Monday, July 04, 2005

Jefferson Day Rant: Enthusiasm

Following some blog-duels with various seminarians and preachers-in-training, I have noted that there is an issue which many religious people overlook, which the English writers formerly referred to as Enthusiasm. If religious faith is purely a matter of personal conscience and subjective belief, what is to prevent a Manson or Koresh (someone like Locke would have termed them Enthusiasts of the most virulent type) from thinking that his own "visions"--which may or may not be madness--are not the Word of Gott on high? Madison optimistically asserted that "the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man," yet if one person's religion--say Koresh's-- involves inflicting his own views and irrationalism on other non-believers or gentiles or "liberals", and endangering their health if not actually killing them in accord with some subjective madness, then perhaps his religious rights should be limited (and most would agree it would have been good had Koresh's religious rights been curtailed and his church been closed early on).

When some biblethumping conservative begins discussing the Book of Revelation and assuming that it is his duty to help bring it about (since his "God" told him to) anyone who values the secular principles of the Constitution has reason to be concerned, just as we might be concerned if muslims were to become more powerful in US politics and began to try to institute some Koranic laws as public policy, or if new-age types were to try to attempt to institute some pagan holidays. There are many sound secular reasons--reasons based on logical and scientific principles, not dogma--to limit or at least question religious freedoms and institutions, as Madison's more skeptical colleague Jefferson well realized.

No comments:

Custom Search

Blog Archive