Religion vs. Democracy

    This post by John Winsor originally appeared at What Your Preacher Didn’t Tell You.

    The ancients often assigned parental characteristics to their gods. Parents reward their children for good behavior and punish them for bad behavior. Likewise, gods could reward tribes with bountiful crops, healthy children, and victory over rival tribes or they could punish them with storms, earthquakes, fires, floods, famines, and plagues. Consequently, the ancients sought to determine what pleased and angered the gods – including Yahweh, the Judeo-Christian god. Ultimately, the moral codes that preachers attribute to gods are projections of their own opinions about how their followers should behave. That’s why the morality assigned to Yahweh varies greatly depending on specific denominations and preachers.

    During the early Medieval Era, when Christian dogma was invented, two extremely important components of the moral code were faith (unwavering, unquestioning acceptance of the dogma – i.e., gullibility) and obedience. Priests endorsed kings, essentially granting them special status as agents of God. The phrase “for God and King” was no accident. Serfs were required to obey their kings and lords in order to be admitted into Heaven. Kings and priests were allies. State religion was a mind-control arm of the government. Priests told the serfs that their kings were on God’s team and, in exchange, kings rewarded them with wealth. Heresy was a crime, not just a religious offense, so people didn’t openly express doubts. If a priest declared someone a heretic, the offender could be tortured into confession and executed. So, they did what they were told, despite the fact that rulers abused the serfs and reaped the benefits of their labor.

    Worship rituals were designed to reinforce faith and obedience. Young children saw that everyone in their community behaved in exactly the same way – singing and reciting the same holy words in unison. Children learned that people appeared to be steadfastly unified in their acceptance of the official belief system because nobody expressed doubts or raised objections.

    If the carrot of social acceptance through conformity was insufficient, there were also the sticks of excommunication and eternal damnation. To disagree with the priests was a crime against both God and King. This cozy relationship between religion and government persisted in Europe for centuries. It still exists in theocracies elsewhere – and it’s currently creeping back into American politics.

    Christian churches are hierarchical and authoritarian. There are no debates or question-and-answer sessions during sermons. The preacher, who is “called” by God, magically receives his inspiration from above, stands in an elevated pulpit, and passes the revealed truth directly to down to his flock.

    So what? So, this: You grant your preacher the status of God’s messenger. What he tells you must be true. He wouldn’t lie because he’s a pious “Man of God.” So, you don’t have to think. Simple. If he tells you what to think about abortion or homosexuality or evolution, for example, it’s really God telling you. Even if your preacher doesn’t directly endorse a politician, a politician can gain the same pious status by espousing your preacher’s views. Having donned the shield of piety, he can then tell you that global warming is a hoax and you’ll believe him because such a pious man wouldn’t lie. He’s not a climatologist. He probably can’t even spell “climatology,” but that doesn’t matter. His opinion is God’s opinion. It overrules any mere facts that those godless heathen, over-educated, elitist, mortal human scientists might discover. This is very handy, because the politician can secure your vote and the campaign funding he needs from the fossil fuel industry.

    When you vote as you’re told, you amplify your preacher’s vote. He, of course, is motivated by the need for power over you – and you willingly, gullibly, and ignorantly pay him to take it. The relationship between modern American preachers and politicians is modeled on the Medieval relationship between Church and State. You’re the serf. Your job is to obey. What is in your best interest is of little concern to you because it’s of no interest to your preacher or to the politician you’ll vote for. Both of them intend to abuse your trust and profit from your labor. Regardless of how pious and patriotic the politician may seem, his overt piety is almost certainly an indicator of corruption. He’s playing you for a fool – a willing mark in a two-thousand-year-old con game. If he agrees with Wayne La Pierre on gun legislation, if he says that gays are an abomination or that abstinence education works, these things must be true – regardless of the contradictory facts. The country suffers because you’ve sacrificed your ability to rationally consider public policy. You’ll willingly, unthinkingly, even gleefully vote against your own best interests and the best interests of our country. You’ve relinquished a fundamental principle of democracy itself in exchange for a delusional expectation that you’ll be rewarded in a fictitious afterlife.

    If you’re a Christian, you should know this: Your god, like thousands of others, was invented by profoundly ignorant ancient people. They believed that the earth was created before the stars and that it was the center of everything because they had no knowledge of astronomy or cosmology. They thought that diseases were evil spirits because they had no knowledge of medicine. They thought that hallucinations were visions and that the mentally ill were prophets. They believed that natural disasters were signs of God’s wrath because they had no knowledge of meteorology, climatology, geology, or plate tectonics. They thought that lightning bolts were thrown down at them by God because they didn’t understand electricity. The brain and central nervous system perform all of the functions that they attributed to the magical, supernatural “soul” because they had absolutely no knowledge of biology. It is difficult to grasp how utterly ignorant of they were. Modern-day kindergarten children have a better understanding of our world than they had. To cling to the notion that the Bible’s authors have anything resembling wisdom or knowledge to impart to the modern world is nothing less than willful self-delusion.

    Reprinted with permission from the author.

    John Winsor has studied the Bible’s text to discover its meaning without relying on preconceived notions. He uses recent historical research on the subject along with text from the Bible itself to weigh the evidence with emphasis on clarity and critical thinking. He is the author of What Your Preacher Didn’t Tell You.

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