Merging Philosophies of Buddhism, Christianity and Libertarianism

At first glance, these all seem to be quite disparate and far removed from one another, but I think they all have something very much in common.  All three of them, at their core, are about relieving human suffering through the application of the non-aggression principle.  There may be other religions that advocate non-aggression and property rights, but for now I will deal with Christianity alone.  It is improper to call Buddhism a religion, as it is more a method of learning than a religious belief system.  I would almost go so far as to say it is a way of logically interpreting reality that has more in common with praxeology than religiosity.

I want to present comparisons of these philosophies because I think there is a lot to be learned from all of them.  People who have had near death experiences often say one of the truths that is revealed to them is that religions are like stepping stones on the way to enlightenment.  As you gain a greater understanding of yourself and reality, it is natural to change one’s philosophy until all of the cognitive dissonance has been removed from one’s beliefs.

First, I shall address Christianity.  If one takes Christ’s teachings literally, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that in order to be a true Christian, one must also be a pacifist anarcho-capitalist that adheres to the non-aggression principle.  Christ was quite adamant about property rights and the rejection of violence in his teachings.  Christ himself was a pacifist that forgave infringements of his personal rights and demonstrated understanding and compassion for those who did harm to himself or others.

In arguing about this with my highly religious mother, she was quick to point out that Christ said (Matthew 22:15-22):

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

 15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

   Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Clearly Christ was threatened into saying this, but what is more important is that Christ responded in a way that still upholds the non-aggression principle and property rights.  Consider that Christ never said that the money earned by an individual was somehow also Caesar’s property, he simply said that if you have Caesar’s property, you should give it back to him.  Consider that this applies to property that has been wrongfully taken from Caesar, but at the same time it does not directly acknowledge that taxes are legitimately Caesar’s property to begin with.

In Romans 13, the author Paul expresses rather direct support for coercively enforced taxation when he writes:

Submission to Governing Authorities

 1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

But here I need to stress who the author is.  These are not Christ’s words and they are directly opposed to all of his core teachings.  It is interesting to note that Paul directly contradicts himself in the very next passage, when he rights:

Love Fulfills the Law

 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Consider that if you love your neighbor as yourself and if you do not covet his possessions, then one must reject coercively imposed taxation as a means of funding government.  No one wants to see harm befall himself and no one wants to see is own possessions taken from him against his will.  It is impossible to love your neighbor as yourself, yet wish to see violence and theft waged against him in your name.  This particular passage is a rather direct advocacy of the non-aggression principle.  Fulfillment of “the law” is the fulfillment of the natural law that condemns the initiation of violence.

We know Romans 13 itself either proves Paul (and hence his teachings) to be fallible, or the term “rulers” should not be taken literally to mean State officials, because this statement:

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right

can empirically be demonstrated to be false.  40 million dead Chinese, 7 million dead Ukrainians and 3 million dead Germans can attest to the fallacy of that statement if the term “rulers” applies to State officials.  This means good Christians should either reject all of Paul’s teachings as being fallible or they must interpret the term “rulers” to be market designated authorities that are responsible for the enforcement of property rights, which is quite different than assuming “rulers” applies to State officialdom.  Christ himself never suggested anywhere in his teachings that the coercively funded State is a legitimate authority.

Let us review some of what Christ said to prove my point:

Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Mark 10:42-45 “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Clearly Christ is advocating pacifism and the non-aggression principle as being the proper means of organizing society.  Further, Mark 10:42 tells us rather explicitly that the proper “rulers” of Christians are not State officials.  In which case, the term “rulers” in Romans 13 should also not be interpreted to mean State officials.

In fact the passage “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant ” can be directly related to mean market selected authorities under an anarcho-capitalist system of private law. This is because rulers under a private law system are true servants of the public.  They serve at the public’s leisure and are paid voluntarily for the services they provide.  The term “service” has been flipped on its head by the State, which loves to call its employees “public servants.”  Real service means providing something of value to the public that people are voluntarily willing to pay for – even donate to.  How many of you would willingly donate your money to the State today?  How many of you pay extra in addition to your income taxes out of the kindness of your hearts and love for the State?  Not even progressive liberals do that.

However, the market for private security in this nation is vast.  People voluntarily pay more for private security services in this nation than they pay in taxes for public police departments!  Those private security guards are true “public servants.”

Throughout all of Christ’s direct teachings, we can see no advocacy of State coercion or State interventionism to solve any social problem.  It is quite clear from the Bible that Christ himself was a pacifist anarcho-capitalist that advocated the non-aggression principle in all of his teachings.  Try reading the Bible, but restrict yourself to reading only quotes directly attributed to Christ, and you’ll see what I mean.

Now I shall relate the Buddha to Christ.  The similarities in their teachings are striking.

Because Buddhism isn’t very well understood in the west, I’ll try and give a brief summary of the core tenants.  The basic theme is that the meaning of life is to eliminate suffering.  The elimination of suffering comes from control of one’s own mind, and by serving others.  The over-riding principle again is “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”   The Buddha was a strong advocate of the non-aggression principle.

Some comparisons of Buddha’s teachings to those of Christ:

Buddha:“Consider others as yourself.”
Christ:“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” & “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Buddha:“If you do not tend to one another then who is there to tend to you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.”
Christ:“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

Buddha:“Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world.”
Christ:“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Buddha:“The fault of others is easily perceived, but that of oneself is difficult to perceive; a man winnows his neighbour’s faults like chaff, but his own fault he hides, as a cheat hides the bad die from the gambler.”
Christ:“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Buddha:“Hatred does not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love; this is an eternal truth. . . . Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good, overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth.”
Christ:“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Under Buddhism, humanity essentially is God, as we are all a part of the same creation of reality.  We should love each other as we love ourselves because to mistreat others is to mistreat God.  Determinations of right or wrong come from whether an action eliminates suffering and is based out of love for fellow man.  If we as individuals violate the non-aggression principle, we will increase suffering in the world and eventually we will reap what we sow.  Punishments for violations of the non-aggression principle come about naturally.  Consider that impoverishment, war, ostracism and police states are natural consequences of violating the non-aggression principle.  Humanity punishes itself for breaking the Golden Rule.

I personally think Buddhism has a leg up on Christianity when it comes to explaining the consequences of breaking the Golden Rule.  Rather than a mystical deity enacting punishment, humanity as the Creator inflicts punishment upon itself.  But with a little reflection, we can see that Christianity essentially says the same thing.  Consider when Jesus says “to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me,” he is really advocating Buddhist philosophy.  If Christ is God, and Christ is man, then man is God and doing harm to one’s fellow man is doing harm to God.

By now it should be clear that Libertarianism is not only compatible with Buddhism and Christianity, but further we can demonstrate that anyone who claims to be a true Buddhist or Christian must also be a Libertarian, or else they are a hypocrite.

Finally, I shall  leave with a few quotes from the Buddah to reflect upon:

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

“Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.”

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

 Our warmongering leaders and “Christian conservatives” should take some notes.


  • Cmcmahon

    While the two have similarities they also have divergences. Idolatry in Buddhism is a example. I agree with your conclusion that to be a Christian you should also be a libertarian if you want to remain consistent.

    • Yeah, of course they are not the exactly the same.  However, all of them have the same underlying golden rule.

    • Jeffrey Hansen

      Disclaimer: I am not a Buddhist, nor have I studied it extensively, but idolatry in Buddhism seems to be a misinterpretation or of the Buddha’s teachings, and would likely upset him if he knew about it.  

      Just as Christians and Jews take teachings from the bible and extrapolate their own non-biblical beliefs from it, Buddhists seem to have taken several of his teachings and come up with their own beliefs, even some that are inconsistent with Buddha’s actual teachings.  Who hasn’t heard of strict Jewish kosher laws that are based on some old-testament rule, but really aren’t there (using separate cookware for milk and meat, for example), and Christians who take a single scripture and develop and entire book series around it, allowing it to somehow take on a theology of its own?

      If one is going to adopt a moral code or a belief system, and stand on it, they owe it to themselves and those around them to understand it, understand the context around it, and apply it consistently in order to avoid causing themselves and others undue grief. 

      • Cmcmahon

        Yes there are people that clam to be Christians that also practice Idolatry. They may not even know what it is. I imagine there may even be Buddhist that don’t practice idolatry. I don’t want to blanket groups of people with generalizations. There are always exceptions.

  • James Wyss

    I might have some insight into Paul’s apparent faux pas. Paul admonished the early Christians in the previous chapter to nobly bear suffering, particularly at the hands of the antagonistic Roman state. His message is similar to Ghandi’s (despicable human being, but I digress) practice of non-violent resistance. It is the same idea behind the Quaker philosophy of non-violence.  
    Most people tend to forget that each of Paul’s Epistles were written to a very specific audience in very specific circumstances and should not necessarily be taken as blanket guidance on how live out the Christian faith. Paul did not even intend to author Christian scripture, even when he wrote to the Roman Church. 
    Jesus Christ warned his Apostles to “sell their coats and buy swords (Luke 22:36),” if they did not poses one, not in the spirit of aggression but in the spirit of self-defense. I don’t think Paul was legitimizing state authority so much as showing Christians a noble way to deal with it. 

  • bmpalmer72

    Let’s get the whole story out here. First of all, Jesus of the gospels is not this peacefull loveable guy who only preaches love and peace. Are you reading the same Bible I did? For example: 

    1.Those who bear bad fruit will be cut down and burned “with unquenchable fire.”
    2. For I am come to set a man at variance against his
    father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her
    mother in law.
    3.Jesus explains why he speaks in parables: to confuse people so they will go to
    4.“He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.”
    5.Jesus even lied: And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be
    glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. (That might be true for Tebow asking for a touchdown but for many who pray for food or health it doesn’t count.)

    Why do so many people assume Jesus was this peaceful loveable guy? He wasn’t according to the gospels, he came to set family apart and condemn people to eternal punishment. Is that Love?????? I don’t think so.

  • Pingback: Buddhism and Libertarianism()

  • Pingback: Libertarian Buddhism | Freedomind()