed religious tolerance when he said: ? does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.?.

A common definition used by some fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians is that to be religiously tolerant means that one must accept all religions as equally true. As a result, "religious tolerance" has a very negative connotation to many religious conservatives while it has a very positive meaning to others.

You also may enjoy this free books:

Aleister Crowley - Rights Of Man
Irv Slauson - The Religion Of Odin

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