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Why Did The Acton Institute Produce "The Birth Of Freedom?"

We produced “The Birth of Freedom” to keep alive the knowledge of the role religion has played historically in the “birth,” growth and securing of freedom. While this historic reality would have been at one time a commonly held understanding, today it is not. We want to suggest something else through this film, namely that freedom cannot long prosper outside of morality—that not only did the Judeo-Christian tradition bring liberty to fruition, it must remain vibrant to sustain it.

This understanding of the symbiotic relationship between religion and liberty was a core foundation of the American experiment. But today, secularists are keen to excise religion, religious symbols and all religious influences from the public square. To think liberty can survive such a mutilation is akin to thinking a beautiful flower can come into being and continue to exist without its roots and the soil in which it is grounded.

Alexis de Tocqueville certainly recognized this relationship between religion and liberty when he observed: “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?”

Many educational and public policy groups who believe in markets focus on “relaxing the political tie” in society. And this is right and critical to do, especially in the face of the growing state. The larger the government in society, the more society is politicized and crowds out private and religious intermediary institutions so necessary for the proper functioning of freedom. However, few organizations emphasize the necessary proportional “strengthening of the moral tie” while advocating for smaller government.

“The Birth of Freedom” is one more tool the Acton Institute has developed to better equip thoughtful people to understand and appreciate the moral basis of liberty, and the positive obligation to right action in the use of our individual freedom. It is only through this understanding throughout the world, we can build up societies that are prosperous, free, and virtuous.