"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Religion is always a volatile topic among humans. Because of the diversity and disparity of beliefs, this often leads to very heated debates on which religion is right. These impassioned arguments even occur among freedom lovers, with many defamatory articles being written and much vitriolic opinion shared about what religion those who hate the state should refrain from. This blanket condemnation of the targeted religion(s) often leads to what I term religious wars of attrition. In these conflicts, the state is often not identified as the root cause of most of society's problems, and often escapes any condemnation at all, much to the detriment of the cause of freedom. To hopefully end these detrimental religious wars, or at least ameliorate their worse effects, I have decided to pick the best religion for all freedom lovers (wow, what is this guy smoking!). I do this in the hope that we can all stop attacking one another over voluntary personal associations and beliefs, and concentrate our efforts on attacking and dismantling the state.
For purposes of identifying the best religion, I have divided religious beliefs into three main categories: revealed religions (including the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Deistic religions, and atheistic religions. Atheists will probably be displeased that I classified their personal beliefs as a religion, but there is a good reason for this.
All religions are based on faith. All religions ask the average person to accept on the word of others ideas and tenets that are not humanly verifiable. We need to recognize that religion is a highly emotional issue. Though people are capable of rational and logical thought, people are also emotional creatures, and emotions often overrule human reason. Emotions are one of the unique human characteristics that separate humans from being just organic thinking machines (think of Spock and the Vulcans in Star Trek). Unfortunately, though emotions are a defining human characteristic, they are also responsible for manipulation of people to support activities that are not in their own best interests. The state relies on this extensively, and uses such highly emotional issues as 'patriotism' and 'support our troops' to con people into supporting its murder and theft.
The Three Religions
Most organized religions are of the revealed religions type. Many people blame all the ills of the world on the revealed religions, especially the monotheistic ones (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). While it is true that there have been and are many individuals who have abused the powers of revealed religions, and have been and are tools of the state, it is completely unfair to characterize all believers of revealed religions as such. What detractors of the revealed religions conveniently forget are the many positive aspects of civilization that individual adherents to the revealed religions have been responsible for, such as art, philosophy, economics, mathematics, law, invention, and technology. Many of the revealed religions are involved in interdenominational outreaches that believe God can be revealed in many different ways and forms, and consider that religion is best viewed as a personal choice, and that dogmatic faith of divine authority by any single religion is a mistake. Many believers in the revealed religions have been and are enemies of the state, champions of freedom and the free market.
Deism strikes a balance between revealed religions and atheism. Deists believe in God, and that he was the ultimate creator of the universe. Deists believe the greatest natural attribute man possesses is reason, and completely reject ritual worship, scripture, religious authority, and the religious caste system of the revealed religions. Several of the founding fathers of the revolution were Deists. Because many Deists question and distrust authority, it should make them natural enemies of the state, and defenders of freedom and the free market.
Atheism rejects all belief in supernatural divine beings. Atheists believe in man, reason, and science. Their rejection of revealed religions is for all practical purposes identical to Deism, though atheists reject the Deist belief in God. While atheists will strongly disagree that their personal belief system should be classified as a religion (most would probably prefer philosophy), I have several reasons for doing this. One is that religion and philosophy are very closely related. Another is that I have found that atheists, as a group, are the most religious and dogmatic in their views, extremely intolerant of other people's beliefs that contradict their atheistic beliefs, and shamelessly proselytize unbelievers in atheism with religious zealotry ' all faults that they attribute to religious people. Atheists have been important leaders in the modern day freedom movement, and continue to lead in the fight against the state, and staunchly support freedom and free markets.
Say, What Religion Are YOU
I was raised a Catholic, and attended Catholic grade school. I became disenchanted with religion as a teen. In the early '70s, I became involved in what was popularly know as the Jesus People movement and lived in a commune (oh, he is one of those socialist, religious wacko nut jobs). Currently I do not attend church, read the Bible, or practice any type of religion. Probably most people would describe my personal belief system as agnostic, as I seriously doubt most people know as much as they claim, especially about religious matters.
My doubt extends to the god of science, which most people confuse with real science. Much of what that passes for science today is mostly of a soft nature as far as scientific evidence, and consists mostly of SWAGs. This questionable research is often used to advance personal agendas, and advance the power of the state, as in global warming. Scientists still cannot accurately predict the weather with multi-billion dollar, state of the art computer-satellite weather systems that continuously monitor data. This doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence in their ability to predict things for which they have little or no actual data. Yet many people, when they hear the word science attributed to anything, believe that it must be accepted as some holy sacrosanct writ above question.
My one overriding belief now is that the state is a completely unnecessary evil, that aggression, force, and coercion are wrong, and that people should voluntarily interact with one another according to free market principles (oh my gosh, he's worse than we thought ' he's one of them anti-state, anti-war, pro-market wacko fanatics). I think it is right to identify and condemn those individuals and groups that are enemies of freedom and the free market, but blanket condemnation of religion does not really help. Much censure of religion is just a distraction from battling the state, and in many cases counterproductive to the cause of freedom.
Objectivism as a Cult
Ayn Rand was a very important leader of the libertarian movement in the last century. She wrote several very highly acclaimed novels that stressed individualism over collectivism and the virtue of free market capitalism over centrally planned economies. Unfortunately, Rand turned her back on libertarianism to found a philosophy called Objectivism, which she developed into an atheistic religious cult. Rand demanded strict, dogmatic adherence to her teachings, and purged anyone who varied from her ideas. Rand was openly disdainful of libertarians, and called them thieves and plagiarizers of her ideas. It is very sad and extremely perplexing that Rand 's final legacy includes collectivism, totalitarianism, and whim worship ' all things she railed against while alive.
Objectivists revere Rand and hold her as an ideal for objectivists to strive for. They treat her writings much as scripture, and are always looking for the meaning Rand imparted to man. If one substitutes the names Jesus, Mohammed, or Moses in writings about Rand for Rand 's name, you will find that they differ very little in form to what a Christian minister, Islamic imam, or Jewish rabbi would write. Instead of Objectivists worshipping Rand as a perfect ideal, they should recognize her glaring faults to avoid repeating the mistakes she made during her life.
One would expect that Leonard Peikof, Rand 's intellectual heir and current leader of Rand 's Objectivism, and a fanatical Christian minister like Jerry Falwell would have major differences in what they support. Most of their differences are minor. Both believe they know what is best for you and how you should live your life. Both fully support the US state's war on terror; implicitly give support to the anti-free market military-industrial complex; are ardent supporters of the state's murder and destruction. They both fully support Israel and the crimes it commits. They are both supporters of US death cults, and are enemies of freedom. Followers of both would be better served by rejecting these satraps of the state, and embracing freedom and the free market instead.
The State as a Cult of Death
Politics is really much more a religion where faith in the god of government replaces rational, intellectual thought. Government leaders are really just the priests of the masses exhorting them to have faith and remain steadfast in their beliefs (drink the Kool-Aid and believe). States have always been cults of death and destruction that control the masses of a country, and who will not let humanity or morality stand in the way of profit or greed.
The state has always committed the greatest atrocities against humans. While people will recognize Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot as mass murders who controlled states, few realize that Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Churchill, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Bush the first, and Clinton were also megalomaniacs who involved their nations in needless wars and have the blood of innocents on their hands. Now we have Bush, Blair, and their government lackeys demanding more blood sacrifice to the god of state.
The state relies on stampeding people to blindly follow their leaders' dictates, while using jingoistic, emotional appeals to 'patriotism' and 'support our troops' to get the masses to agree to the warmongering policies of the state, which are against the interests of the individual. Only those who reject the collectivist herd mentality, and value individualism and independent thought, who question and distrust all political authority, are able to penetrate the lies of the state and its propaganda machines, and refuse its immoral activity. All those who refuse the state and stand for freedom, no matter their own personal belief systems, lead superior moral lives as compared to those who blindly follow and support the state and its bloody rampages.
And the Winner IS
As promised at the beginning, I will now reveal the best religion (drum roll, please). The best religion is the one you decide to voluntarily associate with (what, is this guy crazy ' they can't all be right). Just as peoples' material needs and wants come in all sizes and shapes, peoples' spiritual and religious needs come in all sides and shapes. While Ford would be ecstatic if they could get everyone to believe that they needed to drive black Ford SUVs, and only black Ford SUVs, we know that peoples' personal preferences are much more diverse than that. Just as some people would limit personal choice, and outlaw the sale and ownership of SUVs because of their personal beliefs in the immoral and detrimental nature of SUV ownership, people who try to define and limit personal belief systems fall into the same trap. The beauty of the free market is not that it provides only one answer that everyone must accept, but a plethora of solutions tailored to individual needs and preferences.
As Anthony Gregory shows in his excellent article The Separation of Property and State, the real issue is voluntary association and cooperation versus involuntary forced acceptance. We are never all going to think, talk, and act the same, and it would not be a desirable state even if it were possible, as that is the road to collectivist totalitarianism. While we might disagree with some peoples' choice of personal belief systems, we should always defend each person's right to choose whatever personal belief system they want.
The state, with its reliance of force and coercion, is our true enemy. Our task is already gargantuan, and we do not need to compound our troubles by squabbling among ourselves over personal choices. Such fighting is detrimental to the message of liberty, and the principles of voluntary association and cooperation.