New US Law to Protect Non-Theists

For the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

President Barack Obama has signed into law the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act. The new law protects atheists, humanists, and other freethinkers around the world from religious persecution.

Congress passed the international religious freedom bill protecting atheists, humanists, and other non-theists last week with overwhelming bipartisan support, and Obama signed the legislation into law last Friday, Dec. 16. read more

The above brings up questions we might ask of religion, mainly, by what “right” is a State (i.e. church/religion) sovereign and supreme over an individual, and is the rule of law a myth? It’s nice that we have something versus nothing when it comes to being “guaranteed” a “right” to the freedom of religion, AND the freedom FROM religion, but this brings up bigger questions, like how do we get freedom FROM the religion of rights, laws, and States to begin with?

First, rights are Santa Claus in that

The worst feature of the fable of “rights” is the belief that we are entitled to receive them — by God or Nature or Society, or by great-grampa’s victory on the battlefield — some force outside oneself. This leads people to believe that it is the duty of that outside force to protect and enforce one’s rights. Wait for God to protect you from a mugger, and you’ll have quite a wait. Likewise, Mother Nature, or Society, or the Constitution. Your “right” not to be mugged is of no use to you, in the face of any random thug who doesn’t believe in such nonsense. (Which makes him smarter than you.) So if you prefer not to be mugged, it is not useful to count on your “rights;” better to examine your choices. Your choice to carry a gun or to avoid dark alleys will be of infinitely more use to you than your “right” not to be mugged.

 

In a way, it is enormously liberating to give up the idea of “rights.” You don’t need to give up your own moral vision of good and evil, right and wrong. You just have to realize that it is individuals standing up for their own moral choices who are the only defense of liberty. You don’t have to wait for someone else to deliver whatever “right” you believe you are entitled to enjoy.  Make the choice to defend those freedoms you value.  And if someone tries to stomp on your freedom, you will have to choose what to do about it.

 

The whole idea of natural rights, like religion, has the advantage of being a ready-made code of conduct for people who haven’t figured things out for themselves. Like religion, it works to restrain some amount of human savagery. Just as some amount of juvenile savagery is restrained by the belief that Santa Claus will leave lumps of coal in the Christmas stockings of bad boys and girls. But what will restrain us when we grow up and see through the myths with which our parents, priests and politicians have tried to con us?

 

…What are we to put in place of belief in rights? The ethics of non-aggression, peaceful voluntarism, and free trade [or maybe freed market anti-capitalism]. And a belief in choice. You may not have “rights,” but you do have all the abilities and qualities of an individual human being — which is all anyone else has. That means you have the ability to make choices and to direct your own action. You can choose what moral code you prefer to live by, and you can do so to the best of your ability. You can choose to respect other people’s equal liberty to work to achieve their own values. You can choose to associate yourself with other people who share your important values, and you may enter into agreements with them to mutually defend and support one another against aggressors. And if you do this well, you will have all the same security that the notion of “rights” is supposed to give you, only with clear understanding of what your security actually depends upon. A child who understands that his gifts come from his parents is better equipped to deal with the real world than one who continues to believe in Santa Claus.

Second, Lawful isn’t necessarily good in that

It’s only through Law that systemic violence can be created. Law has, built into it, a greater ability to create Evil than Chaos does. Chaos only allows for distributed, or individual, acts of oppression.

 

And the very act of creating and enforcing a moral system into which you expect others to conform is Neutral at best and Evil at worse. It presupposes that people are not capable of being Good without being forced into that behavior, and it forces people into one person’s or group’s ideal of Good without allowing for variance. Forcing others into a system of beliefs is not Good behavior as we understand it.

 

Any hierarchy leaves responsibility at its pinnacle. A legal system, by claiming dominance over an entire culture, is therefore responsible for the whole of that culture, including its positive and negative qualities alike. Since no law can ever be Good all the time, a system based on laws can never be purely Good.

…Every potential example of Lawful Good from history I can imagine was either, on further analysis, not Lawful or not Good. The closest I will allow are those aspirants to Lawful Good who died before the won, before the Law they promoted became just another set of chains to shackle humanity. These are people who have convinced themselves they are Lawful Good. But anyone who seeks to chain the rest of us is not Good.

 

It’s possible to do Good through the law. Those who do so are Neutral Good, using law as a tool when necessary for the greater Good. But at their extremes, Law and Good are fundamentally incompatible, incapable of overlap.

 

Chaos and Good are compatible: one can believe with all one’s heart in Good and fight against Law. Chaos and Evil are compatible: one can fight against every fetter while still being antisocial and cruel. Law and Evil are compatible: ask any politician who serves a system that enslaves people, tortures people, denies whole segments of society agency, imprisons drug users, turns a blind eye to police violence, colonizes previously-settled terrain, or wantonly destroys the earth—which is to say, the politician of more or less any existent or historical government.

 

I’m far too much a partisan of Chaotic Good to advocate that it’s the best alignment by which to live your life. I work against Evil and I work against Law, and I find the overlap of those two to be the most egregious—and common—ill in this world. But others don’t, and I have no strong desire to convince them otherwise. The world is quite interesting the way it is, full of diverse people who act, consciously or not, by these various alignments—all eight of them.

Lastly, “The Rule of Law” is a myth in that

The absurdity of the notion that a piece of paper with words on it in and of itself will fatalistically or pre-emptively stop human beings (including those within the state apparatus itself) from engaging in certain actions should be rather obvious. In terms of the lay public, they may theoretically engage in such actions anyways and their actions may be rather unpredictable. A piece of paper isn’t going to restrain a mob. And in terms of those within the state apparatus themselves, they have most leeway of all in the matter, for it is ultimately they who make the laws and may choose to enforce or not enforce them. Since they are not really bound by any higher external 3rd party institution, they may theoretically function in a lawless manner. The law maker is effectively and seemingly paradoxically “above the law”. For since they have a monopoly on law, they may theoretically interpret it and defy it as they please. The law is not binding on them. Rather, the law’s content and applicability is actually bound to their whims as the ones with power.

 

So it would seem that an attempt at a republic will always reduce to some kind of oligarchy, most likely a representative democracy with a constitution. The constitution is merely an additional feature of the democracy that is meant to restrain both the people and the government. Except a constitution cannot really be effective in any consistent or long-term sense. It will not fatalistically restrain institutional agents of the state from using power and the lay public from engaging in majoritarian or mob behavior. As the decades and centuries pass, it becomes less and less meaningful and effective as a society evolves (or devolves). At best, it functions as a lame rationale to provide legitimacy to the state while its alleged function as a restraint is rendered meaningless by the ability of the state’s institutional agents to exercise their power. A constitution does nothing to actually restrain or take away the opportunity or ability for institutional agents of the state to use power.

 

…There is good reason to be quite skeptical towards the effectiveness of governmentally created laws to begin with. Not only is it absurd to propose that laws can rule on on their own, but the ability of human beings to enforce them is quite limited due to a certain factor of unpredictability in the behavior of human beings. That is, the mere existance of a law illegalizing certain actions and even the existance of an institutional apparatus that attempts to have humans enforce such a law and threatens punishment for defying it does not gaurantee that people will not in fact defy the law and that people will not in fact get away with defying the law. While this has obvious implications with respect to laws prohibiting economic interactions (which are miserable failures in light of their own alleged goals), it is even true with respect to laws against basics that everyone pretty much agrees are wrong like murder, rape and theft.

 

In a fundamental sense, a society truly cannot be planned or socially engineered in the long-run, even by laws. A society is the sum total of interactions between the individuals that make it up, and such interpersonal relations are so complex and diverse that it would be impossible for a single individual or organization to truly predict and absolutely control their behavior. No human being or group of human beings has the mental capacity, let alone the physical ability, to deterministically control and pre-empt the behavior of everyone within a society. They would have to be omniscient to do so. The mere fact that one can only be at one place at one time renders any attempt to efficiently exercise such control ridiculous and pointless. So it could be said that all government is fortunately limited by definition, limited by the natural limits of human ability and the unpredictability and diversity of human behavior.

 

Quite clearly, the law is not something worthy of putting much of one’s faith in, even with good intentions.

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