Question from a recent commenter: “Isn’t the main concept of liberal thought: Allow for individual choice and rights (you can apply this to problems with Erdogan’s policies or the Muslim Brotherhood’s, also towards any of our social political dilemmas in this country). Plain and simple the individual choice and freedom is paramount and by in large there is no absolute standard to judge that. Ultimately isn’t that what liberalism is and can’t we as minorities in the west support that paradigm?
Answer: The problem is that the existence of law precludes individual choice in any and every society. All people are constrained by laws. Everyone’s will and freedom of choice is constricted by the law. But what liberal secularism claims is that laws are only justified when they prevent people from harming others. That’s why secular law is acceptable in its restricting of people’s unfettered freedom of choice and religious law is unacceptable. The former merely prevents harm, which is a universal interest of all human beings, while the latter is aimed at religious devotion, which only some people who belong to that religion care about and nobody else. There are many conceptual problems with this purported distinction. Chief among them the fact that what is or is not considered “harm” is irreducibly subjective. What is or is not harmful depends on one’s greater metaphysical commitments and beliefs about human nature and the world. These commitments are not considered “religion” per se, but are not categorically different from their religious counterparts. This is how liberalism smuggles in its metaphysical and normative imperatives, by masking them as universal features of human nature.
A simple and familiar example: Abortion. Depending on what you think about the fetus, its status as a “person,” the moral responsibilities of the biological parents, etc., abortion is or is not immoral and the subject of legal regulation. The position of the pro-life faction is considered to be driven by religious commitments (which it is), but the pro-choice side is seen as driven by secular concerns and a pursuit of freedom and individual autonomy, but their underlying beliefs about the fetus and the female body, etc., are no less metaphysical than the beliefs of their conservative interlocutors. But the debate is not framed in terms of one set of metaphysical beliefs against another, one religion against another. Rather, it is framed as religious conservatism vs secular liberty, religious conviction vs freedom of choice.