Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
* * Back * *
GOD ISN'T DEMOCRATIC
Over the last few years, successive decisions of the Supreme Court have reduced the areas where religious practices are permitted. Currently, the public schools are no longer permitted to offer prayers to God.
This would, I think, be somewhat startling to the Founding Fathers - and to the peoples who established this nation in pursuit of their own brand of religious freedom. The Puritans - the Quakers - the various religious groups and sects that did a very great deal to build up this nation.
If such a ruling had been handed down by His Majesty's Courts, in the Colonies, in the days of King George III, it could be expected that the American Colonists would have revolted at that point, without waiting for "taxation without representation". The large Irish population in this country came here quite largely as a result of English attempts to induce them to change their religious practices.
The fact that there has been almost no popular rebellion or loud outcry against the Supreme Court decision shows that the attitude of the people on that subject was correctly interpreted by the Court. The American people today do not want God to be so prominent in their lives; the decision of the Court was a popular one - an expression of the feelings of the people of the nation.
Perhaps we can understand the change in attitude toward God and religion in terms of the change of concepts of what is "good" and "the way it should be".
The Colonists who came over here did not come to set up a democracy - or any other particular form of political government. They did not revolt against the English King and then come over here - they were not motivated by political concepts. The Irish who came over to escape the religious persecution in Ireland were not politically motivated in the sense of wanting democracy vs. some other ocracy. They would have been happy to come over to a full absolute monarchy... provided the monarchy permitted them religious freedom. Their objection was not that the King of England wanted to be King - but that he wanted to replace the Pope.
It's important to recognize the very real distinction between political and religious motivations - for that very important division is being diluted and washed away in the modern philosophy. Politics is the area of human rule; religion is the area of divine rule.
The major rejection of God in modern societies stems from a simple fundamental: God is not democratic. He violates every basic tenet of Democracy. Naturally such a concept is intolerable in a democratic society.
The basic conception of Deity holds that the Creator is an absolute tyrant, who has such powers of detection and espionage that nothing takes place without His awareness. That His decisions are absolute, unarguable, and - by definition! - always Right and Just. That He has absolute and inescapable power of Life and Death.
In other words, that God is the ultimate in absolute tyrants, with an information system that penetrates everywhere, always, and the ultimate in police power to punish and/or reward.
This is in absolute and violent conflict with the ideals of popular democracy. God is right, even if all the people vote against Him - a violation of the basic postulate of Democracy that the vote of the People determines Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.
The fundamental of theology is that human will, human thought, and human consensus are not the ultimate determinant of Right in the Universe. That all men always are and always will be subject to the Will of God.
Now note one factor here very carefully: it is totally unnecessary to raise any question of Faith, or factual reality of the above concepts to be able to analyze the purely logical consequences. We have two sets of postulates:
1. Democracy holds that the Will of the People is the Supreme and Final determining factor in what is Right, what Should Be Done. That the Will of the People should direct executive officers - that the people should not be directed by their leaders. That any Entity who seeks to oppose or suppress the Will of the People is a - vicious, evil, destructive - tyrant.
2. Religion holds that the Will of God is the Supreme and Absolute determining factor in what is Right, what Should Be Done. That anyone opposing the Will of God will be punished by God, unless he truly mends his ways - and that God, being omniscient, is not going to be deceived. Now religious freedom, in its true sense, does not deny any of the postulates of religion. Moslem, Christian and Jew - Protestant and Catholic - can all agree on those basics. Religious freedom simply acknowledges that man, not being divine and omniscient, does not know-for-sure what the Laws of God actually are. The practice of that degree of humility is something men attained only relatively recently, very bloodily, over many centuries. It amounts to recognizing, finally, that while God's laws are indeed absolute - men's understanding of them isn't.
The religious freedom being sought by the men who founded America was simply that proposition; the right to obey what they believed the Absolute Laws of God were.
What we have in America today, however, is something quite different. It doesn't hold simply that no one group can know-for-sure the Absolute Laws of the One God - it holds that if there is a God, there should not be, for He would be an absolute - vicious, evil, destructive - tyrant, since any entity seeking to overrule the Will of the People is vicious, evil, and to be rejected.
This attitude is a necessary consequence of the basic postulates of Popular Democracy; the Will of the People is the absolute source of Right, and all tyrants are, de facto, evil. Therefore, the Will of God cannot be tolerated, because it would be tyrannical, and evil since it opposed the Will of the People.
Moreover, there are many personal aspects of an acceptance of religion that become acutely discomforting to many people. God has been called "The Great Snoop"; those who would prefer to have their acts and doings very completely private do not find the idea of an all-knowing God at all comfortable.
Then the concept that there are absolute laws that are not "just matters of opinion, and my opinion's as good as anyone else's!" doesn't sit well with another type of personality.
God, too, is called The Great Judge - and Democracy has a much kindlier concept; that no one should judge his fellows. This business of a Great Judge who sits in unarguable judgment, as Judge, Jury, and Prosecuting Attorney - complete with built-in and inescapable truth-perception - turns many more away from the idea of such a tyrannical system toward the kindlier ideas of Democracy-without-end.
The churches continue to prosper - but one of the most prosperous I know of is a suburban church where Sunday is the community fashion show and social get-together. Church and Courts alike have recognized the temper of the people, the popular belief that ruling tyrants are inherently evil, to be rejected - an image to be softened. Not a stern, just, all-powerful but merciful King, but a jolly politician type, who recognizes the Will of the People, and does favors for the Right People.
That particular school of theology has been tried by other cultures, other times in other places. It doesn't work. The culture comes apart at the seams - for the essence of that form of "theology" is that there is no hard discipline, no real necessities, in the Universe.
For the revolt is not against God - but against the concepts of discipline, of forces in the Universe greater than human will, and mass opinion. The delusion that popular opinion is the determining force in the Universe, that what The People want is, thereby, Right is a basic tenet of popular democracy as now taught.
It has seemed to me that one of the reasons that so many people dislike Science - find scientists "cold and inhuman" - is that Science consists of studying and recognizing the factors in the Universe that are not subject to popular democracy, are not a "matter of opinion" and partake, remarkably, of the characteristics ascribed, by theology, to the Will of God! The Laws of the Universe are quite absolute indeed - and ruthlessly just. Obey them scrupulously, and they work for you; defy them, and you get crushed quite casually, without the slightest bitterness, or anger - or concern.
The scientist, directly concerned with those absolutes, doesn't have the easy, human willingness to give a little - stretch a point for a friend - that the politician understands. He acts almost as rigidly unyielding as an old-time dedicated priest.
Perhaps there is no God after all.
But there is One Universe, and its laws are absolute, unswerving, unyielding, and enforced on us without argument.
The danger to a nation, to a people, is in the idea that the Will of the People can legislate away the necessity for discipline, the necessity of recognizing there are greater and more important things, than human wishes.
Abolishing God may not be quite as simple as the people would like.
It may be that not even the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in that area - that there really is a higher Court that will overrule it.