Faith and Force

We have a strange relationship with religion in this country.  For every ten people, there are eleven different views of how we human beings relate to the Cosmos.  Some people believe in a personal God; others believe in an impersonal Divine Presence.  Yet others believe in neither, preferring instead to see themselves as the product of natural forces operating over unimaginable periods of time.

It is tempting to think that we each have some special insight into existence as a whole, that my particular vision of a divine being or my favorite prophet is the last word.  Maybe that is necessary to maintain sanity–it is hard for some to accept the idea that we may be a curious accident with no cosmic significance.

Religion, or lack thereof, is a radically personal thing.  Each of us has to find, within or without an established doctrine, a way to make sense of our individual existence.  By its very nature, religion is not imposable on others.  This does not keep people from trying.

Attempts to proselytize are usually met with hostility and contempt.  Rightly so.  While I am happy to hear about how others have reconciled the apparent meaninglessness of existence with their own lives, I am not eager to be told I should do the same.  Were I forced to, say, worship crickets, nothing would have changed except my outward behavior regarding crickets.  Inside I would be the same as always.

Herein is the problem, and a message for religious conservatives of all stripes.  We libertarians want you to be free to believe in any thing you want, sing any hymn you want, and build any church you want.  If you believe in liberty and limited government, please don’t bring along the attitude that deference to your religion is required to be a real American or that you have the right to bomb infidels.  Worship your God, read your scriptures, and go to your heaven.  Just leave the rest of us alone.  That’s how freedom works.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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1 Response to Faith and Force

  1. Becky Holloway says:

    Terry, I agree with you 100%. The best “witness” we religious folks can make is by living a life others want to emulate. However, although I do see a lot of proselytizers, they seem rather benign in my experience. What is disturbing to me personally is the ridicule believers often face from nonbelievers, which is similar to the attitude the political left has for the right. Here’s my message to those people: I’m not trying to actively convince you that I’m right, please don’t try to convince me that my beliefs make me stupid. Feel free to believe what you want, I will do the same, and keep your arguments about flying spaghetti monsters to yourself.


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