"There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong...." ~ James Madison
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This is the last in my series of eight reports from the year 2030 about life in our newly-free society. I hope you've enjoyed them so far, and although they are rightly very upbeat, I hope you also agree they included "warts and all"--that they came without unjustified bias. If so, I also hope you'll be hungering and thirsting to help make it happen. Of course, with the benefit of time-warped hindsight, I know that you did.
All those hopes are mentioned because this last report will disappoint a number of readers. I'm sorry about it, but--to coin a phrase--that's the way it is. It will represent, for some, a large additional wart.
Anyone who knows what a free-market society is can also see that it works wonderfully but only if everyone understands it and wants it. By "everyone," I don't mean there must be literally zero practitioners of initiated force, but that their number be so small that our ordinary, efficient, competitive justice industry can handle the residue; that is, that they number no more than around 1%.
The need for understanding and desire can be verified easily. Suppose that a magic wand abolished government tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. ; imagine what exactly could prevent its reestablishment at some time before 5 p.m. The public, being wholly ignorant and helpless, would holler and whine for it and pols would crawl out of the woodwork to oblige. So: universal desire for liberty is indispensable, and the prerequisite for desire is understanding, and the prerequisite for understanding is universal education about the philosophy and practice of freedom. Any program (such as a political platform that promised "freedom") was doomed absolutely unless it included that universal, in-depth re-education, which it never did. Such education is necessary--but it is also, happily, entirely sufficient.
That much was clear before 2008, or should have been. Now, the nature of that re-education started with the rational understanding of what human beings are and what government is, by their core nature in each case. This required that every student base his life on reason above all. Once those questions are addressed and answered rationally, the only society compatible with human nature is rapidly seen to be one without a government. So rational thought is indispensable to freedom--and fortunately, rational thought is an activity of which every human being is capable. Okay, end of lengthy preamble!
So, rational thought leads quickly to acceptance of anarchism, but it also leads to acceptance of atheism; and so we come to the subject of this report. Just as government is an obvious myth when examined rationally, so is god an obvious myth when examined rationally; and it's not consistent to accept the one conclusion on rational grounds without also accepting the other on rational grounds. It's not that religion is important or that atheism is a prerequisite for living free--not at all. Rather, rational thought is most certainly a prerequisite for living free, and rational thought leads also (and incidentally, if you will) to atheism.
Even so, a lot of good people eager to rid society of the scourge of government believed in God. Further, the very essence of "freedom" is that everyone is free to do and believe whatever he wishes, in and with his own life--so it is obviously impossible to have a society that is free, and yet which prohibits religion! These are the logical difficulties that needed to be overcome.
Here's how it has worked out, and first: nobody in the new, free America is told what to believe and not to believe.
In the process of learning the indispensable habit of thinking only in rational, economic terms, virtually everyone came (rightly) to see that traditional religions were as absurd, irrational and dangerous as government--indeed, that they are "two vultures from the same egg." There were, however, exceptions; some exercised their rational faculties regarding the latter, but suspended them regarding the former. I can't explain this, I merely reflect sadly on the power of superstition. These folk continue to attend church and to embrace the story that there is a creator (who lacks both a crisp definition and any theory about who created him) who (out of all his billions and billions of stars and planets) interested himself in one particular species on this particular rock; who is said to be "good" yet created that species with the capacity to choose to do "evil" which he also created (since, allegedly, nothing exists that he did not create) but then blames people for choosing it; and who took human form by a virgin birth (!) and underwent death and resurrection. It's a tale that has MYTH written all over it in giant letters, but they go on believing it anyway. In this new, free, rational society, they persist in worshipping an imaginary deity who allegedly appoints governments--entities that have always practiced far more evil than all others combined--to suppress wrongdoing! This is all evident in their Internet profiles (something they don't mind), so anyone poised to do business with them takes it into account. No doubt some shy away, wondering that if they can be that irrational and eccentric, how can they be trusted to honor a contract? But others take the view that church folk are as honest as the day is long and as pleasant and kindly as they come--so it comes out for them in the wash. It's beyond me to account for such glaring contradictions, but as long as these folk don't aggress--and they don't--there is no problem.
For the most part, however, religion has been dumped. In the early years of this century, there was supposed to be a large minority of believers, in America --by some counts, a majority. In reality, this included a great deal of fluff. Actual, regular church attendance never did exceed 20% of the population after 1950, and of those only about a fifth seriously embraced the doctrines involved--the rest just enjoyed the pleasant company and comforting liturgies and dropped such beliefs as they had, when they learned how to think rationally and take back their own lives, and to build them on rational ethics instead of superstition. So the "hard core" we're describing above never amounted to more than about 4% of the population, and much of that has melted away. Since they are non-aggressive, they blend in well enough.
Did the abandonment of formal religion lead to some kind of psychological "hole" in life? Not a bit of it. On the contrary, the rational understanding in the case of every person that he or she is the sole, sovereign owner of his own life was absolutely thrilling and liberating, and formed the mainspring of the urgent desire to experience it in practice! It was (for nearly everyone) by no means difficult to shed the superstition that we are really owned by some invisible, inaudible, intangible deity--any more so than to shed the superstition that we owe some allegiance to an invisible, inaudible, intangible state. Far from causing a hole or deficiency in our self-esteem, it has all wonderfully repaired holes and deficiencies--we are now whole human beings and are not afraid to explore our inner beings along with all else that this marvelous life has to offer.
There's plenty of meditation going on, as part of that endless and fascinating exploration. Quiet contemplation of the wonders of nature and of one's own person has replaced religion, for many people--and the contemplation of someone else's needs is what replaced "prayer"--in fact, a few still call it prayer. Prayer was never proved to have changed the prayee one iota--but it can certainly have a beneficial effect on the prayor, by focusing his thoughts and perhaps leading to an idea for achieving himself the objective desired. This all increases the general benevolence in society and so does it good and helps enhance its peace.
Peace, justice, prosperity, health, knowledge, self-fulfilment--these are features of our society in Free America; and they all stem from freedom, or self ownership. Urgently seek freedom, you folk back in 2008, and those other, priceless attributes will become yours. See you soon!