The God Question

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

Why does it matter, to market anarchists, whether or not God exists? Surely all would be able, in a free society, to believe whatever they wish about religion?

That was the thrust of Paul Bonneau's recent article here, and he added that it's counterproductive for the libertarian spokesman to ridicule the religious. His point is well taken. In the comments appended to what he wrote, some felt that ridicule doesn't hurt much, but I tend to agree that it probably does--if it's directed at the person holding the belief being scorned. That might well offend him, and stop him listening to us further. In any case, it's bad manners.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure it hurts to ridicule a ridiculous belief itself--indeed, it's sometimes hard not to. I see quite a difference between saying "Jones is an idiot, he believes in God" and "Here's why a belief in God is idiotic, and I hope Jones will stay clear of it." The first brands Jones as a fool in himself, perhaps permanently unable to remedy his condition, while the second offers him help to avoid a pitfall, or to climb out of one.

But still, why does it matter?

It matters because the prime task of those wishing to bring a free society about is to move our statist neighbors away from their belief in the need for, and efficacy of, government; to show (as Larken Rose has, in his remarkable book The Most Dangerous Superstition) that the belief that government rightly exercises authority over us is a complete myth, and even that government itself is a complete myth, that the State doesn't actually exist. This can only happen when our statist friend begins to think straight; to rid his mind of pre-judgments, of non-rational premises. To grow up, intellectually. Then of course, having understood the real nature of human beings and of government, to resolve never to work for the latter; only then will it disappear.

So first and foremost, we have the task of changing our friend's mode of thought; to move him from faith to reason. Until that's done, any apparent "conversion" to a rational view of the world--to an acceptance of the self-ownership axiom and so of market anarchism--is likely to be shallow. It's unlikely that he will be able or willing to bring along any of his friends with him, and of course, if that one-to-one teaching process ("going viral") doesn't happen, we won't see any free society in our lifetimes, and given that WMDs exist and are proliferating, that may well mean, not ever.

Now, can a properly thorough makeover of the mind encompass rejection of the government myth, yet retention of the god myth? For the two are very similar. Both involve believing a proposition that is plainly not true when examined dispassionately. In the first case, the irrational belief is that someone else can order one's life better than one can order it oneself (or as I noticed somewhere recently, "A politician is someone able to spend your money better than you can"), which is obvious nonsense on its face. In the second case, the irrational belief is that there exists an undefined and undefinable entity that nobody can see, hear, touch, smell or taste, and yet who created everything that exists and who is closely interested in the conduct of each of seven billion individual humans; a proposition that has m-y-t-h written all over it in huge letters.

Further, we mustn't forget Old Nick, the furnace operator with horns, green skin and a long tail. He was invented to "solve" the problem that evil exists in a world created by one allegedly both benevolent and omnipotent. But wasn't Nick created, also? So he doesn't really solve the problem at all? Yes he was, say the mythcrafters, as a very senior angel; but in a moment of pride, he exercised free will and fell to Hell. So is free will reluctantly included in their world view, and neatly associated with evil. Still, Lucifer's big tumble solves nothing anyway, because if God created free will, responsibility can be left on mere humans who exercise it, and where it belongs; no copout is available, such as "the Devil made me do it."

That free-will thingie has incidentally given a lot of trouble to Calvinist theologians, who are no strangers to reason. They concluded that there really isn't much, and that some people are predestined to damnation. That repugnant result springs directly from their false premise--so let's be careful, always to check our premises.

In a more rational world view, evil is what may happen when humans acquire power over other humans. See more here.

Both myths, about government and god, are totally absurd; if a person comes to his senses fully enough to abandon the first, why would he not also abandon the second? And if he does retain it, why should not his statist friend, whom he is trying to turn into a clear-thinking person, accuse him of gross inconsistency and say, for example, "if you keep your religious fairy tale, I'll keep my government fairy tale"? That would be a response extremely hard to gainsay.

That's why it matters.

9.14286
Your rating: None Average: 9.1 (7 votes)
Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"

Comments

Allen's picture

"In the comments appended to what he wrote, some felt that ridicule doesn't hurt much, but I tend to agree that it probably does--if it's directed at the person holding the belief being scorned. That might well offend him, and stop him listening to us further. In any case, it's bad manners."

This is the crux of my own points on Paul's article. More than once I stated unequivocally that I think ridiculing someone is bad manners. It's poor communication.

The problem is, however, that many believers see themselves *as their belief*. To ridicule, scorn, or even dissent from their view, is to reject them personally. I've encountered this numerous times. Now, I see that a person isn't separable from their actions completely, and this include speech-acts. One is responsible for what one does, no one else. However, we must decide what actions are actually harmful, and where we can apply our principles, such as the NAP.

The problem I have with Paul's article and some of the comments, is that many believers want to have it both ways. They want to completely identify with their belief, speak their beliefs, and yet expect to brook no response in kind, and thus be irresponsible for their actions. This becomes more absurd when the believer in question is responding to a non-believer to begin with. They want unilateral empathy for their belief, and if they completely identify themselves with that belief they seem to feel a "hurt" equal to a physical blow. Any challenge to their verbiage becomes an assault on them. I see this an attempt toward irresponsibility on their part. This type of believer is not interested in discussion, but in proselytizing, even if it means denigrating the views of the non-believer. It is the non-believer who must step up and be "kind." I cannot agree with this.

Suverans2's picture

"To ridicule, scorn, or even dissent from their view, is to reject them personally." ~ Allen

Paul Bonneau's article, (and its accompanying comment string), had nothing whatsoever to do with mere "dissent", a difference of opinion, no matter how hard you have tried to make it so.

Allen's picture

You mean to tell me you've never heard of a believer who equates dissent with an attack on their faith, and thus on their person? If they identify themselves so completely with their faith, that is likely going to be the outcome, even if it is they who broach the non-believer. That's what I'm getting at. I have encountered people like that, Suverans2, people who take great offence at the slightest hint of non-belief.

How about this common argument some believers make:

Atheism=godlessness

Godlessness=lack of morals

The lack of morals = the cause of human atrocity

Stalin committed such atrocities

Stalin was an atheist

Allen is an atheist

Now I cannot "cut and paste" any statement which directly says Allen=Stalin, or Allen=mass murder , the kind of statement you desired of me in the other thread. But, I can use my noggin to figure out I've just been equated with a mass-murderer. Can't this easily be taken as insult? Can you really not understand how this would evoke ridicule of some atheists?

The person making this argument believes this. Are non-believers expected, then, to equate this with something like the sentiment, "God loves us?" Or are non-believers expected to always take a "higher" moral stance for the sake of preserving such beliefs?

Suverans2's picture

If you were directing this at me, you need to get your "noggin" in better working order, my friend, because this accusation, "...Allen=mass murder , the kind of statement you desired of me in the other thread...", once again, is absolutely, completely and totally absurd! Where do you get these cockamamie notions, anyway, Allen?

Allen's picture

Perhaps I wasn't clear, but, do you think I was saying you called me a "mass murderer?" Really, I'm seriously asking, since that *inference* (Allen=mass murder[er]) was obviously made from the example argument I posted above, *not* in our previous encounter. The "believer" above didn't come out and say "Allen = mass murderer," but what other conclusion can I draw from his argument? Making such an inference is a common process within rational discussion.

It was the process of making an inference that I was referring to when I said "the kind of statement you (S2) desired of me..." regarding our back-and-forth over on Paul's thread. I *inferred* a conclusion from what you said, thus I cannot "cut and paste" you making that conclusion yourself. I think I was fairly clear about that and even invited you to clarify what you meant *if* my conclusion missed the mark. I left the possibility open as to my missing the mark. So far, you declined the invitation to show me if and how my inference was unsound. Instead it seems you've become hostile toward me, considering me dishonest for making an inference even while I asked you if it was accurate.

Perhaps it will help us if (if you desire to continue) if you assume "good faith" toward me, even if it means you assume that I'm a dullard, though a persistent dullard. Heck, I've been considered worse, and even on par with a mass-murderer given how some believers view us non-believers in God as traveling the road to human toward human slaughter . Picture me as a dullard who really wants to understand you (and I do), rather than becoming increasingly defensive at some imagined "ridicule," or "dishonesty" on my part.

Suverans2's picture

One thing is perfectly clear to me, Allen, this conversation is going nowhere, and it is probably due to my own lack of understanding. Thanks for your time.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Jim,

Would you say that what you have written here, like, "who created everything that exists and who is closely interested in the conduct of each of seven billion individual humans", and the Old Nick-Devil-Lucifer crap, pertain, in any way, to the First Cause belief of the Deists?

Jim Davies's picture

It's an amazing argument, S2, isn't it? "Everything must have a cause, therefore there must be an entity that doesn't have a cause."

Not sure whether he ever did, but George Carlin could have had fun with that one.

Suverans2's picture

Speaking of "amazing arguments", what was it, 'in the beginning', that had no cause, according to Atheists?

Jim Davies's picture

Was there a "beginning"? How do you know?

Suverans2's picture

Ok, I'll play...but not much longer. lol

"What was it that had no beginning, JD?"

In my concept of a "free society", JD, individuals are free to choose to believe that there was a First Cause, (and call it anything they like), or choose to believe that there was not a First Cause, providing that neither of them demand that I believe their theory is the right one.

Jim Davies's picture

Of course, S2, individuals are free to believe any kind of nonsense they like. If they wish, they can solemnly believe that the Earth is flat. Why not? - religion, being irrational, needs no link to reality. They can even believe that government is necessary or beneficial, despite the mountain of reasoned evidence to the contrary.

The universe may or may not have had a beginning; the evidence (AFAIK) isn't in.

But if some Flat Earther at the same time urges someone else to reject faith in government on the correct grounds that it's irrational, he can and will be discredited and dismissed as incredible and inconsistent. That was the point of my article. I hope that was clear, and don't regard it as a game to be played. Or not played.

DennisLeeWilson's picture

comment has been moved to end of list. -dlw

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

That's why I remain agnostic and am not either an atheist (in the sense of god-denier) or a conventional Christian. I think that if I were a Christian, I would be burned alive because I think that much of Christian theology is entirely unwarranted and shows its contamination by Greetk philosophy and all of its existential shortcomings.

Suverans2's picture

G'day JD,

You may not be aware, but you failed to answer the question, and instead chose to resort to ridicule.

The question was, if Deism is "...the 17th- and 18th-cent. doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning[1]", does this, "who created everything that exists and who is closely interested in the conduct of each of seven billion individual humans", pertain, in any way, to Deists?

Since you may no longer be responding to anything I write, I will answer it for you, "No, it does not".

See how easy it is to give an honest answer?
_____________________________________________________________

[1] Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

The last page of this thread contains some thoughts on theism, atheism, and agnosticism that you may want to see.

tzo's picture

Aren't you conflating God and religion here just a bit? It seems one could believe in God(s), or believe in the possibility of God(s) with subscribing to any authoritarian or over-explanatory religious doctrine. Is this the sign of an irrational mind, prone to believeing in illogical entities?

Jim Davies's picture

Perhaps, Tzo, yes. The trouble is that there are, I understand, more than 4,000 religions some of which have multiple gods, so it's impossible to discuss either subject until some crisp definitions are offered. Above, I was assuming that since most readers will have some familiarity with Christianity, I could validly use for illustration some of the alleged attributes of that god.

Attributes, however, fall far short of a definition in any case. What is, I hope, abundantly obvious is that (absent such a definition and proof of existence) _all_ such religions are superstitious nonsense with no roots in reality. Yes, I'd say that to believe in illogical entities is certainly a sign of an irrational mind; though not, I hope, of one beyond hope of rescue.

None of this is to be confused, of course, with a sense of wonder at the awesome magnificence of the universe, nor for a moment is it intended to dampen enthusiasm for understanding it; on the contrary, rational exploration will continue to be a major purpose for mankind after government has been abolished. And I grant your point in another place that it _may_ prove impossible to obtain answers to everything inquiring minds would like to know. It is just to say that when one encounters dogma such as "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" written by some unknown author who pauses neither to define his terms nor present his evidence, one should call rubbish and hokum by their names.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

To my way of thinking, the 'religious impulse' represents a psychological tendency to reach for easily-digestible solutions: this in turn implies a form of truncated 'investment horizon', where the 'project' is the attempt to understand how best to grasp one's place in the world.

In much the same way, if I discover that an asset manager is obese or a smoker I know immediately that he is wired to short-term satisfactions - which are inappropriate for any investment methodology that has a horizon longer than a day.

Some would call that 'prejudice': those who think that every new encounter should be undertaken with the mind wiped clean as a tabula rasa (even a palimpsest reeks of 'profiling'). I call it 'discrimination' because I think I know what the word means (in sensible usage).

Anyway - back to the topic: Gods (shorthand for 'entities possessing apparently-marvellous powers').

In a universe as large, as old, and as interesting as the one we inhabit, it is unlikely that we are the first sentient beings to achieve our current level of technology.

Given that within a generation we will probably possess the technical wherewithal to 'transcend' our meatbags, the likelihood that some set of entities has already done so is high. (This is my primary reason for having no interest in 'alien abduction' tropes: any civilisation a generation more advanced than us would have no need to pursue such primitive research methods).

So from my perspective, the odds seem good that there are entities out there that are sufficiently advanced and powerful as to be 'as gods' to us humans (even in our current technological state), especially if we take 'gods' to include the old Greek/Roman/Egyptian pantheon style flawed (often mortal) 'superhuman' .

BUT (you knew there was going to be a 'but', right?)...

The existence of power is not a reason to bend the knee to it. Worship is ALWAYS wrong, because it is the wellspring of exculpation.

Examples: it is already the case that US .mil worshippers are saying that we ought to 'forgive' the 'snap' that caused the patsy in the kill-team in Afghanistan last week to slaughter children.

Likewise, nobody within the Catholic Church has advocated disinterring the Borgias and burning their corpses, as they did to Wycliff: Wycliff did nothing more than the translation of their book into the vernacular (Wikileaking the appalling contents of that ludicrous primitive Iron Age monstrosity).

TL;DR: Even if 'gods' exist, nobody ought to worship them. They ought to be judged on their actions and on those alone. Also: people who have a need to believe are natural patsies.

Suverans2's picture

G'day GeoffreyTransom,

Doesn't this, "...the odds seem good that there are entities out there that are sufficiently advanced and powerful as to be 'as gods' to us humans..." merely beg the next question? Who or what created these entities, that perhaps created "us humans"?

voluntaryist's picture

S2: No it doesn't. Being more technically advanced is only taken as evidence of being a god by those who are deists, e.g., those who are constantly interpreting the world thru their superstition. Those of us not crippled with the deist superstition do not fall on our knees and worship what we have not yet come to understand. We know we are ignorant but can learn, and eventually advance as much as any species.

The "god made the world" answer is no answer at all. It is the avoidance of an answer. For example, in science, every answer generates new questions. The "god" answer is an attempt to end questions. Furthermore, it contradicts the original assumption that everything is explainable, i.e., explain god.

Suverans2's picture

V: You seem to have misunderstood the question.

    Doesn't this, "...the odds seem good that there are entities out there that are sufficiently advanced and powerful as to be 'as gods' to us humans..." merely beg the next question? Who or what created these entities, that perhaps created "us humans"?

In fact, GeoffreyTransom's statement does "beg that next question", whether one believes in a First Cause, (a rational definition of god?), or not. What I find intriguing is that somewhere, some thing was a First Cause, that is to say, some thing apparently had no beginning, no matter which side of this issue one is on, and that thing, flies in the face of logic. Also, in my opinion, "existence exists" is sophistry, (in this sense); it, too, is "no answer at all".

This deist, (because I cannot rightfully speak for other deists), interprets the world through "application of reason and observation of the natural world", not "superstition"; and, if, and when, the whole system of created things is proven to be merely an accident, i.e. having no intelligent source whatsoever behind it, I will be one of the first to acknowledge that fact. But until that day, as with your wife, I see this inconsequential difference of opinion not causing any "problem" with you and I living a compatible voluntaryist lifestyle...at least for the next "thirty years". ;)

Oh, and, I know of no deists that "fall down on their knees and worship". Out of curiosity, if you don't mind my asking, does your wife?

AtlasAikido's picture

1. Some of this was addressed by another poster (Dennis) on this thread and I concur with him: "Existence exists" is NOT circular reasoning. [Nor sophistry....]

It could be accurately called a "tautology" because it is a redundant use of words--as is ALL identification of reality! "I am me" and "I am a man" are identifications and, as such, they are also tautologies. But they are NOT circular reasoning.

Existence exists and man's mind is CAPABLE of knowing it--even though there is overwhelming evidence that the capability is grossly underused.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tautology

2. 'Branden does indeed address whether or not the universe had a *beginning*.

From Branden's article:

Just as the concept of causality applies to events and entities within the universe, but not to the universe as a whole--so the concept of time applies to events and entities within the universe, but not to the universe as a whole. The universe did not *"begin"*--it did not, at some point in time, "spring into being." Time is a measurement of motion. Motion presupposes entities that move. If nothing existed, there could be no time. Time is "in" the universe; the universe is not "in" time.'

http://tinyurl.com/First-Cause-article

Objectivist Newsletter-Vol 1, No 5, May 1962, page 19--The "First Cause" article

Since everything in the universe requires a cause, must not the universe itself have a cause, which is God? ...

3. Existence is all that exists, the non-existent does not exist; there is nothing for existence to have come out of--and nothing means nothing. If you are tempted to ask: "What's outside the universe?"--recognize that you are asking: "What's outside of existence?" and that the idea of "something outside of existence" is a contradiction in terms; nothing is outside of existence, and "nothing" is not just another kind of "something"--it is nothing. Existence exists; you cannot go outside it, you cannot get under it, on top of it or behind it. Existence exists--and only existence exists: there is nowhere else to go..

Suverans2's picture

"A vain Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and attire hires two tailors who are really swindlers that promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "just hopelessly stupid". The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession." ~ The Emperor's New Clothes - Wikipedia

I refuse to "play along with the pretense" that that makes sense, though some may think me "just hopelessly stupid". So be it.

AtlasAikido's picture

Again another poster (Dennis) addressed this issue: "No combination of logic or facts is effective against a deeply-held belief." --Chris Martenson

THANK YOU, Darkcrusade AND Suverans2, for providing PROOF that Paul Bonneau is right and Jim Davies is wrong regarding the ability--and the need--to convert religious people to rationality.

There is NO NEED to convert religious people AS LONG AS they agree to forego the initiation of physical force. Once a person does actually initiate physical force, it matters not what their religion or their rationality.

On the other hand: The following may be of value to others who are still mentally wrestling with the deliberate misdirections (i.e. lies) that the culture surrounding us has pounded into each of us since our birth.

http://tinyurl.com/First-Cause-article

Objectivist Newsletter-Vol 1, No 5, May 1962, page 19--The "First Cause" article

Since everything in the universe requires a cause, must not the universe itself have a cause, which is God? ...

Suverans2's picture

There is no such thing as "the universe", anymore than there is such a thing as "the people", they are both made up of INDIVIDUAL ENTITIES.

AtlasAikido's picture

If you are tempted to ask: "What's outside the *universe*?"--recognize that you are asking: "What's outside of *existence*?" I do think that was the complete sentence provided in the above excerpt from the article I also linked in my prior post...

*Existence*
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/existence.html

Suverans2's picture

"It seems one could believe in God(s), or believe in the possibility of God(s) without subscribing to any authoritarian or over-explanatory religious doctrine." ~ tzo

That, my friend, would be Deism, if I am not mistaken.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Excellent point, Tzo. See the last page of this thread for some analysis of what passes for Christianity and atheism.

Samarami's picture
    Jim Davies: "...Both myths, about government and god, are totally absurd; if a person comes to his senses fully enough to abandon the first, why would he not also abandon the second?..."
    Allen: "...I think ridiculing someone is bad manners. It's poor communication..."
    Tzo: "...Aren't you conflating God and religion here just a bit?..."

Me: 'Nuf said. Lest I fall into the bad mannerism of ridiculing the ridiculer, I think I'd better head off to my truckin' business. Sam

Allen's picture

Did I miss something? Was there some ridicule going on?

Jim Davies's picture

Any time you truck your truck to the North East, Sam, let me know and we'll share a jar. I have this curious feeling that you are not just an ordinary trucker :-)

Suverans2's picture

G'day JD,

Do you really consider it "reasonable" to believe that your concept of a "free society" is "going [to go] viral" in your lifetime?

Jim Davies's picture

Yes.

B.R. Merrick's picture

I appreciate both articles. As a former believer, I can say that my own way out of the false/unprovable belief in "superior vs. inferior" would not happen until I stumbled on information that laid bare the religion to which I used to hold quite tenaciously. I would think that for each individual, what leads him to a greater sense of life is going to be different.

This is why I feel it's beneficial for each voice to find his own way of expressing his views. I got stuck at Jim Davies's wonderful Online School of Liberty (TOLFA) right about where the questions about religion popped up. It was requisite for my own path to hear directly from former members of my church instead, and the vitally important information they were able to dig up from reliable sources. However, for someone else on his pathway out, those questions might just have been the last questions he ever needed to read about God and religion.

I would consider myself a Post-Christian as opposed to an ex-Christian, which some might say is pandering too much to religion, or the idea of "superior vs. inferior," but as part of my own pathway, I feel it's vital.

Both articles were written by men who quite obviously know how to respectfully disagree, and that's more than enough to wait patiently for each individual to meander his own way through the darkness to the light. Very interesting debate, gentlemen.

Jim Davies's picture

Thank you, B.R.

You'll be referring to Segment 5 of TOLFA, near whose beginning come the words:

"One is most reluctant to turn anyone away from a deeply-cherished belief; but that third item makes it formidably difficult to reconcile religion (which all agree rests upon faith, not rational analysis) with freedom (which does rest firmly, as we are seeing, upon rational analysis.) The Christian or other religious student will have to work this paradox out for himself."

I'm therefore very surprised that you "got stuck" at this point. Either you could "work out the paradox for yourself" or else you couldn't, and chose faith instead of rationality - which your words here about being a post-Christian suggest is not the case. So was there really a reason to stay stuck? Have you seen a better way to bring about a free society, and if so what?

In any case, as you'll recall from http://tolfa.us/prel.htm, the procedure if a student needs help ends up with his referring to his Mentor. Did you do that, and if so how did he respond?

B.R. Merrick's picture

"So was there really a reason to stay stuck?"

I wouldn't say I was looking for excuses to stay religious. The history of my church, the extraordinary claims made by its founder, the way those claims are presented to the world by the leaders of the church, all worked together in my mind to establish tall tales as truth. It wasn't a matter of wanting to move on without religion (although that was a desire to a certain extent); it was a matter of the truth of those claims being incontrovertible in my mind. I thought I had done all the necessary research.

What was really necessary was for me to see, from the work of legitimate historians outside the church, that the history of the church is quite a bit different than what I thought. Now religion is history for me.

And I must confess to not using a mentor. [Insert sheepish grin.]

Paul's picture

Jim, men's minds must be putty in your hands, that's all I can say. I mean, to suggest that one can convince someone to give up both on religion AND government, merely through argument (with maybe a little ridicule thrown in for spice)? I am in awe that you can do that. I've never been able to manage it. But to respond to a couple of points...

"But still, why does it matter?

It matters because the prime task of those wishing to bring a free society about is to move our statist neighbors away from their belief in the need for, and efficacy of, government."

Well, no, that is not the prime task. Again, I don't care if people retain their faith in both religion AND government. In fact I think the most likely free world will include vast numbers of people who retain those beliefs - at least for the short and middle term. Maybe 5000 years from now humanity may have given up following fancies - but I doubt it. Certainly though, one faces quite a problem of making the transition from where we are to where you want to go (no belief in religion or government). Maybe we should worry a little bit about how to get there?

I don't need 100% of all human beings to miraculously wake up perfectly rational atheists some morning. I just need enough of them to realize that there are some things government shouldn't do. Virtually everybody already realizes that, so I'm half-way there. Next, I just need them to realize that one of the things government should not do, is to attempt to govern people who do not want to be governed. This I have already done time after time even though men's minds are not putty in my hands, unlike you.

I suspect the real difference between us is that I don't care if other people don't believe as I do; and that you do care.

Suverans2's picture

Like.

I would only change this, "I just need them to realize that one of the things government should not do, is to attempt to govern people who do not want to be governed", to this, "I just need them to realize that one of the things government should not do, is to attempt to govern people who do not need to be governed."

Paul's picture

No. "Need" implies judgement of the governors, who needs it (no surprise, they think everyone but themselves need it). "Want" is the correct word, as it implies the opinion of the individual in question. And that opinion should be respected whether those around him think he needs it or not.

Suverans2's picture

I see your point. I was thinking along the lines that individuals who refuse to live according to the N.A.P. definitely "need" governing, but I doubt seriously that they would "want" it.

Jim Davies's picture

You're right, Paul, I care about that very much - and am amazed that you do not. Beliefs lead to actions; the malodorous society we currently endure is the direct result of people believing in the need for, and efficacy of, government. Either we change that belief in the vast majority of people, or else this society will spiral even deeper into tyranny. I repeat that it is, most certainly, our prime task.

The idea that it's simple is ludicrous; I've never said so. It is, however, being done.

Paul's picture

Keep in mind I am saying I don't care what they think in areas that do not concern me, that are none of my business. Certainly I do care in areas that impact me. Where we differ is in areas that are none of our business. You seem to think everything is your business.

We also differ in methods. You believe in a frontal attack on beliefs, although such methods are notoriously ineffective. I think the best person for changing someone's erroneous belief is that very same person. "The man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still." And he's motivated to change his beliefs through personal experience and observation rather than being argued or badgered into it. Just seeing a free community work, where one could be established, would work wonders in the minds of people living around it.

Usually I would not care much about you choosing ineffective means - you are wasting your time, not mine - but your methods (and those of other libertarians who seem driven to attack religion) feed perfectly into the rulers' primary tool for dominance, "Divide and Conquer".

Jim Davies's picture

Let's try to keep _ad hominem_ remarks out of this exchange, shall we Paul?

The idea of establishing a small libertarian community and having it "seen" as an example is at first very reasonable. I doubt it would work, but wouldn't mind being proven wrong. One variant on the idea is the Free State Project, now in New Hampshire.

My doubts come mainly from this: if such an enclave were to succeed, its reputation would indeed "work wonders" elsewhere. Admiration and a wish to emulate, yes, but also extreme hostility on the part of those whose rule would be ended were it to spread. In short, one nuclear bomb would quite spoil its day.

Paul's picture

What are you calling "ad hominem"? I wouldn't want to hurt your feelings, Jim.

If you mean my comment that you consider everything your business, I don't think that qualifies as an ad hominem. Read it right here:

"This can only happen when our statist friend begins to think straight; to rid his mind of pre-judgments, of non-rational premises. To grow up, intellectually. Then of course, having understood the real nature of human beings and of government, to resolve never to work for the latter; only then will it disappear.

So first and foremost, we have the task of changing our friend's mode of thought; to move him from faith to reason."

You are literally talking about concerning yourself with EVERYTHING he thinks. You are making yourself judge of his rationality. Worse, you intend to modify everything in his mind you judge to be irrational. Can anything be more presumptuous? It reminds me of the phrase "consciousness raising" that leftists used to express back in the '70's, as if the objects of their condescension were unconscious, and they themselves were rational gods.

Humans are perfectly capable of simultaneously holding both true and false opinions. Virtually all people are like that. Our heads do not explode. We should concern ourselves with those opinions that negatively affect us only. The rest is none of our business. Concerning ourselves with the rest will only reinforce the ruling class's Divide and Conquer technique. Concerning ourselves with everything they think will doom us to irrelevancy, since the success of such a technique must be vanishingly small.

"Admiration and a wish to emulate, yes, but also extreme hostility on the part of those whose rule would be ended were it to spread. In short, one nuclear bomb would quite spoil its day."

Hmmm, don't you think a nuke would tend to affect "legitimacy"? Anyway, the point is not to be one lone island of freedom in the middle of a vast tyranny. The point is to get everybody else, including statists, to look for localized government models that they prefer for themselves. They are just about as imposed on as anarchists are.

Your sales program to the statists is, "Be just like me, rational," although you will not be able to say it in any such straightforward manner (which itself is a hint it is lacking). My sales program to statists is, "Be like you want to be, have exactly the kind government you want. Just leave me alone." Seriously, is there any question which has the better chance of success?

You may need the help of someone you consider irrational some day - maybe in the middle of the coming revolution. You will get more concern from him if you haven't previously let him know you think him an idiot or a fool.

Jim Davies's picture

This thread is so long I only just came across your post, Paul. I'm glad you've no wish to offend. Even so, you came pretty close by comparing my approach to that of Leftists, and by calling me "presumptuous."

I fear there is more of a gulf between us than I'd realized. I'm not interested in whether anyone prefers cats to dogs or cauliflower to beans, but certainly I'm eager that everyone base his or her life on rationality instead of superstition. If you want to insert the words "like me" I can't stop you, but I do resent it. Reason is the distinguishing feature of human beings, and the only basis for the self-ownership axiom; so to urge everyone to think rationally seems to me a pretty good place to begin.

Then, I see you want to "get everybody else... to look for localized government models that they prefer for themselves." Really? You want to encourage people to form governments? I wonder what it is about the tin gods of town hall and the zoning or school board that you find so appealing. My understanding was that Strike the Root intends to put an ax through all that nonsense.

Allen's picture

Hello Paul-

You wrote: " I think the best person for changing someone's erroneous belief is that very same person."

I agree with you, 100% even. In fact, I so much agree with you that I don't go out and verbally harass religious believers from out of the blue. Personally, I take that old Hellenistic approach of not trying to control what is beyond my power to have influence. For example, I'll write about my views pertaining to religion on my blog or in print and engage in online forums. These I can control to some extent.

Once, however, I put my views out there for the world to see and respond to, they cease being completely private. I knowing full well there are people out there, particularly on the Internet, who are offended at the least hint of unbelief and may potentially respond. That's OK as I also already know the world is a mixed bag, so I don't expect people to respect my views. I've voluntarily put them out there, period. I take responsibility for my views and the action of writing/speaking. If I didn't want any response or to perhaps influence others to become more like minded, then I would have no need to write or speak my views. There's always the soliloquy, right?

We human apes aren't like that. We speak and write our views. Language is always an attempt to persuade, and thus rhetorical (despite what logicians *believe.*). We are social animals. Conversation relies on the heuristic that conversation is give and take, that one "holds the floor" the other listens. We tend to find monologues rather uninteresting, boring, and unhelpful as a form of communication. In other words, to speak publicly is always risky to one's beliefs, values, desires, feelings, and sometimes even body.

So, in online forums (such as this) when I see religious believers putting their views out for all to see, I see them making an attempt to inspire and influence people in their own manner, otherwise they'd have no need to speak in public. Either they desire a monologue or a response of some kind. Just like me they enter a world they largely cannot control, and as such they cannot control the response they will receive which, like them, will be based solely upon their perspective values, history, context, etc. One is, however, responsible for the final choice of speaking forth or staying quiet (or engaging in soliloquy in private).

We need to come to very specific understanding of certain terms and ask ourselves some deep questions on the what constitutes an "attack" on religion; what constitutes an "attack" *by* a religious person? What will be the best form in mitigating and responding to such "attacks?" And so on...It seems suspect to try and place double-standards on non-believers and believers which clearly benefit the latter.

Allen's picture

Perhaps, and only perhaps, the best way to describe me, as far as "God" is concerned, is "apatheistic." I simply don't care if God exists. In fact, I see the belief in God as a total lack of joy in what life is and can offer. I see belief in God as a weakness of character, temperament, strength and intelligence in that, in order that one considers oneself a "good" person, one must rely upon a fiction - God. In order to maintain that fiction, and hence, the sense of one's own "goodness" (morality), all kinds of arguments, logical justification, and outright exclusivity may be maintained.

Suverans2's picture

DEIST, n. One who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion, but follows the light of nature and reason, as his only guides in doctrine and practice; a freethinker. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

DEISM, n. The doctrine or creed of a deist; the belief or system of religious opinions of those who acknowledge the existence of one God, but deny revelation: or deism is the belief in natural religion only, or those truths, in doctrine and practice, which man is to discover by the light of reason, independent and exclusive of any revelation from God. Hence deism implies infidelity or a disbelief in the divine origin of the scriptures. Ibid.

deism noun belief in the existence of a God on purely rational grounds without reliance on revelation or authority; esp., the 17th- and 18th-cent. doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning ~ Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed

voluntaryist's picture

S2: Can "god" be defined rationally? I have yet to read such a definition. Yet I consider myself a freethinker, e.g., one who "follows the light of nature and reason". That said I respect and love my wife who is a deist. She cannot define "god" but believes in "something". I do not try to change or challenge her. It has not been a problem in thirty years.