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.”