Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

28 September 2012

Obama: The American Government Respects All Religions

In his United Nations speech a few days ago, Obama said that the American government respected all religions.  Apparently, Obama has had a team of moral, theological, and epistemological experts evaluating the many religions in the world and they have decided that all of these religions are worthy of respect.  Or has he had this evaluation made?  Perhaps the only evaluation made was his own.  If he has had it made, under what power granted to the government under the Constitution did he have this evaluation made?

Was this issue put before the American people for a vote?  NO.  But if it had been put up for a vote and the majority had confirmed that it was their opinion that every religion was worthy of respect, what could be the result?  Government decrees that therefore every American shall respect every religion will surely not result in every American actually respecting every religion.  The only acts the government might take to enforce such a decree would be to suppress our freedoms of speech and press as protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution and to ignore all murders and other acts of violence or threats of violence issued in the name of a religion by whoever claimed religious freedom protection.

Obama's statement is nonsense, of course.  First, it is not at all true that every religion is worthy of respect.  I would argue that none are actually worthy of respect.  Many others believe their own is worthy of respect, but none or few others are.  Even very generous individuals toward the claims of the benefits of religion are likely to see some religions, which can be very inimical to living humans on Earth, as unworthy of respect.  In my own opinion, Islam is one religion with particularly few redeeming qualities and there are still worse religions out there.

No, the American government does not respect all religions.  What it does do is allow individual freedom of conscience, to include religious freedom.  To allow individuals their freedoms and their right to exercise the judgments of their own mind and conscience is not to actually approve of or respect their judgments.

It is critical to understand this.  If we do not understand it, then when we judge someone else' judgment to be bad, we have a tendency to want to interfere with their freedom to act on their judgment.  For instance, Mayor Bloomberg does not approve of super-sized soda drinks and wants them outlawed.  By right, he is free to be of the opinion that super-sized sodas are bad, but what he does not have the right to do is to outlaw them.  While the super-sized soda issue is obvious to many Americans, we do as a democratic mass of voters have a tendency toward outlawing many actions we do not like, simply because we would not do them personally or because we are ashamed that we do them.  Sometimes we outlaw acts which if done by most people might cause some problems, but which are actually done by few and cause no real problems at all.  For instance, it would harm the Republic if everyone became a physicist and therefore no one became a farmer.  Strangely, we never worry that everyone will become a physicist, but we do apparently worry that everyone will become gay.

Laws and the actions of government generally need to be based upon sound principles of governance, not just any conforming interests of a large bloc of voters.  The one legitimate function of government, as rightly stated in our Declaration of Independence, is the protection of individual rights.  When the American government announces that it respects all religions, it is violating the rights of Americans to decide for themselves what they think of religions.  There is no way in which the pronouncement that the American government respects all religions is a requirement of its protection of individual religious freedom.  Indeed, it is actually a violation of our religious freedom, which includes our being personally free to accept or reject whatever religious notions we want.  Our government should have no opinion of the various religions, except insofar as it must to protect the right-based freedoms of individuals.

What then does constitute a case in which the American government must form an opinion about a religion?  When people acting upon a religious idea initiate the use of force upon others and prevent others from exercising their sovereign individual rights, then legitimate government has to step in and provide the protection of individual rights which it is its function to do.  The only protected religious beliefs are those which do not result in followers using force to violate the rights of others.  Freedom of conscience is a most fundamental and critical right.  Government should take action against a religious group or a religion only when their violations of the rights of others are well-demonstrated and clearly cause substantial harm.  Yet, there are cases when government in proper fulfillment of its function must act against a religion or some subset of its adherents.

One major religion in recent times has had many believers who assert a right in the name of Allah to use force to strip non-believers of many of their individual rights.  I do not believe that every or even most believers in Islam should be treated as violators of the rights of others, but it is very clear that numerous believers in Islam are such rights violators.  Some are strong proponents even of death to non-believers.

This is a fact which the American government must recognize if it is to fulfill its legitimate function as the protector of the individual rights of Americans.  While it is not the case that the American government should disrespect Islam, it is the case that it should disrespect those branches of Islam and those groups within it who advocate the use of force to restrict and violate the rights of non-believers.  It is interesting that the non-believers whose rights are most commonly violated are people who themselves believe they are believers in Islam.  There are branches of Islam which are not worthy of respect from this limited perspective of legitimate government.

So, in summary, the American government does not have the power to make a judgment that all religions are worthy of respect.  The judgment that all religions are worthy of respect is itself ludicrous.  If it made such a judgment, it would not be able to carry out its legitimate function of protecting the rights of Americans.  In fact, it would be violating the very freedom of conscience, of which religious freedom is a subset, which it must protect.  Such a judgment belongs only to individuals, not to our government.  But, as usually is the case, Obama believes we must all have a collective judgment and that judgment will be rendered by big government, preferably with the Great Socialist Leader making the call.

It is apparently not a long-standing principle of the Democrat Party that all religions are respected.  Under the previous Democrat President, Bill Clinton, many Americans believed that the religious freedom of the Branch Davidians was violated.  I wonder what Obama had to say about that back then or whether he is now prepared to criticize Bill Clinton for the massacre at Waco.  Or, we might examine Obama's claim in light of his lack of respect for normal religious freedom when a Catholic-owned company or institution other than a church deems it a violation of their beliefs when they are forced to provide health insurance to employees that covers the cost of birth control or abortions.  Apparently, Obama just thinks it sounds rhetorically good to be claiming to respect all religions.

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