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L. Neil Smith's
Number 800, December 7, 2014

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Secular Statists
by Sean Gangol

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Usually I try not to comment on anything regarding religion because it seems like an issue that could easily create a divide in the libertarian movement since you probably have at least one libertarian in every major religion. There are also quite a few atheists and agnostics in the movement, like our very own L. Neil Smith, Penn & Teller, Adam Kokesh, Stefan Molyneux and John Stossel. Even Michael Shermer, the editor of the Skeptical Inquirer has libertarian leanings (he still has a long way to go before he can call himself a true Scotsman).

Then there is me, while I don't consider myself an atheist, I am definitely a religious skeptic. If anything my beliefs run more along the lines of modern day Deism. Though I don't know if I want to be totally saddled with that label either.

There have been times when I have sided with both the atheist and Christian point of view, depending on the issue. As I said before the reason why I don't usually write about religious issues is because I don't want to see a movement divided over whether one chooses to believe in a deity.

I felt compelled to comment on an observation that I have made about atheists who seem to have statist views. It always seemed to me that since atheists are supposed to be naturally skeptical that they would apply that same skepticism towards government.

Actually it makes more sense for atheists to have libertarian views points. I am going to make my point by referring to Shane Killian, one of my favorite libertarian YouTube posters. He has made all kinds of great videos on libertarianism. My favorite of his work is the series of videos he did on libertarianism and atheism. I would almost swear that I have a psychic connection with the man (if I were to believe in such a thing). His videos sum up how I feel about statists and their blind faith in the government. They seem to believe that the government is infallible, so they are allowed to do things that would send normal people to prison. The government is allowed to use drones to kill terror suspects without trial, while the average person would go to prison if he executed a person just because he looked suspicious. Statists of course justify the government's actions in the name of security.

My favorite part of the series was when he pointed out that theologians often make the mistake of demanding that atheists show proof that God doesn't exist or explain how the universe came into existence without a god. That is where we run into the problem of having to prove a negative. An atheist would tell you that the burden of proof is on the believer of an extraordinary claim, not the skeptic. Killian applies this exact same logic to statists who demand that we show them how to create a society without government. According to Killian the statists have the burden of justifying the need for government. Just imagine if our government had to carry the burden of proving that every law they passed was constitutional, morally sound or even necessary. Citizens would never have the burden of challenging a bad law in the higher courts because the burden would now fall on the government to prove that their laws are justified. Then I would hear statists moan about nothing ever getting done. In which I would reply "now you're getting the picture."

Sadly many atheists seem to have the same blind faith in government that they ridicule religious people for having in their gods. With some atheists it seems to bring out the worst aspects of their personalities. The best example of this is the recent conflict between libertarian YouTube poster Stefan Molyneux and an atheist poster who goes by the name of ThunderfOOt. For those of who don't know who these people are, ThunderfOOT is an atheist YouTube poster who uses his background in science to ridicule creationists. I used to have a certain respect for him since he seemed like a man of great integrity. He not only ridiculed creationists, but he also criticized radical Muslims and radical feminists. He wasn't even above calling out his fellow atheists if they were being intellectually dishonest. It's not to say that I didn't have any disagreements with the man, but I still had a certain respect for him. Unfortunately he had to bring himself down to the same level as the people that he regularly bashed when he attacked Stefan Molyneux.

Stefan Molyneux is a libertarian philosopher from Canada who makes videos on just about anything libertarian related. For some reason Thunderf00t decided that he had it in for Molyneux and his philosophy, so he posted a video where he relentlessly tore into the offending libertarian. What I personally take issue with isn't Thunderf00t's disagreement with libertarianism, but with the tactics he used to attack one of its advocates. I can always have a reasonable debate about the tenets of libertarianism, but what I can't condone is ad hominem attacks and quote mining. Thunderf00t basically spliced pieces of Molyneux's videos and made him seem like he was a cult leader trying to recruit people into the "cult of libertarianism." Never mind that Stefan Molyneux was actually addressing his fellow libertarians and wasn't using the videos as a recruiting tool for non-libertarians. Shane Killian once again out did himself by showing the full videos of Molyneux's speeches. In one of his videos he was talking about how the "The Ron Paul Revolution" was bringing false hope to libertarians, but Thunderf00t somehow twisted it to seem as if he was recruiting new members for his so-called cult.

It's not to say that I agreed with everything that Molyneux said in these videos, especially the part where he tells libertarians not to associate with people who don't embrace the Zero Aggression Principle. For starters libertarians are only roughly ten percent of the population, so it would be impractical not to associate with the other ninety percent. Also, cutting loved ones out of your life just because they don't agree with your philosophy doesn't seem realistic. Besides nobody really becomes a libertarian overnight. Even after discovering libertarianism, it took a few years for me to fully embrace all of its principles.

Aside from having a few minor disagreements with Molyneux, I for the most part have enjoyed his videos. I used to enjoy ThunderfOOt's videos, but ever since he had to resort to slander, I can honestly say that I have lost all respect for the man. The only way he will ever get that respect back is if he owns up to what he did. I won't hold my breath. What I find significant about this altercation between the two YouTubers, is the way that ThunderfOOt resorted to using the same dishonest tactics that he has criticized creationists and other radical ideologues for using. It's a prime example of how statists are willing to become their own worst enemy in order to defend their irrational devotion to the state.

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