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L. Neil Smith's
Number 589, September 26, 2010

"Why do creators create?"

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Vox Radio, Vox Dei
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Most of my frequent readers are aware that I am not a religious person, and that I think, in fact, that religion has a very bad effect on civilization and the individuals who create, live in, and maintain it.

But religion or nonreligion is not my pet issue. I regard it as a distraction from matters that are more important to me, and I actively avoid writing or arguing about it. With only the exception of a close friend or two—earlier in my life—I would never dream today of attempting to talk somebody, another friend, my audience, perfect strangers, out of whatever they may find comforting or uplifting in life.

God (or somebody) knows there's little enough of that lately.

However I heard something on the radio this afternoon that I couldn't let slither by unstomped. I listen to a lot of conservative talk shows. For the most part, I enjoy them, if only because they provide me with a virtual fountain of ideas for articles, essays, and columns. (Even having written about a thousand of the damned things by now, I've never been quite sure of the difference between the three—and don't even ask me about novels, novelettes, novellas, and what my friend Rex "Baloo" May calls "novelitos".) Listening to them also confirms for me, virtually every day, why I am not any kind of a conservative, but, sort of like Eric "Blade" Brooks ... something else.

Every weekday, as I work, I listen to a local fellow named Peter Boyles (not the one who was in Young Frankenstein, Outland, and The X-Files—and I miss G. Gordon Liddy and Ken Hamblin), then Rush Limbaugh, then Sean Hannity, and then, if I'm too preoccupied or lazy to get up and turn the radio off, by default I listen to Glenn Beck.

I won't try to describe Boyles, he's a complicated guy—kind of half conservative, half liberal, with a dash of libertarian—which is one thing that makes listening to him interesting. His program streams at starting at 5:00 AM Rocky Mountain Spotted Time.

I've written about Rush Limbaugh a lot—which is to say he's supplied me with material for many a column—he's a blowhard and an ignoramus in many ways, although he's not a bully like so many in his trade. I started listening to him because he's courteous to his listeners and callers. But his denunciation of the idea that Moslems have contributed a great deal to Western Civilization is just plain butt-stupid know-nothingism, and I would refer him to Rose Wilder Lane's great The Discovery of Freedom if I thought it would do any good.

Somebody tell him.

He also thinks he knows about science, which sort of makes you squirm in the way it does when other people are unaware that they're embarrassing themselves. He's from Missouri, and somebody forgot to show him. But he's not particularly different in that respect from, say, Ann Coulter (who strikes me as somebody who should know better), Joseph Farah, Ben Stein (an enormous disappointment to me) or an astonishing number of the columnar crowd that hangs out down at

Speaking of Ann Coulter, I read a column of hers today that shows we have a long, rough road ahead if we're going to get our country back, and our fellow travellers are going to bear careful watching. In writing about the disastrous election of 1964, she asserted that Barry Goldwater lost that year because he wasn't enough like the godlike Ronald Reagan, especially where it came to that old time religion and a couple of what we politely describe these days as "social issues". Coulter was three years old when all that happened. I was 17 and, depending how you count them, it was my second or third political campaign.

Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 election, not because he wasn't religious, or took positions on issues that the goddies didn't care for, but because the instant the people gave him the Presidential nomination, his party—as Republicans do with nauseating regularity—went Viagraless on him. Hey, Ann, do you really want to identify yourself with the original RINOs, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge, George Romney, and Weeping Willy Scranton? The minute the media knew, thanks to the limousine left of the northeastern GOP, that the coast was clear, they went apeshit on Barry and there wasn't any way to talk back in those days, not even to Bill Moyers' obscene, lying propaganda.

For him, I could hope there is a hell.

Ronald Reagan was probably the best American President of the 20th century. On the other hand, the Gipper left both governments he bossed bigger, more powerful, more expensive, and more unanswerable. So what makes his shoe polish taste any better, Ann? Sure, Barry was probably less religious (for which I read more rational) than Reagan. I don't really know what he believed, and neither do you, because, unlike the self-righteous and incontinent Bible-thumpers in today's political circus, he managed to keep it in his pants. Goldwater took positions on abortion and gay marriage that half the country still shares with him.

I don't recall hearing that Peggy Goldwater hired astrologers, the way Nancy Reagan did, either. Would that be a bad thing or a good thing?

But once again, I have digressed.

All of that said and to one side, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Formerly Fat Flumpus (Rush Limbaugh, not Ann Coulter, who reminds me of a giraffe in a miniskirt). His best quality is that he understands the use of humor in an ideological conflict. I will always believe that he saved us from the Clintons with that humor and he has certainly taken the edge off Obama's assault on Western Civilization.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Sean Hannity that a good, hard spanking wouldn't cure, preferably administered by Paris Hilton. Or Lady Gaga. The great risk, though, is that he might start to like it.

You've probably gathered by now that I don't care much for Glenn Beck. I like the way his program works, a running dialogue between him and his second banana (isn't that how Don Imus and Howard Stern work, too?) and his opening theme is almost as good as Hannity's. But the guy is so damn depressing he makes you hate him even when you agree with him, and the average listener feel like slitting his wrists at the closing theme. He's a vampire, sucking the hope right out of his victims so he can fill them up again with his increasingly oppressive dogma.

Okay, I get it. I get it. Beck is one of those wretches who once was lost but now is found, was blind, but now sees fairies at the bottom of his garden. I don't know why we never hear a preacher on the radio who was a good, pious lad since his boyhood. Whoever said that reformed whores are the worst wasn't far from wrong. But I get it, and if that's what Beck needs to keep him from doing whatever he used to do that he felt was destroying him, then good for him for having found it.

Or perhaps, like Cthulu, it found him.

But like so many of his ilk, Becks' political understanding is misinformed by his religion. He thinks America failed because it lost touch with his Invisible Playmate. He thinks getting back in touch will make America great again—and that we have no hope unless we do.

The gods are angry! We must throw a virgin in the volcano!

Anybody got a virgin?

Religion is rooted in faith—in a decision to believe whatever you wish to believe, whether there's evidence for it or not. Religion is faith, and many religious people believe it's heresy (or at least not very polite) to look for evidence of its claims in the physical world. Who cares if Noah's Ark is shipwrecked on a Turkish mountain, or human footprints parallel dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River? You're supposed to accept it all without evidence, even in spite of evidence, even if the facts support you. To fail in that is to fail God.

It's exactly like walking through a minefield with a blindfold on, and it's what Beck and the rest of the connie mouthpieces want us to do. We don't need any more of that. That's largely what got us into this mess, the reflex, trained into us by church and school and media, to look away when we begin to doubt—as most of us did on 9/11—to close our eyes and ears and minds and just believe. With due respect to my religious friends, I don't trust an intellect that operates that way.

What we need is all the stubborn materialistic rationality we can get. That's what it'll take to fix our broken country. Brains, not blather.

Like many of his colleagues, Beck mistakenly believes that America is a Christian nation based on Christian values. That would come as something of a surprise to the many deists, agnostics, and atheists who helped to found it—not to mention Haym Saloman, a Jew who bankrolled the Revolution. It would come as a surprise to those who gave us the First Amendment, which guarantees both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, as well as the motto "A New Secular Order".

I'd like to ask Glen Beck the same question about Christianity that conservatives properly ask about Obama's healthcare plan: if it's such a hot deal, why does it have to be crammed down everybody's throat?

I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer.

I have no faith, you see, in faith.

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Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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