Upfront: I am a theist with agnostic tendencies. In other words I believe there’s something out there: God, the divine… there are many names. Probably every religion has some handle on it. Some more than others, some almost none. There are some that whomever, or whatever, they are worshiping certainly isn’t all that divine. Something, some being, no one should worship… no matter how powerful. Some: faiths are damn near pure delusional.
But I am willing to admit: I could be wrong. There may be nothing. A God-less existence does not frighten me, or bother me, or seem any more irrational than any other theistic twist on the topic.
But I do believe government, and governance in general, should veer towards an agnostic state of mind.
The more any State gets involved in religion, or outwardly anti any religion, the more oppressive they often become. That includes Atheism. When the State demands obedience of the mind, of belief, that’s usually a very bad thing no matter what the demand is. When politicians have to accept one faith, or absolute lack of faith, to get elected, the very nature of “free” in a free society becomes perverted, damaged: sometimes even exterminated. This is often a sign that society is moving away from a representative form of governance into ruling from on high: and I don’t mean God. No: I mean the State as “God,” claiming to speak for whatever deity is accepted by the masses. In reality that’s as close to godless as a State can become, in my opinion, because a State which claims to speak for God, or any deity, doesn’t give a damn about whatever God it claims to believe in. It has decided it is God.
I know, you can find passages in the Bible that support the State as God’s representative. But since the Bible was written by humans: not God, and one of the reasons for King James is the King wanted to make damn sure the Bible supported authority, that line of argument is kind of pointless: even if you disagree with me regarding that. Why? Because, no matter how “inspired,” or how much the Holy Spirit intervened in… how many different versions over the past 2000 years, if humans wrote it, human error and arrogance has to be in there somewhere. Why? Because “tis our nature.”
Look: I would think Christians would want this more than anything. It is true, no matter what, that over time societies change. And far too often not in your favor. When religion is institutionalized what happens is what happened when Jesus was crucified. The Roman Empire, for its time, was probably one of the most tolerant of all faiths in human history. That sounds odd at best, considering the number of Jews executed. But the Roman Empire valued law and order above all else. Jesus wasn’t executed by the Romans because he was a heretic to polytheism, as close to a “State” religion the Empire had. He was executed with the blessing, indeed the demands, of Jewish hierarchy. Essentially the State backed up Jewish authorities. The leaders of the Jews working with the Empire is what caused this to happen.
If it had just been law and order his tossing of the tables would have caused the execution. No, it was the State taking sides with one version of a faith over an upstart form of that faith.
He “disturbed the peace” because Jewish authorities couldn’t stand to be challenged, and the Romans had essentially institutionalized belief of all the more “fundamentalistic” kinds of faith within the Empire. That, however, was to the detriment of any version of any faith not accepted by authorities within that belief system.
It was as if these days Methodists could get Unitarians executed, Baptists could get Catholics slapped into electric chairs. Or, perhaps more accurate, followers of versions of Catholicism that have split from the Pope might wind up needle in their arm for making too much of a fuss, too much noise.
If you think Atheism is better, you’re wrong. Consider what happened when some States in human history have adopted Atheism as their official mantra. As in “Communism.” I understand that Marx never intended much of what happened in the USSR and China to happen. But models are just that: models. Humans will always take them to extremes, screw them up.
Just as soon as the State radically skews in favor of any religion, or anti-religion, trouble begins. That means even if it’s just backing up Jewish, or Catholic, or Hindu, authorities.
What does this mean when it comes to common practices? Well, a State whose schools don’t demand some prayer is simple practicing common sense, for example. Leave the prayer to the faith filled: for their temples, synagogues, churches. Playing favorites to any one faith, or an absolutist demand there is no God, means that State will, sooner or later, start not so merrily dancing down a trail to oppression.
I find religion, and agnosticism, very freeing: personally. And as long as we don’t get all anal about others agreeing, or following some society safe status quo, usually it can be “freeing.” But otherwise religion, and lack-thereof, can be very dangerous to freedom, common sense and often the very lives of those who live under the thumb of the State.
So best for the State to simply operate as if they take no stance, either way; which I refer to as, “An Agnostic State… of mind.”
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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