Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction

By John Witte Jr.; M. Christian Green | Go to book overview

9
The Phases and Functions of
Freedom of Conscience

STEVEN D. SMITH

Conscience, or an inner capacity for judging some actions to be right and others wrong, seems to be virtually coextensive with—and essential to—humanity. Mark Twain observed that “[m]an is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” And blushing and even more so the need to blush are often enough the painful products of conscience. To put the point more positively, the attribute of conscience is understood by many to be central to what gives human beings a special “dignity.”1

If conscience is found wherever human beings are, the moral duty to follow conscience is widely accepted as well. Indeed, the duty may be a sort of practical tautology, reducing down (given human fallibility) to something like the proposition that “a person should do what he believes to be right”—which in turn seems pretty much equivalent to saying that “a person should do what he believes he should do.”

But the subject of this chapter is not simply conscience, but rather freedom of conscience. And from the observation that people have consciences and the (perhaps tautological) proposition that people should follow their consciences, nothing automatically follows with respect to freedom of conscience. Take it as established: You should do as your conscience admonishes. In itself, this proposition in no way entails that anyone else—the government, for example, or the church—owes any special deference to your (perhaps misguided) exercise of conscience. Thus, medieval authorities such as Thomas Aquinas and the canon law were not balking at logic when they taught that a person should follow conscience, even if its dictates contradicted church teachings, but did not go on to endorse anything like freedom of conscience.2

That idea appears to be a more modern phenomenon. This chapter will discuss that phenomenon in three sections, which correspond to three phases in the career of freedom of conscience. Section I will discuss the connection between freedom of conscience and religious toleration. Section II will consider what is often called the problem of free exercise exemptions. Section III will address the travails of freedom of conscience, and the partial but problematic convergence of conscience and autonomy, in an age of secular equality.

-155-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 392

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.