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Toleration and the Public Sphere

Samuel Goldwyn goes too far:

Germany Outlaws Judaism: Well, not quite. But a ruling from a court in Cologne… circumcision is serious physical damage that can be justified only by the informed consent of an adult…. The convenant of Abraham is now against the law in Cologne.

[T]he ruling is the logical consequence of a concept of religion implied by Protestantism and articulated philosophically by Benedict Spinoza and John Locke…. [R]eligion is rooted in private belief. Associations and rituals are legitimate only to the extent that they are submitted to voluntarily by consenting adults, who can withdraw their consent at any time. And religious obligations can never trump the civil law.

There are good reasons that this position was appealing in the 17th and 18th centuries. Trouble is, we’ve forgotten not only that it doesn’t fit many older traditions, including Judaism and Roman Catholicism, but that it was specifically designed to exclude them. The understanding of religion’s legitimate sphere that informed the Cologne court’s ruling, in other words, is not theologico-politically neutral. It was, and remains, a polemical concept that elevates state over church, individual over community, consent over continuity in ways that traditional Catholics and Jews find hard to accept….

[M]odern liberalism... requires that every religion transform itself into a variant of Protestantism--or find itself on the wrong side of the law.

I must say that I find Samuel Goldwyn's idea--that a theologico-politically neutral politics of religion would accept as legitimate associations and rituals that are involuntarily imposed on unconsenting adults, who cannot escape no matter what they wish--distasteful.

Your children are not your chattels.

They make their own choices about who to be and what to do.

And if you try to act as though your children are your chattels, then you are the kind of parent who when your children ask for bread give them stones, when your children ask for fish hand them serpents...

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