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An Open Letter To The Coca-Cola Company....

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Explanatory Note: In my country, the Coca-Cola Company is running a campaign to raise money for The Salvation Army's Christmas appeals. They are covering their packaging with Salvos logos, etc. As I think that The Salvation Army is a misanthropic, anti-freedom organization that opposes everything I love, I have refused to purchase any vessels containing No Sugar Coke (the product of theirs which I do by) that contain any Salvos branding, logos etc. My reasons for this boycott have been outlined in the following letter which I sent to their consumer feedback service. Given the Objectivist criticisms of religion and devotion to freedom, I believe this letter is relevant to this forum's interests. I should also add that I hope any Objectivist who reads this will consider refusing to associate with any Salvation Army initiatives in the future; I do not believe that organization is worthy of support, for reasons my letter goes into.
________
 

To Whom It May Concern,

Please note, this is an open letter and I shall place it on the internet for others to read.
 
As a consumer of your products, and in particular No Sugar Coke, I am distressed by the fact that your organization is engaged in a charity promotion with The Salvation Army.
 
Benevolence and care for those who suffer is of course laudable, but The Salvation Army is not a harmless organization devoted purely to human benevolence. Rather, The Salvation Army is an abominably evil, misanthropic, fundamentally illiberal organization opposed to human greatness, happiness, and liberty. 
 
As an anti-theist atheist and a classical liberal, as a devotee of the values of the Enlightenment and a consumer of your product, I ask you to reconsider your involvement with The Salvation Army and instead that you entrust your benevolence to an organization that is not anti-human or anti-freedom. For the record, I shall not buy a single vessel of your product that indicates your involvement with The Salvation Army.
 
Allow me to explain why I have such a vehement disgust towards The Salvation Army. I hope that my reasons will encourage your organization to reconsider this promotion.
 
Let me begin with the first charge of The Salvation Army being "anti-human." The Salvos believe in a theological position known as "Total Depravity," which means that human nature itself is completely and absolutely evil (see point 5, here: https://salvos.org.au/our-faith/our-beliefs/). The basic implication of Total Depravity is that any act of virtue engaged in by a person only occurred because God made it happen. Therefore, no good act engaged in by a person deserves credit, for it wasn't really an act of that person but rather God working through that person. 
 
In brief, there is no such thing as human goodness. Goodness is a property exclusively of the divine, human nature is evil, and should a human being act virtuously that act occurred in spite of their human nature and only because of divine will. 
 
This belief is deeply, disgustingly, atrociously offensive. It denies basic moral agency and therefore moral responsibility. It denies free will. If this belief were applied to any subgroup of humanity, such as any particular race or gender, it would be considered the height of bigotry, but apparently the application of such hatred across all of the human species is tolerable. I don't see why general misanthropy is more acceptable than racism. According to Salvos doctrine, we are all scum, we deserve no credit for benevolence, we all righteously deserve to be tortured forever, and to speak of the moral character of individual human beings is nonsensical. Salvos doctrine quite literally insults every single one of your customers by declaring their moral character to be nothing but a sewer. Do you really want to associate with such an organization?

I can understand, however, if The Coca-Cola Company does not wish to be seen as making any statements about theological matters. Such issues are hot-button to say the least, and I can respect a desire to not be seen as advocating or criticizing any particular theological position. But The Salvation Army is not a purely religious organization; instead, it holds a set of political positions as well, and these political positions constitute something much more significant. When someone advocates a political position that restricts, controls, regulates or forbids certain activities, that someone is by necessity advocating the use of violence against people who act in certain ways. Is there really any substantial difference between being personally willing to maim or kill someone who engages in a certain kind of conduct one disapproves of, and merely advocating that third-party agents (the government) do so? I honestly don't think so.

Advocacy of laws which prevent same-sex civil marriage, therefore, constitute the incitement of violence against those who wish to enter into such marriages (typically members of sexual minorities). Advocacy of laws which control/regulate/forbid pornography is the advocacy of violence against pornography users and producers. And so on.

The Salvos openly proclaim, in their positional statements (see https://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/positionalstatements), that their mission is not merely religious but political. In "The Salvation Army and the State" it is said that "The Salvation Army will constantly seek to be a positive influence on individual States, their respective agencies and institutions, and international bodies such as the United Nations. Its goal in all of these relationships will be the promotion of Biblical values" (point 4, page 2). In other words, they will lobby the government to institute laws consistent with their religious convictions about morality. They want to force people to live by their values, not merely persuade, but to use the government (i.e. institutionalized violence) to make people comply with the demands of their faith.

What are these Biblical values? Let us begin with their statement entitled "Pornography," in which they affirm that "The Salvation Army abhors the prevalence of and easy accessibility to all forms of pornography, and will make every reasonable effort to stop its production, distribution and use" (page 1). The Salvos openly state that they do not believe pornography to be "simply an issue of private morality" (page 2) and instead that "The Salvation Army will support public legislation which justly regulates the production of and access to pornographic material" (page 3, point 1) and demands that sex education for youth must be "in accorance with biblical ideals." As their position paper "Abortion" states, these are the "ideals of chastity before marriage and fidelity within the marriage relationship" (page 3, point 1). Of course, such ideals are incompatible with same-sex sexual activity; The Salvation Army believes that "marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman" and that Soldiers of The Salvation Army must maintain "Christian ideals in their relationships" and uphold "the sanctity of marriage and family life" (see https://salvos.org.au/our-faith/our-beliefs/dedications-marriages-and-funerals/ and https://salvos.org.au/our-faith/our-beliefs/officers-soldiers-and-adherents/). Now, this seems at first to be nothing more than a private moral position, one which they are perfectly welcome to take, however in view of the obviously political nature of many of the Salvos position statements as well as the fact that they encouraged Australians to vote against extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples (see https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/fact-check-what-do-christian-churches-really-think-about-same-sex-marriage/), it is obvious that The Salvation Army is not merely morally opposed to homosexuality (which, again, is a religious position they have a right to hold) but engages in advocating the violation of the rights of the sexual minority community. They go beyond religious endorsement of traditional lifestyles, and instead cross the threshold of political advocacy of ultimately using violence to punish the noncompliant. 

We see this consistent pattern on political advocacy across Salvation Army position statements on multiple issues. For one, in "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide" the Salvos state that "euthanasia and assisted suicide should be illegal" (page 1). This is a political statement, not primarily a religious one; they are not saying that such acts are merely immoral and justly punished in the afterlife, they are saying that violence should be used against those who assist suicides. Indeed, they even state that "human beings do not have the right to death by their own act" (page 2); the question of what rights human beings have is an inherently political one. 
 
The Salvation Army also believe in the use of policy to restrict and, at least arguably, prohibit alcohol. Again, they go beyond the point of mere religious advocacy of a specific lifestyle and instead want the State to enforce their beliefs (as detailed in their position statement "Alcohol In Society"). "The Salvation Army will encourage national, state and local governments to provide appropriate legislation around the sale, marketing and production of alcohol" (page 3, point 5) it is said, but at no point do they disavow prohibitionism and there is no evidence that they believe individual adults have a right to consume liquor should they choose to do so. "The Salvation Army will campaign against alcohol industry practices which could lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol. For example, pricing mechanisms which increase the cost of alcohol have been shown to be an effective instrument for reducing alcohol consumption" (page 3, point 6) is a statement that clearly suggests their preferred policy orientation is one of incrementalist prohibition, where less alcohol consumption is always better than more, and any policy that raises the cost of alcohol consumption is positive. They aren't merely interested in helping addicts or convincing people to give up drinking, they aim to fundamentally eliminate drinking and will use national armies, not merely The Salvation Army, to do it. 
 
Gambling, too, is a lifestyle choice that The Salvation Army believes to not merely be morally wrong but worthy of being outlawed (see their position paper "Gambling"). Of course the harms of problem gambling are real, and no one would contest that, but The Salvation Army states that gambling "should not be a means of income generation or economic development, whether by government agencies, charitable organizations, churches or commercial interests." According to The Salvation Army, commercial gambling simply should not exist. This is prohibitionism. At no time does The Salvation Army affirm a right of individuals to participate voluntarily in gambling activity. Their political goals cannot be interpreted merely as the advocacy of harm reduction. The Salvation Army wants to use the State to punish sinners. 

As a classical liberal, I believe in religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The Salvation Army is entitled to believe whatever it wants about the morality of non-traditional sex acts or relationships, promiscuity, gambling, alcohol, and pornography. But religious freedom and freedom of conscience are rights held by individuals, which permit them to believe what they wish and govern their own lives according to those beliefs. Religious freedom or the freedom of conscience do not permit an individual to use violence in order to make others live according to their own beliefs. To advocate the use of government policy to prohibit or regulate conduct that the individual in question is morally opposed to constitutes nothing more than the incitement of proxy violence against those who dissent. Just as hiring hitmen is a crime against the ultimate victim, advocating governmental violation or revocation of rights is inciting violence against those who's rights are to be violated or revoked. 

The Salvation Army incites such proxy violence; they are not merely people who hold religious opinions, they are political activists who oppose enlightenment-liberal values. When they go beyond speaking about morality and instead advocate certain laws and policies which violate rights, they cannot merely be thought of as exercising their religious liberties. They become the Christian equivalent of Islamists, relying on the government to wage holy war on their behalf.

As a consumer of Coke No Sugar, I feel dismayed that The Coca-Cola Company would associate with a charity that, despite doing benevolent work, holds to an exceptionally misanthropic belief system and advocates the revocation of and/or intensified infringement upon individual self-determination and human rights. 

I am hopeful that, in the future, The Coca-Cola Company will consider alternative charities with which to partner. Until that time, I shall not be purchasing any vessels of your products which indicate support for The Salvation Army. 

Yours Faithfully,

Andrew Russell

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I usually give them 5 bucks at Christmas time as I walk into Walmart. I will reconsider giving them nothing. Sometimes the person ringing the bell is someone local who I know.  

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