Freedom of Belief
Quite simply, you can believe anything you want anytime at all and it is impossible for anyone to stop you. Even bound and chained in the deepest prison under the most oppressive of circumstances, nothing can stop me from believing anything I want if I have the will to. To prevent someone from believing that which they want requires nothing short of mind control. So each and every person on the globe has the right to have bigoted beliefs, communist beliefs or even out-right criminal beliefs on the most heinous of crimes. This does not make those beliefs an objective ‘good’ belief (if those types of beliefs even exist at all) but a man is free to have them.
It is perhaps feasible that society and/or the government could prevent you from believing something by ensuring you never live the experiences required to cultivate that belief. For example, if you ensured that someone was raised to have access to social welfare all their life or super rich parents that gave them everything they wanted when they wanted it, would they end up believing in ‘a hard day’s work’? Perhaps not.
It is a contentious subject to discuss the extent to which we should participate in cultivating some beliefs and not others within the population. Aristotle advocated for deliberate intervention by the state to cultivate a specific set of ‘virtues’ within all men. Indeed most modern thinkers believe that the very notion of ‘freedom’ should be cultivated within society, even at schools. This raises the question “do we have the freedom to challenge that freedom is a virtue and to be oppressed is preferable?” Surely to choose to believe that we would be better off as oppressed people we would need the initial freedom to choose our enslavement freely.
Indeed, can freedom be taught at all and is there anyone alive that does not know what freedom is and requires teaching in the first place. It is possible that we are living through a time when formerly non-liberated people are now learning true freedom and we can observe the successes and failures of this project every day. Topically, do those people who are finding their freedom for the first time now the boundaries of freedom?
The obvious antidote to any type of coordinated attempt by society or the state to control your experiences so as to cultivate some beliefs and neglect others is for each man to have a wide range of experiences and be honest with himself as to his feelings on each experience he has. But what do we do when the experiences we wish to have are made illegal by the state or unfashionable by society? A man must have his own definition of morality and use it as a code to live by. If he breaks the laws and thus becomes an outlaw by believing in his own code of ethics then he has chosen his own path and is a freeman for doing so. Not all men are moral men and defining what moral men are is difficult and not the subject of this writing. Just remember, it’s not that within a free society you have the right to believe what you want, it is that nothing can stop you. You don’t need to fight to defend your right to freedom of belief, you just need to believe what you want. Understand this and you will begin to know yourself better as you explore your true limits.
End Part II