Five Freedoms: Freedom to Believe
** This episode was originally published on April 8, 2019.
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?
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?
**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.