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Featured How should religions honour the freedom of conscience of their members?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by 9-10ths_Penguin, Mar 19, 2021.

  1. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    In most situations, we place great importance on freedom of conscience - and rightly so, IMO.

    We generally recognize that it would be an unjust burden to, for instance, force a pacifist to serve in the armed forces, or make an ethical vegetarian have to choose between starving and eating meat, or forcing a devout religious person to work on a holy day of worship.

    We even get into debates around things like whether bakers should be able to refuse to make cakes for same-sex weddings, or whether county clerks should have to issue wedding certificates to same-sex couples. Even in these cases, the question isn't whether the person's freedom of conscience isn't important; it's about other issues (e.g. whether their freedom of conscience can be honoured in other ways, or whether it's so important that it overrides the rights of others).

    Now... in a recent discussion (this one here), I saw a few people asking things like "why would a same-sex couple want anything to do with the Catholic Church?" To me the answer seemed obvious: when people have been raised from birth to believe that the fate of their soul depends on staying in the Catholic Church, some of them will stay even if it's uncomfortable or if they're disrespected.

    In a lot of ways, we tend to treat religions as optional, and religious membership as a free choice. While I think there's some merit to this idea in the abstract, I think it ignores the deep significance that many people find in their religions.

    When a church instills the idea that any member who leaves will face a fate worse than death, or when they say that the Eucharist is "spiritual food" that's as vital as physical food (and they're the only place where you can get the "real" Eucharist), or when leaving would mean being shunned by their support network, losing their job, etc., I think it's reasonable to say that when members stay, their decision to stay can't be automatically assumed to be a free choice... IOW, these people's continuing membership may be coerced, just as much as someone threatened with a gun or physical starvation is being coerced.

    So if members don't feel free to leave - or at least it would be an extreme violation of their conscience to leave - and the religion deliberately instilled this feeling in their members, does the religion have an obligation to accommodate the freedom of conscience of their members on issues where they might disagree with the religion's official position?

    TLDR: if a gay person doesn't feel free to leave the Catholic Church (for example) because the Church has inculcated them from birth with the idea that they must stay, has the Church also taken on an ethical duty to accept the person's sexual orientation and the things that go along with it (e.g. a same-sex partner)?
     
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  2. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    Another shorter version that gets at my point:

    If participation in an activity or group is mandatory or coerced, then there's a duty to accommodate the diversity of people that are forced to participate. This means, IMO:

    • If a vegetarian is conscripted into the armed forces, they should have vegetarian meals available.
    • If a student's religion has mandatory prayer times, their schedule should allow them to pray at the appointed times.
    • If a person is threatened with Hell for leaving their church, then the person's partner - regardless of sex or gender - should be welcome just like any other member's partner is.
     
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  3. Koldo

    Koldo Incredible Member

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    How would that be possible if having a same-sex partner also entails a threat of hell though?
     
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  4. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    There's a huge problem that I keep thinking people are overlooking in this.

    For example, the Church defines marriage as between male and female
    Most people outside the Church (and like institutions) define marriage as a commitment between two people (religious or legal or otherwise).

    If a gay catholic wants to get married in the Church, it's not the marriage itself that's the problem-both parties believe in marriage-its the "definitions" that divide the two. The Church doesn't have an obligation to accommodate to that gay catholics needs because how they define marriage is contrary to how their member defines it. In other words, the issue isn't about marriage, it's about definitions. If you're under a person's contract, you follow their criteria. So, the church doesn't have an obligation to change its contract but it does have an obligation not to devalue or discredit a person's commitment as "just a legal union."

    In catholicism (and like institutions like hardcore baptist and JW and so forth) they have their own criteria and they feel since it's tradition-and from god-to change their tradition to accommodate to 1% of the population would be cutting it. Unfortunately, unless the gay person gives up his or her conscious for her faith or the church changes their rules, there would be some divide. But to change their traditions over it would be unrealistic.

    -
    The closest I've seen in "accommodation" in the catholic church was the pope acknowledging commitment between two people but stops short in calling it a marriage.

    Likewise with the armed forces. Though I don't know if they give enlistees a choice in what to eat, in general, if the person enlists they follow the government's criteria to stay in the armed forces.


    Unfortunately, though, many people are forced by conscious to stay in the catholic church for whatever reason. A lot of times it's not something they can change, or like your OP, something you can just skip out on as if it's a social club. On one hand, no. I don't feel it's the obligation of the Church to accommodate to people. On the other hand, I dislike how they go about it-one can say "we can't marry same-sex couples" without devaluing or degrading marriage outside the church's walls.
     
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  5. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Veteran Member
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    Imagine saying "the Church cannot marry interracial couples" because one of the main figures of the religion or its scripture supposedly stated that interracial marriage was a sin. "We don't hate people of other ethnicities, but we cannot bless sinful acts."

    As far as I can see, the fact that many Catholics believe the inherently hateful and harmful teaching is from a god has no bearing on its moral or practical worth; it just means that belief is one more hurdle to progress and humane values.
     
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  6. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    That's the Church's problem to figure out.

    I'm saying that once you've coerced people into staying, you have an ethical obligation not to threaten them.
     
  7. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    No, I'm saying they do have that obligation. Ethically, at least.
     
  8. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Oldest Heretic

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    The Anglican Church is so broad that it accommodates just about any one, or any divergence.
    it covers every one from the extreme Anglo Catholics to equally extreme puritanical Evangelicals.
    While it still does not "Marry" Gay couples it will bless them. and some priests will "Marry" Gays. even though the church rules against it.
    I know a Gay priest who is now married to his partner, and is the Rector of his church. though he did move to a more accommodating London Parish.
    While it knows of my unitarian leanings, they seem to fall well with in the normal gamut of the congregations individual beliefs.

    Though most Anglican Priests consider Unitarian beliefs "Dangerous", in much the same way they consider "Mormonism" and other denominations Dangerous or non Christian.

    What is unusual about the Anglican church is that it is totally democratic, with everything decided in the various Synods, not only by the bishops or leader. Though a majority of the House of Bishops has to be convinced as well, in any decision.
     
  9. Koldo

    Koldo Incredible Member

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    It is not one or the other: Both having an homossexual relationship and leaving the church involve a threat of hell.

    I find it unreasonable to require an accomodation where none is logically possible.
     
  10. Nakosis

    Nakosis Time Efficient Lollygagger
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    In a perfect world maybe.

    The Catholic Church and its priests cannot bless same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin," the Vatican said Monday.
    Vatican, Pope Francis say Catholic Church can't bless same-sex unions

    I'm just not a person that expects the world to accommodate my conscience.
     
  11. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Leaderless Animal

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    I fear being between a rock and a hard place. The fundamentals of an organisation cannot be changed too much lest what makes the organisation that organisation becomes no longer that entity. The armed forces can't accommodate a pacifist.
     
  12. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    Ethically, to an extent. If it wasn't religious in nature-like the cake issue-yes. However, marriage and other religious sacraments, I wouldn't see why it would make sense to change their traditions to accommodate to some of their members. I honestly wouldn't know how they would accommodate if 98% (making up a number) were gay and the others were straight.

    I mean, I know many people don't value religious teachings but how do you reconcile things like "god said this..." with "the church 'should' do that"?

    If I got that correctly.
     
  13. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    (Piggy backing) True. Do you think they can still keep their teachings without threatening them? (I understand why the church says what it does but I disagree with the execution)
     
  14. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    But most churches, certainly including the Catholic church, do not tell you you must stay or be damned. They are not coercive cults like the Scientologists, generally speaking. So this situation does not really arise, or not often.

    Furthermore, it is very common for members of a church to have misgivings about some of the teaching, but still attend in spite of it. It can be a bit like being part of a family that annoys you from time to time and that you argue with, but you still love.
     
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  15. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    If the church had the same beliefs but they didn't coerce or threaten people to believe it (not generalizing), I'd say that they have the right to make their own criteria of practice and worship. I honestly don't know how to reconcile the two tradition vs morals (since morals are not universal).

    The thing is, marrying two people of the same sex isn't a sin (it doesn't bring one away from god). Depending on the nature of the sexual act, it's not a sin for two people of the same sex to be intimate (when it doesn't bring them away from god).
    The bible doesn't mention marriage between two people of the same-sex nor does it give any examples of same-sex people intimate because of their communion with each other and god.

    So, it's mostly about the people and tradition not scripture.

    So, I honestly don't know how a gay catholic can reconcile the two-they love their partner and their god but their church doesn't bless them even though they believe god has.

    In other words, the church says who god blesses and who it doesnt.
     
  16. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein I'm not deaf, I'm just a real bad listener
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    Another thread targeting the Catholic Church? :rolleyes: Like I said in the other thread, if they don't like it, they can leave. I left the Church because I no longer agreed with its teachings or believed in it. A gay guy who joined at the same time as me and brought a bunch of his family and friends into it left and became a Satanist, along with his family (go figure). You have to give people the benefit of the doubt that they're mature enough to make their own decisions. The Catholic Church can teach whatever it pleases. It's not going to change its teachings over homosexuality so people might as well accept that reality.
     
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  17. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Veteran Member
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    We just had a movie about that. Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of a pacifist army corporal medic (Desmond Diss) who refused to take up arms during ww2. He would preform his duty as a medic but refused to use his firearm.
    Ended up getting a medal of honor.
     
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  18. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    The RCC does not oblige people to stay.
    People can leave...and should leave if they do not feel comfortable in a Catholic community.

    I was raised Catholic. Catholic parishes are small communities where there is lots of self-criticism...so most people do not feel that comfortable....most of the times.
     
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  19. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    It's individual. I had a priest yell at me once. That's not in catholic doctrine. Christianity has a terrible history. Though, none would be considered christian theology to christians. Parents do coerce their children to believe. Smaller churches can be more influential than larger more liberal ones. I mean. When I went to confession in a more "traditional" church (I guess), the priest fussed at me and said "the devil made you do it!" Now. I'm glad I wasn't raised in that environment, but can you imagine children growing up with that type of mentality?

    It's not like some baptist churches where, in my experience, they will literally tell gay people they will go to hell and people screaming they are glad they aren't catholic. I mean, in Mass years ago, I had a lot of respect for the priest who did not focus on same-sex unions, legal unions, nor said any word. He just talked about marriage according to the church. Of course the underlying message was marriage was between male and female, but he never singled it out as "we're right and 'they' are wrong."

    It really does depend. But the Church is not the victim in all of this. They have beautiful teachings but not all people around the world experience them as I and many others have.
     
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  20. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Veteran Member
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    They can accept the reality that the church is against gay marriage now but will revise in the future, and work to talk about their beliefs within the Catholic Church if it's important for them.
    It's not like the Catholic Church has never changed its teachings on things people swore up and down would never change.

    "I am a Catholic but I have a couple notable exceptions to mainstream Church doctrine as follows" seems perfectly reasonable and healthy.
     
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