The Right to Convert and the Free Market of Faith
By John Taylor; 2010 Oct 15, Mashiyyat 19, 167 BE
Nowhere is good governance more lacking than in religion. There is frightening diversity of opinion and beliefs. Faith groups have been isolated from one another for centuries, resulting in vast differences of expression. At the same time, the world desperately needs universal, eternal values that all can agree upon as working principles. Daunting as it may be, every thinking person has a duty to try to narrow the gap between religions. Otherwise, in everything that concerns the eternal aspects of existence, including the long term interests of humankind, we will be trying to count without numbers, as Comenius' put it.
Without detailing theology or philosophy, there is one sense in which everyone, no matter what belief they profess, is a person of faith. This, in one sentence, is a stepping-stone upon which all can tread:
Everybody who dares get out of bed in the morning to face the unknown dangers of the day is a believer and demonstrates a modicum of faith, hope and charity.
That is it. For this reason alone, each of us can consider ourselves a believer. As believers, we should consider it a sacred duty to participate directly in some way in some faith group, and, on a broader level, to participate in at least one consistory, or parliament of religions. If consistories are designed as both neutral and ubiquitous they will become an integral modality of institutions at all levels, without permitting meddling and interference by narrow minded leaders. As the consistory influences every center of power, from the family to the world government, it will change the ethical and spiritual landscape. It will narrow the gaps among beliefs and first principles.
Everybody has a basic right to believe. But we also need to exercise that right. We have a right to change our mind about what we believe, should conscience dictate. As believers we should uphold the right to convert -- a right that is implicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but which has yet to be implemented by the U.N. or any other international body. Once the law is affirmed everywhere individual adherents will no longer be subject to bullying or other arbitrary measures by leaders of their own religion. Just as companies are forced to compete with one another for customers in a free market, the right to convert establishes an open "marketplace" of beliefs and opinions. Religious leaders have no choice but to treat their adherents fairly, if only for fear of losing them to a more enlightened alternative faith.
As believers, we uphold our rights by voting in the members of the Consistory of Holiness. Beyond this, we also should support the consistory directly through voluntary donations, and also by regular payments, alms or tithing, above and beyond whatever charitable donations we contribute to our own religion. By thus upholding an umbrella institution, no matter what religion or lack of religion we profess, each one of us gains a say in the totality of religious expression in our locale.
Unalienable constitutional provisions would make the consistory wholly dependent for votes and funding upon the population it serves. This is a fundamental requirement of good government. By depending only upon the believers under its jurisdiction it is not beholden to any group, religious or otherwise -- including the other two wings of government, the political and scientific. It has the power to outlaw unfair or corrupt practices by faith groups under its jurisdiction. While upholding the freedom to believe, the consistory can lay down sanctions for harmful practices or wrong-headed dogmas that infringe upon the rights of others. It can prevent religious leaders from propounding hate speech, and even "holier than thou" attitudes. It upholds such standards, like any other government, through laws, required training and licensing. For example, it can use a faith group's tax exempt status as a condition of compliance.
Aside from law enforcement, the consistory can promote and amplify many of the positive benefits of religion. By encouraging universal involvement in interfaith activities it make service to others and all the health benefits that this gives, a normal part of life. A local consistory can sponsor service projects that encourage cooperation among faith groups -- in the same way that a local college of light will strive to involve workers and professional associations, and the dicastery will make citizens and political groups actively involved in broadening the bases of peace.