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Friday, March 24, 2006

Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers part 1

Note to all the government lovers who read this blog : this three-part article argues that your belief system is as evil and wrong as religious dogmas. Please go read the Communist Manifesto and come back on April 1st. I warned you.

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I have always affirmed that our goal, as evangelists in the cultural war, should be not to promote atheism (which is, after all, nothing) but rather individualism. It is the perversion of personal values, total lack of responsibility and injustice brought about by religion that causes social damage, not religion in itself. The proof of that is that if religious people just prayed in the closet and kept their religion to themselves, compartimentalizing it away from their children's education, the facts of science and natural morality, religion would cause little or no problems at all. But then again it would be a very different kind of religion - monotheistic religions survive precisely because they are able to take over people's minds and make them do their dirty work. If they did not exist, others would arise.

The basic epistemic and moral premise of Christianity is : God (a being exterior to the individual, completely alien to human nature) is the ultimate authority. The mystic stance must be taken because God is a mystic (non-material, unknowable) creature. Empirical facts are only valuable insofar as they do not contradict God or his religion (whatever you decide that religion is). Divine Command Theory is the only moral stance because whatever God orders is good. God is the sole barometer of what is true and what is right.

To this, atheists reply that there's no good reason to believe such nonsense, and that the notion of a genocidal, dictatorial being - whatever its ontological status - having moral authority over us is insane, and that man is very well able to understand the universe without such beliefs, thank you very much.

An individualist should go further and state clearly that, since we are all individuals and no one can think, act, evaluate or benefit for us, no one else but the individual can be his own epistemic and moral arbiter. No other being, however powerful, or no collective of such beings, can think, act, evaluate or benefit for anyone else. Also, no one shares the exact blend of circumstances and values that make us the moral agents we are, and to claim to be able to judge for someone else is plainly silly.

As I have pointed out before, religious belief systems and political belief systems are both collectivist in nature. And no, I'm not just talking about conservatives - left and right-wing alike are equally collectivist. They both believe that the individual interest must be opposed by the collective will of "the people", simply in different ways. The liberal pretension of "rebellion against power" is nothing more then marketing positioning designed to attract certain segments of the population (like atheists who don't know better).

All politicians have the same values - lust for unearned power, unbridled greed, getting votes, getting acclaim - and they pass the same evil laws, equally pander to the powerful, the rich, the popular, and spout the same rhetoric in order to achieve their corrupt values. I think most people are aware of that fact, but still vote for politicians and support government because they believe, absurdly, that the existence of government is morally right.

This being said, the point I want to raise is how similar religion and politics are as collectivist systems - based on a transcendent, authoritarian entity as director of action (God for one, government for the other).


1. Monotheistic religions and political groups both exist at the lowest level of morality, the authoritarian stage (order-based). In religion, God sends people to Heaven or Hell based on their belief or lack thereof, and also sends punishments to sinners in this life. God does not give principles of living or reason with people, he gives orders to be obeyed. The Bible also has many narratives to inspire fear of punishment.

Government enforces morality by punishment (fines, jail, capital punishment) and by giving its agents (police) the privileges it needs to root out criminals (a term it can expand at its leisure). The laws are not principles of living or an attempt to rationally discuss social problems, but rather orders to be obeyed. Rational discussion of social problems is, in fact, counter-productive to government, because it is easier to control a population that kow-tows to political force to solve their problems instead of seeking peaceful and individualist solutions. Also, it is easier to control a society where people believe that the only choice they have is between different kinds of bullies (left-wing or right-wing), and are completely resigned to that fact.

In terms of narratives, children's stories tend to be somewhat too simple to accomodate concepts such as "government power", but popular movies and literature definitely tend to reinforce political collectivism. Scientists and businessmen - people who represent voluntary exchange - are shown as corrupt and morally wrong, while policemen and soldiers - people who represent the gun of government - are shown as morally righteous. Nationalist and cultural concepts are routinely glorified at the expense of individual benefit.


2. Monotheistic religions and political groups both see morality as a top-down (outside-in) process, instead of a bottom-up (inside-out) process. This comes back to the notion of individualism versus collectivism. To the religious believer, epistemology and morality are not discovered by the individual and then applied to the spiritual context, but rather imposed to the individual by a transcendent entity.

The same thing applies to government, which is transcendent to the individual. We know this because the "common good" that government seeks has no relation to individual benefit, and therefore is transcendent to any single individual, and because government is not supposed to have any of the foibles of individual humans. Both of these fallacies derive from the collectivist justification of government. Government imposes morality through, as I said before, laws and regulations. While government advocates claim that direct democracy solves this problem, all it would do, if it could ever work, would be to make morality imposed by the social context instead of government.

Go to part 2.


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