We are told that we are a society that values religious freedoms. Yet running through society today are strands of fear and intolerance at a level not seen in historical terms for hundreds of years, perhaps since the Protestant Reformation, where the fear of Catholic uprisings quite literally hung everywhere in England and Germany.
Signs of the fear and intolerance today can be seen in the headlines and rhetoric of demagogues confronted by the Islamic revival sweeping through the Western world, where a whole religion is demonised on account of those invoking Islam as justification for acts of terror. It is seen in the retreat into anti-immigration and nativist sentiments in civic life in the United States and the United Kingdom. But it is also evident in more subtle ways, that pass unnoticed by many.
We pride ourselves on upholding religious freedoms. Yet what are we talking about when we do so? Are we talking about anything more than the separation of church and state, or traditions of so-called religious toleration? Are we talking about the position of the entrenched major religions, Catholicism, Protestantism, even Judaism, while ignoring the position of new, alternative and minority religious groups because the experience of such groups is not on our radar or somehow does not matter?
If we look more closely, the experience of many people tell us that true religious freedom actually does not exist in Australia.
If the point is ever raised that true religious freedom does not exist, watch how quickly it is dismissed – usually by resort to comparisons between our lives in Australia and people’s lives in other countries, such as Iran, China or Nigeria, where sectarian violence and the persecution of religious minorities threatens to become a new international norm if not stopped.
But the absence of religious freedoms is in our midst.
It exists in forms that are allowed to pass unchallenged, because they do not strike at the conscience of a still largely white, Christian, Anglo-Saxon majority – and because it is difficult to deny that we in the ‘lucky country’ have it pretty good considering the horrors seen by persecuted minorities in other parts of the world.
But we’re not free in Australia. We do not have true religious freedom. We are told that we are free, but this is a lie.
We risk allowing ourselves to be blinded to what is happening in our midst – allowing ourselves to be de-sensitised by insisting that we’re alright because others are worse off; or worse still, that the experiences of others in our midst do not matter, because the comfort of the majority is not disturbed and says that those people do not count.
The plight of others anywhere in the world cannot be an excuse for our living in a way that is less than we say are the values that we uphold – for our advancement stands to be judged not by material or technological progress, but by our success in building a community based on those values, of deep care and respect of all; not by how well the few are doing, but how well all of us are doing.
We do not have true religious freedom in Australia.
What we are told is religious freedom in Australia is an arrangement. It is an unwritten accord between mainstream religions, government and the media, where key opinion-makers decide what forms of religious expression and belief are acceptable and what are not. This accord is backed by the single most powerful authority known in any system of government anywhere in the world – the indifference of a people who believe that, because it does not intrude on them it does not matter - when the truth is that the erosion of freedoms in any degree is an erosion of the freedoms of all.
This is not some kind of conspiracy theory.
The arrangement is one to which so-called good and decent people everywhere unwittingly are a party – by their complicity in allowing it.
Stay inside the limits of what is acceptable to the media and key opinion-makers and you are left alone.
Stray beyond those limits, and you will never be left alone.
The arrangement can be seen in the fact that established religion is never heard to challenge the media on moral or ethical grounds.
It is seen in the fact that the media does not challenge the mainstream Christian churches’ claims to any sort of moral authority, even after the appalling cover up of clergy child sexual abuse by the highest levels of the church hierarchies – when the Christian church yielded the right to claim that it was the moral voice of society a long, long time ago.
It is evident in the legal system in Australia, where blasphemous libel is probably still actionable (see Archbishop of Melbourne v Council of Trustees of National Gallery  2 VR 391), but denigration of unconventional forms of belief is unprotected; all of which highlights that speech targeting religious belief is selectively protected according to who holds the belief and what belief is targeted.
It is seen in the ‘anti-cult’ bias in much of the Australian media, where there is little understanding of religion, and no willingness to understand; and no interest in ‘religion’ except incidentally in covering a scandal, or a ready-made ‘cult story’ where the occasion for the story is the weird or alarming, in a way that marginalises the group and reinforces negative stereotypes.
Anyone who dares challenge or ignores the limits of what is acceptable is set upon by the media, who makes sure that such a person is not given a hearing – pillorying and crucifying them in print.
Anyone who offers humanity a new way is buried under lies and deliberate misinformation: they are marginalised; ridiculed, and portrayed as morally wanting or a threat. And so, humanity never gets to see them because we are not allowed to.
In short, media is the new gatekeeper of what is acceptable religious belief. The Pharisees are alive and well. Or, if you prefer, the media exerts a control not unlike the system of licensing dissenting preachers under the English Act of Toleration of 1689, which allowed freedom of worship to Protestants and other non-conformists who dissented from the Church of England only on taking an oath of allegiance.
Allegiance to what? The innate Divinity that we all naturally are?
Sign up and commit to a way that is dedicated to the self-interest of religious elites, and it will allow a qualified right to worship God and the innate Divinity that lays in the heart of all people. The licensing system still operates today, unseen. Religious expression that does not have the permission or meet the approval of the owners of public opinion is not tolerated.
So, what is religious freedom in Australia? It is what media and key opinion-makers allow. Outside of this, it does not exist.
And what is the price of religious freedom in Australia?
It is the willingness to settle into an unspoken arrangement with key opinion-makers, in which entrants all agree not to challenge the other, all agree to live within the limits allowed.
The lie of religious freedom runs not simply through Australian society. It runs throughout history.
The history of religious freedom is not the history of religious freedom at all. It is the history of religious toleration – where groups take turns at control and dominance: the expansion of the Catholic church’s tolerance of religious dissent only to be hit on the head by the pendulum of history when, within colonial America, Catholics were free to practise their religion only in Pennsylvania, while the Congregational strongholds within New England, after having fled repressive religious censorship in Europe, themselves punished dissenters before they relented and relaxed their control.
Toleration will never lead to acceptance.
The truth of ‘toleration’ and the limits of where it can lead is exposed by its etymology. The word derives from the Latin, tolerare, meaning ‘to bear or endure’. Enduring anything is not an attitude of deep acceptance or allowing. It is not borne of an impulse for unity and equality.
The history of tolerance might have led to the end of certain forms of state sanctioned censorship. Yet the history of tolerance has not seen the end of censorship. It goes on. With the dismantling of formal state sanctioned censorship, we have wrongly concluded that yesterday’s battles for freedom of religion are won and that we stand at the end of history. We do not.
Nothing is further from the truth.
It is true that Dissenters are no longer required to register their meeting locations or forbidden from meeting in private homes. Dissenting preachers no longer have to be licensed. Protestants and non-conformists no longer have to take an oath of allegiance.
Yet the media wields a control on what is acceptable religious expression that positions them as the new arbiters of what is acceptable thought and expression.
The truth is that control is exercised over religious expression in contemporary Australia as actively as it ever was, anywhere.
This may be denied and even offensive to some. No disrespect is intended, and certainly the horror and brutality that many people have experienced first-hand on account of their religious conviction can never be diminished. The point is that control over religious freedom is no less real if it is unseen or unaccompanied by sectarian violence.
But because it is unseen, it is more insidious if not just as complete.
Control of religious expression in Australia passes largely unnoticed and hence unopposed. Why? Is it because it affects only the few, not the vast majority of people? This cannot be so.
Any control of religious freedom affects all. Freedom is whole and complete and total, or it is not; partial freedom is not freedom.
The greatest lie that can be perpetrated on a people is the lie that they are free.
If a man knows that he is not free he is dangerous; told that he is free, and not knowing otherwise, he is docile – oblivious of the invisible bars that hold him captive.
Control of religious freedom affects all equally, because the limits of control are designed to ensure one thing. Toleration and so-called religious freedom in Australia is actually a lie that is packaged and sold by a supremacist attitude.
The supremacist consciousness casts a dark shadow across humanity. In its different manifestations throughout history, this consciousness is a force that has worked to delay humanity’s connection with itself, and the appearance of true community.
The Ku Klux Klan and proponents of the Aryan master race are better-known examples. Supremacism was the motivation for the Christian Crusades and the rebalancing waves of Islamic Jihadists today.
In different times it has assumed different guises, sometimes showing its face overtly, occasionally controlling whole peoples with violence and intimidation. More frequently, as in Australia, it is unseen, taking the form of the promise of comfort in exchange for complicity, cajoling and denigrating any that would dare question its standing.
Whatever its face, supremacism works through any channels of control that it owns. When exposed or defeated in one form, it takes another.
The shifting face of supremacy is seen in the history of slavery in the United States. The abolition of slavery in 1865 did not end slavery. Slavery in America simply took new forms, slavery by another name – lasting in Georgia and elsewhere until just before World War II in the form of state penal systems that sold black prisoners as forced labour to private contractors; where police would arrest black men on ‘vagrancy charges’ and make thousands of dollars on the side by turning them over to plantation owners who were in need of cotton pickers.
Evil will not lie down until it finally has nowhere left to hide.
The truth is that true religious freedom comes at a price. Or rather, true religious freedom is never free.
Ultimately, the price of religious freedom is an unending readiness to stand up and say No to the supremacist consciousness.
These pages are an exploration of our experience of so-called ‘religious freedoms’ as adherents of The Way of The Livingness.
‘Religious freedoms’ is increasingly a disputed term. At its bottom the surrounding conflict is designed to do one thing, to ensure that true religion, if ever it was to emerge, would not be seen.
The Way of The Livingness is what sociologists would call, if a label was needed at all, a new religious movement, where men and women, from all walks of life, across the world, numbering several thousand people, have been inspired by the living way of Serge Benhayon and his teachings based on a body of living wisdom known as the Ageless Wisdom.
The Ageless Wisdom has always been with us. And though it may be labelled a new religion, it is in fact the oldest of religions. It is the living source from which an ancient lineage of teachers, comprising many of the founders of world religions, have drawn and added by the quality of their lived way in different eras and in different times. Pythagoras, Buddha, Yeshua, and Mohammed are all part of this lineage.
The Way of The Livingness is Heaven’s religion on earth. It is the first time that Heaven’s religion has been known on earth. Until now, religion has always been man’s religion, what man has needed religion to be. True religion is always a way of living, a movement where every moment is an opportunity for a deeper knowing of who we are in full, as part of one inter-connected universal life. At its foundation of this religious way is a knowing that the way we live, in our everyday lives, as we move through our day, can either support the development and deepening expression of that connection, or hinder it – according to the choices that we make to align with the universality of that life or not.
Throughout our experience of the media in the past four years runs the awareness by individual journalists, whether they know it or not, that our way of living is religious – and this deeply challenges them. The journalists’ use of the label ‘cult’ (vile as it is), is a dead give-away.
The attacks are all of them religiously based.
The way of living that we adopt is religion.
It is in fact universal religion, a way of living that is based not on belief or dogma, but on what all know in their heart naturally as the truth of who we are. It is a way that is based on a science that is universal, and applies to all people equally, irrespective of nationality, race, culture, gender, or age.
At bottom, the intention of the media and key opinion-makers is to stop people seeing true religion on earth for what it is; for this is the first time that it has appeared on earth for thousands of years.
Anonymous, age 55, Brisbane, Australia