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Os Guinness on Religious Liberty

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends On It (HarperCollins: 2008), pp. 44, 45.

The right of religious liberty is a fundamental consequence of human nature itself and of our capacity as thinking, choosing, conscience-directed beings. … [T]his foundation in human dignity is what makes religious liberty a natural, basic, and indispensable right, independent of the decisions of any group or government. As a human right rather than a favor, religious liberty is a right to be guaranteed by the government, but it is not the government’s right to grant. ΒΆ Religious liberty is for all human beings, not simply liberty for the religious. It is rooted in the characteristic, natural, and inescapable human drive toward meaning and belonging. As fundamental as life itself, this “will to meaning” finds expression in ultimate beliefs, whether theistic or nontheistic, transcendent or naturalistic. Religious liberty is for atheists and secularists, too, and for all human being who assume and value meaning in their lives. … [T]here are two reason why religious liberty should rightly be seen as the first liberty. On the one hand, it comes first logically, in that it protects the inner freedom of thought, deliberation, judgment, and choice that is the source and subject of the later rights of free speech and free assembly. Though not infallible, conscience is inalienable. Thus, what we are each bound by according to the dictates of our reason and our conscience is the very deepest thing we also desire to speak of with freedom. And we further desire to gather together with other who prize those same things.