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Having Faith in Liberty

January 23, 2010
 by Kimberly Ruff

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Libertarians frequently say, "there's room for you in my world, but there's no room for me in your world" when discussing different political ideologies. Doesn't it stand to reason, then, that in a anarchist utopia, we will need to make room for the faithful in a world dominated by reason?



Recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is an up-and-coming mover and shaker in the liberty movement. Over a pitcher of beer, my friend – who is an anarchist and an atheist – told me that he thinks parents who raise their children with religion are guilty of child abuse. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with him holding this opinion, he took it a step further and suggested someone intervene on the child’s behalf.

I have a big problem with this.

In the ideal world of an anarchist – a totally free society absent the restraints of the State – individuals would be given complete creative license to raise their families how they see fit. For the devoutly religious, this would most likely entail raising their children according to the tenets of their faith. Conversely, atheists like my friend would choose to raise their children to be skeptical of religion. In between these poles would be myriad other ideologies and lifestyles coming into play. That’s the thing about liberty: with liberty comes choice, and not everyone will choose the same thing, the same way.

Since we, as people, have a tendency to assume the choices we make for our own lives are the most “right” (not just for ourselves, but for everyone) there will inevitably be the occasional normative judgment on the choices of others. I see nothing wrong this; normative judgments are necessary to help us evaluate our world and orient ourselves within it. I do, however, take exception to using our personal evaluations as a justification for infringing on the rights of others.

Isn’t that, after all, why libertarians rail against the State? Be it dictator, oligarchy, or constitutionally-elected Republic, it’s one, some, or many people making decisions about what is “right” for the rest of us.

Factor in the desire to not only actively insinuate yourself in the affairs of others, but to use force to compel them to adhere to your conception of "right", and you’re just as guilty as the State of the very behavior you deplore.

Therein lays the rub for my friend. In his conception of an anarchist utopia, the vast majority of people would reject faith in favor of reason. Yet history is filled with countless examples of minority groups oppressed by the majority. What if, instead of atheists, the majority of people were deeply religious? They might look at him, raising his children without faith, as the one guilty of child-abuse. Would it be right for them to “rescue” his children from the evils of his faithless education?

It’s during conversations like these my mind recalls the oft-quoted Golden Rule from my Catholic school days, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You may not understand or agree with the choices others make, but if you’re going to advocate a world free of force and compulsion, you will need to ask yourself what is more important – that you are logically consistent, or that others agree with - and live like - you.



Related Content:

Are You an Anarchist, or a Statist Thug - Nick Coons
Murder In The Streets - Nick Coons
The True Meaning of Easter - Mike Renzulli


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User Comments:
Steven, on 1/23/2010 at 8:51pm, said:

I am glad that you posted this. I was just going over similar thoughts. I believe that the people have the right to choose. I mean that is the purpose of a free society. Who am I to tell woman, man or child how they should believe in faith/religion.


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