Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
“Freedom of religion means all religions, not just your own”: This feel-good moralistic finger pointing smugness has been circulating the Internet and usually gets liked and shared without much critical thought. The intention is meant to obfuscate and provoke in an “inoffensive” way. The superficiality of the statement is reflected in the comments which are usually mutual back-slapping and very rarely challenging, as if the statement were an established truth.
An analysis empties this fortune cookie wisdom of much of its content: What is religion as opposed to philosophy and ideology? Religion seeks spiritual truth based on faith, philosophy seeks an observable scientific truth and ideology aims to establish and apply such truths as infallible law. However, there is overlapping at times between the three: Ideology, which generally stifles or misuses thought and spirituality, warps religion and philosophy. Although freedom of religion is usually guaranteed in some shape or form in democratic constitutions, one can’t automatically surmise all religions are created equal, or even beneficial to humankind.
In the box of religion sweets there are Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Buddhist and other symbols, as well as a generic Pagan symbol. Perhaps a missing chocolate could have represented atheism or agnosticism. But, certain intent is observable: it’s dishonest moralizing, and is therefore more ideological than philosophical. It would be enlightening to search out which countries or areas of the world, where a print publication of this poster depicting religious symbols as “equal” would lead to a criminal investigation or governmental persecution. The compatibility of different religions with each other and the level of tolerance between their followers vary greatly. The moral equivalency trick which aims to provoke a reaction and also divert from open and intelligent discussion is merely a cheap shot.
The second part of the sentence seems to want to counter the arrogance of those who broadcast their religion as an infallible ultimate truth. Proselytizing religions, e.g. followers of most branches of Christianity and Islam tend to be pushy and were violent at times when their respective belief systems were ideologized. Today humankind must deal with an acute situation involving Islamic based terrorism. So, it’s evident that unconditional freedom for all religions – in light of compatibility with democratic government – is not desirable.
Nations which prescribe punishment – often death – for apostasy in their legal systems are without exception Islamic. Only Islamic nations have a religious reference in their official country names expressing an unwillingness to uphold a separation of state and religion. Interestingly, Israel, founded as a Jewish State offers an unusual large measure of universal religious freedom, as an island in a sea surrounded by the world’s most intolerant nations and religion. Reality confounds equivalency of religions.