Thursday, January 18, 2007

Christianity and libertarianism: allies or enemies?

Much has been written in some quarters about Christianity and libertarianism/Market Anarchy, whether they conflict in some way or are harmonious. Christians, of course, contend that there is no contradiction, in direct defiance of the strongly-worded Romans 13, written by the founder of their own religion. Atheists argue that Christianity's emphasis on authoritarianism and submission does not jibe well with the notion of personal freedom.

Let's clear one thing out right away. There is no direct contradiction between being a Christian and being a libertarian or an Anarchist. Christianity makes no claims about what political system should be in place, and libertarianism makes no claims as to what religion should be about.

Let's also make a difference between religion and theology. Theology concerns itself with all sorts of supernatural or magical fantasies. Religion, on the other hand, is mostly a tool of social cohesion and moral cohesion. It has very little to do with "god," "angels" or "salvation." People are religious because they want to be a part of their society and they want to be moral people. So we should analyze Christianity and religion in general from those two aspects.

We all know the moral position of libertarianism in general, and Market Anarchy in particular. Both put a strong emphasis on helping other people be free to fulfill their value systems, be free from coercion and arbitrary authority, restoring justice to society, and healing society from group warfare and aggression.

What is the moral position of Christianity? There we see the exact opposite. Christianity puts a strong emphasis on preventing people from being free to fulfill their value systems. In fact, one could say that this is the whole point of Christianity: sacrifice and repression. Let's see how well it fares:

1. Christianity is anti-freedom. Its supposed summits of morality, the "ten commandments" are all concerned with telling people what they cannot do and what they must be killed for doing. Like any other religion, Christianity preaches that people who fail to conform to the group standards, even for non-victim actions, must be punished. In their very behaviour, Christians demonstrate that they are irresponsible towards others.

2. God is the ultimate coercive agent: it can force you to do literally anything, even if it needs to remove your free will in order to do so (such as with the Pharaoh in Exodus). Furthermore, the Bible advocates violent punishment for all sorts of actions, most of which are widely accepted in our society, while advocating some which are NOT widely accepted (such as child sacrifice, abandoning your family, or incest). Christians want to establish a society where fear of the Lord and its Earthly authorities reigns, not a society based on respect.

3. Far from removing arbitrary authority, Christianity crowns the ultimate arbitrary authority: God. The fact that God is an arbitrary authority is always ignored. But there is no reason for anyone to consider God to be a moral authority over himself or herself. Let us assume for a second that Christianity is true, insofar as that makes any sense. Why should we consider God, a being that is supposedly wholly different from us and "thinks" and "exists" wholly differently, if it does at all (even hypothetically), a moral authority on how we, limited material beings, should live our lives? Because God created us? Actually, my parents created me, but few people would consider them moral authorities. Being able to create does not indicate any special moral ability: what it takes to create is very different from what it takes to judge, although some judgment is needed in creation.

4. Talking about judging, on the issue of justice Christianity also strongly promotes injustice over justice. Christians believe that we are all guilty of the crimes of our ancestors (Original Sin) and that we should be judged by our beliefs, not by our actions (salvation).

5. All religions promote group warfare and aggression, and Christianity is no exception. It creates a dichotomous view of reality, where there are two kinds of people: the saved ("us") and the unsaved ("them"). The saved are superior people and deserve infinite happiness; the unsaved are inferior and deserve infinite suffering. By subscribing to his particular church or sect, the Christian isolates himself from society as a whole and aligns his thinking with the groupthink prevalent within it. By doing so he is able to detach himself from the interests of his society and align himself with the interests of his group.

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