Contrary to mainstream opinion, Christianity has played a significant and historical role in advancing human liberty. The following defense of Christianity is nothing short of brilliant, yet it was written by an atheist.
Dr. Walter Block's argument is so complete, that he teaches both atheists and Christians alike, about the value of religion.
One of the strongest influences [Ayn Rand] has had on the libertarian movement is her belligerent atheism. For many adherents of the freedom philosophy, an aggressive rejection of God and all things religious might as well be the basic axiom of their world-view. I confess that this too was roughly my own belief on the subject, for many years.
To some, those still enthralled by the Randian vision of religion and liberty, it is bad enough for a libertarian to take a positive view of religion. For most, it will appear as nothing less than a logical contradiction for an atheist such as myself to be an actual supporter and even admirer of religion. Let me explain.
So, which institution is the greatest enemy of human liberty? There can be only one answer: the state in general, and, in particular, the totalitarian version thereof. Perhaps there is no greater example of such a government than the USSR, and its chief dictators, Lenin and Stalin (although primacy of place in terms of sheer numbers of innocents murdered might belong to Mao’s China). We thus ask, which institutions did these two Russian worthies single out for opprobrium? There can be only one answer: primarily, religion, and, secondarily, the family. It was no accident that the Soviets passed laws rewarding children for turning in their parents for anti-communistic activities. There is surely no better way to break up the family than this diabolical policy. And, how did they treat religion? To ask this is to answer it. Religion was made into public enemy number one, and its practitioners viciously hunted down.
Why pick on religion and the family? Because these are the two great competitors – against the state – for allegiance on the part of the people. The Communists were quite right, from their own evil perspective, to focus on these two institutions. All enemies of the overweening state, then, would do well to embrace religion and the family as their friends, whether they are themselves atheists or not, parents or not.
The main reason religion sticks in the craw of secular leaders is that this institution defines moral authority independently of their power. Every other organization in society (with the possible exception of the family) sees the state as the source of ultimate ethical sanction. Despite the fact that some religious leaders have indeed bowed the knee to government officials, there is a natural and basic enmity between the two sources of authority. The pope and other religious leaders may not have any regiments of soldiers, but they do have something lacking on the part of presidents and prime ministers, greatly to the regret of the latter.
Such is my own position. I reject religion, all religion, since, as an atheist, I am unconvinced of the existence of God. Indeed, I go further. I am no agnostic: I am convinced of His non-existence. However, as a political animal, I warmly embrace this institution. It is a bulwark against totalitarianism. He who wishes to oppose statist depredations cannot do so without the support of religion. Opposition to religion, even if based on intellectual grounds and not intended as a political statement, nevertheless amounts to de facto support of government.
But what of the fact that most if not all religions support the state. "Render unto Caesar… etc." It makes no nevermind. Notwithstanding the fact organized religion can often be found on the side of statism, these two dictators Lenin and Stalin, not, paradoxically, the leaders of such religions, had it right: despite the fact that religious people often support the government, these two institutions, religion and statism, are, at bottom, enemies. I am "with" Lenin and Stalin on this point. From their own perspective, they were entirely correct in brutally suppressing religious practice. This makes it all the more important that the rest of us, atheists or not, support those who worship God. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
It will at this point be strenuously objected that numerous innocent people have been murdered in the name of religion. True, alas, all too true. However, a little perspective comes not amiss at this juncture. Just how many people were killed by religious excesses, such as the Inquisition? Although estimates vary widely, the best estimates (see here) are that the number of deaths during this sad epoch, which took place over several centuries, was between 3,000 and 10,000; some experts, here, place the number as low as 2,000. Were it not murdered human beings that we are talking about, but considering solely the relative magnitudes, one might fairly say that this pales into utter insignificance compared to the devastation inflicted upon the human race by governments. According to the best estimates (see here, here, here, here, here and here), the victims of statism in the 20th century alone approached the 200 million mark. That is no misprint! To compare a few thousands of unjustified deaths with several hundreds of millions is unreasonable. Yes, even the murder of one victim is an outrage. But in comparing religion and government one must keep in mind these astronomical differences.
Then, there is the school of Salamanca, populated, mainly, by priests such as these: The Dominicans: Francisco de Vitoria, 1485–1546 ... The Jesuits: Luis Molina (Molineus), 1535–1600 ... This school of thought is truly our intellectual and moral predecessor. For the contribution of the School of Salamanca to the Austro-libertarian movement, see here, here, here, here, here, here ... and here. For other links between religion and libertarianism see here, here and here.
It is time, it is long past time, that the Austro-libertarian movement reject the virulent Randian opposition to religion. Yes, Ayn Rand has made contributions to our efforts. We must not throw out the baby with the bathwater. But, surely, anti-religious sentiment belongs in the latter category, not the former.
The views expressed above are consistent with the perspective of my long time mentor, Murray Rothbard. This scholar, who was often called "Mr. Libertarian," was very pro-religion, especially pro-Catholic. He ascribed the concepts of individualism and liberty to Christianity (and almost everything else good in Western civilization), and argued strongly that as long as libertarians made hatred of religion a basic or organizing principle, they would go nowhere, since the vast majority of people in all times and places have always been religious.