Any Kind of Totalitarianism Is Abusive
And Democracy Is The Correction
There’s really no difference between Atheistic and Theistic totalitarianism but before we discuss the two, a clarification.
The question here is not does God have a place in government but exactly how does He fit in.
- Is He completely uninvolved as if He didn’t exist?
- Is He in complete control imposing His rule and will on every aspect of human life?
- Or does He provide the necessary information to enable us to figure things out as we go.
Those are the only three options, two of which are totalitarian.
Unfortunately, religions – all of them – tend to gravitate to the totalitarian approach. In fact, church governments are often quite insistent about the rules to which would-be members must agree before they are accepted into membership. Those rules define more what members can’t do than what they can.
The regulations differ widely between churches and groups but those rules, whatever they are, are imposed with an iron first. To be a member you must agree and abide.
Some churches even have covenants outlining the do’s and don’ts making it very clear what is expected of each member.
That may be tolerable within a church or church group but these groups – many of which vary in the extreme – take the same approach toward government. Democracy, which allows different points of view and lifestyles, seems like a compromise and it is. The religious mindset believes the point of government is to honor God and the only way that can be done is by following, not the accepted rules, but the church rules.
Democracy is tolerable only if it looks like church. Even if that was a good idea, it’s not possible. The differences between churches, even of the Christian tradition, vary so much it’s sometimes hard to find the common thread.
The best thing churches can do is get out of government and focus on the biblical brief: Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
So, I offer nine reasons you won’t find God at the center of government and religious folks shouldn’t try to insert Him there.
God’s Rule Is Occasional And Interventional
God being in complete control may at first seem like a good idea to religious folks but, then again, maybe not. No place in the Bible does God assert that kind of control. The closest He’s come to taking complete control of human affairs is intervening on the odd occasion. The destruction of Pharaoh was one such intervention but even then it started with a negotiation.
Afterward, when Israel first took possession of the promised land, God still didn’t take charge. His only involvement was providing written regulations for religious and civil practices.
They had laws. They had no enforcement agencies. Whatever monitoring God did was done at a distance. His rule was by consequence – do the wrong thing, suffer the consequence – rather than by direct engagement.
The closest they came to any kind of regulatory bodies were Judges (local leaders) assigned ad hoc during periods when a community was in conflict with warring neighbors. The Book of Judges provides the best example of this.
The Bible did provide regulation for managing conflicts between individual Israelites but the judges had no courts and the infrastructure was vaguely arranged. People in positions of authority did most of the judging.
- Moses during the Exodus – Exodus 18:13.
- Samuel leading the nation – 1 Samual 12.
- Nathan confronting David over adultery – 2 Samuel 12:1-12.
- Solomon with the two prostitutes – 1 Kings 3:16-28.
Other judges were appointed at various times, but you get the picture.
God handed the government of society to human judges and His only instruction was to avoid partiality, make righteous and fair judgments (Lev. 19:15).
If God were in absolute control, why would that warning be necessary?
God’s Rule Was Hands-Off Not Hands-On
The period before Israel had kings is usually referred to as a Theocracy, meaning the rule of God, but that really misrepresents the reality. God wasn’t sitting on an earthly throne. No edicts were being issued as needed and no agencies were established to keep everyone in line.
The one document outlining government structure – the Bible – was handed down through Moses and once complete, God’s personal involvement was at a distance.
God was interested and was there – He’s everywhere so that goes without saying – but His personal involvement became less and less. He delivered the nation from Egyptian bondage, gave them sufficient information to know how to conduct their lives in both a religious and civil manner and guided them to the promised land but, He wasn’t officially ruling. It was more hands-off than on.
You could say the nation had no ruling body at all. Each person had the option to observe God’s teachings or not. Some did and some didn’t. When trouble arose with neighboring communities – mostly because of chronic neglect of God’s teachings – different individuals would rise to prominence, lead the way in settling the conflict and affirm the need to faithfully follow God but each leader was localized and never ruled the entire nation.
None of these leaders were anything other than a judge. When the people requested a king, Samuel, a Judge (also priest and prophet), warned them against it.
At one point during this period the Bible says:
In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)
The same idea is repeated in Judges 21:25.
When Israel eventually did get a king, it wasn’t God and it didn’t work out any better.
God was the Ruler but He wasn’t ruling.
God Doesn’t Assert Absolute Control
With Atheistic totalitarianism, God is entirely left out. When totalitarianism takes a Theistic turn, He’s not only the highest authority, He’s the only authority. He’s connected to and controls every branch and level of government and asserts complete control over every decision.
In this government, only Christians could hold positions of authority and tenure would be based entirely on zealous commitment to applying God’s commands. No deviations or judgments allowed. Job security is based on slavish devotion to every detail of every regulation.
It’s either feast or famine, no God or nothing but God. There’s no in-between.
God Rules By Faith Not Force
It’s a principle as old as the Bible. The decision to follow God – to be ruled by Him – is a personal choice. It’s a matter of faith, not coercion. God is the king of our lives collectively only If He is the King individually and even then disagreements over what the group thinks He wants are inevitable.
True to that idea, God hasn’t steam rolled His way through history. Unlike humans, He offers His grace and wisdom. He doesn’t impose His ideas on anyone.
It only stands to reason, if God doesn’t impose Himself on the wider community then it seems imperative that Christians shouldn’t either, even Christians in government. Maybe I should say especially Christians in government.
We are free to be right or wrong and the fact is NONE of us are entirely right. That applies to those who aren’t believers and even to those who are. If you think a nation is Christian only if the government is be absolutely Christian, I would ask which version should it be? The variations are too many to count.
To be sure, God is in complete control of natural laws – not to be confused with natural events – but He does not control human affairs. He gave us plenty of information to influence how we understand and manage human interactions, but He doesn’t force His will in these matters.
Instead of taking charge and forcing the issue, God endorsed the idea of human government – humans managing the affairs of humans – but He said nothing to suggest that those in government who happened to believe should force the principles of spiritual truth on those who don’t believe.
God doesn’t do that, nor should we.
The reality is not all humans are believers. Not all humans wish to have God in their lives and that is a choice God honors. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone and we shouldn’t either.
God is all powerful and all knowing. He created the universe and every human who ever lived. The universe runs consistently and efficiently because He maintains it. Therefore, He has the wisdom and the power to rule everything and everyone absolutely.
He has the right to command me how to live my life in every detail and the power to make me comply.
But He doesn’t do that.
Instead, He gave us an incredible environment, amazing resources, and endless abilities to govern our own lives individually and the community as a whole. In fact, He commanded us to make progress personally and to manage the environment.
Each one of us is to become something; to grow, to learn, to produce. God didn’t create us to be static, shiftless ne’er-do-wells.
What that means is that even though God has the ability and option to control everyone and everything; He could insert Himself into all the affairs of humanity, He’s chosen not to do so.
Humans do the governing. God doesn’t.
As individuals, we can choose to devote our lives to learning, understanding, and following His instructions in our personal lives but that is a choice.
It’s needed. It’s the best choice. You could say it is imperative but it isn’t imposed.
So, when I speak of Theistic totalitarianism, I’m not talking about a situation where God is the head of state but one in which His devotees have taken over and assumed authority to rule the world based on their understanding of God.
Even if humans had the capacity to understand God’s truth and wisdom sufficiently to rule the world, that is not His stated will. He allows every person to make the choice to believe or not believe, to follow or not follow.
So a Theistic government which rules in a totalitarian manner is a human organization acting in a way that contradicts God’s stated will.
It has no place in human society and should never be tolerated by either Christians or non-Christians.
To be clear, Theistic Totalitarianism doesn’t refer to God ruling the world. It’s humans assuming their understanding of God is perfect and imposing that understanding on everyone else in the community.
Comparing The Two
As we will see, totalitarian governments of any kind never get it right even when they claim to represent God.
In one, belief in God is disallowed and devotion to the State is required. In the other, belief in God is required just as vehemently and God is the State. In both, noncompliance is punishable by law. Personal choice is no longer an option either way.
Atheistic totalitarianism disallows public worship. You can pray but not openly. The only Bible you can carry is the one in your head but you best not quote it audibly enough to be heard by watchers. Mao required everyone to own the Red book. It was the Chinese Communist Bible of sorts. He, of course, was the author. The Christian Bible was not allowed.
Is Theistic Totalitarianism Worse Than Communism
You could easily make that argument.
Under atheism, Commitment to God is always genuine. Any person willing to trust in God under threat of State penalty has to be sincere. God is very real to that individual.
Theistic totalitarianism, on the other hand, imposes belief on everyone. You must own a Bible. You must demonstrate familiarity with its contents. You must go to church and be seen going. You never really know if a person genuinely believes or not.
Theism Doesn’t Guarantee Capitalism
We all know how Communism diminishes capitalistic endeavors but there are many reasons to believe the regulatory madness under Theistic Totalitarian would have the same effect.
Under Theism, certain kinds of work wouldn’t be allowed. No more distilleries or tobacconists. Depending on who’s in charge, gas powered vehicles might not be allowed. And you could be sure there would be a Bible verse to show for it.
I’m not sure what dietary laws would exist – there’s plenty to choose from – but you can be certain your diet will change. Can you imagine how many products would have to be removed from grocery store shelves to comply with the religious state’s orders?
Work would be prohibited on certain days: Saturdays or Sundays and various other special days depending on which belief system has the upper hand.
And your sex life? I guess with Atheism it could go in several directions. Red China imposed a one-child policy which was regulated by strict birth control and abortion laws. Neither was a choice. both were required.
But certain theistic groups are no better. In Muslim countries, Sharia law allows the death penalty for homosexuals and I don’t know of any countries where the practice isn’t punished socially to some degree.
Heterosexual relations are targeted also. Even in a democratic nation like the USA some religions have turned relations between husbands and wives into a pleasureless mechanical exchange engaged only for the purpose of having kids. Does anyone know if couples who can’t have kids are required to be platonic? Makes you think.
The Mormons are required to wear special underwear. Not sure how they monitor that.
Keep in mind that in totalitarian states rules are strictly applied, choices aren’t allowed and infractions are never excused. Everything is a requirement.
Again, I’m not sure how all these rules would be monitored especially with belief (which is in your heart) and sex (which is in the bedroom) but the possibilities are scary.
In both cases, any deviation from moral law would be met with extreme state sponsored punishment. Natural consequences are no longer the worst that can happen. And even when your sentence is served, either system, Atheism or Theism, will make sure you’re marked and marginalized for life.
Moral law, of course, is determined not by legislators who represent the people but by judges who claim to sit in the place of God or the Supreme Dictator, whoever that is. Society is no longer ruled from the ground up. It is now reversed and even in Theism, God has no part other than nominally.
The worst, though, is with Theism, God is no longer the caring Creator who lovingly pleads with us to learn from our failures. Instead He is the gavel-handed overlord whose will is imposed by judges.
What Is The Answer
The only answer to these extremes is Democracy!
Democracy isn’t anti-atheist or anti-theist. Both are protected and allowed for in a democracy. If you don’t believe in God, fine as long as you don’t interfere with those that do. If you do believe in God, that’s okay too as long as you respect the wishes of those who don’t.
Democracy and mutual respect go hand in hand. Both are Christian concepts. Both protect the freedoms and rights of the individual particularly when there is disagreement. Democratically-minded people respect the rights of others even when they disagree.
One uses the Lord’s name in vain, the other doesn’t. One openly prays over their meals, the other doesn’t. But neither takes offense. Or they shouldn’t.
The USA is Christian because it’s a Democracy. We are allowed to believe in God but no requirement to do so is imposed by the State. Anything beyond that is a religious State, although we can’t say which religion would be reigning.
At present, seven of the nine justices on the Supreme Court were raised Catholic and six of the seven are still practicing Catholics. The seventh worships at an Episcopal Church. Each one, like every other individual, has a right to their personal beliefs. None of them have a right to impose those beliefs on the larger community.
No one can argue that these judges aren’t partial to their religious upbringing. It really is a scary situation.