Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

If secularism works, why do people want to return to theocracy?

See my post below on secularism vs. theocracy.
I think secularism is the best of all possible government styles. Its tools are available to everyone, since logic, proof, and reason do not know color, religion, race, sexual orientation, class, sex or whatever else causes people to rig your place on the social hierarchy. To alot of people, this seems obvious and they get frustrated with people who don't see it. It's good to remember that the logic of secular government was not obvious to most people for most of history.
But it is the system we live under now, so why do people want to change it? Well, there's alot of reasons. I doubt any one person wants an autoritative theocracy for all these reasons, it seems reasonable to me that most people have a combination of some of these reasons.
Some people feel that they would benefit from a theocracy. This is a big one, though it's hard to get anyone to admit to it outright. Because of historical reasons, certain people would almost surely be accorded more authority and therefore more privilege because of arbitrary reasons. Men would have authority over women, straight over gay, white over black, Christian over non-Christian. If I'm right, white, straight, Christian males who want more power can be expected to be the biggest group clamoring for a return to theocracy or at least some amount of it in government. Not that all people in this group will clamor for it. Many, if not most, will be content with the secular situation. But power-hungry straight, white, Christian males will be drawn towards a theocratic government.
Bad or non-existant education makes it hard for people to distinguish between arguments from proof and arguments from authority. Far better people than me have pointed out how critical it is for the citizenry of a democracy to be educated and able to think reasonably for themselves. Reasonable thinking isn't easy to acquire. Even well-educated people slip up all the time. Nonetheless, the basic difference between using reason to think for yourself and just accepting authority is a lesson that could be passed on in schools and should. However, schools tend to teach by authority things that were learned by reason and leave their students unable to tell the difference. For instance, the concept of gravity is taught by telling the story of how Newton was hit on the head by an apple and realized stuff falls down. The debates aren't introduced, how Einstein clarified parts of Newton and disproved others isn't taught, and students are not required to try to conceptualize how gravity works. It just does, 'cause Newton said so. It might as well be magic.
The theory of evolution is reduced to an insight from Charles Darwin that is just accepted on authority now. Students are not really required to puzzle out how it might work and nor are they introduced to the reams of work that have both proven the basic principle while disproving the particulars of Darwin. It's no wonder fundies think their myth is as good as the scientists' "myth". That evolution is not a myth isn't really demonstrated.
Without any way of telling the difference between a reasoned argument with evidence and argument from authority, many people are going to be drawn to the authority because it has emotional appeal that the reasonable argument may not have.
People need their spirtual side affirmed. Alot of my fellow atheists disagree that people have a need for spirtuality, since they seemingly don't. Well, they are ignoring the evidence in front of their eyes. Obviously, spirituality is important to alot of people. Proponents for theocracy are adept at exploiting people's spirituality for their own gains. It's a simple swindle. The opponents of theocracy are portrayed as denying the truth of people's spiritual feelings, and the proponents of theocracy affirm people's feelings for them as long as they sign on the dotted line. Watch how fundamentalists are jumping to convert people's strong feelings over this movie The Passion into support for their political causes. Mocking people's spiritual experiences is playing right into the hands of the proponents of theocracy. Whether you like it or not, those experiences feel real.
Fighting religious authority is scary; it's easier to give in. Religious authority wants to preserve itself and it will use intimidation to keep in power. The more powerful the religious authority, the more this particular issue comes into play. If the religious authority does control the government, it's nearly impossible to rebel and keep your life. But even under ostensibly free societies like ours, religious authority exists and finds ways to assert itself on people and acquire more power. It gets the most attention when it directly challenges state power, but there are thousands of ways that religious authority intimidates people outside of any government oversight. The best and most obvious example is good old fear of hell. But there are many more subtle ways it creates power hierarchies and sustains them through fear. For instance, women under fundamentalist Christianity are required to be subservient to men. They usually can't be intimidated with obvious things like stoning for refusal to comply (though there is always the fear of hell in the background), but they can be ostracized. They can be told by people they love and trust that they are a failure. Humans are social animals, and one of the best punishments is to deprive them of a spot in human society.
The other side of this is the reward system. People are promised heaven for compliance, of course. But, more importantly, one can gain social approval by working towards the goal of installing religious authority. In fact, a big reward for hard work is to be personally appreciated by a high-up religious authority himself.
Fear of an outside threat. The urge to band together under a common leader when a common threat is perceived is a basic part of human nature. This is neither a good nor bad trait, but it is better is people understand it. It probably evolved to help us survive under constant attacks from wild animals and foreign tribes. Whatever causes it, religious authorities are good at exploiting it. In fact, they are good at creating enemies out of thin air and banding people together to fight against them, thereby expanding their own power. Again, witch hunts are instructive for understanding how fictional enemies can feel very real to a mob. Right now to people outside of fundamentalist churches it is hard to understand why they feel persecuted when nobody is actually attacking their right to their religious beliefs. And yet they feel persecuted. They are bound together to fight a common enemy, and this is an biological urge like hunger or sexual desire that is hard to reason with.

There are tons more reasons, but these are the ones that strike me. I am not trying to excuse or attack religious fundamentalists here. I am trying to understand them to the best of my abilities. I obviously do not agree with them and I don't see that happening any time soon or ever. But trying to understand them is bound to be more productive than writing them and their reasons off as pure lunacy.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home