I often hear people complain about Christians on the right injecting religion into politics. Besides the obvious fact that you can believe almost anything with as much conviction and little evidence as religion and insert it into your political framework (making most people’s ideological inventories similar but probably less valid than religion – which at least carries purpose as to how we should live), I object to this line of reasoning because it fails to account for the fact that we are already living in a theocracy where state is god. You may question the realm of this god, but not whether the god should exist in the first place – such a question is heresy and will have you branded as a violent radical and troublemaker before the words are out of your mouth. Examples abound, but include a holy text (the Constitution – try saying that the Constitution was a complete failure in its essence and see what reaction you get), prayer (the Pledge of Allegiance – try sitting through the pledge at a sporting event and see what reaction you get), symbolic ritual (voting – try changing an election with your vote, which will only be worth anything in the case of a tie – and even then, the electoral college will take care of it for you), holy buildings (courthouses and legislatures – built to the scale of churches in most cases), untouchable acolytes (police, politicians, & judges – the killing of which demands a higher penalty than the killing of any normal member of society), collective wealth in magnitude far above an individual’s, sacrifice of followers for the “common good,” and holy laws (try questioning intellectual property laws, taxes, the court system, or public road ownership to a rational person and see what reaction you get). There is nothing outside the state for true believers:
What of any consequence remains beyond the state’s reach in the United States today? Not wages, working conditions, or labor-management relations; not health care; not money, banking, or financial services; not personal privacy; not transportation or communication; not education or scientific research; not farming or food supply; not nutrition or food quality; not marriage or divorce; not child care; not provision for retirement; not recreation; not insurance of any kind; not smoking or drinking; not gambling; not political campaign funding or publicity; not real estate development, house construction, or housing finance; not international travel, trade, or finance; not a thousand other areas and aspects of social life.
One might affirm that the state still keeps its hands off religion, but it actually does not. It certifies certain religious organizations as legitimate and condemns others, as many young men discovered to their sorrow when they attempted to claim the status of conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. It assigns members of certain religions, but not members of others, as chaplains in its armed services.
Besides, isn’t statism itself a religion for most Americans? Do they not honor the state above all else, above even the commandments of a conventional religion they may embrace? If their religion tells them “thou shalt not murder,” but the state orders them to murder, then they murder. If the state tells them to rob, to destroy property, and to imprison innocent people, then, notwithstanding any religious strictures, they rob, destroy property, and imprison innocent people, as millions of victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and millions of victims of the so-called Drug War in this country will attest. Moreover, in every form of adversity, Americans look to the state for their personal salvation, just as before the twentieth century their ancestors looked to Divine Providence.
. . .
The areas of life that remain outside the government’s participation, taxation, subsidization, regulation, surveillance, and other intrusion or control have become so few and so trivial that they scarcely merit mention. We verge ever closer upon the condition in which everything that is not prohibited is required. Yet, the average American will declare loudly that he is a free man and that his country is the freest in the world. Thus, in a country where more and more is for the state, where virtually nothing is outside the State, and where, aside from pointless complaints, nothing against the State is permitted, Americans have become ideal fascist citizens. Like the average German during the years that Hitler ruled Germany, most Americans today, inhabiting one of the most pervasively controlled countries in the history of the world, think they are free.
“I don’t want to live in a theocracy,” I hear them say. You already are, and chances are you ascribe to it…
As a brief side, I would love to hear Obama or any prominent statist answer the question “What can the Federal government not do?” I wonder what the honest answer would be…
[Edit: A friend sent me an analysis that rivals even the above. Thanks, Claire.]