Thursday, July 18, 2013

Edmund Burke, faith and religious liberty

William F. Byrne explores that topic over at The Imaginative Conservative: Burke's Wise Counsel on Religious Liberty. While Burke was an 18th century English statesman friendly to America but loyal to the crown, his views on religious liberty track closely with those of many of the American Founders, evidence perhaps of a deeper English tradition of religious liberty that was supportive of religious freedom while emphasizing the need for orthodox faith to function as a limitation on arbitrary government power:
We’ll never know exactly what Burke’s theological views, or private religious views, were. (At a personal level he never gave any sign of being anything other than a pious and orthodox Christian.) We do know that politically he devoted his career to fighting against “caprice.” To him caprice inevitably led to abuses of power, and to tyranny or anarchy. His fight was, effectively, against the postmodern sense of arbitrariness, which he saw appearing on the horizon. Burke teaches us that religion plays a critical role in fighting against arbitrariness or caprice. For him, a humane, stable, and free state requires not just religious tolerance and an acceptance of pluralism, but a broad embrace of a particular sort of religiosity—orthodox religiosity—in private and public life. Only religion of this sort can stand above society and the state while heightening our awareness of the sacred, thereby setting bounds to our politics and elevating our lives.
Read it all.

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