Religious Libertarianism

September 15, 2002

by Bruce Walker

Libertarianism has long been associated with agnosticism. The role of clergy has often been to support the state and to justify its malefactions, so religion has been used to impose faith on the faithless. Libertarians oppose this coercion.

But religious faith is an indispensable to Libertarianism. Belief in a material universe leads to the nightmares of Marxism, where people no more have "rights" than any other animal. As the lion slays the antelope, Stalin slaughters Kulaks. When Libertarians seek only the world, then they answer to no moral authority. If Hitler wins, he imposes his will upon the world. Victory of the hunter is the only value of material man.

Free market ideas separated from faith may increase wealth for a while, but it produces no reasons to be good. General improvement of the human condition will help the secular libertarian, but clever crime will help the secular libertarian even more.

But if we have souls, life is sacred and liberty of the soul to choose righteousness mandates individual freedom. If humans have souls, then they have rights independent of human interaction; God has given us rights.

Devout religions can go down the path of coercion, mandating church attendance, persecuting unbelievers and so forth. This path reflects weak faith. If the human creature has a soul, then the right to choose God is absolute. Only interference with that right by coercion may be properly attacked with violence. A person compelled to profess beliefs that he does not truly hold offends both the bully and the coerced liar.

Christianity prescribes toleration: "Let he who is among you without sin cast the first stone" and it is not surprising that American documents embracing freedom most came from those inspired by religious faith and who speak of inalienable rights "endowed by our Creator."

But Christianity hardly has a monopoly on respect for the human soul. Judaism, Bahai and Buddhism also embrace tolerance and individual rights. Such a perspective on the sanctity of individual choice is the natural consequence of the sanctity of some part of the individual that makes choice.

Sometimes Christians have used forced to try to make people believe, and when that happens the perpetrators are neither good Christians nor good Libertarians. But it is vital to remember that the strongest opponents of totalitarians have been religious figures whose faith in the transcendent enabled them to overcome the overwhelming power of the temporal. What brought down the Soviet Empire? Devout Christians like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Pope John Paul II.

Who first went into Nazi concentration camps voluntarily? Clergy who denounced National Socialist as abhorrent. Ironically, it is the very non-rational nature of religion that makes it such a danger to tyrants. In medieval times, even the king and nobles were restrained by religion; in ancient times, the arbitrary rules of religion provided a check on royal power. What was religion, anyway, except manís attempt to understand the reason for things?

Does it always work that way? Of course not. Antebellum slave owners justified keeping the "Children of Ham" in chains. But Libertarianism is based upon a very important principle: Statistical verification of logical processes. The free market does not lead to the best results for each individual, but the free market produces the highest probability of individual results. Coercion produces the certainty of bad information and the seeds of ultimate destruction.

Devout religious belief rested in the sanctity of the human soul reduces dramatically hateful coercion and cruelty. Ultimately, profound religious belief is ultimately the only sure antidote to state control. The best and surest government is individual conscience. The notion that libertarians should not proselytize their religious beliefs is preposterous.

Liberty does not require scientific, humanist interpretation of reality; it postulates that at the level of human interaction - which lies somewhere between the unfathomable mystery of the quantum level and the unfathomable origin of creation - freedom is the most beneficial system in every area of human interaction: governmental, social, economic, cultural and philosophical.

Liberty ultimately requires a respect for others, and that comes only through belief in the transcendent importance of others, which strongly implies a soul created by God. The details and dogma of libertarian religion are not crucial, but there are critical elements: (1) the validity of metaphysical judgments; (2) the existence of a benevolent Creator; (3) and vehicles for human understanding of divine purpose.

There is a moral duty upon libertarians to preach right and wrong; only by moral instruction can the impulse of frustrated people be guided away from non-consensual activity and toward consensual relations. Religious libertarians should preach that courtesy and manners matter, and that upright conduct and honor matter. Libertarians who do not lead by example and instruction may call themselves libertarians, but they do not know the real source of their notions of liberty: Our Creator.


Bruce Walker has been a dyed in the wool conservative since, as a sixth grader, he campaigned door to door for Barry Goldwater. Bruce has had almost two hundred published articles have appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law & Order, Legal Secretary Today, The Single Parent, Enter Stage Right, Citizen's View, The American Partisan, Port of Call, and several other professional and political periodicals.

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For more of Bruce's articles, visit his archives.

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