Monday, April 28, 2008

Business, Religion and Freedom

Business is based on human freedom , and does best when regulated more by the marketplace than politics.

In a society, the loss of any one freedom usually means another one is going soon. Witness what is happening in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

After steadily cutting away the economic freedoms of Russian citizens, he now has made the Russian Orthodox Church the de facto state religion. All other religions are subject to political control (read "harassment").

When religious leaders make deals like this one, they allow religion to be used as an instrument of nationalism and state control. The history of such state religions is a long and bloody one.

Free enterprise and freedom of religion are merely variations on a single theme, that of human freedom. Anyone concerned about freedom should be concerned with what is happening in Russia.

The NY Times reports.

"Just as the government has tightened control over political life, so, too, has it intruded in matters of faith. The Kremlin’s surrogates in many areas have turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers. They have all but banned proselytizing by Protestants and discouraged Protestant worship through a variety of harassing measures, according to dozens of interviews with government officials and religious leaders across Russia.

This close alliance between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church has become a defining characteristic of Mr. Putin’s tenure, a mutually reinforcing choreography that is usually described here as working “in symphony.”

Mr. Putin makes frequent appearances with the church’s leader, Patriarch Aleksei II, on the Kremlin-controlled national television networks. Last week, Mr. Putin was shown prominently accepting an invitation from Aleksei II to attend services for Russian Orthodox Easter, which is this Sunday.

The relationship is grounded in part in a common nationalistic ideology dedicated to restoring Russia’s might after the disarray that followed the end of the Soviet Union. The church’s hostility toward Protestant groups, many of which are based in the United States or have large followings there, is tinged with the same anti-Western sentiment often voiced by Mr. Putin and other senior officials."

No comments: