Happy Easter everyone, if you’re among those who celebrate the holiday. Happy weekend to everyone else. I first wrote on this topic way back in 2010, and it’s a thought that continues to intrigue me. I thought the occasion of the most important date in the Christian year might be a fun time to update the post and explore it again.
There is a growing split among conservatives between libertarian-minded, so-called “fiscal conservatives” and the more traditional social conservatives. This split is most pronounced on issues like gay marriage, gays in the military, gambling and sundry other issues which have the state attempting to impose a sort of code of morality upon the populace.
Social conservatives generally contend that things like gambling and homosexuality are immoral, and the fact (in their minds) of that immorality is all the basis they need to support laws and regulations that restrict or even ban those behaviors.
Libertarian-minded conservatives tend to feel the opposite. They may or may not have personal, moral objections to things gambling or homosexuality, but they believe that people should be free to do what they want to do to the greatest extent possible, and then held accountable for those actions.
Maybe the simplest way to put it is that one faction believes people should be prevented from doing anything that might hurt themselves (up to and including imperiling their souls), whereas the other faction generally believes that people should only be restrained when what they’re doing might imperil others.
What’s interesting to me is that, according to most religious teachings (including Christian teachings), God himself appears to be a libertarian. Which isn’t to suggest that the God of Christian tradition is filling out a voter registration card and voting for Gary Johnson, but rather that libertarianism seems to be the ideology by which the Christian God (assuming the Christians are right about God) is governing us.
Christianity, the religious doctrine I am most familiar with, teaches us that we have free will. We are told that God wants us to abide by his will, and we are warned of certain dire consequences that will come to be if we do not.
But ultimately the decision on how to behave is ours.
If Christians are right about God being an omnipotent, omniscient being, free will doesn’t necessarily have to exist. If God is truly all-powerful – and the adherents to all the world’s major religions seem believe that he is -he could simply impose upon us his code of moral conduct.
He doesn’t, and we’re told by the teachings of Christianity and other religions that this is a conscious decision.
God, according to the Christians, wants us to live a certain way. But God does not force us to live a certain way, even though he could.
So why then should man, with the power of government, attempt to enforce a moral code that God does not?
One of the criticisms of libertarianism I hear often from my Christian friends is that they equate allowing free choice with condoning bad choices. They feel that if they do not support laws against things they consider immoral that they are, by default, condoning immorality.
But does the God of all major religious doctrines condone immorality by allowing us the choice to be immoral? In fact, not only does God allow us the choice to be immoral, but today Christians celebrate what they believe is the means by which those who have made immoral choices can redeem themselves.
I’m not calling for anarchy, mind you. If we are to live in civilized society some level of government and order is needed. But beyond protecting our individual rights to lif, liberty and the pursuit of happiness what business do we have trying to enforce a moral code that not even God enforces?