Homa Arjomand

homawpi@nosharia.com

416-737-9500

www.nosharia.com

 

September 18, 2007-09-17

 

Personal Freedom and Religion

 

I need to begin my speech with this statement “the more one distance from religion the more one can gain personal freedom”.

 

Historically human needed to create religion to explain the unknown phenomenon such as existence of life, reasons for death in order to provide comfort for the fear of unknowns. Religion also provides very simple answers “Only God Knows” to many complicated and complex questions and doubts. Despite the progress and knowledge in history, civilization and science, religion remains as a heavy leash on the man’s neck. The more mankind was able to explain the unknowns and the relationships of him to the nature, the more he was able to distance himself from religions clarification for the same phenomenon.

 

I believe a religious individual has no personal freedom as he surrenders himself over to a force that has no boundaries, no regulation and grounds. Philosophically and practically, those individuals do not value their influences in changing the world and they do not think they have will power to do so.

 

One may ask then how millions of religious individuals are in fact making some actual changes in the environment? My answer to this question is clear. These people in reality are not effectively religious during their actions they take to change the world. These individuals no longer expect their God to provide them with food, clothing and shelter as they take their own destiny in their own hand, they do not blindly follow most of the unreasonable commands from their religious leader; but despite the above mentioned facts, these religious individuals do not intend to make an effective change in their environment. As the result they hand over the control to their worldly Gods. In some cases because of their real life situation and their ambition to end the injustice that they experienced, these individuals are forced to act against their own religions rules and actually do enforce some reforms by pushing back their religious boundaries, by engaging against the current politically and socially.    

 

Once more, I need to emphasize that despite the fact that the above question may always be a subject for the academicians, nowadays the same question arises in a much larger scale across the entire society. Not too long ago if someone would ask what is the relation between personal freedom and religion? The answer was very clear for almost everyone except for Fundamentalists and that was religion and personal freedom contradicts each other. It was in fact part of everyone’s knowledge as the above-mentioned question was answered during a long process of progress of science since the Reno sans. At that time people found no need to resolve these contradictions but today because the domain of religion globally has been grown substantially, the above contradictions need to be clarified once more, or even needs to be proven how religion limits the personal freedom, We also need to be reminded of struggle that humanity took part for centuries to free mankind from religions and religious dogmas. Due to growth of conservatism and their support to the religious groups for the past three decades, this already answered old questions need to be spelled out once again.

My personal approach is since the answer to the question is obvious; it is up to the religious groups to prove that the religions are not contradicting personal, civil, scientific and political freedom. And they are the ones who have to explain their aggression against human, women, children and civil rights for the thousands of years. It is time for them to apologize and condemn their act.

 

To make the philosophy discussion short, I must say religion has limited my personal freedom along with millions of other individuals. In fact I should say religion has destroyed many of individuals’ personal rights and mine too.

 

In countries, where religions run the state, the personal freedom has no meaning at all; the personal freedom of millions are scarified directly by religious rules and its horrific state system. On one hand the religious state denies the fundamental rights of woman as an equal citizen and recognizes women as a second-class citizen, practically women legally have become the men’s slaves in those countries. Before I explain how the personal freedom being undermined by religion we need to define the personal freedom first. In this discussion, I would use Islam as the base of my debate, mainly because I am more familiar with this religion in theory and in practice and also because Islam has not been challenged in any aspects. In addition I believe that all other religions would have similar and common elements. 

 

The first and the most essential point I would like to discuss are about “personal and civil freedom”. My attempt is to provide a general definition of these rights.

In my opinion personal freedom is the one that provides the individuals to grow and enhance his ability. It also allows him to be distinguished and the same time to understand its unity with the society. An individual can demonstrate his talent and it empowers him to shape his destiny, at the same time the personal freedom is relative and it depends upon the stages of progress in the society.

 

On other hand religion basically defines human as being created by super natural power, where its essence has been ordained by God, as the result human being has no control over his destiny and has no rights, therefore he is considered to be a being who is obliged to obey the law of God in order to gain and enjoy his prosperous in the after life.  The above definition can be explained by the following instances:

·       The first instance is the right to live and be immune of any violence against body and mind, while in Islam execution, dismember, bloodshed and even assault on children are acceptable and allowed which is define as punishment of a crime in relate to blasphemy, rubbery and permitting marriage to children of 9 years old. As one can clearly see the right to live, Immunity of body and mind against any violation is simply being undermined in Islam

·       The unconditional freedom of speech, expression and believes are the rights that have never been acknowledged in any religions, specifically in Islam. The only political party allowed is the party of God and that is Hezbollah. Any criticism to Islam or the holly book of Koran is considered heresy and punished by Islamists. Selman Rushdie and Danish caricaturist have not been forgotten. One does not need to remind you how Islamists treated Jews and Bahaeis and there is hardly any need to mention about the atheists. The Islamists ( the political Islam)  saw the seeds of hatred against other groups. This is because in their view Islam is the last and the most complete religion in the world. And for the ones who do not intend to convert to Islam, the least punishment is to pay religious tax.  All these violation can be multiplied when it comes to women and children’s rights in Islam. In Islam the rights to divorce for women has no meaning, men have the custody of the children. Women receive half of inheriting compare to men. The witness of two women is equivalent to one man. Beating women is permitted in Islam. Women will be stoned to dead if they have relationship out of marriage. In Islam men can have four wives, and abortion is heavily punished.

·       In the instance of National sovereignty, Islam only recognizes one nation and that is the nation of Islam, therefore independency cannot be accepted.

·       In Islam exploitation and slavery are not being condemned. All Imams and profits had slaves. Child abuse, child labour and child exploitation is permitted in Islam.  

·       When it comes to music and entertainment, there are many of restrictions or conditions apply, specifically where women are involved. Dancing is prohibited. Women involve in sports is strongly condemned in Islam.

·       Where science and scientific advancement are concerned a huge conflict arises. The animosity of Islam with science cannot be exactly portrait, because within last centuries there were not many frontiers and scientists who brought new idea in science and advancement in order to see the reaction of Islamic leader. But this is the nature of all the religions and Islam not to accept any scientific theory. In this instance Christianity has darker history. Nobody, even the one who did not study the history knows the fate of Jordano Bruno and Galilae and the burning of witches.  

One can add pages to this list in such way that at the end we will not see any light to the end of tunnel, as it was in the dark ages. 

But human being found his way to persuade and guaranty the individual, social and political freedom. French revolution was one of the greatest and goriest example for people to follow, even in twenty first century the citizens of many countries are enjoying the fruit of this revolution. Experience and aftermath of the revolution suggest that we need to have such a radical progressive movement in order to up root the religious from the education, justice system and state. This is our task, the task of civilization to regain personal freedom, peace and comfort. And this cannot be possible without challenging the religion industries. Freedom seeker and we as a secular have enormous responsibility to unite and motivate the whole society toward this goal.