Church and State
By Nathan Fraser
A lot of people complain about the intermingling of Church and State. It is often argued that one of the founding principals of the United States was the separation of the two. It was never written down on magical paper and made into law, but the concern was indeed legitimate. For most cultures leading up to that point in time, Church and State were almost inseparable. Whether it was a small clan under the direction of a shaman, or a large kingdom led by monarch, the line dividing the State from the Church was often times very faint, if not invisible altogether. Two hundred years ago, it was tradition in western culture to have the King and Queen sworn in by the dominant priest class. Often this was done by a member of either the Vatican or the English Protestant Church. In many ways, the Church held an undue amount of influence over the heads of State, and this would lead to all sorts of religious prosecution. When starting fresh on this continent, there were many different theologically ideas that circulated amongst the, would be, local ruling class. Humanity was winding down from the age of enlightenment and the upper crust of society was more open to exploring the more esoteric forms of theosophy. It made sense for everybody, from the Quakers to the Hellfire Club, to not have a central religion in control of the new State that they were to create. And so, the idea arose to have a separation of Church and State. Was this principal ever instituted and followed? Is it reflected in our current form of government? Is such a separation even a possibility?
These days, the notion of the separation of Church and State is most commonly associated with trivial bickering. Should children be allowed to pray in schools? Should they be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance? Do the Ten Commandments belong in the nationâ€™s courthouses? Arguments of little more than superficial significance. Most people still vote whichever way their Paster, Minister, Priest or Rabbi tell them to. Those who are not as devout to any one faith usually still take the religious beliefs of candidates into consideration when making a decision on who to vote for. The average atheist would scream that there is no separation and the Churches still control way to much. But have even the atheists, those desire to see this separation the most, been able to divorce the two in their own lives, in their own minds? I would argue not. I would propose that Church and State are so similar, indistinguishable from each other in so many ways, that the two are almost one. I am inclined to believe that the basis for the belief in religion, is almost identical to the paradigm needed for the belief in the State. Those who hold no belief in a God, often worship the State in itâ€™s place. And those who do believe in a Higher Power, often hold it in less regard than they do the State. To almost everybody alive today, there is no way to detach the State from the Church, because the State is the Church.
As someone without faith, or someone who considers themselves agnostic, it is easy to ridicule the silly superstitions of those in one of the accepted cults. How the members of said cults believe in an unseen power that rules over their reality, having the power to tell them what is right and what is wrong. And although this presence can only be proven to exist in the mind of the believer, they will never question its existence. This invisible power has the ability to issue rules and hand out punishment for any violation of those rules. Sense it cannot be seen, it has men and women that stand in its place as representatives of the Most High. These representatives are often charged with the duty of canonizing and enforcing the law of the Deity. When the Commandments are broken, the Priests are the ones endowed with the authority to issue punishment and declare the appropriate penance. In exchange for taking on this responsibility, they were entitled to a portion of every parishioners wages, usually in the neighborhood of ten percent. They would dress up in ritualistic garments and perform ceremonies for all sorts of occasions. When a believer seeks to have something done by their Lord, he or she would pray to their God as well as letting their wishes be know to the leaders of their Church. In exchange for obedience and self sacrifice, they anticipate blessings from above and a less troublesome life. And for this, they are scoffed at by most atheists.
But how far off is the belief in a State from that of the belief in a God? Gods are often credited with the creation of all life, but other than that, there is very little that makes a State different from a God. The parishioner and the atheist citizen are not as different as they both might wish to see themselves. In many ways, the State is as much a God as any established Deity. The State is an unseen entity, from which people claim to draw authority over their fellow man. It cannot be proven to exist, yet most who believe in it have never questioned their faith in the State. Most are incapable of even doing so. Those who represent this unobservable source of sovereignty claim right to take a portion of the citizens paycheck, between fifteen and thirty percent in most cases. The Priests of the State still dress up in silly costumes and perform their superstitious rituals, ceremonies designed to bestow power from the State, onto particular blessed individuals.
Some of the highest Priests from the current dominating religion are referred to as Judges. Like the Priests of old, they adorn black robes and dole out punishment for infractions of the Law. Like Jesus, they often are accompanied by twelve disciples, more commonly known as jurors. When petitioning an adjudicator for a favorable judgement, it is not unheard of for people to pray to these elevated elites who hold the very power of life and death in their hands. Where the Priest was once in charge of swearing in the new Crown Head, the Chief Justice is now granted the ability to swear in the Heads of State. Where there was once Holy War to spread the Word, there are now national conflicts to spread Democracy, and the similarities only continue.
In modern day society, the State is the new God, and it is worshipped by atheists and theists alike. The iconoclast of the Church is often the dogmatist of the State. So easy it is for him to see the inherent flaw in the churchgoers world view, yet so mirrored it is in his own. He blindly follows the dictates of the State, placing them as the guidelines of his morality. He tithes faithfully, as it is his civic duty to do so. He has an imagined divinity to which he pledges his allegiance, only, he envisions it to be worldly rather than heavenly. And the theist is not much better. Even he is rather incapable of differentiating the two. How often have you heard the most conservative Christians mutter out the words â€œGod and Countryâ€? Obedience to the State is often one of the most virtuous aspects of the average man of faith. He will say that he is a follower of God, but when the orders of God conflict with the decrees of State, his true alliance is revealed. His Bible says â€œThou shalt not killâ€ yet his brothers make up the majority of the military. When instructed to â€œJudge not, lest ye be judged,â€ he is all to quick to pick up the gavel and condemn his fellow man. Like the atheist whom he despises, he is just as guilty of worshipping the State above all others. He will even go so far as to beg the State to recognize his religion before he, himself, is capable of viewing it as established and legitimate.
Truly, for most, the State is the modern day God. It has almost all the powers of a God while its existence is just as impossible to prove. None have ever seen a State, yet many claim to derive their power to rule from it. There are no facts to prove that these people represent anything other than themselves, yet even the most skeptical amongst us accept their authority on blind faith alone. The mindset that drives puritan to thump his Bible at all of his neighbors is the exact same mindset that allows the statist to â€œspread democracyâ€ around the world. That which posses a Holy Roller to leap up and speak in tongues in front of the congregation is little different than that which inspires the patriot to chant â€œU.S.A.â€ at a presidential election. Can there ever be a separation of Church and State? I would have to conclude that the answer to this question is â€œNo.â€ The concept of the State cannot be separated from the concept of the Church because the two are really just different flavors of the same idea. At its core, the State is a Church, and can never be separated from that which is part of its very nature.
Nathan Fraser is the Host of Live Free FM, a weekly radio show, as well as an accomplished writer on the subject of government and legal philosophy.
More of his work can be found at