Thursday, August 25, 2005

Religion and Liberty

Excerpts of a long post at Liberty Corner II:

Many libertarians -- especially the strident atheists among them -- are quick to say that religious morality is unnecessary because morality -- standards of right and wrong -- can be supplied by other sources: libertarianism, for example. There's something to that, if you can bring yourself to believe that the gospel of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Hayek could attract a much wider audience than its present, minuscule, market share.

For libertarianism to grow and thrive, it must be planted in fertile ground. As Jennifer Roback Morse wrote in "Marriage and the Limits of Contract,"
[l]ibertarians recognize that a free market needs a culture of law-abidingness, promise-keeping, and respect for contracts. . . . A culture full of people who violate their contracts at every possible opportunity cannot be held together by legal institutions, as the experience of post-communist Russia plainly shows.
Neither the state nor the stateless Utopia of anarcho-capitalist dreams can ensure a moral society, that is, one in which there is law-abidingness, promise-keeping, and respect for contracts. Where, then, do we turn for moral education? To the public schools, whose unionized teachers preach the virtues of moral relativism, big government, income redistribution, and non-judgmentalism (lack of personal repsonsibility)? I hardly think so.

That leaves us with religion, especially religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition. . . .

The weakening of Judeo-Christianity in America is owed to enemies within (established religions trying in vain to be "relevant") and to enemies without (Leftists and nihilistic libertarians who seek every opportunity to denigrate religion). . . .

I believe that incessant attacks on religion have helped to push people -- especially young adults -- away from religion, to the detriment of liberty. It's not surprising that modern liberals tend to be anti-religious, for they disdain the tenets of personal responsibility and liberty that are contained in the last six of the Ten Commandments. It is disheartening, however, when libertarians join the anti-religious chorus. They know not what they do when they join the Left in tearing down a bulwark of civil society, without which liberty cannot prevail.

Humans need no education in aggression and meddling; those come to us naturally. But we do need to learn to take responsibility for our actions and to leave others alone -- and we need to learn those things when we are young. Public schools can't foster that learning, nor can a relative handful of libertarians. Parents can do it, if they have the right background for it; that background is to be found in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Most importantly, children can learn for themselves, if they are raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition. . . .

Rather than join the Left in attacking the Judeo-Christian tradition, libertarians ought to accommodate themselves to it and even encourage its acceptance -- for liberty's sake. There is much to gain and -- given the separation of church and state, which most religionists prefer -- almost nothing to lose.