Imposing Your Religion on Others Is Not Religious Freedom

hammer and nail

It is not difficult to respect others' religious freedom. We can all grant others the right to hold whatever religious beliefs they wish. There's a difference between this and respecting the content of what someone believes. I can respect someone's religious freedom while finding much of what they believe to be silly.

But what if someone decides to impose their religious beliefs on others who do not share them? What if they begin to limit others' freedom based on their religious beliefs? That is where my respect ends, for this is not religious freedom. What I have described is the use of religion to subjugate others.

Imagine that I belong to a religious tradition that opposes the use of casts and splints. If you break a bone, it was the will of some sort of god. Putting your limb in a cast is an insult to this god. "Fine," you say, "tough it out and don't get a cast."

But it isn't good enough for me to refrain from casts. I want you to do so as well, and I am willing to use force, if necessary. I know you don't share my beliefs, but that doesn't matter. I've decided that your use of a cast offends my god. I will work to remove your access to this medical care until I can get it banned. My goal is to deprive you of the option.

What are we to make of those who strip rights from others on the basis of their religious beliefs? I'd argue that such beliefs warrant no respect. Abolishing others' rights is not an exercise of religious freedom. Religious freedom does not include the freedom to force others to adhere to one's wishes.

One who tries to limit our freedom deserves no respect. Does it matter that their religious beliefs guide these efforts? Not at all! Why would it? What matters is that they are trying to erase your rights. I will not respect an exercise of religious freedom that inflicts harm.

You have the right to hold whatever religious beliefs you want. You have the right to practice your religion as you see fit, as long as you don't harm anyone. You do not have the right to restrict others' freedom based on your religious beliefs. By attempting to do so, you give up any expectation of respect. We will view you as what you are, a zealot who aims to subjugate others.