March 11, 2018

OR, AS THE GREAT ANGLO-AMERICAN PHILOSOPHER PUT IT...:

Edmund Burke's Counsel on Religious Liberty and Freedom (William F. Byrne, July 2012. Crisis Magazine)

One thing which made religion a key to virtue was the humility which Christianity promoted. Most of our political and social problems, Burke believed, stemmed ultimately from vanity, the chief of the vices. We must recognize that we are a part of an order greater than ourselves if our lives are to have meaning and virtue and if our society is to be a humane and stable one. One of the things which most appalled Burke about the French Revolution was its attack on the church. He recognized that this would doom the project, since "all other nations have begun the fabric of a new government, or the reformation of an old, by establishing originally or by enforcing with greater exactness some rites or other of religion."

Despite Burke's defense of church establishment, he was also a supporter of religious liberty. And, he bitterly attacked the anti-Catholicism laws imposed on Ireland. Such laws were eroding Irish society, destroying social and cultural bonds and transforming the population into an atomized mob ripe for rebellion. Government attacks on new and minority churches were bad enough, but attacking the major, ancestral church of a society was deadly. He warned against the promotion of a generic "Protestantism" understood as anti-Catholicism, pointing out that an atheist, with his rejection of all Catholic doctrine rather than just portions of it, is "the most perfect Protestant." In attacking Catholicism, government was attacking religion, piety, and, ultimately, society itself.

Notably, Burke displayed great respect for, and interest in, major non-Christian religions such as Hinduism and Islam. Indeed, in opposing the openly tyrannical governance of India by the fortune-seeking men of the East India Company, he noted that, in contrast, rule in traditional Islamic states (such as those they were supplanting) was--at least in theory--never arbitrary. This was because the prince's actions were constrained by Islamic law, and clerics had the moral authority to help check his excesses. 

... "In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is." 

Posted by at March 11, 2018 5:13 AM

  

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