In what do I believe?

There is a swirling chaos of beliefs in the world today, with many divergent beliefs held in tandem by the same person. Many don’t even see that their beliefs contradict. It’s taken me a long time to realize the contradictions and try to bring my beliefs into balance if I can or discard those I can not. It’s a life long pursuit.

Liberty, Christianity, government, freedom, commandments. A list of ideas that seem contradictory on the surface, and many are still so underneath, but not all of these ideas and the vast groups of ideas they encompass are contradictory. Can one be free but follow a list of negative commandments? Can one believe in Christ and the state (more specific than just government)? Can one have liberty and constrained by a moral code? The last pairing, most definitely. The others? Maybe.

For starters, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Call me a Christian, a Mormon, or a Saint, or just LDS and you would be correct. If you want to know more, click the LDS page link above for a very brief description of what I believe in and links to more details. I want to focus on a particular belief in my faith regarding agency. God made us free to choice how to live our lives. Yes, He also gave us commandments that if obeyed would bring blessings in this life and very specific results in the next (death is not the end). But for us to receive the specific blessings promised we need to make the choice on our own to follow. That means that there are opposites to these commandments. One can not make a choice without being presented with alternatives. He is so certain of this that He allowed disobedience in He presences before we were. Because He knows we can not learn (and that is one of the purposes of life) if we are made to do everything. We must be presented with choices and decide on our own. This is such an important principle of faith that I do not believe that is should be limited to our choices regarding faith.

Add to the principle of agency the principle of morality and you have the makings of how one should live their life both for themselves and towards others. Each faith system has their own specific morals that must be adhered to, and my faith is no exception. There are some basics however: don’t kill; don’t steal; don’t lie. These are close to universal. These also apply equally regardless of other beliefs. No one wants to be harmed or stolen from, or lied to or about. A moral person is one that not only commits themselves to the specifics of their faith, but follows these basic guides for how to treat others. So one can be moral in how they treat others and be considered a moral person even if they differ in their professed faiths.

I am also an anarchist. I do not believe that a man (speaking of the race and not the gender) has some privilege over me because of birth or geology or wealth. Some would argue that this includes religion. As a Latter-day Saint, I believe that I come to my faith voluntarily. This means that those in positions of authority (truthfully more for organization than for lordship) are so because I allow it. In my faith, those leaders in the church are chosen for periods of time and are agreed to be in that position by consent of those over which they have authority (this is actually true as any new calling to leadership is called for a vote of consent when called – it is almost always unanimous). These leaders only act in my life as it pertains to my church affiliation and I agree to this. If I do not, I can say so and have my disagreements discussed. This is a good way to organize the church so that each member is working in concert with others in a given task and not just wandering around doing whatever. As an anarchist, I believe in morals and rules, because without such, all would be chaos and most would suffer in such a condition (remember that I want the same principles of person and property for others as I do for myself), so living in a voluntarily agreed to arrangement to provide such rules makes sense. Both for my faith and for living with others in general.

Liberty is a basic principle. It means free to act as I see fit so long as my actions do not deny the same opportunities to others. I can’t approach you and demand you give me your car, house, clothes, food, money or body to me to be used for my benefit and neither can you demand the same of me. Similarly I can not band together with others and demand these things of you, even if I say it’s for the common good, nor can you do likewise. To do so, either individually or as a group, is immoral and I could be brought to trial if I succeed and later am caught. There is quite the debate over how individuals could live in such a way and there are probably as many answers. Ultimately the correct way is however each desiring to live together chooses to, so long as all that choose to agree unanimously on the particulars. This also means that I do not agree to the particulars that the group can not simply do unto me as they see fit and I can not demand access to the benefits of their societal arrangements. There will certainly be a lot of negotiations in such relationships. There will also be many societies that resemble what is already in existence. There will also be much immorality in such societies as the majority will do as they please to the minority, very much as what goes on now.

This is what I believe in. Because my moral beliefs regarding how I treat others and expect to be treated in return, and my faith beliefs share the principle of liberty, I do not see any contradictions between the two.