It's Time for Libertarian Tolerance

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The religious/spiritual
conscience is the strict, private domain of the individual. The
contents of that domain are off limits and irrelevant to other individuals.
Some will claim those contents are sometimes inconsistent with self-government.
To me, that is the height of arrogance and ignorance.

Certainly,
the mind, spirit, and conscience is one piece of our lives off limits
and inaccessible to an oppressive, totalitarian state. Throughout
history individuals have managed to survive and even outlive tyrannical
state regimes by relying on a strong, principled, spiritual conscience
that is untouchable by even the most onerous of despots.

What inspires
and privately defines your self-government is is your own concern.

Recently, US
expatriate Jeff Knaebel (a
contributor to LRC
) renounced
his US citizenship
at the Mahatma Gandhi national monument in
India. Mr. Knaebel shredded
his US passport
and "placing the pieces upon the monument,
Knaebel declared his independence from not only the American government,
but all governments renouncing his birth certificate as well, stating
that citizenship must either be voluntary, or be considered forced
slavery." Mr. Knaebel then read aloud his Declaration
of Renunciation and Severance of U.S. Citizenship
which is a
marvelous, inspiring statement.

As this news
spread throughout the blogosphere I noticed some of the usual gnashing
of teeth among atheist fundamentalists impressed with Mr. Knaebel's
declaration but upset with his motivation. It seems that Mr. Knaebel
is a Buddhist and the precepts of that belief were, at least in
part, the source of his declaration of individual sovereignty.

It's no secret
that a large percentage of anarchists are atheists. Included among
this group are agnostics, who will respectfully claim disbelief
until empirical evidence proves otherwise. These folks generally
respect those who are believers. Then there are the fundamentalist
atheists who unequivocally declare that there is no God(s) and therefore
claim access to all the knowledge of the universe (the only way
one could make such a claim). These individuals are generally intolerant
of any sort of religious or spiritual beliefs.

Anyone who
has spent any time examining the philosophy of anarchy will find
that there are many different ideological "versions" of
anarchism. Per Bylund's Anarchism.net
lists a healthy sampling:

"…collectivist
and individualist anarchists, revolutionary and pacifist anarchists,
atheist and Christian anarchists, communist and socialist anarchists,
high-tech and primatism anarchists, industry-centered and environmentalist
anarchists, as well as property abolitionist and free-market or
capitalist anarchists."

However, you
will find at least three key elements of that philosophy that is
shared by all interpretations: the necessary abolishment of the
oppressive state, voluntary association, and self-government. The
latter is the element being considered here.

In order for
a stateless society to be successful, individuals within that society
must practice self-government, i.e., individual responsibility.
They must act in accordance with a code of morality/ethics dictating
non-aggression and respect for other's lives and property. This
"code" may originate from a variety of sources, secular
or religious.

Some fundamentalist
atheist/anarchists brazenly claim that no one can be described as
or declare himself an anarchist if he has a religious loyalty to
a God(s) because he is then submitting to the governance of someone
other than himself. This, of course, is nonsense. Using their argument,
it would also follow that one cannot be an anarchist if married,
as such a relationship entails submitting (at least sometimes) to
the orders of a marital partner. One could also not be employed
by another party, as that relationship, as well, would involve taking
commands from someone other than yourself. Even a self-employed
individual takes "orders" from his customers.

All of these
examples are related to personal accountability, rather than governance.
An individual is accountable to his/her marriage partner in accordance
with their marriage agreement and vow. An employee is accountable
to the contractual agreement made with his/her employer. In a similar
manner, a business owner is accountable to his/her customers if
he/she intends to stay in business. By the same manner, one who
holds a religious belief does so, in part, to regulate his/her behavior.
The individual sees in that religious doctrine a reliable, time
tested philosophy for guidance. Following that guidance offers the
best hope of living successfully and peacefully among other individuals.
The individual sees this doctrine/code of ethics as a guidepost
to compare his behavior and thus make himself accountable.

None of the
above examples can be remotely compared to statist's behavioral
obedience to their governing ruling masters – an obedience created
through fear, force, and coercion. It is the rejection of this illegitimate
governance that characterizes an anarchist. As
I wrote
a couple years ago:

"Religious
doctrine, in and of itself, has no collective power over others.
It has no armies or thugs with guns to enforce its edicts. An
individual needs no state or private security apparatus to defend
himself from such doctrine if it is intellectually or morally
disagreeable, but merely the use of his God-given reason and self-education.
The state, however, is a secular/godless construct only attractive
to those with no moral conscience. It is an instrument of force,
legitimized by fraudulent doctrine and promises, and used to control
others by force rather than honest, forthright, peaceful persuasion."

The
fact that some individuals have both accepted religious teachings,
and in some cases accepted them to the point of religious reverence
and/or worship, is irrelevant
to being characterized as anarchists
. The fact that they both
dismiss and disavow any allegiance or obedience to any man-made,
man-operated system of governance over their lives, property and
liberty is relevant.

If you come
to these beliefs through religious doctrine – so be it. If
you come to these beliefs by way of an indoctrinated, secular, moral
code of ethics – so be it. What's important is that you have
accepted these ethics and morals as imperative to living peacefully
and freely among other individuals. What is important is a physical,
not spiritual reality – your exhibited behavior toward and your social
interactions with others.

Why should
one give up their own personal motivation to serve the ambitions
of intolerant, atheist evangelists?

July
10, 2009

Roger
Young [send him mail]
is a
freelance photographer
in Texas and has a
blog
.

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