But there is a point at which religion ends, and ethics begins. No matter what somebody's religion says, we're not going to allow them to kidnap our child and sacrifice him to their god. We are not going to allow them to burn down our house, just because their holy book says that is the right thing to do. And we are not going to allow them to discharge our debtor in bankruptcy when it's to us that the money is owed and not to them. When they start to argue that we should forgive our debtors so that our creditors will forgive us, that's where we draw the line. You forgive your debtors, we say, but only after you have paid your creditors in full. Forgiving a debtor when you still owe money to someone else is a gift in fraud of creditors and is not allowed.
Freedom of religion, really, is something that we tolerate only to the extent that what our neighbor believes is not materially important to us. The moment it starts to affect our rights, then we can't allow it. This means, among other things, that to the extent that religion preaches stealing, fraud or hurting others, then we can't tolerate it. Our tolerance is only for meaningless chatter and ceremonies and symbolism. We tolerate religion in the same way we tolerate literature -- if it's only just words, it's okay.
Sadly, religion can affect the morals of people who grew up steeped in it, even when they leave the church. Many believe that it's okay to steal from creditors, long after they have given up on the idea that that fellow rose from the dead.
It does not matter what cosmology our neighbors believe in, It totally does not hurt me if they believe in the Easter bunny or in miracles. But when their religion tells them it's okay to steal from me, that's where their rights end and mine begin.
|A horseshoe I found yesterday|