Sunday, October 19, 2008

Church and State - should they be separate?

The mantra of liberals these days is separation of church and State - keep religion out of politics (because apparently religion can somehow make politics even worse), keep theology out of government schools, and so on.

The mantra of conservatives is not quite the opposite - because everyone is all too painfully aware of the horrific instances of State power wielded for the purposes of church-sanctioned "purification" of society, the Inquisition being perhaps the most notable example. But evangelical conservatives in the United States have come to see the State as the sole salvation of moral goodness in society. Why, if we don't ban those gay marriages, the whole country will become overrun by a bunch of girly men! If we don't incarcerate teens for pot or alcohol possession, why, they won't learn their lesson! If they intend to destroy their lives on pot and alcohol, we'll make sure we destroy them first in state prisons and juvenile facilities. Think of it like a nuclear first strike, just on a smaller scale.

But before answering the question of whether church and State should be separate, let's ask why anyone would ever want to unite them in the first place. Why would the church want to be entangled with the state? And, more importantly, why would the State want to be involved with the church? I think everyone understands the benefits to the church of involvement with the state - enforcing orthodoxy, church attendance, belief conformity, perceptions of morality etc. But is the State somehow a hapless victim of the wiles of conniving clergymen wherever church and State have been commingled? I hardly think so. The State has only ever been involved in religion because it serves the State's ends. So, what are the ends of the State, and how does religion serve them?

Well, the State is a parasitic entity which sustains itself by seizing property through the largely voluntary cooperation of its host population. From before recorded history, some men have been enslaving other men, forcing them to do their bidding building palaces, monuments, temples, pyramids, pantheons and other public works, most of which have been purely wasteful acts of egotistical self-aggrandizement. In short, the State is a criminal organization. It derives its revenues from robbery and slavery. It enforces its will through the use of summary violence.

But the State is unlike any other criminal organization in that somehow, the large part of the populace doesn't mind its criminal activities, at least, until they are taken too far. This is true in all parts of the globe and in all recorded history. Religion gives us a clue as to how it is that the State is different from every other criminal enterprise. A criminal gang makes no apologies for its robbery - it is a robbery. The victim and the perpetrators are all fully aware of what is occurring and why. There are no illusions. The State, on the other hand, first sponsors the building of a temple and then says that the taxes it is collecting (robbery) is to appease the gods and avert their wrath, or whatever. The priests and religious tapestry are but enablers. They are really nothing more than state apologists.

Most religions contain stories of unconditional obedience to God. In the Bible, for example, we have the story of Abraham who is commanded by God to sacrifice his only son. Abraham obeys (though he is ultimately deterred by a late intervention by God who is pleased with his obedient attitude), despite the obvious immorality of the action, knowing that, somewhow, in the end, God means it for good because God can do no evil. Similarly, when Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, he later becomes vice-Pharaoh of all Egypt and tells his brothers that "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" ... the implication being that God can do no evil. Whatever God does, no matter how apparently evil on the surface, is ultimately good.

This is part of my own religious beliefs.

However, the State finds in this a most convenient parallel for itself. No matter how evil the State's actions appear to be, they are really for our good. The church is the perfect supplier of such a white-washing agent: God Himself. When the State acts in accordance with the will of God, it can do no evil because God can do no evil. Genocide, torture, rape, plunder and murder are all just part of a bigger plan. Of course, just as the will of God is inscrutable, so is the bureaucratic state. We mere mortals cannot possibly hope to comprehend the mind of God, nor should we presume to question the goodness of the State no matter how blatantly evil its actions.

Peruse for yourself a selection of the unspeakable evils which the criminal State has perpetrated upon its hapless victims for millenia. Torture is perhaps the most compressed, intense and personalized manifestation of the evil of the State. No justification can possibly be offered for the use of organized torture or a torture device*. See how the State has stripped people of their humanity. The State has whipped, beaten, flayed, sawed, boiled, buried, burned, crushed, poisoned, disemboweled, suffocated, impaled and electrocuted us, its slaves, since before the dawn of history. All of which is washed away by the blessing of His Holiness - we have assurance that no matter how evil it may seem on the surface, God can do no evil, and, as His holy servant, the State can do no evil so long as it is doing His will.

The separation of church and State has nothing to do with keeping the irrationality of religion from enmiring the "rationality" our secular politics. Rather, it is borne from the recognition that the criminal syndicate of the State must be denied access to the moral whitewash of the church. The Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials are among the more dramatic recent examples of how the evils of the State can be justified by the church. And there have always been willing apostates within the church salivating at the opportunity for self-aggrandizement and enrichment in cooperation with the State and baptizing its crimes.

Unfortunately, conservatives still believe, despite the unanimous testimony of history, that the State can be a servant of morality. And, just as unfortunate, liberals believe that the only problem with the State was the involvement of the Church and, having properly secularized the State, it can now be a servant for the good. But what the State is has never changed from time immemorial. The state is still the device of slavery, it is still the means by which we are robbed of our property, stripped of our dignity and bridled to the parasitism of the elites who believe they were born to live off the productivity of others.

Just peruse one of the online museums of torture which I linked to above - if you can stomach it - and tell me the State is not pure, criminal evil. It is nothing but evil and has never been anything but evil. Murray Rothbard is right that every man, woman and child should be filled with a seething hatred for the State. It is the confounding of morality, calling evil good and good evil. It has enslaved us and mocked us for millenia. It's time we said enough is enough and threw off our slave masters.

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