Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Freedoms For A Modern Age

Individual Liberty

When U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his Four Freedoms speech in 1941 (on January 6th), at the State of The Union Address, he listed four fundamental freedoms that serve as a basis of human rights. These freedoms  are well-known and have formed, in various degrees under various administrations, part of American foreign policy.

They are, for the record:
  1. Freedom of Speech
  2. Freedom of Worship
  3. Freedom From Want
  4. Freedom From Fear
These freedoms, under Eleanor Roosevelt’s gifted and persevering guidance, also form part of the U.N. Charter of Human Rights. They have done us well for many decades, although they are not widely accepted in many nations, in particular, no. 2, the freedom to worship a particular religion, ideology or creed.Even so, these are good set of freedoms and ought to be respected.

Such brings us to what I consider a new, modern need:, incorporating a Fifth Freedom: Freedom From Worship. This differs from Freedom of Worship in that individuals need not be compelled, either explicitly or implicitly, to worship any religion, ideology or creed. The question here is why the need to proselytize. If someone holds a religious belief, why the need to “share it with others”—uninvited. And the key word here is uninvited. Region has too much of a presence in the public sphere, resulting in all kinds of consequences. Is it not sufficient that individuals have the freedom to worship, whether at home or at public place of worship? Apparently not.

For example, the zealots of Judaism—with whom I have some distant affiliation by dint of being Jewish, although I am a secular Jew through and through—have a deep desire to make all Jews conform to their ancient and primitive ideas, the least of which is to lead a restrictive, narrow and insular life, which includes all kinds of prayer directed to an unseen God. No such idea  as individuality or freedom of thought ever crosses their minds. For such people, it is important to emulate medieval times, both in custom and in dress, which includes wearing  long sleeves and black garb, even in the hottest days of summer. The ultra-orthodox and the Hasidic, the self-described keepers of the Mosaic faith, consider themselves the only “true” Jew; all others, in their estimation, are faux Jews. After all, they know best, since they continually and assiduously study the holy books, and all else is of lesser importance.

But, as annoyingly persistent as such Jews are, Christianity’s influence is greater, notably in its influence and power in American and Canadian politics. Fundamentalist Christians are among the most-notable offenders of individuality and liberty, driven by a need to follow The Great Commission. Of particular importance is the implicit desire to make Christianity the de facto state religion, which often is the not discussed in Canada and the United States; and  this view has resulted,  in some cases, of the most zealous devotees to become aggressively intolerant of individuals who hold differing or no religious views. Consider this. Can one hold office in Canada and the U.S. without stating categorically that he or she is a Christian? Unlikely, and more so for high office. Such leaves many otherwise worthy candidates not even considering such options. This is bad for democracy, because religion has become politicized in both Canada and the U.S.

The need to enshrine in legal form the right not to be coerced, harassed and compelled by force, persuasion or by other means needs action today, given the climate of religionists of all faiths to try to impose their views on others. If humans are truly to be considered free agents, then they ought to have the right not to be proselytized in any manner. At any time. For any reason. Of course, such a measure would gain tremendous opposition from the usual sources. No rational person is arguing against personal belief and practices; this is a fundamental right and one of the freedoms enumerated above.

And yet, some hold no religious views and are content in this manner, which bothers some of the religiously minded. From a rational point of view, it shouldn’t  Some individuals have carefully considered the question on whether they want to be part of a religious community, and have rejected it outright. This often causes fear and anger in the religiously minded, but it shouldn’t since it’s a personal matter, much in the same way that I prefer one form of music over the other. It’s called freedom of choice and it ought to be respected. Conformity often leads to mediocrity.

So, please don’t knock on my door and give me any of your religious pamphlets. I don't care which faith you are following; you’re wasting both your time and your money.

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