Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Does Belief in God Lead to Theocracy?

Not only is the short answer "no;" the truth is that belief in God, as it has functioned in the West, is a bulwark against theocracy and totalitarianism.

Liberals continuously harp on the theme that the Religious Right (i.e. conservative Christians) are dangerous and scary because they want to impose a "theocracy." We see this theme in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and in the constant Marxist talking point that seeks to identify conservative with Fascists despite the fact that they could hardly be more different. Marci MacDonald's recent error-riddled book, The Armageddon Factor, is just one more example of this theme - which has pretty much become the conventional wisdom among liberals and those primarily influenced by a liberal media. Tasha Kheirriden feeds this beast with an article in the National Post entitled: "Religious Conservatism's Slippery Slope."

She correctly notes the role of belief in God in conservative thought when she writes:
But a belief in God is one of the original principles of the conservative worldview. It dovetails with other tenets, including the preference for tradition over reason. It also fits with conservatives’ exaltation of the “little platoons” of society – the family, the church, the local community organization – and, by extension, their opposition to big, godless government.
But is a religious movement founded on belief in God and rights given by our Creator (like the American Declaration of Independence for example), by virtue of that fact necessarily tilted toward theocracy? Kheirridin seems to think so:

But does loving the Lord mean that one should also legislate by Him? Isn’t that what Americans reproach theocracies the world over? When Islamic extremists cry “Allahu akhbar” (“God is great”) as they carry out their murderous rampages, don’t westerners decry them as fanatics? The answer is: yes, because they are, as are any leaders who invoke an infallible being as justification for murder or tyranny.

Faith will always have a place in politics. The views and values of religious constituencies must be taken into account when making law and leading a nation. The failed attempts of communists to replace God with government show that the state cannot snuff out individual belief – or the individual’s right to believe.

But rule by deity is just as destructive as deifying the state. Ultimately, both would curtail freedom in the name of a higher, unaccountable power. American conservatives and their leaders need to be mindful of that slippery slope, as they pack up their tea cups, head home from D.C., and turn toward November.

Notice how smoothly she sidelines religion by privatizing it: the problem with Communism, she thinks, that is that it tried to snuff out individual belief. They should have let religious people be religious in private as individuals. But this is not what conservatives have in mind when they suggest that belief in God is the foundation of a free society. No, what conservatives like Solzhenitsyn, for example, think is that belief in God is foundational to limited government and individual liberty.

The idea is that there are certain rights that are not given by government and therefore cannot be taken away by government (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and that there are certain forms of human life (the family, the church) which were not invented by government and can only be recognized (not altered or abolished) by government. In this political philosophy, government is not absolute or all-powerful. The separation of church and state is an essential doctrine in constitutional democracy because when church and state come together the resulting State becomes totalitarian. But the separation of church and state does not logically entail the separation of God and the state.

In a theocracy, a religious organization or institution claims the exclusive right to speak on behalf of God and impose its own beliefs and laws on everyone else - as in Iran since 1979 for example. Conservative Christians in the US (in case you hadn't noticed) are very big on the Constitution, the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence. Their deeply held belief in individual liberty and the separation of church and state fit nicely with their belief in natural law and the existence of a Creator. They completely reject the secularist idea that the founding documents of the US create a slippery slope to theocracy and instead believe (with good reason) that they support limited government, representative democracy, and individual freedom. On the contrary, the secular/atheist approach that privatizes religion and denies God opens the door to the all-powerful, totalitarian, secular State, which is as bad as theocracy.

The whole idea that the minute someone mentions "God" we are inches away from sliding into theocracy is simple-minded. Belief in God as the foundation of the moral order and belief in constitutional government and the separation of church and state is what makes conservatism a bulwark against theocracy. Those who actually fear theocracy should get a grip on where the real threat to constitutional government, civil liberties and freedom of religion really emanates from and it is not the US Christian "Religious Right." It is from Islam and Marxism: the two ideologies that have actually created and maintained totalitarian governments in the 20th century.

Conservative Christians are sworn enemies of all totalitarianism and theocracy. To keep on accusing them of being on a slippery slope to theocracy is just classic propaganda: take what people fear about you and attribute it to your opponents. If a lie is big enough and repeated often enough, many people will end up believing it.

No comments: