“True freedom is a gift from God.”

The “Stand Up For Religious Freedom” site states that “Stand Up For Freedom” rallies will be taking place (or have already taken place) in 164 cities, topping the 145 rallies that took place on March 23rd.

I am speaking at the rally here in Eugene, Oregon. My talk is titled, “It’s Time To Remember What Men Have Forgotten”, which is a reference to Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address. Here is a part of my address:

I want to highlight three points, especially in light of the HHS mandate, which is a direct assault on religious freedom, political freedom, and the deeply held, principled beliefs of millions of Americans.

The first point is this: True freedom is a gift from God. This is true of religious freedom, political freedom, and every other authentic freedom enjoyed by humans.

What we believe about freedom says a lot about what we believe about truth, goodness, the meaning of life, the origin of our existence, and the purpose of our time here on earth.

If we believe, as the American founders did, that freedom is a gift from the Creator, we also believe truth is objective and that human nature is oriented toward truth. We were created to know truth. Jesus Christ, who audaciously claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, said to his disciples, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:31-32).

This connection between freedom and truth is essential, especially in an age such as ours, when the love of truth is often mocked and dismissed as old-fashioned, unsophisticated, and even bigoted.

In fact, there are two very different understandings of freedom and truth in the United States today.

On one hand, there are those who believe truth is a subjective thing that can evolve, change, or be completely turned inside out depending on my passing desires, emotional whims, or ideological goals.

Freedom, in this perspective, is the ability to do what we want, when we want, without consequence or damage to one’s conscience. The key qualifier, in our day, is that anything goes—as long as no one is hurt and whatever is done involves consenting adults. This approach is often rooted in passion and often leads to immorality. Consequently, this approach often results in severe damage to the most vulnerable among us: women, children, and the unborn.

But there is another approach, which says that freedom is not the ability to do what I want, but what I ought to do. Really authentic freedom and true maturity is achieved when we not only do what we ought to do, but we want to do it. This is the understanding of freedom taught, in various but complimentary ways, by men such as Aristotle, Plato, Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas.

It reflects the simple but profound truth that if God does not exist and objective truth is an illusion, then anything goes. If God is dead and truth is a lie, then everything is up for grabs. But if God does exist and transcendent, objective truth can be known through reason and by faith, then we have both real rights and real obligations, to both our Creator and to our fellow man.

In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance.” There really isn’t any middle ground!

I will be posting my full address here on the CWR site later today.

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.