Libertarians, Morality, and Religion
by Richard “Chip” Peterson, PhD Aug.5, 2010
Many people accuse Libertarians of being immoral. They are not immoral.
They just believe that moral behavior is the responsibility of each individual,
not of the government. In the Libertarian view governments should prohibit
people from physically harming, stealing from, cheating or defrauding other
people. However, if a person's actions do not harm or threaten only themselves,
not other people, Libertarians believe that the government should not interfere
with that individual's behavior.
Individually, Libertarians may be very moral people. They are bound by
the moral code in which they individually believe. Many are very religious and
follow the moral code advanced by their religion. However, they recognize that
other people may follow different moral codes.
In the area of religion, for instance, some religions require that their
pious followers attend church daily. Others religions require that their
adherents pray 5 times a day. Some may celebrate their Sabbath on Friday night
and Saturday, while others may celebrate their Sabbath on Sunday. Various
religions also have different codes of morality. Like the
founding fathers of our country, Libertarians believe that people should
be free to practice their religion any way they wish as long as their religion
does not harm or threaten others. They also believe that government power should
not be used to force people to follow any one set of religious practices to the
exclusion of others. People should be free to choose and practice their own
moral code as long as their actions do not harm or threaten others.
Personally, I try to follow a very strict moral code. For instance, I
believe it is wrong to lie. That is not a practice that is conformable with
being a politician. However, I believe it is possible for someone to remain
silent rather than to lie. I also believe that many of the moral codes taught by
organized religions have merit. I don't believe that violating a specific
religion's moral code necessarily constitutes a mortal sin that will be punished
in one's afterlife. However, I believe that violating such codes often will lead
to situations that will create unhappiness or problems in one's secular
of various religions' moral codes may be disruptive to society or physically or
psychologically harmful to the individual who violates those codes. Some of the
codes may become obsolete over time; for instance, it is no longer harmful to
eat pork since people can now control the trichinosis
parasite that often caused pork eaters to suffer from infection and painful
disabilities in ancient times—which was the reason such restrictions were
initially imposed. However, other
codes retain merit since they prevent people from engaging in behaviors that may
be psychologically or socially harmful to them –such as prohibitions against
premarital or extramarital sexual activity. My belief is that the observance of
many traditional moral codes may allow people to lead a happier contemporary
life, without suffering from pangs of guilt or from psychological or social
problems. Such benefits can accrue regardless of whether the observance of
specific moral codes does or does not allow an individual
to be more favorably situated, in heaven versus hell or purgatory, in his
or her afterlife.
My beliefs, however, are my beliefs. As a Libertarian, I do not feel that
government force should be used to impose my beliefs upon others. However, I do
believe that government force can be appropriately used to prevent or punish
people who would harm others. For instance, I believe the government should
apprehend and punish murderers, not because they have broken a religious moral
code (a commandment), but because they have harmed other people. I also believe
the government has an appropriate role to play in preventing and punishing
people who have harmed, threatened, cheated, or stolen from others, regardless
of whether such behavior is explicitly forbidden by a religious commandment.
In general, other Libertarians all share the belief that government force
can appropriately be used to prevent or punish people from harming others.
However, each Libertarian is entitled to have whatever other religious beliefs
or moral codes he or she may choose to obey.
Email Chip with any questions., Chippete@aol.com
Richard Peterson Campaign, Richard Peterson treasurer