Friday, April 06, 2007

A Blog Against Theocracy (and Aristocracy)

I am told that this is the time to blog against theocracy. So here goes.

Perhaps it's a problem of definition. I'm not altogether sure there has ever been a theocracy that based is governance solely on the tenants of a religious tradition. But there certainly have been and are governments that rely on religions traditions to justify their continued authority and as a major source for laws and regulations. And every one I've heard of has been repressive. These days, Islamic theocrats provide ample illustration of my point. But even in recent history, Christian theocrats have killed at wholesale and justified it in the name of their god. Islam and Christianity are not the only religious that have given birth to theocrats. They are currently the most obvious examples.

But for the United States, I see the problem of potential theocracy somewhat differently than some do. Our current problem is not the very real potential for theocracy but our very present aristocracy. Like many before it, this aristocracy uses religion in a cynical effort to sustain its power and justify its secular position. This is not to say that there are no "people of faith" in leadership positions in our government. There surely are. But the driving force is not religious belief. The driving force is the need to maintain and increase the influence of a rather small elite group at the expense of everyone else. That elite group is our home grown wealth-based aristocracy. As a matter of political necessity, these aristocrats have brought into their fold a group of conservative intellectuals and people of faith who share some of their aristocratic ideas.

So what has this to do with theocracy? People who hold theocratic aspirations have increased their power in the United States by using the aristocracy just as the aristocracy has used them. It is a relationship of mutual utility. I see signs that that relationship is falling apart but many dangers persist.

Several things need to become common currency before the risks of both aristocracy and theocracy are nullified.

First, large numbers of people must come to see every truth as a probability rather than an absolute certainty. This is not to imply that there are no facts of the matter with regard to this topic or that. It is only to say that nothing can be known with the certainty that is often associated with religious belief or as is often demanded by the aristocracy.

Second, without evidence that is subject to public scrutiny no group can claim special knowledge. Theocrats and aristocrats have always claimed some kind of special knowledge.

Third, everyone should be far more interested in the why and what of any belief than the belief itself. All beliefs should welcome for rigorous study. The claims of theocrats and aristocrats seldom do.

At the end of the day, we must all become indifferent to the unsupported beliefs of others. As I've said, this is not an issue of tolerance; it is an issue of indifference. This quote from Mark Twain that I have often used before makes my point,

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code. [apud Paine, Mark Twain: a Biography]
I would paraphrase and say, "No aristocracy is great enough or powerful enough to say, 'Ye shall be indifferent to your neighbor's power or wealth'." Sure, the aristocrat is indifferent to weakness or poverty but he needs for the weak and the impoverished to be very concerned that he maintains his status and to believe that it is in best interest of the weak and impoverished that he does.

I want to thank Blue Gal for suggesting that we blog against theocracy and giving me an excuse for this little rant. I hope she doesn't mind that I expanded her idea to include aristocracy.


Blogger Gary S. Hurd said...

Interesting read. I can easily imagine a balkanized former USA, with some of the new nation/states being theocratic. Just an extention of "Love it or Leave it."

Alternate is we figure how to be more like the Chinese, and maintain an "internal" empire over the next 50 to 100 years.

10:24 PM  

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