Why Christian and atheist libertarians get along
I’m the most religious guy in the Libertarian Party. At least that’s what my friend, Charlie, decided. I don’t know if his bit of insight was meant to be a compliment or a mere observation. Either way, I suppose there are others more deserving.
For his part, Charlie is a declared atheist. And, therein lays a dilemma for some libertarians. How can I — a certified, card-carrying Bible thumper — stand shoulder to shoulder with a guy who’s never thumped a Bible in his life?
In spite of ourselves.
One may assume there is a détente in which the discussion of religion is avoided like a trip to the dentist. One would be wrong. I find few things more intellectually stimulating than a lively spat with a well-informed atheist — particularly when feeble attempts are made to defend the untenable; eg, evolution.
Or, one may assume there is a level of irreconcilable toleration. Not so. Some of the best Christians I know are atheists. By that, I mean, atheists usually surpass Christians in areas such as morality, decency and human kindness. I don’t tolerate these people. I like them. I enjoy their company. I’d rather hang out with a crowd of honest atheists than a church full of back-stabbing Baptists any day of the week, including Sunday.
So why do libertarian Christians and atheists get along?
Exclusion doesn’t work.
The answer can be found in the word, “inclusion.” Think about it.
When Protestants control a government – say Northern Ireland, for example – Catholics and other non-Protestants have a tough way to go. And when Catholics take charge – as in Ireland – Protestants find themselves on the outside looking in.
Come to think of it, when any religious group takes control, all others face dire consequences. Consider the history of England. Bloody Mary had at least 275 Protestants burned at the stake (including the Archbishop of Canterbury) during her brief five-year term as Queen of England. A century later, Protestant Elizabeth I was executing Catholics. For their part, Muslims have a history of killing both Protestants and Catholics, not to mention Jews.
Life, some think, would be simpler — if not safer — if no religious sect controlled government. Let’s put atheists in charge, they say. That would end sectarian bloodletting.
The inherent problem with atheists at the helm of government can be seen by recounting life under the rule of French atheist Maximilien Robespierre. More than a century after Queen Elizabeth executed Catholics, and 200 years after Bloody Mary was being bloody, Robespierre was sending thousands to the guillotine. The atheistic government of Joseph Stalin killed millions and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge slaughtered hundreds of thousands.
Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and atheists have one thing in common: When any sectarian group controls government, people die. Yet that was the norm of world history until the 17th century.
A place at the table.
Perhaps the most momentous day in American history was February 5, 1631 when a free-thinking British preacher named Roger Williams alit from a ship in Boston’s harbor.
Williams purchased land from the Indians and founded a community that became Rhode Island. Unlike the other colonies, Rhode Island separated civil and ecclesiastical governments. No sect would control government. Rather, all would have a place at the table.
Williams’ philosophy of religious liberty was perceived to be an invitation to disaster. But the anticipated quarreling among the sects never materialized. In fact, the arrangement resulted in religious harmony. No religious institution felt threatened by any other, for all were free to believe (or not believe) as they pleased. There was no reason to burn your neighbors at the stake for having too many holes in their sleeves.
And that takes us back to the original question.
Why do Libertarians — Christians, atheists and other sectarians — manage to get along? The answer is simple. Like Williams, we understand the principle of inclusion. Everyone has a place at the table.
And so, I can relish the thought of being the most religious guy in the Libertarian Party without fear of Charlie sending me to the gulag. Erstwhile, my Christian friends will continue to call me the most libertarian guy in the Baptist church.
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