[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2006 11:47:52 -0330

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

> Walter Okshevsky wrote:
> "In claiming the right to burn [heretics] and [apostates], I am not
> necessarily denying anyone's freedom of religion. The heretic or the
> apostate is an atheist on my terms since she denies the one true God as
> revealed in my religion. Hence, the belief for which I require state
> protection is the belief that right to life is trumped by freedom of
> religion. That tenet is essential to my religious creed."

W: I am of course speaking in the voice of an adherent to religion X (an "Xian")
whose claims to a right of religious freedom are being examined.


> I don't see how it can't be a denial of one's freedom of religion.  If this
> freedom is minimally constituted by a choice regarding religious beliefs,
> killing the heretic and apostate because they are heretics and apostates is
> a response to a particular choice.  In the case of the heretic, it is an
> attempt to be rid of all those who have chosen to hold a belief or set of
> beliefs.  In the case of the apostate, it is an attempt to be rid of all
> those who have chosen to reject a belief or a set beliefs.  In both cases,
> the right to burn is the right to limit what choices can be made regarding
> religious beliefs.  In essence, to be threatened with death if one holds a
> particular belief is to have one's freedom constrained.

W: Xians can agreewith everything Phil has said above except for his first
sentence. Xians don't view adherents to other "religions" as engaged in
authentic devotion to the one true God; they are as such irreligious or
anti-religious. Xians hence view non-believers as a threat to their one true
religion. Both of these Xian views comprise religious truths which Xians claim
a neutral democratic pluralist state has an obligation to respect and not
violate. That is what a right to freedom of religion entails. 

> One can, of course, claim that the right to life is trumped by a particular
> set of beliefs, but this is neither rational nor an assertion of a freedom.
> So the perfomative contradiction lies in asserting that by virtue of one's
> own freedom one can constrain someone else's freedom.  To constrain someone
> else's freedom is to necessarily constrain one's own.

W: I think Phil's claim is much too broad here. The assertion of one's freedom
to limit the freedom of an other is not in itself a case of performative
contradiction. Most of the people presently incarcerated are not the victims 
of self-contradictory maxims or laws of the state. The limitation of a person's
freedom is inherent within the very notion of a right, and of the exercise of
rational freedom. The claim that the right to life can be trumped by a
particular set of beliefs is viewed by a liberal state as eminently rational
and obligatory. If you behave in certain ways, I have a right to take all means
within my powers to prevent you from so acting. Xians partially ground their
claims on this recognized conditional character of rights and freedoms.

Walter C. Okshevsky

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