Monday, May 16, 2011

Religion Is Totalitarian Tyranny

Dictatorial governments are often divided into two basic categories:  Authoritarian and Totalitarian.  The difference between the two types is the level of intrusion into the lives of their citizens.

Authoritarian regimes are, as one might suspect from the name, ruled completely by the people in authority.  There is no true rule of law in such countries, just the naked exercise of power.  What happens to citizens is completely controlled by those in authority.  Citizens don't really have legal rights.

The government may go through the motions of "enacting" laws and paying lip service to the notion of legal rights for citizens but in practice those rights will not be honored unless the authorities decide to do so for their own purposes. 

The difference between authoritarian countries and totalitarian countries is that totalitarian governments try to have total control over their people.  Totalitarian regimes allow no institutions or individuals to have freedom from government oversight.  In such places, the government tries to prescribe every aspect of society down to the thoughts in the heads of its citizens.  Generally, authoritarian regimes are based on power alone while totalitarian regimes will have an official ideology and a charismatic leader who seems more than human.

During the Cold War many of America's right-wing cold warriors distinguished between totalitarian regimes and those that they called "authoritarian".   Somehow it was permissible to be allied with authoritarian regimes in order to fight the totalitarian regimes.  The trouble with this thinking is that usually the authoritarian regimes could be just as totalitarian as any other from the viewpoint of the individual citizen.  This was not immediately obvious because the functions of "total intrusion", official ideology,  and charismatic, more than human leader were usually handled by the regime's close ally, the church.

In countries without separation of church and state, government and the dominant religion are usually so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.  Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, it becomes clear that it is the dominant religion that is actually calling the shots, as the histories of Spain, Chile, and Argentina prove.

This unfortunate reality merely supports the point I wish to make here.  In countries where there is not even a pretense of separation between church and state, theocracies, one sees regimes that clearly meet the definition of totalitarianism.

Any organization that wants to dictate to others what and how to think is totalitarian.  The human ability to think for ourselves is our greatest gift from nature.  Anything that prevents us from using that gift in a clear and straightforward search for the truth is a danger to us all.  The threat it presents is so grave, particularly at this juncture in our history when we have the power to destroy ourselves, that it cannot simply be ignored--swept under the carpet because it is old and many find it comfortable.  I can only call such a thing that threatens all that I value evil.

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