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Bronze-level article

Theocracy

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It doesn't stop
at the water's edge

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You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tartWikipedia's W.svg threw a swordWikipedia's W.svg at you!
—Constitutional Peasants, Monty Python and the Holy Grail[1]

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 problems, the actual laws and day to day governance are handled by divinely inspired prophets or clergy.

The term theocracy was coined by Flavius Josephus in the 1st century CE. The historian used it to describe the Judaean regime, as opposed to the Roman secular regime.[2]

Arguments against a theocracy[edit]

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. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. 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. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.
C.S. Lewis[3]
  • Essentially, 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.
  • Freedom of religion and philosophy is stifled — as any theocracy by definition is hardly welcoming to other religions or, dare we 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, you don't even have the right to remain silent!)
  • By extension of the above, 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.
  • Legal review process is, by definition, non-existent: How dare you to challenge The Judgement™ passed by the gods, delivered by the divinely inspired prophet? Not that you need such a process, because an omniscient god will know whether you are truly innocent, and given their 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 and the Constitution as well, suggesting that Clarence Thomas is at work the 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 rewriting reinterpreting the holy books, but most people simply don't care or have the time).
  • While modern economic policiesWikipedia's W.svg can be implemented in them, they obligatory have to constantly reference to 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 to a different policy than the one which the holy books seem to advocate could resolve it. Of course, since you adhere to God and the way he wants you to implement the economy an economic crisis is never going to happen.
  • 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 just to enter a country is quite pleasant.

Theodemocracy[edit]

"Theodemocracy" is an idea put forward by Joseph Smith for his planned Mormon paradise.[4] In a theodemocracy, people supposedly have many of the traditional rights of a 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 governmental 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 themselves 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.

Examples[edit]

Current[edit]

Historical[edit]

Future[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

God created Arrakis to train the faithful.
—Frank Herbert

Unfortunately, not as many as you'd think, with Wikipedia's listWikipedia's W.svg actually larger than the one on TV Tropes.[11] If books are your thing, Margaret Atwood didn't write The Handmaid's Tale for nothing.[12] In video games, check out the Covenant in Halo,[13] the anti-papal goodness of Final Fantasy X,[14] Father Comstock's Columbia in BioShock Infinite,[15], and the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40K.[16] The series His Dark Materials acts in part as a critique on theocracy.

Islamofascism[edit]

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 (((da Joos))).

For example, in the neo-cons' 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:

  1. The actual stated desires of the terrorists we were fighting
  2. The grievances of the Middle East as a whole
  3. 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.[17]

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 the Islamic form of 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.[18]

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. It should also be noted that 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 gruelling 8-year Iran-Iraq War, and then putting the takbīrWikipedia's W.svg on the Iraqi flag (where it remains to this day, btw) during his (brief) occupation of Kuwait.

The term is often conflated with ideas like Eurabia and white genocide.

Christopher Hitchens also questioned the term, preferring the less syncretic description "fascism with an Islamic face" where relevant (such as in the case of DAESH).

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 miniscule.

Christofascism[edit]

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.

To wit, Christopher Hitchens once said you can substitute "Catholic right wing" for fascism in a history of Europe and not much would change.[19]

Some examples that approach genuine Christofascism include:

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 (etc.) that it is Christofascism.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvKIWjnEPNY
  2. Theocracy, New Advent
  3. C. S. Lewis, A Reply to Professor Haldane
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Theodemocracy.
  5. Gay in Aceh? Brace for 100 lashes in front of a jeering crowd
  6. Wikipedia on CaligulaWikipedia's W.svg
  7. See the Wikipedia article on Confederated Tribes of Israel.
  8. 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. https://books.google.com/books?id=ee5Zminve1sC. 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." 
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Sikkim.
  10. 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. https://books.google.com/books?id=krMPCwAAQBAJ. 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." 
  11. The Theocracy, TV Tropes
  12. Margaret Atwood is Canadian, so it probably isn't big amongst American exceptionalists.
  13. Even more in the expanded universe. Yikes, Forerunners.
  14. 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.
  15. In this case, a brutal deconstruction of American exceptionalism
  16. Their fan nickname is "Catholic Space Nazis."
  17. Robert Kelly (2013-3-19) "Iraq 10 Years Later (2): What was the Neocon Theory behind the War?". Duck of Minerva.
  18. Do you need examples?
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RSjvQYdVTQ