And why are all my recent posts titled with questions? I guess both are mysteries.
“But wait!” you say. “God is kind and gentle. He is a forgiving God, a God of hope and promise. Why do you think he’s angry?”
Arguably the above assertions about God are pretty universal. They transcend religions. The theologians of most any religion from Longhouse, to Christianity, through Islam pretty much agree on the basic existence of a benevolent god or gods. So why then are theocracies so inherently violent? With the exception of Vatican City (we’ll ignore the Crusades and focus on recent times), most every government I can think of which is ruled by people who openly claim they are guided by God or religion has a track record or violence, oppression, and intolerance.
Yes, yes… I am talking about Muslim countries, but I’m also throwing the U.S. in the mix. Let’s face it, we are currently living in a theocracy. The Republicans pretty much own the federal government, and the right-wing conservative Christian base pretty much owns the Republicans. And the U.S. is on a path to be every bit as violent, intolerant, and even as oppressive as openly theocratic regimes. We just have more need to maintain the facade of democracy.
So is God really such a tyrannical ruler? No, of course not. Rather the concept of God is being co-opted by power hungry people in search of an emotional lever with which to lead people to do things their rational selves would not otherwise allow. After all, God is not about rationality per se. In fact, religion by definition is an attempt to fill in the irrational bits of life with some explanation the rational mind can cling to. Why do babies die? Well, God has a plan. We just don’t and can’t understand it. This makes it okay. It lets the mind rationalize what would otherwise be a completely irrational situation. And this is precisely why religion and God are such powerful constructs in politics. They provide a way for a government or person to acceptably and irrefutably rationalize irrational policies using pathways already paved through the minds of the people.
Further, those who point out the irrationalities are labeled as heretics. They are persecuted as assailing God or religion, when in fact this is just a clever deflection by the actual targets. It is very difficult to attack someone who is perceived as doing God’s work and representing God’s position without appearing to attack God.
This is why secular governments are so very important. They separate the motivations of policy and at least allow for truly rational decisions to be made in the political arena. Any position is assailable and has to survive on its own merits. That is not to say that public policy can’t be coincident with theological doctrine. Certainly there is much of any theological dogma that is goodness and light. But we have to stop allowing politicians to cloak themselves in God. As a population, we clearly do not have the ability to see through these charlatans. We vote in support of our religions and not our interests. This inexorably weakens the notion of democracy to the point that it truly is a façade. And since the notion of “democracy” is a part of our national identity, what does that make us?