Why We Must Keep the Church Out of Government

In my first Blog Against Theocracy 2008 post I discussed why little-r-religion — people’s religious beliefs, as opposed to big-R-Religion (the Church) — is inevitably a part of criminal justice policy.

Most churches have something to recommend them: they provide guidelines for how humans should behave in relation to each other. Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t adulter, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet. Love one another, turn the other cheek, defend the poor and fatherless, do justice to the afflicted and needy.

So why, if religious belief is inevitably a part of criminal justice policy, and if Religion provides laudable rules that satisfy Kant’s categorical imperative, should the Church not be part of the State?

The natural tendency of entities — plants, animals, humans, corporations, churches, governments — is to seek more power. Plants grow toward the sun, animals eat and reproduce, corporations grow market share, churches attract members and influence their thoughts. Each seeks monopoly — monopoly of sunlight, of food and mates, of money, and of ideas.

Governments seek a monopoly of force, and tend naturally toward tyranny, which is the maximization of government power at the expense of human freedom. (The founders recognized this.)

Suppose that the Church is invited to participate in government. The Church naturally seeks to monopolize ideas (we’re right; everyone else is wrong) and the government naturally seeks to monopolize force.

Neither government nor church is static and neither is preeminent; in the alliance between Church and State, each pressures the other to change. The Church pressures the State to change so that the Church’s monopoly on ideas is strengthened, and the State pressures the Church to change so that the State’s monopoly on force is strengthened. A total State monopoly on force can coexist with a total Church monopoly on ideas, so there is no inherent tension between the two entities.

There is a mutualistic symbiotic relationship between Church and State. What State develops from this relationship? The State that maximizes the Church’s intellectual monopoly. What Church develops? The Church that maximizes the State’s monopoly on force.

What does that mean? It means that, absent separation of church and state, we are likely to wind up with a single state-mandated religion, that religion being the one whose doctrine makes the government most powerful by making the People less free. Therefore the inevitable product of theocracy is slavery.

1 Comment

  1. This is a great post. Very thoughtful. I’d never thought of the two monopolies, but it makes a lot of sense.

    You see religion all the time trying to use government’s monopoly of force to squash out dissenting ideas.

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