Two Types of Faith: Enriching and Enslaving

Finding Religious Conviction That Strengthens Personal Autonomy

FaithWhy should liberty-promoting individuals and organizations reflect on the importance of faith? After all, many people label religious faith as the opium of the masses, the cause of wars and enslavement, and a vehicle to impose restrictions on individuals’ freedoms. Indeed, people can and have used faith as a justification to take away the liberty of individuals. Yet, looking at history, one also finds religiously-motivated people standing up for liberty and against the rise of dictatorships.

Poland during the 20th Century is a model example of a country that overcame the domination of the Nazi Regime and the USSR. This result could not have happened without the many individuals’ faith in their culture, countrymen, and in God. Young Karol Wojtywa—better known as Pope John Paul II—formed part of an underground and subversive theater to preserve polish culture during the Nazi Regime. As a bishop, he stood up for the right of workers to worship. Then, on his nine-day papal visit to Poland, he inspired many to trust in their faith to regain their freedom.

The destructive nature of the Nazi Regime and Communist domination of Eastern Europe are obvious to us in hindsight. However, many had faith that communism would bring freedom and justice in Eastern Europe after Nazi domination. As people were stripped of their rights, they realized this was not the case. So, how is it possible to recognize whether the object of faith will lead to freedom or enslavement?

If faith in a person or government makes us dependent in order to meet our needs, this leads to losing our freedom. The more a person or government provides for individuals’ needs, the more they can limit freedom. On the other hand, people or institutions that strive to help individuals become autonomous in their decisions and actions are fostering freedom. This can be done through inspiring, teaching, and motivating individuals to find ways to satisfy their needs on their own rather than making them dependent.

Two leaders who value both faith and liberty are Pope John Paul II and former Texas congressman, Ron Paul. For instance, Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” This means that God provides individuals with free will, but it is choosing to do the right thing that makes individuals virtuous in the face of freedom.

Moreover, people often ask Ron Paul what can be done to advance the cause of liberty, and his response is simple, “Do what you want, but do it!” Ron Paul recognizes that we are all individuals, and therefore, have different qualities and talents.

Both of these leaders are promoting freedom while simultaneously inspiring individuals to be courageous, regardless of how difficult the task at hand might be. Most importantly, though, these leaders recognize that the choice is ultimately left up to the individual.

Paradoxically, in order to become independent—free from others—we need to experience a transitory dependence. As children, one has faith in the goodness and love of one’s parents. This leads us to trust in ourselves and eventually become autonomous. As adults, one needs others to mentor and inspire us. Through these relationships one discovers the values, principles, and virtues to which one wants to be faithful.

Members of various religions promise to be faithful to the commandments or guidelines spelled out in their books and doctrines. Members of our government promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Many fail, but some individuals go further and experience the principles and values of their religion or constitution as an inherent part of their personhood.

These individuals are more successful in being faithful to these principles because they perceive the principles as “sacred,” a part of natural law, and a key part of their existence. This is liberating, since being true to these principles is being true to themselves. They are consistent in applying principles of nonviolence, love for others, and love for liberty, because they viscerally experience these values and virtues.

Others experience a faith based on unfounded mental ideals or emotional neediness and become dependent on the nourishing relationship. This stems from one’s need to have faith, in somebody or something. However, they do not internalize the virtues, values, and principles as an autonomous part of themselves. Instead, they depend on a nourishing relationship to define what their beliefs should be.

If the satisfaction of being nourished drowns our aspiration to be free, one can easily engage in having faith in a manner that enslaves us rather than in what sets us free.

This phenomenon is more apparent in relationships than in reference to institutions. One can fall into the trap of becoming dependent on the person who helped us discover the object of our faith, or have more faith in one’s mentors than in the principles that one perceives as being true within.

When it comes to the state or institutions, it might not be as obvious. Yet, if one looks at how many Americans are unaware of the principles laid out by the U.S. Constitution, one might suspect a similar phenomena is at work. They enjoy the satisfaction of abundant wealth a constitutional republic and relatively free market has given them, but they are no longer interested in upholding the principles that make the republic and free market work.

Big government has become their Santa Claus, and they really believe in him to satisfy their needs. This satisfaction drowns their aspiration to be free and autonomous. Individuals of faith can also fall into this trap when they become preoccupied with rhetoric, which does not allow them to live out their faith to the fullest.

In other words, individuals need to be vigilant not to fall into the trap of unhealthy dependencies in order for faith to be a source of freedom and not enslavement.

So, how can freedom loving individuals promote a faith that liberates them rather than enslaves? By looking for mentors who help them discover the values and virtues in which they can inherently believe. Procure mentors that invite them to be faithful to themselves and be autonomous in analyzing and exercising their faith.

In order for faith to enrich one’s freedom, it is necessary for individuals to discover the principles, values and virtues that are inherent to them. Once that is accomplished, it is essential we verbalize and act out the principles, values, and virtues that we have faith in.

Faith can be enriching to individuals who seek liberty as long as it’s a faith that stems from their own values and inherent desire to do good.

By Azucena Monzón-González, an adjunct psychology professor at El Paso Community College.

Isabel González About Isabel González

Isabel is a passionate advocate of freedom. Some of her favorite authors include Frederic Bastiat, Murray Rothbard, Ron Paul, and Tom Woods. Follow her on twitter at @isajazgon.


  1. Jay Booth says:

    Faith is fine, it’s blind faith that’s scary. That’s just my opinion.

  2. Joseph Gresham Miller says:

    Faith is fine, until I expect others to make bets with their lives the way I bet with mine. We all have silly ideas about how to live right. They are only evil when we demand that others believe them. Society should be about negotiating peaceful compromise between nutters, not deciding which nutty ideas we must all follow (as though there were one set of nutty ideas better for all and sundry).

  3. ChrisFarrell2 says:

    “Faith can be enriching to individuals who seek liberty as long as it’s a faith that stems from their own values and inherent desire to do good.” What if within the framework of ‘their own values’ it is perfectly OK to kill the man living next door and rape his wife and children? From where is it that you maintain man has an ‘inherent desire to do good?’ Molecules have no morality. God the Father, Son, and Holy Pneuma is the source of morality. Humans were created in His image: body, spirit and soul. 
    You confuse liberty with licentiousness. I’ll bet you’re a highly successful date for those simply wishing to “score!” And how convenient: if a new life should happen to “accidently” occur, you would have no problem extinguishing that new life–murdering the baby–because, after all, you have the “liberty,” within your ‘own values and inherent desire to do good’–good for you as you choose to define good–to terminate the life of the unborn little baby growing inside you. I don’t think that the ripping-off of the little arms and legs and the sticking of the razor sharp vacuum pipe into the nape of the neck in order to suck out the contents of the skull would be very “enriching” to the little baby.
    I wonder if, as the excruciating pain is experienced (we can now see the grimacing little faces of the unborn children as they are being killed with the latest generation of ultra-sound machines) the little unborn baby desperately ‘seeks liberty’ from the pain. 
    “…faith from their own values and inherent desire to do good.” Hah!!! You know nothing of faith, have constructed a delusional set of morally relativistic values–and promote doing so!–and are convinced that mankind has ‘an inherent desire to do good.’ Hah! Have you failed to study ANY of mankind’s history? You poor thing. I’ll bet you’ve murdered a child within you. Congratulations on being able to smother your guilt with pseudo-intellectual rationalizing within the religion of Liberalism’s moral relativism. Deep down your guilt is still there. It will manifest itself in your behaviour. He who sins is a slave to sin. You are in bondage.
    Good news: God loves you. He is willing to forgive your sin and set you free from the bondage to sin. Repent and believe on the risen Lord Jesus of the Bible who paid the atoning price for your sin. Don’t be deceived by the eucharistic christ of the cult of Roman Catholicism (read ‘The Eucharistic Christ and the New Evangelization’ by Roger Oakland and Jim Tetlow) or the created being of the Mormons who they call “Jesus.” Only Jesus’ life measures up to the infinite righteousness of God himself which any atoning sacrifice would have to meet in order to be sufficient for Jesus is the Lord. He was crucified for your sin. Please don’t turn down such an immeasurable gift of love. 
    You have certainly not read Frederic Bastiat–or paid any attention to what he wrote. You are a liar. The devil is the father of all lies. Say hello to your father. Please don’t have any abortions. It is murder.

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