Saturday, April 7, 2007

My Blog Against Theocracy

The list of other blogs is here, but I was told to link to so I did :-). And shout out to A Bird and A Bottle, where I saw mention of this.

Anyway, I'll keep it short and simple (rare for me). Theocracy, I know instinctively, fits no where in my grand plan, my grand project. As I got to in one of my first (and, sadly, few) posts on my main project, it seems like people ought to relate to one another on the basis of aptitudes and interests and respect. Why ought they do so? Well, fine, maybe because God says so. Or the Gods say so. But you know what? That's as far as one needs to go.

If you need to use religion to justify and explain why the right way to behave is, indeed, the right way to behave, then you're more than welcome to do so. But understand that others may not need to resort to religion to justify their behavior. Or they may not resort to your religion. Or they may not need to resort to any justification at all.

Your religion may be fascinating. We may want to talk with you about it. We may even solicit an invitation to partake of it. But for god's sake (heh!), we probably don't. And we certainly don't want to live according to all the extra rules and regulations and myths and fables that your religion has.

Use your religion, if you must, to ensure you're just and respectful. But remember that being just and respectful does not require you to foist other doctrine on me! People were good long before any of today's religions existed, and they'll be good long after the last practitioners decay away.

So, I pray, keep your religion out of my government. And I'll keep my government out of your religion.


BAC said...

Great post!


Sparkdog said...

Benji, what's your response to Michael Gerson's column in WaPo today, which functions pretty nicely as a counterpoint to yours? (I'm not claiming his arguments, before your panties get in a wad, just posting like a good dog).
Here's the article:

Ben Kleinman said...

Well, I couldn't get to the link, so I have no idea :-). But I'm sure I'd have some response.

Ben Kleinman said...

And now I can get to it...

Basically, I think it's a red herring. His point is that we need God because without a deity to whose rules we attempt to adhere, we won't be moral. Or at least that's what I get his point to be.

And I say hogwash. Let's assume there is a god. I don't believe humanity has shown any overall tendency to become better or more moral. Truly, civilizations have evolved, technology has advanced, and our physical form has changed. But do we kill each other at a lower rate, or over more noble causes? Do we steal from each other less? Heck, an argument can probably be made that the level of exploitation has risen as civilizations has "progressed". Correlating improvements in human morality (if there are any) with the existence of a deity seems just as much a leap of faith as assuming the deity exists. It's rather question begging.

Now, on the other hand, assume God doesn't exist. How do humans evolve social niceties? I suggest it can be possible for the very reasons Gerson poo-poos: societal demands. Dworkin's selfish gene captures this nicely at one level (it's not "smart" for a creature to kill its kin folk) and common sense catptures it at another (what society is going to host a rude person -- other than a society where that rude person has all the power?).

So I can see how the existence of a deity is a useful tool for steering the evolution of morality, but I can't see how it's necessary or even likely.