May 2, 2017

Freedom of expression

From the USCIRF 2017 Annual Report, chapter on Western Europe:

The peaceful public sharing of one’s religious beliefs is both an integral part of religious freedom and protected by freedom of expression. This includes the expression of beliefs that may be offensive to others or controversial in society, such as views on homosexuality, abortion, or other religions. Vague and overbroad laws against “incitement to hatred” that encompass speech that does not rise to the level of incitement of violence pose a risk of jeopardizing protected expression. If used against the peaceful expression of beliefs, these laws can result in violations of the freedoms of speech and religion.

Amen to that.

May 1, 2017

What is religious freedom?

I realize more clearly now that we Brazilians always had the great privilege of enjoying religious freedom, something we usually take as granted without thinking about the systematic persecution and repression suffered by some religious groups in other parts of the world.

Last Wednesday the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent government commission on religious freedom, stated in its annual report that conditions of religious freedom has worsened in the last few years. But what exactly do they (or does anybody else for that matter) mean by "religious freedom"?

According to the USCIRF:

Inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.  Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly.

Additionally:

What is religious freedom and why is it so pivotal? It is the right of people everywhere to heed the call of conscience in matters of religion and belief, living out its dictates openly, peacefully, and without fear. Religious freedom is a broad and inclusive right that requires protection of the allied rights of expression, association, and assembly. The bedrock premise behind religious freedom is clear: No individual or entity has the right to force others to act against their conscience or prevent them from answering its call in a peaceful manner.

It's worth reading the specific chapters of the latest report on countries such as North KoreaCuba and China, who were unfortunately always known for repression of religion and violations of human rights. However it seems now that the USCIRF also included chapters for Russia and even for Western Europe, who in the last years increased restrictions on religious expression, such as places of worship, dress and visible symbols, and parents’ rights.

It seems in the end that Europe is not that model of respect, pluralism and religious freedom that everyone was expecting it would be.

(I'm looking at you here, Berlin.)

April 16, 2017

Hell on Earth

WIRED has written about it, just as The New Yorker recently did, and (as it seems) it's also a topic of a now-famous book (which I still need to read): Silicon Valley wants to conquer death and give us immortality.

To conquer death: as christians affirm for centuries and celebrate on Easter, this is something that Jesus Christ actually already did.

And based on what He did, I claim that even if Silicon Valley finds a way to conquer death, it will actually not do it. Because death doesn't mean only that our bodies will one day cease to work; that actually happens because of its more fundamental meaning: separation from God.

To be separated from God: as christians also affirm for centuries, this is our main problem, which only God through Jesus Christ can solve.

What would be the basis of this kind of perpetual existence that Silicon Valley wants to offer? There's already a term that describes a continuous, perpetual existence separated from God, in which in an Universe full of joy and perfect freedom coming from Him, we choose to live instead only for ourselves, as if we were the center of our own meaning: we call it Hell.

So one can just wonder which type of Life on Earth Silicon Valley would give to us. From my point of view, what they want to achieve is not enough, and could also be a potential nightmare.

April 14, 2017

Heaven on Earth

From Ethan Hawke's Rules for a Knight:

There is no dirt in Heaven, and we are here to make earth as much like Heaven as we can.

If this means to do it for the Glory of God, which in the end also means for the good of Mankind, yes, that's true: we should strive to make Earth as much like Heaven as possible.

However we need to keep in mind that ultimately only God is able to finally accomplish this. We, on the other hand, are not.

Yes, that's exactly what I think: ultimately we are simply not able to do it. But God is, and He will do it: Earth shall be Heaven. For His Glory and our good.