Religious Freedom: Why now? Discussion with Robert P George

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Event Name: Religious Freedom: Why now? Discussion with Robert P George
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/28/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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ere can be no coercion in the religion,

that reason

is clear, from unreasonal error.

The reason it's clear, this is clear,

so you can't force people, let them think about this.

Even in the chapter where they say, about killing people

in (foreign language), which is the ninth chapter.

And this is always quoted by people,

saying that Islam is violent.

It says, to kill the polytheists wherever they are.

And that verse, which is in that chapter,

that verse was a time specific verse,

because the polytheists had broken the treaty

with the Muslims.

They had a treaty, and they had broken it,

by killing Muslims.

And then they,

they went to Mecca, which was a sanctuary at that time, and

they had captives, and it was permission

to fight in the sanctuary.

That was not a universal

theme to, I mean, isn't what you were taught.

You know, this is what we were taught.

And then, it says immediately after that,

but if one of the wants to hear the word of God,

let him hear the word of God.

And then it says, and if he decides not to believe,

then take him to a safe place, and leave him alone.


This is this de-contextualization,

and the idiotic people, quoting...

I mean, I had one of my teachers, somebody got up

in a lecture, and quoted this verse in the Quran,

that says, whoever doesn't judge by God,

he is a disbeliever.

And he said to him, "Which chapter is that in?".

He said, "I don't know".

And he said, "What was the verse before it,

"so I can know the context".

He said, "I don't know".

He said, "What was the verse after it?".

He said, "I don't know". He said, "What do you do?".

He said, "I'm a mechanic".

He said, "Fix cars".

I mean, we...

Like I said, these books are dangerous books,

and you have to have a scholastic tradition,

that is able to navigate these meanings.

The Prophet said, I said never, nobody,

during his lifetime, was killed for apostacy, nobody.

And there are apostacy laws, just like in Catholicism,

you can find in church canon law,

you can find apostacy laws.

There are apostacy laws, there's one Hadith

that they base these on.

But there are other Hadiths,

and they weren't in agreement upon this.

One of the greatest scholars of Islam, Oppa,

did not believe that there should be any

capital offense, and apostacy.

Now, the idea, and you know, in our Supreme Court,

in 1955, there was an argument, and you know

much better than I do, I think it was about polygamy.

Which, that-- - The polygamy case

was back in the 19th Century, the Mormon Polygamy case,

called Reynolds--

- Which was the one, where it was sent the freedom to,

that religious freedom, is the freedom to believe,

but not necessary, the freedom to act.

(mumbled words from audience)

- What was that?

- [Male in Audience] Well, the Jehovah Witnesses case,

from 1940, says that.

- It might have been-- - Gobitis and (mumbled word)?

- Yeah. - Yeah.

- Okay.

That, obviously, there's a lot of room for interpretation,

on what that means, right?

- Sure, sure.

- But, traditionally, many people did not believe in Islam,

and I guarantee you, there are many people

in the Muslim world, that do not believe in Islam.

But they don't go out, into the society,

and declare these things, not necessarily because

they can't do it, but because they understand,

that this will really affect the social fabric.

That, you know, first of all, people end up losing

the whole marriage, all these things,

because in Islamic law, if you're,

a Muslim woman cannot marry a un-Muslim man, by law.

And a Muslim man, although he can marry a Jew,

or a Christian woman, is not encouraged to do so.

But he has that dispensation.

The other thing that's very problematic,

in Islamic tradition, and I have to say this,

you know, full disclosure.

The Islamic tradition is not amenable, to the same degree

that other traditions are, to reformation.

The reason for that, is the Islamic tradition

actually sees itself as a reformation, of the Jewish

and Christian sectarianism.

Throughout the Quran, there are verses that say,

do not turn into sects, like the Jews

and the Christians did before you, right?

And you know, I mean, the Middle East was filled

with Jacobites, and historians,

and Syrian Orthodox, and Catholics, and Coptic.

I mean, all these sects, right, were there.

And there are many verses saying, don't change your religion

after it's been given to you.

Muslim, it's much more difficult for us, to deal with it,

and that's why we have to find the sources

from our tradition, and they're there.

That's that beauty of the tradition.

Those sources are there,

those dissenting opinions are there.

And those dissenting opinions need to be

brought to the forefront, because right now

they're in the background.

And that's something, you know...

We're sitting under these Babylonian bricks,

worrying about them falling on our heads.

But we tend to just forget about things in the background,

when we're so focused on the foreground.

But very often, in religious thinking, and tradition,

we have to look at the richness of the tradition,

and bring things that in the past

have been in the background,

and bring them into the foreground.

And this give is a much stronger

basis, for convincing Muslims around the world.

And this is what I try to do.

You know, find those sort of...

I have Muslims all the time say, "I can't believe that".

Isaiah's right there.

You know, here's the Hadith, you know, look,

the Prophet said that.

And the Prophet said once, he said, none of you...

And this is a sound Hadith, (foreign language)

this is very important amongst Muslims,

wheter the Hadith is sound or weak.

This is a sound Hadith, so it has authority.

But, you know, it says, that none of you truly believes,

until you have mutual mercy.

And one of the companions said, all of us are merciful.

He said, no, it's not the mercy a man shows to his friend,

it's (foreign language) universal mercy,

mercy for all of creation.

And it's not just, it includes animals.

The Prophet was, he was very concerned

about harming animals.

I mean, how can you have a religious tradition

that can blow up people, on buses, and little children,

and things like that, and you're not allowed to kill frogs?

I mean, it's just so weird, you know, this modern madness.

- We have time for one more question,

and it's Professor Arkes.

- [Hadley] I get it?

Is this on?

- Yes. - Yup.

- [Hadley] Yup, well, in that case, we'd say

we could the raise the money,

but it would be wrong, for sure.


Now I wish I could take

Hamza back to Amherst with me,

but I've given up Amherst for Lent.



Tom reminded me, Tom made a remark today about,

that the understanding of religion is distinctly human.

Reminded me of (mumbled word) line, that

animals have no religious sense.

When was the last time you heard a cow

give up grass on Fridays, you know.

I want to go take us back, to something that could be,

must be embedded in what we're arguing today.

I was taken by that passage in the new book,

about religion being our, working out a relation to the

harmony of the universe.

And I thought, what beast would make a contrast

with Madison's understanding, reflected in Stephen Field,

what do we mean by religion?

Our relations to the creator of the Universe,

and the duties that we owe him.

Now, of course,

some of the things that advertise themselves as religion,

seek to get a liberation from duties.

Duties is a distinctly moral term.

You know, years ago with Father Newhouse, we used to,

Robby was there, we used to have

seminars with people, litigating on these questions,

Mike McConnell, Doug Lakehawk, and they were offended

when we raised the question, "Well what is,

"how do you understand a legitimate religion?".

You have these prostitutes in San Francisco,

forming COYOTE, Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.

If they claim to be a religious sect, do you have any

grounds for resisting them.

Robby referred to

The Strata, Astra Tata, and the concern by seeking the truth

accepting the truth in relig...

Oh, of course, you imply now, that we have access

to standards of reason, by which we could gauge

the difference between claims that are true, or false,

plausible, or implausible.

There's a concern for an upright life,

I presume we reject satanism.

The point I'm trying to make, is that we are,

we are folding into our understanding of religion,

standards of reason.

And Robby was citing

Abraham negotiating with God, over Sodom and Gomorrah,

"Shall the God of the Universe not himself be just?".

Remember we had this conversation with David Novak,

he said, "It's all revelation!".

Oh, what was Abraham saying to God?

"You don't understand your own revelation?".

He said, "We've gotta be reasonable", David said.

Ah, yes, we have to be reasonable.

Right, we're appealing to standards of reason.

We've seen sects in Upstate New York,

the Universal Congregation of seeking to simply affirming,

as a doctrine of belief,

their exemption from the taxes that are imposed

on real estate, so they can be on the same plane

with other religious,

claimed by other religious institutions, in the area.

We might see the aftermath of the Hosanna-Tabor case,

a new sect claiming that they too,

the main doctrine, is that they wish to be exempted

from the regulations that apply from the EEOC,

to matters of hiring, hiring and firing.


And they want to call everybody a Minister,

who works for them.

And at some point, we need something to say to them.

So what I want to suggest to you, is this,

does this not all get back to us,

to the God of the logos,

the God of reason.

The God mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.

The author of the laws of nature,

and nature's reason about moral things.

So I put this to,

Shaykh Hamza,

what would you say, in response to this question,

when somebody says, don't we have

here a stance, an understanding that does not

make us vulnerable, to any group, animated by passion,

that comes forth, to declare itself to be a religion,

and gives us grounds of judgment.

What would your own advice on that be?

- You know, I mean, you know very well, that we're down the,

we're Alice, fallen into the hole, and it's,

we're in Wonderland.

I mean, everything's been...

I mean, I felt so sorry for Robby today.

He doesn't feel sorry for himself,

because he deals it all the time.

The woman who asked about the,

the marriage, and this idea of trying to reason

from natural law, not a religious argument,

but a natural law argument, that uses reason.

And a lot of these people, will simply say,

but I'm not rational.

That I don't believe in rationality.

These are Dionysian people, they're not Apollonian,

and they want the Dionysian world,

to be the dominant world.

This is our argument, you know, we need to, that...

I recently read a book, it's a beautiful book,

All Things Shining, I don't know if anybody read it in here.

One of the things that they're arguing,

is trying to find meaning in a secular age, right?

They talk about this kind of just,

like how Helen was honored by the Gods,

and that the Gods were the ones that seduced here away,

and that it wasn't like a betrayal of the marriage bed,

it was her recognizing the moment,

and Paris sweeping her off.

And there was this kind of celebration

of the Dionysian spirit, in this book,

that really intrigued me.

But I think we're dealing with this today,

in the United States,

that people don't understand where we're headed.

Toynbee studied 21 civilizations,

and showed very clearly, how they fell.

And they fell, the way we're falling right now.

You know, it's quite troubling.

I mean, this country has a lot of strength, and power,

and I think there are possibilities for renewal.

But we're entering into a post-Abrahamic

period, in the West, that's deeply troubling.

And I think the Founding Fathers, they certainly

got some things wrong, but they got a lot of things right.

And they understood,

things from the perspective that you're arguing from,

that is no longer the perspective.

I mean, we've got moral relativism

is the dominant force in our schools and universities today.

And even though, the sad thing about it is,

is that a lot of these professors are not absolute skeptics,

and they're not total moral relativists,

but they teach in a way that hints at that,

and these students, that's what these young,

impressionable minds go away with.

And so, you know, I told this class there, that

if anybody says to you, there are no absolutes,

you have to see the paradox of the statement.

That they are articulating an absolute,

and I think it's one of God's jokes on us,

that we can't deny absolutes, without

using an absolute.

I don't know, I really don't have an answer to that.

I wish I did, you know, but I'm,

I'm troubled about the way all these things are going.

And like you said, we've got new religions cropping up,

there's magazines that say how to start your own religion.

I mean, that was in a reader, had a cover story,

how to start your own religion.

And a lot of young people say, I'm spiritual,

but I'm not religious.

They don't want this idea, of any organized religion.

I always tell 'em to join the Islam religion,

we're the most unorganized religion out there.

- I'll confess, that when I heard a few years ago,

as we all did, Woody Allen's response, when he was exposed

as having taken up in a relationship with his wife,

or girlfriend's daughter, Soon Yi, as I recall her name.

I remember when he responded to that,

not with any defense, not with any apology,

not with any resolve to do better, but simply by saying,

"The heart wants, what the heart wants".

I'll confess, that my reaction to that, was to think,

we're doomed! - Yeah.

- In a cheerier moment,

I think that while everything you say is certainly true,

and this is how the great civilizations fell,

I think there's still hope.

- There is, I honestly-- - For this great experiment.

- We have children, I mean, we can't give up.

- We have to hope. - We have to hope.

- And our hope, it seems to me, and I'll conclude with this,

and it's why, Hamza, I have such esteem for you

and what you're doing. - Thank you.

- Our hope is in

people of good will,

believers in the great truths of the Declaration,

joining together, across the lines

of historic theological divisions.

- I agree.

- And standing as brothers.

- Yeah, we need an alliance of faith.

- Yeah, that's right.

Faith in God, and faith in reason.

- Yes.

- Because, you notice they're both,

- Because reason, no, absolutely.

- They're both being undercut. - They're both being undercut.

Completely, totally.

- Tom, thank you, so much.

Hamza, thank you. - Ladies and Gentlemen,

thank our guest.