The other day the initiator of
the neutral-inclusive Norm was
talking about the role of the state with someone living in an area below
sea level. They agreed that, given its existence, the state should do
certain things for society as a whole which individuals or small groups are
not able to do on their own. Thus, in very low-lying land the state should
take care of the construction and maintenance of dikes to protect the
population against floods, provided the occupation of the land is not
In a democracy it is the majority that will decide where the dikes are to
be built, what material they are to be made of, how high and wide they are
going to be, and — not to forget — what contributions are
required from the citizens to make this possible.
But then the lowlander asked the initiator: "If this can be a task of
the state and if a democratic majority can decide on this, why can't such a
majority decide to establish or promote religion or a particular religion
in the same way?"
"You shouldn't confuse dikes and damns", the initiator replied.
At that moment the lowlander heard "dams" and as a native of the polders
'e was familiar enough with the
difference between dikes and dams.
However, it would soon become clear to
'im that what had been meant
"When the state builds and maintains dikes", the initiator explained,
"this is done to prevent the sea from transgressing the coast, the rivers
from transgressing the shores. Such barriers are considered necessary to
save the inhabitants from drowning, to protect human and nonhuman bodies,
their houses and the land against the violence of the water. The measures
taken are clearly physical plans carried out in view of a possible bodily
danger to life. It may be assumed that a person in possession of, among
other things, a physical body who's prepared to live in such an area will,
in principle, not be opposed to deciding such a natural matter by a
majority of votes."
"Similarly, it may be assumed that a person won't be opposed to deciding
by a majority of votes how the state should deal with human individuals or
groups that go about killing or wounding or assaulting others, because
these, too, are bodily transgressions serious enough to have to be dealt
with in a physical way, or in a physical way as well. And also here the
citizens must decide together what these measures should consist of.
(Should the perpretrators be sent to prison, and if so, for how long?
Should they be forced to pay compensation, and if so, how much?)"
"But when the state starts to promote the supernaturalist ideology of one
specific group, and to damn, that is, to implicitly or explicitly
condemn, those who don't belong to that group, because they don't believe
in and live by its
theocentrist tenets, this is a
fundamentally different matter. In that case there is no basis whatsoever
for the assumption that all people would be equally willing to leave the
approval of such a measure to the majority. Those persons who believe in
the primacy of norms and values over any gods or demons and who live by
normistic tenets will,
then, most certainly have to be counted out. Therefore the state has no
right, even not in a fully democratic polity (if such a thing exists), to
put up a social or political barrier in society by treating a
denominational ideology or idea
as worthless and untrustworthy when it is norm-centered and by treating it
as valuable and trustworthy when it is god-centered. It is not for the
state to stem the tide of a certain form of
denominationalism or to dam the
free flow of nonviolent ideas, whether religious or nonreligious."
And this the initiator of the Norm added: "Dikes, my friend, concern the
body but denominational freedom in equality concerns the person 'imself".