Question about Religious Freedom

On Mon, 16 Oct 2000 XXXXXXXX writes:

> Your message of religious freedom for all seems very
> inspiring.  I'm just curious, though:  Does your vision of religious
> freedom also extend to those who are not Christians, Jews or Muslims
> -- those who do not worship your God or believe in the authority of
> the Bible?

Response by the Rev. Ken Allen, D.D.

Thank you for your comment and question.

Yes, my vision of religious freedom extends to those who are not Christians, including Jews, Muslims, and those who do not worship my God or believe in the authority of the Bible.

I believe that all people have the right to believe, worship, etc. as they wish as long as they do not interfere with the same rights for others, and the rights of others to believe or disbelieve what they teach or do. I believe that there is a commonly understood code of morals, or ethical conduct, that should be observed when in the presence of others that may differ.

The two tenets of the Univesal Life Church, of which I am a minister, state it very simply. Those two tenets are the belief in

1. Religious freedom
2. Doing that which is right
The first tenet is fairly well explained in the "United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights" which says:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

and in the first ammendment of the "Constitution of the United States of America" which says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

You can substitute an individual or any other group in the place of the word "Congress" used here and I think the idea, in all aspects of what is meant, centers around the word "peaceably." It is not "peacable" to use profanity or do things that show disrespect for others and their right to not be exposed to those things if they do not wish to be exposed to them.

Some good rules that should be observed in "doing that which is right," are:

1. Maintain high ethical and moral values in all our dealings, personally and professionally;

2. Respect each person's difference in doctrine, style and personality as they follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, or doctrines of their religious belief;

3. Only speak in edifying ways in regards to other ministers, ministries, the Body of Christ at large, and other religions;

4. Treat all with whom we come into contact as we would like to be treated.

Respecting the rights and believing in religious freedom for all people certainly does not mean that I believe "all religions are good, and that they all will lead to heaven, or to God." At the same time it does not mean that I believe that only Christians, that is those who in their present, human lifetime believe in Christ, will be saved and all others will be damned. As a Christian Universalist, I believe that eventually, in this age, or in those that are to come, eveyone will "be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth," that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, "Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." That "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should [not "ought." "Should" here is the past tense of shall] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess [willingly, gladly, in truth proclaim] that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." For "no one can say "Jesus is Lord"  except by the Holy Spirit."

As Harry Emerson Fosdick stated it in his book, "Dear Mr. Brown, Letters to a Person Perplexed About Religion:"

" . . . . this attitude -- Christians saved, all others damned -- runs into head-on collision with the whole concept of God in the New Testament as the merciful Father of all mankind . . . . . That seems to me stark blasphemy against the character of God. . . . . . . "

Fosdick goes on to write:

"Having written this, however, I wonder whether we can now agree on a second matter -- namely, that what we have said does not mean that one religion is just as good and true as another. No one could think that unless he first believed that the whole realm of spiritual truths and values is illusory, so that it makes no difference one way or another what anyone thinks about it. Here, let us say, is a primitive tribe where illness is attributted to demonic possession or witchcraft, and where cure is sought by magic spells. Is that just as good as modern scientific medicine? Or here is a primitive agriculture, faithfully carried on in utter disregard of soil conservation, rotation of crops, and all modern techniques. Of course, that is not just as good as scientific agriculture. That is to say, wherever we think we are dealing with realities, we do have to distinguish between better and worse ways of conceiving them and dealing with them. So, because God and man's spiritual life are so real to me, I cannot suppose that utterly different ways of conceiving them are equally true. This need not involve any arrogant supposition that I know the whole truth, nor any unfriendly condescension, but it does mean the necessity of discrimination between better and worse in religion."