Is religion a friend or a foe?
Watching the movie Traitor this afternoon, I gained new insight into the value of religion, in this case Islam. While in a Yemeni prison, the protagonist gives a fellow inmate his rations after a bully had thrown the other man’s rations onto the ground. The bully then confronts the protagonist, telling him “I decide who eats and who starves.” The protagonist fights the bully and his gang alone and, though adept at combat, is overwhelmed. However, other inmates notice his good deed and his daily prayers. The next time the gang confronts the protagonist, the other Muslim inmates come to his aid, and he is left alone.
Libertarians often feel as if they are each a lone voice shouting against the chorus of human aggression. We teach our friends about right and wrong, property rights, and human dignity, but are often unable to affect great change.
We are also generally an atheist lot, though this wasn’t always the case. The revolutionary generation were deists and freemasons. These ‘brotherhoods’ were a source of mutual support. Nowadays, there is a segment of the christian right which leans in a libertarian direction, and as Ron Paul’s Rally for the Republic showed, they are more effective at organizing (even with a less consistent program).
I don’t support the neoconservative tenet that religion is a ‘useful myth’ that should be propagated to keep stupid people in line. And I don’t see how the concept of God makes any sense. As an anthropomorphic creature, he would not be omnipotent; as an omnipotent being, he would not help answer any questions that he supposedly answers. However, I do believe there is utility in shared customs and brotherhood. I would probably join the freemasons if they didn’t require members to profess faith in a supreme beings.
Instead, I move that we treat libertarianism like a religion – a social code. It is only by religious conviction that men have risen from expediency and committed to living righteously. Islam’s success in the Arab world was due to the Koran’s ready-made legal system and principles. Muslims knew other muslims would: use gold and silver for currency, keep their word on contracts, hold 100% reserves on deposits, fight for their property, respect the honor of their wives and daughters. That sounds pretty libertarian, doesn’t it? Sharia law in practice is perhaps a perversion, a fascist overlay of subjugating women and serving the powerful interests. But like the American federation, people were drawn to Islam initially because of its offer of a system of justice that respects freedom and property. What libertarianism needs is a ‘good book’ like the Bible, meeting halls in every city, and people pledging their sacred honor to each other’s defense.
With all that, I don’t think anyone will even miss the God nonsense.