Religion Does Not Lead to Liberty

Exasperated people who favor liberty and individual rights, but who also favor separation of church and state, often say to me: “Why is this our choice? Why do we have the socialist Obama on the one side, and the religiously insane Michele Bachmann on the other? Why do capitalism and freedom go hand-in-hand with religious nuttiness?”

Some of the issue is simple politics. The United States, like much of the world, is filled with religiously fundamentalist people. They’re the ones at the grass roots nominating the Republican presidential candidate. They love Michele Bachmann. They love a candidate who questions evolution, and who advocates women “submitting” to their husbands, all the while insisting that “submitting” isn’t submitting. They like candidates who believe in irrational nonsense about converting gays to heterosexuality, treating unborn fetuses as equivalent to human life, and imposing religious doctrine in government schools and other government programs.

Quite simply, there aren’t enough people who are intellectual and rational who also favor individual rights, capitalism and a strong republic with limited powers as the U.S. Constitution originally required. The extent to which people oppose the socialism of Obama is the extent to which, sadly, most of them believe in fundamentalist religion. The extent to which people are secular is the extent to which they buy into the wrecking ball that is Obama’s (and the whole Democratic Party’s) brand of socialism.

This contradiction is, quite literally, killing America.

In the recent Republican debate, even Ron Paul — not known for being a religious conservative like Michele Bachmann or the others — pointed out that our rights come not from government, but from our “Creator.” But a “Creator” is nothing more than a supernatural belief. You’re free to hold that belief, but you’re not free to imply that the only reason you have rights is because of another’s spiritual fantasy.

The reason you have rights is because your nature requires them. Human beings, whether they believe in God or not, must survive by reason. They must survive by thought and the effort to back up that thought. They’re self-responsible creatures. Everyone survives by reason, whether he exercises reason or not. Even a total mooch, who lives off of others (via voluntary charity or government), enjoys that survival thanks to the reasoning, thinking and productive efforts of others. There is no such thing as a free ride. There’s only the illusion of one. Even those who enjoy a “free ride” are having that ride paid for by another. “Paid for,” in the deepest sense of the term, does not refer to money. It refers to reason.

America became what it is because of freedom, and the rationality required to make freedom work. The best of the Tea Party conservatives are right to be “Constitutional conservatives.” But they err tragically when they go on to say, “Our rights come from God.” They might as well be saying, “You have to believe in God to have rights.” The secularists disagree, and they’re right to disagree. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the secularists support socialism.

From liberal Democrats I know, there’s often the retort, “I am not a socialist!” The thing to ask them is, “But if you’re not a socialist, then you believe all property and wealth should be privately owned.” To which you’ll get the reply, “Well, of course not. The government has to be fair, and the income tax has been around for a century, and nobody questions that,” blah blah blah. You know the rest.

This is where we’re stuck. The current presidential campaign is no different. You have secular socialists, on the one side, and religious advocates of (what they call)¬†freedom on the other. One side says you’re not free, and get over it. The other side says you are free, provided that you accept their superstitious beliefs. This is what leads to the spectacle of having to choose between either a Michele Bachmann¬†or a Barack Obama for President, if it comes to that.

The truth is that freedom, individual rights and capitalism are the most rational things in the world. Thinking people are the ones who should embrace them. Individual rights, consistently applied, keep government out of people’s private affairs. Government only concerns itself with objective fraud and violent criminals (foreign and domestic). That’s plenty, and the government should be strong in the exercise of those protections. Beyond that, it should stay out. Human beings must be left free to think, reason, and act. That’s the lesson of the United States of America. It was the freest country on earth, and it was the first to practice the protection of individual rights with any consistency. Whatever the future holds for the U.S., and it’s not looking good at the moment, this fact will always remain true.

Rational people must learn this lesson. Religion takes us back to the supernaturalism and fear of the Dark Ages. Socialism is taking us back to the same place, only by a different means. Reason, freedom, and individual rights will set us free.

If only our presidential candidates would embrace them.