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A negative aspect of religious freedom


Transitioning from:
"religious freedom of belief" to
"religious freedom to control, discriminate
denigrate and/or oppress others
in violation of the Golden Rule.

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Some noteable quotations related to the Golden Rule:

  • Maya Angelou (author, poet, civil rights activist): "... equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it."

  • Dana Arcuri (author): "Our job on earth isn't to criticize, reject, or judge. Our purpose is to offer a helping hand, compassion, and mercy. We are to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us."

  • Alexandra Katehakis (therapist): "If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same? Doing to others an act you’d rather not have done to you reveals a powerful internal conflict."

  • Brennan Manning (author): "How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car."

  • Steve Shallenberger (author): "Replacing rudeness and impatience with the Golden Rule may not change the world, but it will change your world and your relationships."

  • Socrates (philosopher): "Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others."

  • George Takei (actor): "If you have to make laws to hurt a group of people just to prove your morals and faith, then you have no true morals of faith to prove."

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image of two elephants opposing each other The transition from religious freedom of belief to religious freedom to hurt others:

While monitoring:

we noticed a radical drift in the definition of both "religious freedom" and its near-synonym "religious liberty:"

It changed:

  • FROM the historical meaning: the freedom of religious belief, speech, practice, assembly, and proselytizing by believers. At the time, attacks on personal religious freedom typically:
    • Involved governments or larger faith groups as perpetrators, and

    • Involved faith groups or individuals as victims.

  • TO the new freedom demanded by some faith groups or believers to oppress or denigrate others, to discriminate against them, and/or to mount political campaigns to deny them equal rights. These attacks on religious freedom typically:
    • Involve individual believers, faith groups, for-profit companies, or parachurch organizations as perpetrators, and

    • Involve either women or members of sexual minorities as victims.

Religious freedom once referred mostly to the believers' right to express religious ideas and to engage in religious practices. Now it is becoming mostly about the freedom for individuals and religious groups to take actions that discriminate against others by limiting other people's human rights and freedoms, without incurring negative consequences themselves.

People who exercise their religious freedom to discriminate rarely connect their actions to Jesus' words in two Gospels -- Matthew and Luke -- where he commands his followers to obey what is now called the Golden Rule. He instructs them to treat others as his followers would wish to be treated themselves. This is a fundamental moral precept found in all of the major religions in the world and in many philosophical writings.

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Topics covered in this section:

  • Two contrasting meanings of the term "religious freedom:" The freedom of belief vs. the freedom to discriminate:

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