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Summary of Worlds Views about Freedom

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Why do I have to obey rules?
Am I free? Who’s in charge?
Who should I listen to?
Should I always obey the rules?
Why can’t I do what I want?
Am I free to be exactly what I want?
Why should I listen to old books telling me what to do?
Does freedom lead to happiness?

All the worldviews have a lot in common on this theme
•    Freedom (linked to equality) is one of the highest goods
•    Freedom brings with it responsibility
•    Freedom does not mean freedom from rules of right and wrong  - to do what we like
•    Key freedoms are freedom of thought, religion or belief, from oppression and discrimination
•    All worldviews have some authorities or examples - whether scriptures, laws or great teachers – to whom they may refer in measuring their beliefs and actions


The Hindu contribution emphasises:
•    Hinduism does not impose a strict hierarchy or institutional authority as it recognises the need for teachings to evolve with the times
•    Figures of authority are personalities (ancient and modern) who claim first hand God (or spiritual) experience
•    Codes of conduct are open to evolution and must take into account changing circumstances
•    No code of conduct is set in stone. Shruti (or texts of authority) should always be used with Yukti (meaning interpreted rationally)

The Humanist contribution emphasises:
•    The greatest freedom is the liberty to pursue one’s own ideal of the good life
•    Absolute freedom of enquiry and belief is essential to human prosperity and progress
•    These freedoms must not interfere with or constrain the freedom and happiness of others
•    Humanists do not defer unquestioningly to any authority, in fact they question all authority
•    Humanists do place trust in the authority of acknowledged experts in their fields

The Jewish contribution emphasises:
•    That many Jewish traditions see it as a virtue to challenge authority
•    All Jewish law Torah and scriptures are subject to rabbinical and human interpretation
•    Orthodox Jews give greater authority to conformity with the written laws
•    Progressive Jews accept the written authority, but give a greater weight to individual and community debate and decision
•    Rabbis have authority derived from their knowledge, but have no special powers

The Muslim contribution emphasises:
•    Freedom as a universal value given as a gift from God equally to all
•    Freedom is freedom to work for the good of others, not unfettered freedom
•    Authority comes from Allah and his word, as transmitted in the Qur’an and teachings
•    Human freedom cannot overrule Allah’s will and knowledge of the world (destiny) which is absolute
•    So the foundation of freedom for the Muslim is submission to the will of Allah
•    Freedom of religious expression for all faiths, and freedom of thought are divine injunctions
•    Muslims are accountable for their own actions: they must not simply follow the orders of religious leaders

The Sikh contribution emphasises:
•    Freedom to develop into the ideal Sikh, is defined by the Gurus as both liberated and liberating
•    Freedom is freedom to live a spiritual life, free from anger, hatred, pain and desire
•    Political and social freedom are essential - to live free from oppression on grounds of caste, class or gender
•    Authority is found in the scriptures, the writings of the ten Gurus
•    The Jathedar (Pope) in Amritsar has the authority to issue guidance which must be obeyed

The Buddhist contribution emphasises:
•    Ultimate freedom is freedom from attachment to anything: your self, views, body etc
•    The Buddha’s last words “Be an island unto yourself - be your own authority”
•    Such authority means taking total responsibility for all your actions, body, speech and mind

The Christian contribution emphasises:
•    Harmonious communication between God’s authority as creator and humanity is always being spoiled by human sin
•    For the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments and the Law are the authority for man to be in harmony with God
•    Jesus saw his own life, death and resurrection and teachings as fulfilling the law, which gives enormous freedom - to live and love in harmony with God and all humans
•    Freedom is therefore about being set free from sin to love God and follow in His Way
•    Churches exist to give support to Christians on this Way and therefore are sources of authority (eg for Catholics the Pope, for Anglicans the Bishop.