Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Theocracy is a Bad Thing

So, Michigan passed the so-called "Restoration of Religious Freedom" act.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this law allows people to discriminate against other people based on religious grounds.  Don't like gays because you're a fundamentalist Christian?  Well, now you get to treat those dirty fags exactly the way you want to and no one can stop you because its part of your "religious freedoms".  Hate Muslims?  Hate women?  Hate Jews?  Hate left-handed people, for that matter?  Want to punish those annoying atheists?

Go for it.  Be as discriminatory and unfair as you want.  The law now backs you up.  Does anyone else see this as dangerous, Anti-American bullshit?  I certainly do.  This sort of thing is the first step toward a theocratic dictatorship.

Before I go any further, let me tell you what I mean when I use the word "theocracy". A theocracy, as any political science major will tell you, is "a form of totalitarianism and authoritarianism whose ultimate authorities are religious leaders."

Under a theocracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, freedom to assemble, freedom to redress grievances, freedom of person and property... pretty much every freedom we are used to here in the United States are stifled unless these freedoms serve the interests of the governing religions.

If you want to speak against the governing religion... well, you can't. Neither will you be allowed to assemble if you hold differing views, nor publish works that disagree with it, and so on and so forth. Holding differing views than the religious leaders of a theocracy is heresy, and the traditional punishment for heresy is being burned alive (if you're living in a Christian theocracy), being stoned to death (if you're in a Jewish theocracy), or being hacked to pieces with a sword (if you're in a Muslim theocracy).

It goes without saying that since the leadership of a theocracy is perfectly willing to have practitioners of other religions murdered or at the least tortured to death, they're not going to be too keen on atheists like myself.

Under a theocracy, you are not allowed to disagree with the government. In fact, education is out the window because they're not even going to want you to know that an alternate opinion exists. And trying to spread such a alternate opinion... well, where do we begin?

In 1327, the Bolognese astronomer Cecco d'Ascoli was burned alive by the Catholic Church for daring to suggest that human beings might just live on the other side of the Earth (which, at the time, was still widely thought to be flat despite the fact that the Greeks figured out that the Earth was a sphere back around 230 BCE).

In 1624, Italian astronomer and scientist Marco Antonio de Dominis was tortured and then burned at the stake for figuring out what causes rainbows.

Nicholas Copernicus was subjected to constant harassment, house arrest, seizure of property, and torture for discovering that the Earth went around the Sun instead of the other way around.  Natural philosopher Giordano Bruno was tortured and finally burned alive in 1600 for not only agreeing with Copernicus and teaching the Copernican model of the solar system, but for theorizing that the space in between the planets was an absolute vacuum.  And of course, Galileo was imprisoned for decades, threatened with torture, and in the end forced to recant his absolute proof that Copernicus was right all along on threat of being tortured to death.

Lucilio Vanini was burned alive in 1619 for daring to suggest that perhaps man should be counted as part of a species of animal instead of being some special unique snowflake unique among all living creatures.  Isaac La Peyrere suffered a similar fate for daring to suggest that humanity must be older than the 5000 years implied by the Book of Genesis.

And before you think this sort of thing only happened 400+ years ago, think again.  In 1921, a woman named Banu bint Ka'hab was beheaded in Cairo for the "heretical practice" of seeking pain relief during childbirth.  Because apparently "women were meant by God to suffer" while creating life because they are being punished for leading Adam astray.

Or something like that.

The point of all this is that Theocracy is an end to creative thought.  Its an end to all scientific progress.  

Consider: once upon a time, the best and brightest thinkers, teachers, and scientists in the world were Muslim. And then the Muslim world came to be ruled by harsh enforcers of Shariah... and within 200 years the Muslim world went from the source of all new science to being the most backward culture on the planet outside of Christendom.

People living under theocratic rule are oppressed by threats of punishment to not only themselves but their families, and are lured by promises of reward in the afterlife if only they are loyal to the theocracy now. Such religious beliefs are easy to exploit, especially in people who are so badly educated that they buy into them.

Since they receive their authority from "God", the ruling priests are essentially unaccountable to anyone. Historically, such people tended to treat regular folk as expendable pawns and cannon fodder. Just look at most of European history if you doubt me.

Here's something that those of you who are paranoid of government intrusion should keep aware of: compared to what a government-sponsored Religious Inquisition can do to you, being put in a police file for attending an anti-government rally, or being fingerprinted and retina-scanned just for wanting to enter a country is a walk in the park.

I am a liberal because I believe no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. Religion is nothing but uncontrolled power over others.  Period.  The higher the pretensions to power of religious men, the more dangerous I find religion.

This is why I believe theocracy is the worst form of government in the history of the world. If we must live under a tyranny, I'd rather be ruled over by a robber baron or a crime lord than a priest.  The crime lord might be cruel, but he won't necessarily be constantly cruel.  His wants and desires can be predicted, dealt with, and sated, and when sated a crimelord is just another ruler.  In addition, its possible that a crime lord can realize that the cruel manner in which he treats the common folk is harmful to his own interests, and while not abandoning his role as crime lord it is possible that he could begin to at least try to mitigate the harm he does.  We know this because it has happened in the past.

Same for a robber baron.  Sure, he will make sure that all wealth flows upward to him, but he also knows that without a minimum of care for those under him, his wealth vanishes.  He has an interest in providing at least some stability and support for his people.  And its possible that he could come to realize that the more support he provides, the more wealth he enjoys.

Not so a priest.  A priest can be trusted to always mistake his own cruelty and lust for power over others as the voice of God, and will torment the common folk so much worse because he believes that such torments are justified and righteous.  Any feeling of regret or repentance for his evil ways will be seen not as redeeming urges to be followed but rather by temptations against the will of God, and thus will be suppressed and ignored.

Governments by religious belief are the worst form of rulership in the world, and the nearer a government gets to theocray, the worse the practices of the government become. Theocratic rulers will never admit any grain of truth or moral good in their opponents, and are sanctioned by their "God" to do whatever they wish to the people they rule in order to preserve the power and authority of the ruling church, because any doubt at all in the purity of said authority is considered a mortal sin to be punished with death.

No government is every completely in the right. We know this. We all know this. Thus, how bad would a government that allows no doubt, that slaughters those who question it, that tortures those who disagree and who murders those who hold other views be?

This is why theocracy must be avoided at all costs, using any means necessary.

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