Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

what is religious freedom anyway?

8/21/14

 

 

We hear frequent declarations that our religious freedom is being subverted in some way. Usually, such claims come from members or ministers of institutional Christianity. Is the real issue of religious freedom tied so irrevocably to institutional religion? Was the freedom envisioned by our founding fathers actually the freedom of religious institutions to operate without restraint and to exercise pervasive power over our society?

 

I seriously wonder if that was their concept of religious freedom. After all, European history, with which they were most familiar, contained numerous accounts of collusion between church and state and the resulting oppression. All that collusion and oppression was justified at the time as divinely sanctioned and necessary to good order; but, through the perspective of hindsight, our forefathers could certainly see the perversity which had resulted. They surely did not want a repeat of that collaboration to take hold in our new nation.

 

With that in mind, we might want to re-consider all the hubbub we hear out of the proponents of institutional Christianity about any abrogation of religious freedom. The only religious freedom that really counts is the personal variety. In order to enjoy that personal freedom, we needn't worry about the institution of religion. Such an institution is always powerful and sufficiently self assertive. The real freedom issue is the importance of protecting the religious freedom of the individual from the undue power and influence of those in religion who demand religious conformity under threat of retribution. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to demand the freedom of institutional religion to limit personal religious freedom.