Religion and Libertarianism

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Recently, I wrote a column on on libertarianism and religion. In this article I tried to make the case that the two are entirely compatible. But, I allowed that sometimes religious people do indeed act incompatibly with the non aggression principle of libertarianism.

In response, I received this note from Vince LaRue, which I reprint in full. I think its author makes very good points on this issue.

Dr. Block,

My name is Vince LaRue, and I’m a Bible Believing missionary to South America. I’m also a somewhat recent convert to libertarian philosophy, not having understood it previously. Like many recent inductees to the liberty movement, this came about through my research into Dr. Ron Paul, as I quickly became an ardent supporter of him.

I am writing you after reading your article “Religion and Libertarianism” that I read on Lew Rockwell’s site toward the beginning of last month. I like to consider myself a thinker, and I’ve pondered what you wrote in that article over the space of a month. I felt that there was a perspective that you might have missed regarding the involvement of religion in past atrocities. Brevity is not something I excel at, but I’m cognizant that your time is valuable and I wish not to waste any of it.

Basically, I contend that contrary to “religion” being responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the treason against the Waldensians, the purges in England, and the oppression in Geneva, to name but a few, it was the fact that these religious positions held a controlling interest in the State that resulted in the terror exacted upon innocents. For instance, Lutheran segregation in post-Luther Germany was a result of the marriage of church and State in that country, the oppression in England of differing religious positions was because of the involvement of the State in religion, Calvin’s oppression was because his religion WAS the State, and, most egregiously, the Vatican itself IS a State, to which over a billion souls worldwide pledge (unwittingly, in most cases) their allegiance, even before their own home countries.

Thus, while religionists have played a significant role in the history of the world, it’s always those people’s access to State power that results in persecution. For instance, you’ll never hear of Baptists, Quakers, or Amish oppressing other religions, as these groups (I am a Baptist) have never sought to control the political reins of any region or State. In fact, Rhode Island’s charter was premised on the Baptistic doctrine of Soul Liberty, a Biblical principle that I would suggest is the foundation for the concepts of Liberty as taught by John Locke and his intellectual descendants.

In closing, your premise is accurate and needful, but I thought that perhaps a perspective on the involvement of religion with the State (and thus the need for the First Amendment) being the cause of all religious persecution and evil might further moderate your opinion of those of us who firmly and steadfastly believe in God and the Bible, yet would never seek to oppress others with our views, let alone through co-opting a State apparatus.

Thank you very much for your time, and I greatly appreciate your writing. Your book “Defending the Undefendable” is on my reading list with “Human Action” and multiple books by Rothbard.


Vince LaRue

3:22 pm on August 4, 2012