A Blog of the Global Justice Movement

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The State is God, God is the State, Part VII

As we saw in the previous posting in this series, putting even the safety of the State above the natural law leads ultimately to disaster. When we put the State above God, as the Newsweek article and advertisement suggested, the situation is, if possible, even worse. We reach almost the absolute nadir, however, when we base the natural law on our understanding of or belief in something we regard as being a revelation from God, rather than on the common consent of all mankind as to what constitutes "good."

The chief problem is that, if God is just, the precepts of the law cannot be binding on anyone who does not believe in a particular religion. It doesn't matter if the religion is officially recognized as an arm of the State, is believed by virtually everyone, or is the product of one individual's interpretation of what he believes to be a revelation from God. This is because the validity of the precepts relies on faith in a specific revelation (an expression of God's Will), not a conclusion based on human reason. To be punished for violating a precept based on a faith that you don't have is, obviously, a grave injustice, as faith in a particular revelation is, ultimately, a personal choice and an exercise of free will.

The great advantage to basing the natural law on what you believe to be God's Will, however, is obvious: you can do anything you want. All you have to do is assert your personal faith decision (or lack thereof), and convince enough people to go along with your idea(s) and interpretation(s). Basing things on your belief in, personal interpretation, and acceptance of a particular expression of God's Will removes any reliance on an objective standard (the common consent of all mankind as to what constitutes "good"), undermines reason (common sense), and allows you to stigmatize anyone with whom you disagree (or who disagrees with you) as forcing his morality on you, or as a liar for believing in something different from what you believe, or any other accusation you choose to make. This is because believing something makes it true, and all morality becomes "situational," as the Humanist Manifesto put it.

This might explain the anxiety of the federal government and such popular journals as Newsweek to make certain that people are convinced that belief in the "Christian God" (or, ultimately, any god) is outdated, outmoded, old-fashioned, and just plain ignorant, if not downright stupid. After all, you have the State there to provide your every need, even determine what is right and wrong by feeding you from websites that are the modern equivalent of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

If people believed in an objective standard of right and wrong, as embodied in, for example, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (whether or not you are a religious believer or adherent of any faith), the State would lose its power to dictate what it wants people to believe. Convincing people that the natural law is based on some superstitious religious believer's interpretation of a questionable expression of the Will of a God who probably doesn't even exist, is a significant victory in the struggle to establish the State as the sole authority and exclusive benefactor for all humanity. Attempts to persuade people to do what is right within a framework that bases the natural law on faith are instantly termed "forcing your morality on others" — which it is, for where there is no objective standard of morality (the natural law based on the common consent of all mankind as to what constitutes the "good"), everything is personal opinion.

Unfortunately, many religious believers have fallen into the trap of claiming that the essential precept of the natural law, "good is to be done," is because "God said so" (Will) rather than "God is so" (Nature or Intellect). The former claim can easily be rejected as a matter of personal belief, and thus opinion. The latter is impossible to reject, for, if man is made in the image and likeness of God, and the content of the natural law lies in the common consent of all mankind as to what constitutes the good, it can hardly be considered "personal," whether or not you believe in the God in whose image you are presumably made. That is because the law is being based not on an opinion or religious belief, but on an observable fact: what mankind has assumed to be good in all times and places. Specific religious belief, or any religious belief at all is not necessary to accept the truth of what can be subjected to objective verification.

Thus, the basis for the natural law, Will or Intellect, is not an obscure or esoteric point that has no relevance to modern life. Many of the enormous problems that afflict the modern world can be traced directly to people's unyielding conviction, bolstered by their personal faith, in their own, self-created religion, that usually turns into some variety of worship of the State. This is why the modern Nation State finds it necessary either to undermine independent religious belief beyond its control, or to establish legally an official State cult, enforced by law, with civil penalties attached to non-compliance. In either event, the State itself becomes the final authority on everything, or, as Marx put it (more or less), the State is God, God is the State.

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