Freedom of religion should be merged with general freedom of thought, assembly, freedom to make random gestures, freedom to chant, etc, etc. The mere fact of something being religious, should neither add nor remove rights to it or from it. We should abolish this messy, Jeffersonian idea of religion in civil society.

We should abolish the distinction between a religious institution and a non-religious institution, a religious reason and a non-religious reason, a religious excuse, and a non-religious excuse, a religious charity and a non-religious charity, religious rights and non-religious rights.

 

In law, there should be no such thing as "on grounds of religion". If Sikhs want to be excused from wearing motorcycle helmets, it should stand or fall on the  _actual_ religious argument. If anti-abortionists believe abortion is murder, let's hear the _actual_ religious argument concerning souls etc. That's their actual reason, and to discuss these matters in other terms is a farce. The religious argument might also be a farce — but then the farce is the making of the religious party, and they might rightly lose the argument. So be it.

 

A religion is a set of ideas — cosmological ideas, historical ideas, moral ideas, even scientific ideas, some good, some bad, some correct, some nonsense. We just tie ourselves in knots, having this civic concept of religion.

Note: that none of this is an attack of the established CofE, which does not actually represent the flawed principle I have outlined. 

Why is this idea important?

 

Because religions are not invited to justify their politics within the context of political debate, and because religions are not allowed to earn their influence in the arena of serious political discourse, religions become like those people who have been too long on welfare: both protected and oppressed. They are protected from the scrutiny of a practical debate in which every flawed idea is fair game for ridicule, and they are oppressed by their inability to partake in that very debate. They feel unfairly excluded, while being dulled to the responsibility to justify themselves to the usual standard.

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