Faith-Based Freedom: No Such Thing

Dear Dr. Hurd: I disagree on your definition of Republicans’ religious authoritarianism. Religion is a way of life. Our belief in ethical values and our conscientiousness to do what’s right and being honest. We have concern to do what helps everyone and not divide by rich, poor, religion, race or ethnicity.


Dr. Hurd’s reply:

Here are the problems with using religion as a basis for freedom.

One, you surrender reason and logic to your opponent. You say to the leftists, in effect: “You have your science and number-counters on your side. But we have faith.”

This opens the door for leftists and socialists to say: “What good is faith when you’re hungry? What good is faith when you don’t have health care?’

The answer is that only a free market can provide these things. In a society with no free market, you have nothing but stagnation and despair, as far as the eye can see. In a free market, the productive energies of the best and brightest are set free to make a profit and, in the process, create things the world has never before seen, including health care and grocery stores.

There are tons and tons of reasons why the free market serves “society” better than socialism or dictatorship ever could. But religious conservatives — assuming they really want or understand a free market — undermine themselves at the starting gate by saying, “God wants a free market. End of story.”

The other problem is that religious conservatives generally argue, “Freedom and rights come from God, not the government.” Well, they’re correct to say rights don’t come from the government. But rights are part of what human beings need to survive. Human beings can only survive through the use of productive work, grounded in the use of reason. When you take away people’s freedom, you subvert their only means of survival: thought, along with rational action resulting from thought. This is the only way to defend freedom.

You can’t say, “God grants me freedom,” because this is just a different way of saying freedom comes from somewhere else. Actually, the argument that freedom comes from God is a basis for religious dictatorship. “God grants us freedom.” This implies that God’s spokesmen here on earth will determine what freedom should or should not be allowed. You see how well that works under fundamentalist Islam. Religious conservatives such as Rick Santorum (look for him to be a front-runner for President among Republicans, next time around) stand ready to do some version of the same thing here in America.

With respect to freedom and individual rights, the root of all evil resides in the false belief that freedom comes from somewhere. No government grants us freedom, and no supernatural entity does, either. All we can ask a government to do is to protect freedom — from force or fraud, the only way your freedom can be violated. You can pray to God to do this, but that’s frankly ridiculous as a form of government. I’m sure you wouldn’t propose we get rid of the police or armies or court systems to protect us from force and fraud, and replace them with prayer. But saying freedom comes from God makes just about as much sense.

People keep writing me and asking things like, “Why don’t the majority of Americans support freedom and individual rights? Reason and facts are on their side.” Yes, but the overwhelmingly dominant advocates of freedom base their arguments on supernaturalist belief. This causes the leftists to win by default. This explains all the polls you see that show a majority of Americans want smaller government, and don’t want Obamacare, yet they keep voting these things into office, time and again.

You also state that conservatives want to help everyone. But that’s actually not the function of government. The function of a proper government is to protect individuals from criminals, from violent or fraudulent offenders. The minute you start talking about the general welfare or providing this or that to make people’s lives better — you’re outside the realm of individual rights, and you’re certainly outside the realm of capitalism. If a primary function of government is to make people’s lives better, then we need more leftism and Obamaism than we already have. By this standard, government should guarantee an income, computers, cars, and all the conveniences of modern life. We’re on our way to doing that, and you see the impact on the economy’s growth and the national debt. No matter. If government’s job is to provide, then the sky’s the limit.

Republicans, in their religion, concede two points to the left, and this is their downfall. One point they concede is reason/rationality. The other point they concede is that the purpose of government is to serve others (which in practice means forcing some to serve others). It’s no wonder Republicans keep losing, and even the few times they win — they still lose. It’s no wonder the Republicans who remain in Congress are falling faster than dominos when it comes to upholding Obamacare, raising taxes and increasing spending (which they’ll call cutting spending, but they know full well it’s increasing spending.)

It’s time for advocates of individual rights, including hands off capitalism, to face two facts. The two parties are on the same side. And those of us who favor individual rights are a minority. It’s not hopeless, because so long as there’s free speech, it’s always possible for an intellectual minority to change the tide.We came to be a socialist democracy not because of a widespread commitment to socialism, but because of the articulate advocates of socialism in the intellectual minority of academia.

If free speech goes under, it will get ugly. As important as economic liberty is, the gravest battles may be yet to come in the area of free speech. Leftists run the show, and they’re unlikely to tolerate dissension or intellectual opposition from any minority. This is because reason is not on their side, and they evade this fact. It’s tragic that their only opposition comes from proponents of supernatural beliefs.


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