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Friday, May 6, 2011

Tyranny of Individualism


Recently, in the Vatican, there has been much discussion revolving around Religious Freedom.  Also, click here for an article on Pope Benedict's review of that discussion. 

A spectrum that has always boggled policy makers is Individualism and Institutionalism.  On one end of the spectrum, stand individual human rights that offer us valuable personal freedoms apart from any restrictions. On the other end of the spectrum is the establishment that has always sought to civilize human rebellious nature with regulations. 

Nowhere was this binary fought out more ferociously than 18th century Europe, when the age of Enlightenment ignited a stream of revolutions throughout the European nations.  The fallout for these revolutions in the western world is quite visible in the western view of religion and its advocates.  Two notable outcomes emerged from these revolutions.  First, is the attempt to banish religion into the realm of private sphere.  The second important outcome is Moral Relativism

As far as I am aware, there is no religion, no philosophy, and no ideology on the face of this planet that does not seek to spread itself through a means of evangelization of some sort. Perhaps some enterprising member of my newly found readership can help me out here.  Is there an idea that you rejoice in, of which you manage to remain mute?  In fact, don’t people everyday take their views to workplace, schools, and even streets, in an attempt to convert people to their cause, whatever that cause may be?  Why is it that when this cause is Christian in nature, public outcries begin to sound and the secular machine goes up in an uproar to silence this voice?

Under the banner if Individuals’ Rights, the religious lot, namely Christians, are always instructed to be “respectful” of others’ beliefs, or worse yet, to keep their religious views to themselves.  Democracy is being replaced with a form of tyrannical secularism or an oppressive socialism.  Suddenly, it is offensive for institutions to display Christian symbols, even in countries that can never divorce their identity from their Christian roots.  Suddenly, it is infringing on individual’s right to wish someone Merry Christmas or Happy Easter.  This neo-libertarian movement has taken on a socialist façade whose sole agenda is to destroy an innate desire within human beings to worship Him who is greater than all. Any attempt by the ‘faithful remnants’ to retain the Christian values that have governed the western hemisphere, are labeled as divisive, inequitable, and even bigotry.  It is okay to erect a statue in the public arena to honour someone like Thomas Jefferson, but it is not okay to honour a man like Moses, whose law has contributed a great deal to the western judicial system.  It is okay to display a crucifix inside a bucket that is full of urine, and pass it off as a ‘work of art,’ but it is not okay to retain a cross originally put up to honour dead soldiers of World War I.  The attempt to constantly push religion out of the public realm is a reality that Christians must endure everyday.  If public display of religion is permitted, then it is constantly moving towards a growing hostility and antagonism. 

A second notable outcome of 18th century revolutionary Europe is the notion of relativism of truth.  For the 21st century western secular, all religions fall in the same category, fantasyland.  Since religion is a private matter of concern, then every individual’s religious view is as good as the view of another.  Consequently, all religions are set on an equal footing.  Not only that, but also all philosophical views, whether they be religious or irreligious, must be viewed as equally valid.  This is a hard pill for a Christian to swallow.  In fact, I cannot see how an American can defend his country’s involvement in WWII to fend off Hitler.  When subscribing to moral relativism, I cannot understand how a U.S. soldier can explain himself when he goes on a far-off land to defeat terrorism.  Aren’t the terrorists entitled to their views as well?  Was not Hitler entitled to exterminate 6,000,000 Jews?  After all, Hitler and the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 are entitled to their individual views, and these views are every bit as good as those of any civilized citizen of the United States of America.  Moral Relativists are forced to acknowledge the validity of these absurd claims. 

Originally, it was Christianity that found secularism in Europe. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that it was a Christian from the 2nd century A.D. who coined the term “Religious Freedom.”  Despite the endless efforts spent today to quell down religion, or portray truth as a relative idea, the Church will never cease proclaiming Christ’s words, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” 

4 comments:

  1. There is a powerful argument why it can be seen as necessary, historically speaking, to "banish religion into the realm of the private sphere". When religion takes on a public institutional form, historically, it changes its face from something which is a simple private belief, shared by many others, and allowed to be expressed "on the streets, at school, at work" to a public belief, forced on others, not simply by words, but by "the sword". Let me count the examples where religion as a part of the state has caused destrution: The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Northern Ireland, Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Henry the 8th and the Church of England....it goes on. Now, I agree that Moral Relativism is not a good view to have, but I don't believe, for instance, that all evil views, like Hitler's, were religious in nature, and need to be, as a result, fought by other religious views. Why can't someone simply have a view of right/wrong independent from Religiion? Although it WAS religion that first gave us these views of moral goodness, many of these views have today become antiquated, and not relevant to our world. For instance, I suggest looking into "Blue Laws," which are religious laws created in many countries, including Canada, and the United States, which use religious dogma to enforce laws on individuals who may not worship the state's religion. For instance, in Canada, The Lord's Day Act, which since 1906 had prohibited business transactions from taking place on Sundays, was struck down as unconstitutional in the 1985 case R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. Calgary police officers witnessed several transactions at the Big M Drug Mart, all of which occurred on a Sunday. Big M was charged with a violation of the Lord's Day Act. A provincial court ruled that the Lord's Day Act was unconstitutional, but the Crown proceeded to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a unanimous 6-0 decision, the Lord's Day Act was ruled an infringement of the freedom of conscience and religion defined in section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[41]

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  2. Well, Mr. (Ms?) Anonymous,
    My problem(s) with what you said above is that you jump into a prescriptive mode immediately to attempt and resolve the legal issues of Medieval Europe. We are not living in Medieval Europe any longer. I think our mode of communication can attest to that fact. The solution to the "crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Northern Ireland, Israeli/Palestinian conflict" is definitely not to expel religion out of the public arena, as though it is some dirty laundry that needs to remain hidden. Religion is NOT a "simple private matter." It is communal in nature as discussed above. It always seeks to spread itself. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.
    I'm not even going to delve into the role seculars played in all the problems you cited above. Henry VIII? Modern day Israel?

    Once you begin developing your own "view of right/wrong" then you cannot deny others of the same prerogative. Then, everything becomes permissible. Everything becomes allowed. Truth is no longer foundational. Instead, it becomes a subjective matter left to our own devices to work out. That, as history demonstrates, is the ultimate evil. Let me cite some examples in return. Hitler had his own views of right and wrong and they were independent from religion. Karl Marx had his own view of right/wrong and they were independent from religion. Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and Joseph Stalin all had their own views of right and wrong independent from religion. If you were to combine all the victims of all the European atrocities, which are usually blamed on Christianity, they do not mount to the most small-timer criminal like Pol Pot, who as you say, had his own sens of right and wrong independent from religion.

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  3. I agree that the crimes of Joseph Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot are certainly comparable, if not worse than many European atrocities. However, it is not "individualism", in these cases, that caused these atrocities. Tyrannies can take many forms: religious, atheistic, communistic, fascist, and so on. However, usually these ideals start off innocent (except fascism), and idealistic, and then, when given state power, they corrupt. Marxism, and his form of communism is a perfect example of how a great idea, when put into a state mechanism, becomes horrible (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot). This, I believe, is what happens when any religion becomes a part of a nation state.
    With regards to developing your own idea of right/wrong, you are correct that allowing this to happen will create a world of total subjectivity. However, I believe that all religious doctrines are interpreted subjectively anyway (they are interpreted by human beings, after all) and we should always be in a constant debate about the content of these doctrines. If we do not, they become, like Marxism, a Tyranny (with Stalin), or like Spain (the Spanish Inquisition). If we allow all ideas to be debated, and allow an openness to debate about what is the Truth, this is true individualism. I believe that allowing all beliefs to be expressed openly will more often than not, weed out the bad ideas. If we do not allow debate about ideas, we are just as bad as Hitler's or Stalin's state.
    Individualism, in itself, does not seek out to destroy any particular doctrine, like Catholicism, for instance, but simply challenges it as an absolute truth. Perhaps there are partial truths in every doctrine, but to not allow them to be challenged would be the ultimate evil.

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  4. Anonymous,

    Since you think religion should be private, you must also think your belief about religion being private should be kept private and not acted on in public. After all, your beliefs do not differ from a believer's in terms of acting according to one's conscience.

    Also, since you believe that institutionalized religion (like the Church) has done great evil, and so is evil by nature, you must, by that same logic, believe that institutionalized anti-religion (like the Nazis) has done great evil, and so is evil by nature. After all, you are using the fallacy of generalization, which makes your argument against religion invalid.

    Moreover, you can cite all the differences between religion and non-religion, theism and atheism, even unto private beliefs and public practices, but it still won't change the fact you're basing your argument on a generalization that can be used against you.

    Finally, religion is a virtue that falls under the virtue of justice, and as such, is just, whereby it is not evil but good. So religion in general is good. Christianity in particular is the Supreme Religion, the religion that, more than any other, is good. So Christianity is not evil, either.

    Some Common Misconceptions

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