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What can we learn from… Martin Luther?
Monday 16 October 2023 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pmFree
FREEDOM THEN AND NOW: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM…?
MARTIN LUTHER: FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
Living in accordance with our deeply held moral beliefs throws up tricky dilemmas. Should health professionals be forced to assist with abortion provision or with assisted-suicide services that go against their religious principles? Should lawyers concerned about climate change be able to opt out of prosecuting eco-activists? Whether baulking at military service, declining to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples or refusing to follow lockdown rules, how should we respond to the claim to exercise freedom of conscience based on moral principles?
The idea of conscience first emerged when ancient Greek playwrights had their characters wrestle with their inner voices. Famously, Martin Luther, the German reformer who challenged the Catholic church, asserted the right to believe freely and to be slave to the authority of no one: ‘I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe’, he said. But what is conscience exactly and why is it important? What constitutes the legitimate exercise of conscience? At a time when value judgements that are not thought scientifically verifiable tend to be dismissed as whims or tribal affiliations, how should we make the case for meaningful open debate that involves the morally centred individual as well as experts?
Dolan Cummings, author, Taking Conscience Seriously
Dolan Cummings is the author of the Letters on Liberty pamphlet, Taking Conscience Seriously. He recently published his third novel, The Pictish Princess.. and other stories from before there was a Scotland. His previous books are Gehenna: a novel of Hell and Earth (2020), which follows a Glasgow detective through Dante’s Hell, and That Existential Leap: a crime story, which is part bildungsroman and part novel of ideas. Dolan also works as a freelance copywriter, speechwriter and editor. His own non-fiction writing, mostly on books, politics and religion, can be found at dolancummings.com.
Alastair Donald, convenor, Living Freedom
Dolan Cummings, In praise of our moral inheritance