A Continuum of Being

One of the major commonalities between religious freedom and sexual freedom is that both go to the core of what it means to be a human being. Each side has a tendency to overlook the centrality that religion or sexual identity play in a person’s existence. There is an irony in this because sexual freedom and religious freedom can be viewed as sitting in similar positions on a continuum of freedom because each goes to the core of being, even if that fact is uncomfortable for some people on each side. In the following snippet from the book Freedom’s Edge I try to capture some of this commonality and the importance of walking in the shoes of those with whom we do not normally identify.

From Freedom’s Edge: Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and the Future of America, pages 39-40:

“The term “sexual freedom” is not an ideal term. Clearly, LGBT and reproductive freedom is about far more than sex. Both LGBT and reproductive freedom concern one’s ability to be oneself, to be free, and to control one’s destiny. LGBT rights are about, among other things, being who you are without government interference or discrimination in the most fundamental aspects of life. Reproductive freedom is about, among other things, the ability to control your own body and to determine your own future. The term “sexual freedom,” as I use it in this book is shorthand for all of this.

There is a certain irony here. Recall in the last chapter that many progressive secularists assume religious freedom is about just faith. As we learned in the previous chapters, it is about far more than that. It is about who people are, how they experience life, and what they perceive to be essential to a fulfilled existence. Yet, each of these things can also be said about LGBT rights and reproductive freedom. It is just as unfair for people of faith to assert that sexual freedom is only about personal choices – unattached to core aspects of being – as it is for secularists to assume that religious freedom is just about protecting blind faith.

I understand that none of this is as simple as throwing aside our core assumptions, which is not simple at all, of course. Even if people were able to do that – and an open goal of this book is to challenge people on both sides to reflect on their horizons and how they perceive each other – fundamental questions about what matters in society, about values, and about morals may keep people from finding common ground. Agreement with specific elements of freedom on one side or the other may be hard to achieve. Yet, if we are unable to even perceive, and more importantly get a palpable sense of, the importance of a given
issue to one side or the other, compromise will be even harder.”

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