Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Importance Of Freedom Of Conscience

 I was planning to begin this post by stating that the freedom of conscience is an important Western value, but then remembered that even in Muslim countries, at least in theory, Christians are supposed to practice their faith unmolested if they pay a special tax (I think it's called jizzya, but too lazy to check).

In Europe, this freedom was born out of Reformation and the religious wars that followed it. In the end, we recognised that every person should be free to follow his or her own conscience in the matters of faith and principles. Some say it was beginning of liberalism but I honestly don't care. While I disagree with many things in the modern society, I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to say, as the recent lockdowns proved.

You can abuse the notion of freedom and stretch it to promote sin/vice, but it doesn't mean that (political) freedom in itself is wrong. 

The reason I decided to write about it is because some people apparently believe that the freedom of conscience only exists for men, not for women. What I'm referring to is the modern teaching on wifely submission. While progressives scorn the very idea, some religious people go the other direction and take it too far, claiming that the husband is the final authority on everything outside of outright criminal behaviour, like murder, which the wife is still not supposed to commit if commanded.

I recently heard about some lady who didn't want to get vaxxed but did it anyway because her husband persuaded her. Personally I don't think that a decision on so controversial a topic should be taken under pressure from others. After all, we are talking here about YOUR health.  If you choose to do it, you do it for yourself, not for others. 

There are things which one spouse simply can't and shouldn't force the other one to do. He or she can't force the other one go against their convictions. Here I think it's important to make a distinction between a preference and a conviction. For instance, a woman may prefer to wear long dresses but her husband doesn't like how she looks in them. It this situation, it would be wise to follow his taste more than her own, since after all, it's (hopefully) her own husband she's trying to please with the way she looks.

On the other hand, she may have a conviction against wearing a miniskirt, in which case it would go against her conscience to do it. A better example would probably be the anti-conception pill. Many Protestants seem to think it's fine, while the Catholic Church expressly prohibits it. For a Catholic woman, to follow her husband in this matter would mean to go against her Church's teaching and her own conscience.

And you should consider that going against one's conscience never pays. There is an old poem called Soldier Of Fortune which deals exactly with this topic. One could think that it's just a poetic Victorian exaggeration they were so prone to, but it's still true nowadays. If you go against your deep, heart-felt convictions for worldly profit, or to please others around you, it will never pay, but vice versa, it will ruin your self-image, destroy your inner peace and break you as a person. You will despise yourself for your weakness, especially if the desired result isn't achieved. 

The end doesn't justify the means, and the fact that you were pressed into doing it won't comfort you in the end, because as a grown-up, deep down you know that there always is a choice and you are the one who bears full responsibility. 

Each of us has or should have a moral/honour code and if you break it, you do it at your own peril. Blind obedience to authority is imo, not Biblical and we should always use our power of discernment. 

I should add that I'm not talking about ordinary things like what to eat for dinner or which colour wallpaper to choose for your bedroom, but I guess you all understand what I meant! 

Or so I hope...


  1. Post Alley CrackpotJuly 1, 2021 at 4:21 PM

    "... even in Muslim countries, at least in theory, Christians are supposed to practice their faith unmolested if they pay a special tax ..."

    The jizya is a tax that only men paid.

    "... some people apparently believe that the freedom of conscience only exists for men, not for women ...

    Which was why men paid the tax.

    I remember Ibn Warraq's critiques on Islam back in the 1980s and 1990s, and I remember how he described the problem of "free will" in Islam.

    There is no problem of "free will" in Islam, because if you're a Muslim, you're "submissive" (or subservient) to Islam, and you have only the illusion of free will.

    The jizya dealt with this in a Muslim way by admitting that there was no course by which to set the non-Muslims on a path toward Islam, and so they were "tolerated" as long as they'd pay their taxes, as goes the Western view.

    It's not so much that non-Muslims were actually tolerated, and the jizya exists to remind Muslims that they do not have "free will" to leave Islam according to the tenets of Islam.

    Christianity by comparison recognises the actuality of free will by offering an potential exit that Christian faiths maintain should not be regarded as an actual exit.

    As for Buddhism, actual or potential exits are irrelevant, as there is nothing binding you to an either/or choice in which you can just as easily substitute "and".

    I've encountered more Buddhist Jews than Buddhist Christians, so make of that what you will.

  2. Lol, women are probably not taxed because they aren't supposed to be breadwinners. By Islamic law, whatever the man earns is to provide for the family, while whatever his wife earns is her own money.

    There are some Christians which deny free will, at least to some extent. Ever heard of "once saved always saved"? And then you have hyper Calvinists, of course. I should know as I live in the country full of them:)


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