Did Freedom of Religion mess up Christianity?

I’ve been studying the history of Christianity for a few months now. It is clear that a major culture shift occurred, starting around the time of the reformation and continuing even to today… The desire for self determination and personal freedom became paramount in many European countries. This was carried over to the New World and ultimately emerged in the Constitution of the United States where separation of Church and State and Freedom of Religion became the law of the land.

While some religious freedoms had occurred in parts of Europe generally each nation had a national church but in the more liberal states granted some freedom to those who didn’t participate in the state religion. The result was that in the 18th Century you basically had (among non-Catholics) Lutherans, Presbyterian, Baptist, Quakers, Moravian and Anabaptist. You also had the State Churches of England and Scotland. Methodist was still part of the Anglican church until after the Revolutionary war.

So from the time of the reformation until the birth of the United States you had maybe 10 Protestant denominations (the Puritans had fizzled out). After the United States was formed and instituted Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State there was an explosion in denominations, most of them splits from the 10 or so in existence in 1776, and most started in the USA. We also had the return of Gnostic beliefs, Arianism and the development of cults and pseudo Christian movements. We have also had the development of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches which is now the fastest growing group of Christians in the world.

My baptist heritage is one of a strong support for Separation of church and state. Baptist were strong supporters of being able worship according to the dictates of a personal conscious. They saw the church/state combination as oppressive against life and liberty.

I’m curious as how all of this is viewed from a Roman Catholic perspective.

So the question becomes, is Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State a good thing for Christianity? Is it a good thing for society?

Would you like to go back to a society where the RCC had the ability to stamp out non-RCC teaching by making non-RCC teachings illegal?

Do you believe in shotgun weddings?
I think a devoted Catholic is pleasing to God.
I also think that people who are merely pew warmers do so at their peril.
No matter what church they worship in.

When people convert, they make a freely given profession of faith.
Nothing forced. In fact, if they balk the day before, we ask to wait until they are certain.

It’s not a numbers game.

That is the way it is today. In history, not so much.

Over my dead body and those of milions of fellow Americans!
If they tried that, there would be a backlash when they were finally brought to justice that would make Cromwell look like Ghandi!
You catholics just stumbled off the boat! You didn’t do the work! (Defeating the Indians and BUILDING this country.) You are guests in our nation! (OP You call yourself a Baptist!!??)

Wir sind des geyers schwarzer haufen!!!.. Heia-a-a-a…Oho!!

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating a Theocracy. The Separation of Church and State is a key component of our freedoms as Americas. I’m just pointing out that one of the key reasons for so many denominations is freedom of religion.

This may be a good article to read, and the book…for your question:


What the Reformation has Wrought

Brad Gregory, the Notre Dame historian, seeks to show how we got this way in his recent book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. His answers are surprising, and for some readers, controversial. But his book is also important—and in its explanatory power, brilliant.

Gregory argues that today’s relativism and cult of the consumer—what he ironically calls “the goods life”—have roots that run centuries deep. He wastes no time on nostalgia for a golden age that never existed. But he does show with riveting clarity that in the sixteenth century, Protestant Reformers unintentionally set in motion certain ideas that eventually enabled today’s radical self-centeredness.

Blessed Pope Pius IX certainly thinks so:


It’s a dangerous age we live in, where everyone thinks they have the right to their own opinion, instead of humbly submitting to the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know if you’re going to get one single “Roman Catholic” perspective. Roman Catholics are a diverse lot and we tend to think a lot of different things.

This Roman Catholic writing this response to you certainly thinks that Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State is very important and a good thing for society. During much of history, the Church did not do itself any favors by getting embroiled in matters of state and I tend to think that is true of all churches, not just the Catholics. You do not want countries killing off or torturing people who don’t conform to the state religion and you do not want countries fighting long civil wars over what the state religion is going to be. If Jesus had wanted us doing that sort of thing then He would have been leading the Jews to victory over the Romans, rather than dying on the cross for all mankind of all religions including Gentiles, pagans, etc.

Churches and organized religions make mistakes, and they also evolve. I’d like to think we’ve evolved beyond the point of making religion just another department of state and enforcing its precepts by force.

There is no such thing as “separation of church and State” in the USA. There are two clauses of the First Amendment concerning the relationship of government to religion: the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause”.

No, freedom of religion did not mess up Christianity. Look at China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea or areas controlled by ISIL, and imagine what the oppressed Christians who live in those areas would think of such a question.

The Catholic Church does not teach the separation of church and state, and neither does the U.S. Constitution, as we know the concept today. The concept of separation as we know it today, in its crazy and insane form, did not exist until 1947 when the Supreme Court invented this idea without any support from the Constitution whatsoever.

The splintering of Christianity began in earnest with Martin Luther. Protestantism is a liberal movement and it is that liberal worldview that has caused the scandal of some 42,000 non-Catholic Christian groups out there. It was St. Paul who originally condemned denominating into difference groups in 1 Corinthians 1 rather than maintaining unity in the one Church that Jesus founded – the Catholic Church, that is, the Church under the King’s Prime Minister, St. Peter and his successors.

I don’t think Christianity teaches that the church and state should be the same and I don’t think this was the history of what we call Christendom. My reading of history is that there was always a balance between church and state. The Spanish Inquisition for example was a state run enterprise where the king threatened the church if they didn’t set it up and then ignored the church’s guidelines when it was in motion.

What we did have in the west was the Dark Ages where dozens of powerful pagan Germanic tribes swept across Western Europe and seized power. Over centuries the church worked to civilise and Christianise these people and so much of the law and culture that derives from that time was heavily Christian.

This gave Christianity a strong place in civil life and it helped to build much of the strong western culture of education, science, art, law, music, philosophy, health charity and welfare.

I think what many people think today in terms of church and state is for the state to take control of these aspects of life and for the church to have a very limited role in society. I think the Reformation helped with this outcome but it was not the only factor.

The idea of freedom of religion is a pipe dream. There will always be some religion promoted by the state. That is if by religion we mean some belief that everyone must accept. Laws always have a moral component and will thus always reflect some sort of philosophy.

As to how it effected Christianity it seems to me it hasn’t been good. But this hasn’t been an issue for long. The original ‘reformers’ were just as insistent on dogmatic truth as Catholicism. They wanted a state religion. Now the lack of a state religion, combined with the Bible alone concept, means there is a lack of any unifying principle among non Catholics. I think eventually Protestantism will wither. Not that it will disappear but that it will be far less common even in the US.

Several states even had state churches when they formed the current federal government. They also had religious tests. The idea applied to the federal government and not all government. So as you point out the modern notion isn’t right.

The establishment clause refers to a State Religion. The founders came from a place of a State Church – the Church of England (Catholicism was illegal at the time up until 1830). The establishment clause was designed to prevent that and provide the freedom to people to worship as they please in whatever denomination they please.

Nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn, prayer in schools, removal of Christmas from schools, and all the rest of the insanity derived from the 1947 Supreme Court LSD ruling, has NOTHING to do with the government establishing a Church of the United States, or states establishing a Church of Iowa, for that matter.

So the question becomes, is Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State a good thing for Christianity? Is it a good thing for society?

People have free will to decide whether to accept Christianity or not. The Catholic Church has always taught that. The Church does not desire civil authority. The Papal States in Italy, ultimately, were not a good thing for the Church.

It is only rather recently, the Second Vatican Council, that the Church has explicitly endorsed religious freedom. It is somewhat controversial, but most of the Church accepts this as the best system.

I believe it’s pretty evident that the separation is a negative for society. All good and moral law comes from God, not man. As a recent convert via tradtional Catholics I see and believe that much of societies ills are directly linked to the widespread use of contraception and Fr. Luther’s revolt. Luther decided that marriage should be regulated by the state instead of the Church. Society was able to remain pretty stable for nearly 400 years due to Protestants keeping their Catholic heritage regarding things like marriage and contraception. Enter 1930 when the Anglican church opened the door to contraception and soon afterwards all of Protestantism followed. Had Christiandom been united in their teachings against contraception perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess we currently are in. The contraceptive mentality has the rotten fruit which was predicted by Pope Pius IX and Venerable Fulton Sheen; sky rocketing rates of adultery, abortion, divorce and the objectification of women to name just a few. Today we have frozen embryos that we don’t know what to do with. All of these situations can be directly linked to the contraceptive mentality…and the ONLY entity which today still officially teaches it is intrinsicly evil is the RCC.

This is a complicated question. Catholics have disagreed and muled for millennia over the exact relationship between the Church and civil authorities. A complete separation of Church and state is something that was condemned by the Pope (see: “Americanism heresy”)

It’s problematic to look at religious freedom being a “downfall” for the Church because society gradually progressing towards more self-determination was inevitable as the West acquired wealth, education, an expanded press, etc. Human beings are creatures of free will and of extremely diverse personalities and temperments.

Besides, the Church can’t lose what was never hers. In our contemporary lens we look at the Church as strong in past centuries, which isn t entirely untrue since her status granted her the ability to build magnificent structures and undertake large projects, but in other ways, she was starving. Between the fickleness of monarchs, the isolation of Christianity in the world to the corner of Europe for such a terribly long time… something Christ never wanted. Scandals from within, ignorance among its members, etc. There is nothing new under the sun.

No. Christians messed up Christianity.

Original sin and all that…

If one believes freedom of religion did mess up Christianity then it follows one also believes Christianity isn’t all what its cracked up to be.

lanman87;14800879 I’m curious as how all of this is viewed from a Roman Catholic perspective.

A brief history reveals the Catholic church being persecuted for the first 400 years after the resurection. When peace finally ensued, The Catholic church experienced centuries of resisting secular powers of influencing or interferring with divine revelation and her teachings in faith. Some centuries were very dark for the Catholic church and her martyrs and saints others were peaceful. Peace came when secular powers and it’s peoples would convert to Catholicism. War became evident when the secular powers would compete and make moves to usurp or over power the Catholic church this includes the Orthodox Church’s.

So the question becomes, is Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State a good thing for Christianity? Is it a good thing for society?

The simple answer from this Latin Roman Catholic is; " Give to the Ceasars what belongs to the Ceasars and give to God what belongs to God". He who presides in the Chair of Peter, the Roman Catholic Pope, is the only religious leader in the world today, that is free from all secular powers, just as Peter was in the first century. Although the “gates of hell” continue to come against her, but will never prevail.

Would you like to go back to a society where the RCC had the ability to stamp out non-RCC teaching by making non-RCC teachings illegal?

A little historical correction is needed here. Remember it was the secular Catholic Royalty and Princes’s who stamped out religious invaders or enemies of the Catholic Crown. It was never the Catholic Church herself. This is not to neglect the history of a few bad Church leaders. The RCC never has the power or ability to excercise a capital punishment or possess an army to wage war. When ever the RCC has a religious issue arise within her own members, she councils and carries the Keys to bind and loose on earth. She does not need or is never in need of secular powers to excercise her divine keys.

The Catholic Church serves only one Lord of lords and only one King of all kings, Jesus Christ, Amen. The RCC is in the world but she is never of the world. She is commanded by God to give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar and give to God what belongs to God.
The RCC teaches infallibly in faith and morals. Secular powers are always fallible. Thereby the members of a free secular society will do well to follow the natural laws of freedom divinely given for our human dignity of life and death. History records and reveals today; When ever a secular power mixes itself with a relgion is always at war with itself or with others.

Thanks be to God for our good shepherd who never leaves us orphans. “We have a Rock” (Peter) with divine keys to bind and loose on earth, who is not subject to change and not a secular power that is always subject to change.

Peace be with you

I haven’t read the previous posts but need to in order to consider some of the posted links.

Every arrangement comes with trade-offs, and religious freedom is no exception. With humans and their sins getting away, there is no perfect set-up. It reminds me of John Kenneth Galbraith’s aphorism: “In communism, man exploits man. In capitalism, it’s the other way around.”

That said, I seem more advantages to religious freedom.

Would you like to go back to a society where the RCC had the ability to stamp out non-RCC teaching by making non-RCC teachings illegal?

I’m a pragmatist on this one.

Bringing the State into Church leadership poses too great of a competing interest. For example, when a bishop is offered a prominent cabinet position in exchange for some shady political favors, the temptation is just too great. We’re all surrounded by temptation, of course, but that doesn’t mean we have to run panting after it. Dangling a chance for power in front of the wrong church official can be no different from dangling a doughnut over a dieter.

Second, I’ve long said any time you favor snatching any legal or fundamental rights away from one group, religious freedom, in this case, you leave your own rights vulnerable to the same fate.

That same person who feels gleeful that a group was barred from marching in a parade may remain unaware that the floodgates are now open, and parade organizers can allow and disallow anyone to march based on their own personal whims and fancies.

So, the U.S. could become some Great Catholic Nation, but it would only last until another election or, heaven forbid, violent overthrow. Because the precedent has already been set for the State to dictate the beliefs and practices of the citizenry, you could see anyone take over from the Southern Baptist Conference to atheists going all Communist China on everybody.

To use a less melodramatic example of the capricious instability of a church-state union, a couple of years ago, I saw a great political cartoon about Obamacare and the contraceptive mandate. There was a church on one side of a wall. On the other side was a big dump truck marked “State” dumping a bunch of birth control pills over the wall on to the church side.

The point I see is that this wall of separation actually protects the integrity of the Church and her teachings. Too much enmeshment with the State can result in the State getting an upper hand on how we Catholics practice our faith. Church teaching rests on Scripture, reason, and tradition . . . not the political whims of the State.

Finally, the key flaw of a church-state union was summed up eloquently by the U.S.'s most vocal religious freedom advocate, William Penn: “Force may make hypocrites, but it can never make converts.” We surrender to Christ because we answer His call, not the State’s. Anything short of this authenticity is worthless.

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