Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Religious Belief

It is a truism that there are two things one does not discuss in polite company: politics and religion. I've found it impossible to shut up about the first, and almost impossible to avoid discussing the second.

The most common assertion by my conservative friends is that our society is based on belief in God and the teachings of Christ. Therefore, any attempt to create a society without reference to God is to build an edifice on the quicksand of highly debatable human reason. Human reason, after all, is what Communism was based on...and that didn't turn out so well!

This is not a discussion of the relative merits of belief or non-belief, nor the political ramifications of excising God from the Constitution (actually, He's been missing from that document from the very beginning). No, this is about dealing with my friends, acquaintances, and people who think I am the tool of the devil.

To the true believers out there, there is nothing I can say that will put you at ease about my intentions. Nevertheless, let me repeat: I have no desire nor intention to curtail the free practice and evangelizing of your religion. I don't mind churches (I find many of them quite beautiful), I am not offended by religious displays (even on public land, though that's another can of worms), and I do not get bent out of shape when the occasional religious solicitor comes to my door to save my soul.

A little part of me gets annoyed, however, when I (a non-believer) am accused of destroying Western Civilization via immorality and hate. I believe allowing those kinds of statements to go unchallenged can lead to an appearance of agreement, not only about religion (which I could care less), but also about ipso facto policy prescriptions. Like mandatory recitation of the Pledge of
Allegience. Like outlawing the purchase of liquor on Sundays. Like banning pictures of naked women. Like justifying the killing of Muslims.

So I draw the line and I dispute. This is where it can quickly turn into an all-out war of misunderstanding topped with willful distortion. Defusing the situation is sometimes not possible and the best course of action is to walk away before really nasty things get said. Most often, however, I find that taking (ironically!) Jesus' advice and turning the other cheek while refusing to attack in-kind tones things down considerably. Then sticking to the facts of the libertarian philosophy (the principle of non-aggression, whether arrived at by a belief in God or Nature) means I cannot be a threat to others.

This is the point at which the discussion often morphs into an attack on freedom in general, and that is a good thing. Now, instead of discussing belief or non-belief in God, we are discussing the very real and very important definition of human freedom and the likely results. Preconceptions die hard. I will do ten rounds defending drug use, prostitution, and price gouging. But in the end, I have introduced ideas that will rattle around in their brains for a long time.

I don't like these religion based discussions because they are highly emotional (on the other side). Nevertheless, these are some of the most important discussions I can have. Many of the public policies advocated by the Religious Right are every bit as anti-freedom as those of the Radical Left. Usually, after some time, the advocates of religion come to understand I am not endorsing an anti-religious public policy, they themselves become more circumspect in their approach to libertarianism. They, indeed, become mini-libertarians themselves!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not surprised you have hard time having religious discussions since (until very recently) atheists were the least trusted "religious" group. Even gays are more trusted then atheist. But thank God (pun intended) there is Scientology. They're even lest trusted then us:

    God bless the USA. I live in Canada :-)