L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 257, February 1, 2004
"It's up to you, Democrats"
Religion and Religious Freedom
Exclusive to TLE
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you have read any of my previous articles for TLE, you know that I am no great fan of organized religion. Not so much because I consider any particular religion any better or worse than any other, but because religion, in general, has become to politicized, and because too many people see it as a way to garner power. In spite of this, I consider myself to be a religious person, trying to live my life by my personal moral and ethical guidelines, which can be summed up in two basic, mutually supporting principles. The first is the Zero Aggression Principle (see Bill Stone's excellent articles for more details on this, or go to http://www.0ap.org/introduction.html). For those who are not familiar with this, just think of the Golden Rule, amplified and explained, and you will be pretty close. The second major principle that guides my life is a statement by Robert A. Heinlein in "Time Enough for Love" : The ONLY sin lies in hurting others unnecessarily!
Aaron Zelman, founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, has an article on his website (http://www.jpfo.org/christian-selfdefense.htm) regarding the current wave of religious intolerance directed toward Christians. I strongly encourage you to read it, as Mr. Zelman makes several very important points.
My personal belief is that religion is a matter best left to the individual, as each person has to make a choice as to which path, if any, they will take to the Divine. I do not have the right to tell you that your path or personal choice is wrong, just as YOU do not have the right to make that decision for me. In fact, as long as your personal path or choice does not lead you to initiate force against me, either physically, or in the form of aggressive proselytizing, I do not think that there is a wrong path.
I know that for many libertarians, religion is a topic that is not discussed. But, as libertarians, we have to recognize ALL of the Bill of Rights, not just the parts we agree with. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof." The Bill of Rights is probably the single clearest use of the English language ever written, and means exactly what it says. Congress CANNOT say what a religion is, nor can they prohibit you from exercising your religion, in any way, shape or form. So, those who push Christianity on everyone are just as wrong as those who say that NO religious symbols may be displayed, and both display the biggest single problem with organized religion, it's tendency to attract fanatics.
Right now, with all the tension in the Middle East, we all tend to associate religious fanaticism with Islamic terrorists. This is wrong, too. Every religion has it's share of fundamentalists, even the Buddhists. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan/Pagan, even atheists, all have adherents who are more than a little fanatical. Does that invalidate all their beliefs? Of course not!
I guess what I am saying is that it is time to learn to respect each other's belief's, even if you don't share them. None of us knows what "truth" is, and can't until we die and see what happens next, if anything. It might turn out that the crocodile god of the Nile is the big boss! Who knows, and really, who cares? Live your life by the simple principles stated above, and that is all you can really do, and NO ONE, with any sense at all, can possibly denigrate you for the way you live your life! Any one who does, well, they probably weren't worth knowing, anyway! In fact, those who do live by those basic rules, no matter whether they call themselves Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, or any one of a hundred other lables, you will probably find to be pretty good people, and well worth knowing.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, and again, and again: Those of us who love liberty are too few to let minor things divide us! Mainstream religion and politics COUNT on us being divided over moral issues, such as religion, abortion, gay and lesbian marriages, and a host of others. When we let these things divide us, we fall right into their trap, and basically, we have said "my personal belief is more important than liberty, free will, freedom of choice, and your rights!"
Think about it.