As part of my Clark Byse fellowship this year, I taught a small workshop during the Fall semester on religious freedom. One of my sessions was devoted to getting a glimpse at the internal views of religions on religious freedom. In that session, I tried to examine religious freedom in two internalist intertwined senses. The first is a faith’s particular attitude to adherents of other faiths, while the second is freedom of conscience for its own adherents. Of course, these religious traditions are far from monolithic and surely there are dissensions within each faith community. There are enough similarities however to be able to paint one tradition’s views on the matter with broad brush strokes, I think. As expected with these kinds of topics, there was a lively discussion regarding the value of such viewpoint. One of the claims was that it does not matter what religions think internally because in any case they will have to conform to the overarching values of – more often than not – the liberal democratic state in which they find themselves.
The point that I was trying to make in the session of course was that it does matter what religions think. The clearest example would be the turnaround of the Catholic Church (though not all would probably agree with me that this could be considered a turnaround – some argue that it is a development in doctrine) with regard to freedom of conscience from the Syllabus of Errors to Dignitatis Humanae. For the past decade, the subject of these reconciliation efforts, that is, to recover internal resources which could be made compatible with external liberal values, and to judge a faith by its own Read more