Religious freedom is a concept much broader than the right to worship or not to worship, which is mostly a private affair once religion freedom has done its work. Religious freedom is the right to search and discover the meaning of human existence, to find the answer (if there is one) to the notion of human destiny. It is basically human to seek the truth; above all, the truth of our final destiny and meaning. If we can’t answer that question, we are lost in a sea of relativism and confusion. It is the right to search for all this and come to a conclusion in this regard which becomes a right of conscience.
That is why religious freedom is the fountain of all other freedoms and the source of all other rights. Religious freedom necessitates the right to speech to discuss with others the end of human existence, which implies the right of association to do this with others in dialogue, inquiry, asking questions.
A Light Beyond
This also implies the right to research, the reading of books, newspapers and other materials, the right to establish and use libraries and other sources of information. All this is important to help discover — or at least try to discover — the meaning and destiny of human life, the most important question of human life. Ideas must be exchanged in discussion with others in dialogue as part of that search.
Religious freedom is therefore a light beyond the right to worship once one has found the possible answer to this question (if at all). In that search, one may discover the existence or non-existence of God or gods or nothingness. That freedom is called religious freedom. This is a search that involves the theist, the atheist and the agnostic according to the results of this free search.
Therefore religious freedom is the first of all rights and the foundation which permits the existence of all other rights — speech, association, research, reading materials without censorship, dialogue, exchange of ideas, the right to read, discuss, think independently and freely with others, the right to express opinions and to publish them so that others may read them, criticize them, reject them, etc., for our enlightenment. This implies free access to libraries and other sources of information within the observance of the common good — even the right to travel to find answers.
The denial of religious freedom is to deny access to all these other rights. These other rights are inseparable and do not exist without that basic search of religious freedom which is the basis of all other freedoms and rights.
Thus the freedom to worship — important as it is — is subsidiary to religious freedom itself. That is, once we have found that meaning and destiny of human existence (if at all), we may or may not come to the conclusion that the meaning of human existence lies in a belief in God. And we may worship that ultimate meaning of human existence or we may reject that concept of God as the meaning of human existence.
A Broader Concept
None of us is guaranteed the good result of this search — only that we have the freedom to search and try to find answers to our existence. We are free, we are created creators who are free to find and research what is called religious freedom. There is no guarantee as to results, only the ability to try.
That meaning then becomes personal and individual in accordance with the dictates of conscience. In other words, religious freedom is a broader concept than to worship, which is a result of the former and is individual and specific in nature.
We must not confuse religious freedom with the right to worship. We exercise religious freedom, and one of its possible outcomes is the right to worship God. But our search may show us that there is no God — only a frustrated freedom that will end in the nothingness from which we came after ions of development in sidereal materials.
Nothing is guaranteed us — only the right to search and to find what we can find. All this makes man unique in the universe as the only creature who asks “why.” Everything else simply is; only man can say “why.” This is what we call religious freedom.
MR. RIGA, a retired attorney, writes from Houston, Texas.