|Preach to the choir|
|Crux of the matter|
|Speak of the devil|
|An act of faith|
|—Constitutional Peasants, Monty Python and the Holy Grail|
A theocracy is a form of government in which the policy is governed by divine intervention or divine guidance. Often, in a true theocracy, God is the actual head of state. In practice, due to communication issues, divinely inspired prophets or clergy handle the actual law-making and day-to-day administration.
Arguments against a theocracy
“”I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.
And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be… It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated.
- A theocracy is a form of totalitarianism and authoritarianism, so most arguments against those also hold. In the case of a theocracy, the ultimate authorities have problems providing evidence of their existence, amplifying these problems.
- Theocracies, by necessity, introduce a class of clergy that acts independently of the ruling class. You better beg that the rulers and clergy are on friendly terms because otherwise, the clergy will recruit a mob of civilians to declare war against the king's soldiers.
- Freedom of religion and philosophy are stifled — as any theocracy, by definition, is hardly welcoming to other religions or, dare one say it, atheism.
- Freedom of speech is also stifled, as it's unhealthy for a theocracy for the people to know that alternative views exist. (Heck, one doesn't even have the right to remain silent!)
- By extension, freedom of mere thought is stifled and oppressed.
- In many theocracies, people are ruled by threats of punishment or promises of rewards in the afterlife; such religious beliefs are easy to exploit to keep people in line ("Pie in the sky when you die").
- Legal review process is, by definition, non-existent: How dare one challenge The Judgement™ passed by the gods, delivered by the divinely inspired prophet? Not that one needs such a process because an omniscient god will know whether one is truly innocent and, given god's omnipotence, may bring you back to life if you are killed in the process.
- By receiving authority from gods, the ruling priest class (or anyone charitable enough to make righteous contributions) is essentially unaccountable.
- As holy books are (supposedly) unchanging, anything that can be quote mined from them (whether they are in line with the context/spirit of such holy books or not) can and will be easily institutionalized. In addition, policies that come from (potentially) inconsistent quote mines would be difficult to resolve because they are from the same book(s), and emphasizing one over the other would stir up schisms within the religion. This seems to have a bizarre habit of occurring with the Supreme Court of the United States and the US Constitution, suggesting that
Clarence Thomas is at workthe doctrine of originalism may be even more religious in character than previously believed.
- Progress and change can be hampered by adherence to holy books (to be fair, one can implement progress and change by
rewritingreinterpreting the holy books, but most people don't care or have the time).
- While modern economic policies can be implemented, they must constantly make reference those holy books whenever they advocate a policy. This can be disastrous at any period where those economics lead to a crisis situation and where suggesting a different policy than the one which the holy books seem to advocate could resolve it. Of course, since you adhere to God and how he wants you to implement the economy, the only possible outcome would be that no economic crises will ever happen, and everything bad will promptly be attributed as "tests of faith".
- Historically, heretics and apostates are met with great wrath from the ruling religion. Compared to what such an Inquisition could do, being put on a police file for attending an anti-government rally or being fingerprinted and retina scanned to enter a country is quite pleasant.
"Theodemocracy" is an idea put forward by Joseph Smith for his planned Mormon paradise. In a theodemocracy, people supposedly have many of the traditional rights of liberal democracy within the framework of rule by a single god (or religion).
In a broad sense, one could consider present-day Iran a theodemocracy, as many of the important government positions are elected, and many of the others are selected from people who are elected. For example, the President is directly elected (in theory at least), with no guarantee he won't steal the election, and the Supreme Leader is selected by the Assembly of Experts, and half are themselves popularly elected. The other half are chosen by the Supreme Leader, while all of the candidates (for not only the Assembly but Parliament and the Presidency) require approval from the Guardian Council, headed by the Supreme Leader. In practice, the Assembly has never questioned or removed any of the Supreme Leaders. The Supreme Leader has a lifetime term, and there have been only two since 1979. The Guardian Council also routinely disqualifies candidates they deem as being too reform-minded. The Guardian Council must approve bills passed by Parliament — it frequently vetoes them. While the Parliament has to appoint members of the Guardian Council, its members are nominated by the Supreme Leader and the head of the courts (himself appointed by the Supreme Leader). It is also the constitutional court, with control over the interpretation of the laws. Therefore, real power rests in the hands of unelected leaders.
So, in reality, Iran is what you'd expect theocracy to be like — it's not pretty. "Theodemocracy" is a bit like the Trojan Horse or a wall crack hidden by a picture frame. It might look good on the surface (to some, anyway), but the gift is an ambush and that crack is still there.
- Mount Athos, an autonomous region in Greece ruled by an ecclesiastical council of the Greek Orthodox Church in which only men may reside or enter.
- The Vatican City, whose head of state is the Pope.
- Aceh Province, an autonomous part of Indonesia located in northern Sumatra.
- Afghanistan under the Taliban (1996-2001) and resurrected in 2021
- Iran, under the very confusing regime of an Islamic Republic.
- Pakistan ever since dictator Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq's "Islamisation" policies, which saw a radical form of sharia law implemented in the nation's judiciary.
- Qatar, despite attempts to convince the Western world that lots of money means they're not a theocracy.
- Saudi Arabia, ditto.
- United Arab Emirates (except Dubai and Ras al Khaimah), ditto.
- Imperial Rome: some Roman emperors were considered gods.
- Similarly, Ancient Egyptian pharaohs were treated as gods.
- Imperial China, as the emperor was considered a conduit between Heaven and Earth.
- Imperial Japan, as the emperor was considered divine, but in practice, was a figurehead.
- The Confederated Tribes of Israel (before becoming the United Kingdom of Israel) (note these entities are more myth than history, known only through unreliable Bible accounts, and may not have existed at all)
- Kingdom of Judah (937-539 BCE).
- Maccabean Kingdom (2nd to 1st centuries BCE)
- The Byzantine Empire, which placed the emperor in control of ecclesiastical affairs.
- Florence under Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola (1494–1498).
- The German city of Münster under its radical Anabaptist regime (1534-1535)
- Puritan Massachusetts and Connecticut (the former is infamous for the Salem Witch Trials, and the latter is the origin of the term "blue laws".)
- Calvinist Geneva (16th century)
- The Mormon State of Deseret (1849-1850, never recognized)
- The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom under Jesus' younger brother Hong Xiuquan.
- Fascist Italy, Croatia under the Ustaše, and Austria under Austrofascism (with varying degrees and elements of theocracy)
- Slovakia (as a Nazi puppet under Tiso 1939-1945)
- Arabia under Mohammed, and the Caliphates which succeeded him.
- DAESH, an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization that ruled a swath of the Middle East and Africa.
- Somalia (briefly in 2006 under the Islamic Courts Union)
- Tibet between the consolidation of the Dalai Lama's power in 1642 and its conquest by Mao Zedong's China.
- Sikkim, a state in India, before the 1970s
- The Central Tibetan Administration, which functions as a government-in-exile and had the Dalai Lama as its head of state until 2012.
- Turkey, if the Constitutional Courts there get their act together fast.
- The United States, if the
GOP reactionary dominionistsGOP has its way.
- Israel, if the Ultra-Orthodox outbreed the secular Israelis.
The world under the rule of the Antichrist or Dajjal and false prophet installed by the Illuminati.
- India, as Hindu nationalists are hard at work in this area.
- The Netherlands, if the Reformed Political Party wins all the elections nationwide. (This is unlikely).
- Brunei, as the higher-ups are pushing a narrative of a pure Malay Islamic state by imposing restrictions on non-Muslims and implementing sharia law on everyone.
In popular culture
“”God created Arrakis to train the faithful.
Unfortunately, there are fewer than one would think, with Wikipedia's list actually larger than the one on TV Tropes. If books are your thing, Margaret Atwood didn't write The Handmaid's Tale for nothing.[note 1] In video games, check out the Covenant in Halo,[note 2] the anti-papal goodness of Final Fantasy X,[note 3] Father Comstock's Columbia in BioShock Infinite,[note 4] the Holy Sacred Empire of Abel in Anima: Beyond Fantasy,[note 5] Eden's Gate in Far Cry 5, and the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40K.[note 6] The series His Dark Materials acts in part as a critique of theocracy.
Islamofascism refers to the idea of supporting the establishment of either a Middle East-wide or a worldwide caliphate. This is somewhat related to the (actual) ideologies of Islamism and jihadism, although "Islamofascism" includes some purely fantastic elements. Islamists and fascists do have some things in common, among them their hatred of (((Them))).
For example, in the neocons' view, all Islamofascists are supposed to be working together in a grand conspiracy against the US. Any conservative Muslim, or even anyone who is not a sufficiently enthusiastic war hawk, is said to support "Islamofascism."
The whole idea of Islamofascism largely ignored:
- The actual stated desires of the terrorists we were fighting
- The grievances of the Middle East as a whole
- The sectarian character of Islam, which kept many of the so-called "Islamofascists" from ever coming together in the first place (and actually has opened avenues of cooperation between the U.S. and some of the so-called "Islamofascists").
To say that this ignorance has been counter-productive for progress in the region is an understatement.
The concept's relations to Islam and fascism are both tenuous since Islam and fascism historically had little to do with each other (Amin al-Husseini notwithstanding); however, the more extreme strains of Islamism can be seen as analogous to the form of authoritarian conservatism sometimes known as "clerical Fascism" — a variant of theocracy. Some states that might fit this pattern in the Middle East and North Africa are/were also receiving large sums of money in the form of foreign aid from the United States.[note 7]
Some Arab nationalist regimes did, in fact, draw inspiration both from Soviet communism and fascism, the most notable among which were the Syrian/Iraqi Ba'athist regimes as well as Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt, though, in terms of economics, Ba'athism and Nasserism had far more in common with the state socialism of the Eastern Bloc than with the corporatism of Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Third Reich. The Ba'athist and Nasserist regimes were largely secular and were actually opposed by most Islamic extremists for being too "moderate" on religion. Only in later years did regimes like Saddam Hussein's Iraq embrace Islam more openly, with Saddam first styling himself as the Sunni champion against the Shi'ite Iranian ayatollahs during the grueling 8-year Iran-Iraq War and then putting the takbīr on the Iraqi flag (where it remains to this day) during his (brief) occupation of Kuwait.
The threat of Islamofascism can be treated much the same as Christofascism — while genuine authoritarian Muslim ideologues exist, the threat of specifically combined Islam and fascism is minuscule.
Christofascism is a neologism coined in response to two trends:
- The use of the word "Islamofascism" to describe a group ranging in size from a few fundamentalist Islamic theocratic leaders to the entire religion of Islam.
- The observation that in the West (particularly in the United States), there are demagogues who seek to replace the established secular governments with theocracies built on their version of Christianity. For example, dominionism.
Some examples that approach genuine Christofascism include:
- Ann Coulter calling for the invasion of
IsraelMuslim countries and the forced conversion of their populations to Christianity.
- Mike Huckabee, a US presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016, wishing to change the Constitution to conform to God's standards. i.e., to create a theocracy. He even tried to make a hero out of Kim Davis for her oh-so-very brave stance against homogays getting hitched and declared that it's totally OK to ignore laws that don't adhere to (his version of) "God's law".
- The Fellowship, a fundamentalist organization with many members in political power, including infamous wingnut Jim Inhofe.
- Francisco Franco, probably one of the most literal examples.
- Theodore Shoebat, perhaps an even more literal example.
- New Force, a whole political party that advocates this.
However, Christofascism is often overblown (much like Islamofascism). Merely advocating Christianity or "Christian values" in the public sphere is not fascism — it is only when Christianity is forced onto non-Christians that it is Christofascism.
- Margaret Atwood is Canadian, so it probably isn't big amongst American exceptionalists.
- Even more in the expanded universe. Yikes, Forerunners.
- And pretty much every other Final Fantasy out there, but you've gotta wonder why there hasn't been some moral panic about this yet.
- In this case, a brutal deconstruction of American exceptionalism.
- Where the Holy Sacred Emperor (now Empress) is also the head (at least in theory now) of the Catholic-inspired Holy Church of Abel.
- Their fan nickname is "Catholic Space Nazis."
- Do you need examples?
- Theocracy, New Advent.
- On Stories And Other Essays on Literature by C. S. Lewis (2017) HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 9780062565563. Page 116-117. "A Reply to Professor Haldane".
- See the Wikipedia article on The Preacher and the Slave.
- See the Wikipedia article on Theodemocracy.
- See the Wikipedia article on Mount Athos.
- Gay in Aceh? Brace for 100 lashes in front of a jeering crowd
- See the Wikipedia article on Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization.
- Wikipedia on Caligula
- See the Wikipedia article on Imperial cult.
- See the Wikipedia article on Son of Heaven.
- See the Wikipedia article on Confederated Tribes of Israel.
- Compare: Perry-Jenkins, Danell (2011). "3: The Kingdom of our God". Faces of Religion: The Unveiling of The Children of God. Bloomington, Indiana: WestBow Press. p. 47. ISBN 9781449717230. Retrieved 2017-08-13. "The United Kingdom of Israel was first a theocracy (with God as King), but afterward a monarchy with Saul the first King in 1 Samuel 9."
- See the Wikipedia article on Caesaropapism.
- See the Wikipedia article on Girolamo Savonarola.
- See the Wikipedia article on State of Deseret.
- Davidson, Ronald M. (2004). "Tibet". In Buswell Jr., Robert E. (ed.). Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Macmillan Reference. pp. 851–59. ISBN 978-0-02-865910-7.
- See the Wikipedia article on Sikkim.
- P. Newton Singh (2015). "Ideas, Institutions and Social Change in Sikkim". In Singh, N.William; Malsawmdawngliana; Saichampuii Sailo. Becoming Something Else: Society and Change in India's North East. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 9781443886338. Retrieved 2017-08-13. "Sikkim was once a theocratic state with institutions like a monarchy, feudalism ans Lamaism. Sikkim underwent change when liberal democracy, with principles of liberty, equality and citizenship, started penetrating the society during the 1960s. [...]Ultimately, the old institutions of theocracy collapsed and gave way to the introduction of new kinds of institutions, which are democratic elements in Sikkim."
- See the Wikipedia article on Central Tibetan Administration.
- The Theocracy, TV Tropes
- "Iraq 10 Years Later (2): What was the Neocon Theory behind the War?"] by Robert Kelly (2013-03-19) The Duck of Minerva.
- See the Wikipedia article on Amin al-Husseini.