Individuals have to be free to explore and exploit their environment if they are to maximize their ability to contribute to Life. This suggests that the freedom of individuals should not be restricted in any way (provided their actions are not restricting the ability of others to contribute, of course). And this implies that individuals should be free to act in ways that might harm themselves.
The over-riding necessity for individual freedom affects how a rational religion might view private activities. For instance, individuals abusing drugs may be acting irrationally, and they may eventually suffer for doing so, but our new religion would likely not consider this action morally “wrong.” Who knows what discoveries, what new insights and understandings, might be realized were a drug-induced state to open neural channels routinely by-passed in everyday thinking? (And there have been many instances when drugs have enhanced an artist’s creativity, and others now reap benefits from that individual’s experience.)
Many countries legislate against the recreational use of drugs. Clearly we need laws that protect immature individuals from harm but legislation itself will not accomplish this end. Declaring drug use to be illegal simply hands drug control (and its resulting profits) to criminal organizations. Their activities simply make matters worse, as prohibition tried to teach us.
Our new religion would state that individuals must have the freedom to experiment knowledgeably and to face the ensuing consequences. This is how every animal learns: they act, analyze the results of their action, then modify, cease, or repeat the action, learning and developing physical and mental skills as they do so. Education, not legislation, properly limits the harm that ill-considered experimentation can do. That occasionally people die through their own careless actions is distressing, but we cannot logically expect this to never happen, even were we able to foresee and forbid all possible harmful actions. We need to teach, for example, why wearing bicycle helmets and seat belts is important, not legislate then spend money, time and resources enforcing their use. Laws and their enforcement simply remove degrees of the self-responsibility that all individuals must possess if they are to mature.
A great deal of this education can, and should, be performed by the primary authority figures in our lives, our parents. This assumes first that the parent figures have been retrained in the traditional moral values and respect. In today's world, where social workers step in to prevent authority figures even directing children in the art of creating respect, the parents must be provided the training and freedom to raise their offspring in a manner that is conducive to creating social harmony. Within three generations we can start to move towards a society that fosters mutual respect, both within a society and internationally.
Creating laws that take away common freedoms, as opposed to major crimes, only create disharmony, fear and fat pockets for the lawyers. Teaching self responsibility for behaviour towards others will quickly spread through a society and create a peer pressure on those who would rule the world (or their own little patch)to conform to a higher moral order or be ex-communicated by their own society.
- For instance, Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is said to have written the symbolic poem, Kubla Khan, in an opium-induced state. (He began taking opium to reduce his pain from rheumatism, but eventually became addicted.) See Marcus Boon, The Road Of Excess: A History Of Writers On Drugs (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2002) for many other examples.
- We can’t even stop recreational drug use in our prisons. What does this say about the kind of controls that would have to be put in place (and, presumably, about the people who want to put them there) to completely stop drug use in the “free” world outside of prison?
- This topic has been the subject of an extensive, award-winning, inquiry by Dan Gardner. See “Losing the War on Drugs,” at http://www.mapinc.org/gardner.htm (the Media Awareness Project website).
See also Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem, a series of policy papers released August 22, 2001 by the Fraser Institute, which claim that the war on drugs is lost. The series is retrievable by following links starting at http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/publications.
- The reason such laws are enacted, I suspect, has as much to do with reducing the nation’s medical costs and retaining votes as it has to do with saving lives. Would it not be better to proportionately reduce—or even deny—insurance payments, medical treatments, and other benefits, to the degree individuals consciously contributed to their own injury? (Some doctors already do this: they refuse to treat lung cancer sufferers who continue to smoke. And am I the only person who thinks that those whose willful carelessness contributes to their own downfall deserve to some degree what they get?)