Five Freedoms: Freedom to Believe

Faith and spiritual traditions have always shaped our ideas of right and wrong, both in the private and the public sphere. How do the values that come from faith shape secular society — and should they? And are social values necessarily secular? Journalist Haroon Siddiqui, Sto:Lo First Nation writer Lee Maracle, and writer Michael Coren debate the issues.
Almost all religions have a form of collective prayer to communicate with the Divine; personal belief expressed in a social context. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode53:59

In his 1941 State of the Union address, American president Franklin Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that he believed all people were entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from fear and freedom from want.

All this week, we explore ideas about the meaning of freedom in a series of discussions recorded at the Stratford Festival. However, we've got a total of five freedoms in our list, and a stellar lineup of thoughtful people to dig into a central question for our times: what is freedom?

Freedom to believe

"Freedom" is a large and complicated idea. You can be free to do something, or to be free from something: it's straightforward to think about the freedom to be allowed to do something, but what about the apparently negative freedom to be free from something?

Freedom to believe, freedom from hunger. And what does "freedom" mean, anyway? Clearly, different things to different people: if you're American, freedom of speech seems really important. But if you lived in Sudan, maybe freedom from hunger would be more important.

Private expressions of faith, how you choose to worship, who and what you regard as sacred: such things aren't particularly controversial when they take place behind closed doors. But things get sticky when your ideas about faith, and especially the values and practices your faith manifests, go out into the public realm.

To what extent should the secular values of society be shaped by faith-based values?

Michael Coren is a writer and broadcaster. 1:04

Religious faith and spiritual traditions have an outsized influence over our ideas of right and wrong, both in the private and the public sphere: if my spirituality offers guidance as to how I personally should behave towards others, then it makes sense that we should all be more or less on the same page.

It sounds nice in theory, but of course there are many faiths, with their different values and revealed truths. What happens when your freedom of belief bumps into mine — now what?

In this episode, journalist Haroon Siddiqui, Sto:Lo First Nation writer Lee Maracle, and writer Michael Coren debate the issues.

**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.