Faith & Freedom

Why Libertarians Suck at Religious Tolerance

“Beyond this day, no thinking person could fail to see what would happen”

~Oskar Schindler

By R. Brownell

Ever so callous, Ayn Rand set the tempo for the Objectivist Movement’s view on religion and faith very early on in her career as a writer/philosopher:

“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves–or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth”, she once said, stating that anything that forces you to consider your existence after life would prevent you from living your current life.

Though that specific quote by Rand can be interpreted as living in the now and taking opportunities during our time on Earth to create a reputation and legacy, she would continue in her Objectivist gospel to state her true feelings on the matter of religion:

 The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence…Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God… Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith….The purpose of man’s life…is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.

  ~Ayn Rand, The New Intellectual

This judgment, for all implications meaning the God of the Judeo-Christian faiths, managed to find its way into the early 20th century libertarian movement in the United States, when Objectivism and early post WWII libertarian philosophy began to go hand in hand. The argument that religion and reason are incompatible, and that religious institutions have promoted more violence than peace has not simply caused libertarian-minded individuals to reject organized religion as a whole, but has also managed to block out the concept of a divine creator itself, while implying that man does not have a soul.

The classical liberal virtue of individualism in the United States only appears to suit a specific agenda similar to that of the progressives in the Democratic Party as in, “come if you’re black! Come if you’re gay! Come if you’re anti corporations! But if you are a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, you’re ineligible to join our club”. This concept that you either believe in a singular worldview or else you can’t be a libertarian is exactly why stereotypes of libertarians paint us as heartless, cruel, atheists, without a sense of values or morality.

Libertarians should not simply be tolerant of the existence of  other religions or faiths, but must be tolerant of other libertarians that do worship a power or entity beyond themselves. Or else the whole principle of individualism and the basis of free will would be contradicted by saying that libertarians must goose-step to a specific, singular mantra of beliefs and standards in terms of worldviews.

David Boaz from the Cato Institute reminds us of the importance of religious freedom and expression in terms of historical and cultural importance:

Throughout our history, most voters and movements have agreed on the fundamentals of classical liberalism or libertarianism: free speech, religious freedom, equality before the law, private property, free markets, limited government, and individual rights. The broad acceptance of those values means that American liberals and conservatives are fighting within a libertarian consensus. We sometimes forget just how libertarian the American political culture is.

Additionally, if the Liberty Movement is to ever attempt to draw in more activists, primarily the large number of Christians in the United States for example, a great opportunity would be to highlight the current Christian-Libertarians making a difference currently, according to the site “The Christian Libertarian“:

“…there are a number of Christians associated with think tanks such as the Mises Institute, Cato Institute, and Independent Institute, including Jeffrey Tucker, Tom Woods, Robert P. Murphy, Lew Rockwell, Gary North, William Grigg, Ryan McMaken, David Theroux, and Doug Bandow. Others that should be mentioned include Chuck Baldwin, Steven Yates, Laurence Vance, and our own Norman Horn.”

The opportunity for men and women of faith to explore libertarian philosophy would only add more value and insight to the liberty minded community, while also showing men and women of reason the spiritual and moral standards in which the faith-based justify their outlooks and worldview. A prime example of one of the most famous Christian Libertarians, a man capable of balancing reason and faith, is former congressman Ron Paul. Paul, during his 2011 GOP Presidential Primary campaign, stated poignantly how his Christian roots internalized his lifelong struggle for a just government:

“I get to my God through Christ…Christ to me, is a man of peace. He is for peace. He’s not for war. He doesn’t justify preemptive declared war. I strongly believe there is a Christian doctrine of Just War and I believe this nation has drifted from that, no matter what the rationals are, we have drifted from that and it’s very, very dangerous and I see in many ways being un-Christian.

And to justify what we do in the name of Christianity I think is very dangerous and not part of what Christianity is all about. Christ came here for spiritual reasons not secular war and boundaries and geography. Yet we are now dedicating so much of our aggressive activity in the name of God, but God– He is the Prince of Peace. That is what I see from my God, and through Christ, I vote for peace.”

Faith and reason both have a place in the Liberty Movement. To deny religious individuals for not being complete mainstream libertarian purists is just as wrong as rejecting secularism, since though we may die alone, the fact remains that we live among men. In the struggle for individual freedom and limited government, everyone has a stake in liberty and justice itself; whether you accept that your rights come from your humanity, or from the author and creator of your destiny, the time is now to wholeheartedly welcome Christian Libertarians and other god-fearing lovers of liberty.

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