Back to blog

Europe and America part ways when it comes to “religious freedom”

See blog

Readers' comments

The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.

guest-omnnmei

Let's see, we've got a president who thinks women who get abortions "should suffer some form of punishment", who thinks waterboarding isn't torture, and wants to jail his political opponent.
.
Somewhere Putin is smiling and thinking, "My 2016 cyber campaign was more successful than I dreamed it would be."

guest-theritz

Abortion is not solely a moral issue. Given that a fertilized egg is potentially a unique being, the anti-abortion side may have an initial moral edge. But it is certainly not a person then or for some time thereafter.
There is a wisecrack that right-wingers are fervently pro-life from conception to birth. They then seem to lose interest in the well-being of children, especially those of the poor.
.
I consider abortion from a practical point of view. First, it will happen, and better that it be legal and safe. Second, an unwanted child can be terrible, and a potential disaster for child, mother, and the community. Unless there is a pro-life family waiting with open arms, there is no sanity in requiring that birth.

Wamboin

One significant difference is that, in the U,S,, there are people who take the content of their religious faith seriously In Europe, many Christians indeed find it easier to collaborate with the secular; but a significant role is here played by the fact that their conceptions of morality are now typically secular ones.

As someone who is myself secular, I can welcome aspects of this. (Aspects only because they typically embrace what Americans call 'liberal', in its most modish of forms.) But what seems to me not to be welcomed is the kind of intellectual vapidity that it exhibits, in which people standing in the tradition of those who believed something specific - and quite often, enjoying positions and the use of buildings which derived from the contributions of people who believed those same things - seem to experience no shame in turning their backs on that content, without facing the full intellectual implications of what they are doing.

This, along with the embracing of a contentless 'spirituality', suggests to me that they should be best avoided.

Tijei

The thesis here seems to be that Europe supports religious freedom and that America no longer does. I do not believe that this simplistic essay has convinced anyone of that, or that it is at all worthwhile to approach support for religious freedom through a “Europe vs. America” lens.

B. Hotchkiss

It seems a little strange to put "faith-related oppression and violence, up to and including genocide" in the same category as declining "to perform certain services (like birth-control and abortion)" that are available elsewhere. And it is curious that an article expressing negative opinions about fundamentalist Christianity can object to an appointment in part on the grounds that the appointee has negative opinions about fundamentalist Islam.

cs r

Also, Europe and America part ways when it comes to "freedom of speech."
.
Also, Europe and America part ways when it comes to "freedom."
.
Europe is less free and America is more free.
.
The journalist, like so many in the semi-liberal democracies of Europe, also confuses liberty with legal rights. Forcing a given healthcare provider to perform an abortion may be a legal right in some places, but it is not liberty.

CA-Oxonian

Well-meaning secular folk generally fail to grasp, or prefer to ignore, the obvious fact that if you happen to believe that ancient folk-myths are "true" then you will always and forever be in conflict with any notion of a humane progressive society. By definition all the "rules" you need to know are contained within those folk-myths you regard as "divine revelation." And thus you will forever regard any form of progress towards a more rational and equitable and just society as a deviation from your particular beliefs. And thus you will resist progress. The fact that occasionally less strident religionists may work to ameliorate the baleful effects of one or another particularly unpleasant primitive custom does not negate the fundamental opposition between faith (e.g. "I'll believe what I'm told without thinking about it") and reason (e.g. "let's see what the facts suggest and attempt to understand the underlying phenomenon").

The USA, populated as it is by the descendants of largely illiterate immigrants wedded to all manner of superstitions, has always been the OECD outlier. It would be very depressing if too much of Europe followed in its wake and slipped back into the mental Dark Ages that has engulfed the USA and is turning it into a medieval theocracy.

guest-ojeliiw

It's a comment on a different article...
Crime prevention by big data analysis necessarily creates so many false positives, that it's mere usage is risking totalitarism.

Kremilek2

"There has been something admirable about the spectacle of distinguished Americans, both liberal and conservative,"
.
I think that these time can return. But before there wasn't a threat of militant Islam and coexistence of various religions seemed possible. We can only hope that these times will return but Islam has to change and in a way has to be westernized.

ashbird

OMG, Erasmus. Contraception and abortion are not 2 fungible things, medically, biologically and technically. They do not belong to the same parentheses. Please don't be sloppy in thinking about them, let alone writing about them.
.
Second, what is a religious faith and what is done in the name of the religion are also two different things, not fungibles entities at all!
.
As long as you talk about these things in a manner that is all muddled up, nothing will ever get dis-entangled. You merely add knots to knots. I am startled by the confounding in your otherwise very fine article.
.
If non-fungibility is such a hard concept to get clear on, consider the word "Democracy" - Its concept, and its practice. Example: what is "democratic" in what Mitch McConnell advocates? Do women categorically have NO say in a matter that directly affects their lives? In what way and to what degree is the *extreme patriarchy* implicit in his action different from the *extreme patriarchy* practiced in the Muslim religion?

Oreg in reply to ashbird

In no way did Erasmus suggest that contraception and abortion are fungible. They belong in the same parentheses because they are opposed and defended, respectively, by the same groups.

Just saying 597 in reply to ashbird

"Contraception and abortion are not 2 fungible things"
Indeed, they are not fungible, but they exist on the same spectrum - a point that, I think, many anti-abortion people miss. One mechanism by which an IUD (generally regarded as a contraceptive device) may work, for instance, is by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus; this may be one mechanism by which emergency contraception (the "morning-after pill") may work. Pharmaceutically disrupting the continued development of the few cells of a blastocyst that comprise an early pregnancy is a little further along on the spectrum. Preventing the meeting of egg and sperm (which, if allowed to unite naturally, might result in the birth of a child) by wearing a condom is a little earlier on the spectrum.

ashbird in reply to Just saying 597

Thanks for writing all that up. Good of you!
.
I have written thousands of lines on these TE pages on the same. Some folks see the two as EXACTLY the same thing.
.
The idea that when a sperm and an egg do not meet, there is no fertilization to start the making of a life is ENTIRELY novel to these folks.
.
See if you can do better with this group of "religious devout" next time they challenge basic biology. I am done with it. (Btw, if it helps, a small tip: Re these folks, when they cannot offer biology (they pretend they don't know), they will offer the Holy Book. They will tell you, "God says so.")

ashbird in reply to simonelvladtepes

simonelvladtepes, The subject is huge. In it are what is historical going back thousands of years (you can google for that), what is geographical (you can also google for that), what is political, what is geopolitical, and what is propaganda (do not for one moment indulge in the thought that the “West” does not do its propaganda). I do not deem myself qualified to give you an informed, intelligent and responsible reply. Thank you for your Q.