As Scotty well knows, certain elements must be kept separate from each other, or there’s hell to pay. Fresh butter and old fish. Disco and metalheads. Church and State.
Theocracy uses government structure to enforce observance to a particular religion. Religion relies on faith which is built on belief. All of which, by their very natures, cannot be proven, only believed. And therein lies its explosive quality.
Belief must be arrived at through each human heart. It is about trust and acceptance. It is a mythic structure we spin about what we do not know or incompletely understand. Belief is a product of consciousness and our own ability to speculate about philosophical questions. It cannot be explained, only felt. So, ultimately, true belief is about a lack of enforcement.
Because, dammit, if you have enforcement, it’s not belief any more.
Inquisitional Catholics saved souls with torture. Or so they deluded themselves into thinking. It was lip service; torn, parched, contorted lip service. This is the ultimate expression of theocracy; torturing people into paying lip service to something they do not believe in. The beginnings of this nation were both the product of, and the reaction against, just that kind of Ultimate Theocracy.
So if we sink down through the stormy seas of “Christian Nation” and “lost values” and the “Culture War,” through the cold sink of implacable resolve, we come to the depths where nightmare creatures dwell, distorted by the pressure above. Where we find the true desires of those calling for Theocracy to return. The desire to have their own lack of belief reinforced by judicial fiat.
Doubt, that demon beloved by Satan, dances in the back of every theocratic mind. If only doubt had no place to play; if only every media outlet, organ of government, and (wo)man-in-the-street had to think the way they do, doubt would vanish. And they could stop the ceaseless, yammering, tormenting cries from their own mind that imperils their immortal soul.
That’s what it is about.
Those who have never swum in the scummy waters of rabid fundamentalism are unaware of how pervasive, how acidic, how terrifying, the anxiety can be. One wrong move — a paragraph of secular humanism, a glimpse of thigh, a half-heard snatch of Pink Floyd* — and all one’s hard work can become undone. And then, oh, then, my brothers and sisters, there might be the runaway semi, the sudden heart attack, or the helpless immersion in hardcore Internet porn. While still in the limbo of Doubt. And that is the unforgiveable sin that casts one into the Fiery Pit** (type of pit may vary, please check your policy) without any hope for all of eternity.
Ugly creatures, indeed.
It is the despairing, last ditch cry of every failed authoritarian, whether parental or otherwise. “My way or the highway!” If you won’t go along, By God, I’ll make you go along. Not caring if the heels are dug in up to the elbows. Not caring if the belief is brain-washing sincere, or resentful, reluctant compliance. Not caring. Only compliance.
I’m sure some devoutly religious people are reflexively regarding it as a good thing. Who wouldn’t want to live their life according to God’s wishes? The problem remains: Whose God?
This is what the Founders wrestled with. And since they were, whatever else they were, Free Thinkers, and proud of it, they came up with: Freedom. The freedom to choose, or not choose at all. The free and unfettered practice of whatever beliefs their fellow countrymen might come up with. From dogmatic boxes to naked Pagans. And everything in between.
And I, for one, like that. A bunch.
There’s religion. There’s spirituality. There’s philosophy. And they should all be as free to caper in the groves of the mind as we can possibly make possible. Belief is neither as irrational as some of its practitioners, or as rational as its secular critics. It is a unrational characteristic of the human mind, which has a habit of creating three new questions for each one it answers. And messing with the unfettered ability to let each person find the boundaries of what they need to believe, what to believe, and come to believe, is where any civilization mucks up what should be their goal of: the most good for the most souls.
Because Belief can’t be legislated. To quote the Awakened, Enlighted, Grinch: It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! Belief must come for each person, individually, sincerely, and wholeheartedly uncoerced.
That is the only way it has any meaning. At all.
In closing, I would like to remind everyone of what will happen when Belief becomes Legislated.
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist church of god or Baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist church of god, or are you reformed Baptist church of god?" He said, "Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.
Thank you, Bill Hicks. I’m sure you had a soul, and I’m sure it’s resting, or not, somewhere.
And far be it from me to dictate anything else.
This is my post as part of Blog Against Theocracy.
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*For some reason that really should be studied by dedicated sociologists, (grant application available on request,) Christian Fundies hate Pink Floyd. I’m talking foaming at the mouth, over the top, ranting and raving, hatred. I think it’s because they like it. And they’ve been told they should, under any circumstances, Not.
**Fiery Pit most lovingly realized in the works of Jack Chick. See Chick Tract Reviews — My Guide to All Things Chick.