Religion and Governance
By syw on May 31, 2008
Cross posted at http://www.nomadicminds.org
A few thousand years ago, rulers pondered on how to govern. Citizens were not quite literate. The society was tiered. A legal system seemed futile: first they need to learn the laws, then must build an enforcement structure. But most importantly, the ruling class did not wish to be subject to the same laws as the commoners. What to do?
The Church was the answer. It has the God-given authority to define morality and the rituals of worshipping. Church became the perfect partner with the government: one controlled behavior and the other military and resources. Governance became easy.
In China, way before Christ, Confucius taught his philosophy on social protocols. Social behaviors — rules of interaction — must accord to the relative labeling: ruler v. ruled, senior v. junior, husband v. wife, etc. Simply put, the moment one acquired a label, the proper behavior rules apply. A person, for example, behaves differently as the son, the boss, the guard, the student, the brother, etc. Titles rule.
Kings in China found this so suitable for governing and put resources behind it. China became a Confucian state. Religions are for faith or philosophy, not ethics or morality.
After the Industrial Revolution, machine replaced human and became the main means of production. New rules challenged Church on its authority on people's lives: it is not about right and wrong anymore, it is about money. Church felt the pressure to modify rituals to avoid contradiction with the economy: only spiritual rituals are their domain. But which rituals are divine and which are social? Is birth control a matter of faith? Would I go to hell if I eat pork? If I accept Him as my savior, does it matter that I murdered, raped, or betrayed?
The mainstream modern churches, at least in the USA, became social clubs of similarly valued or opined. When one's value changes, one also change church. Several religions or denominations, however, insist on strict ritual adherence, also known as behavior control, and frequently run into trouble: think Jonestown, Waco, and Texas polygamists.
In 1850s, HONG XiuQuan （洪秀全） started a farmer riot using religion as an organization tool. He assumed divine position and organized his kingdom against the government. The riot went all the way to Beijing and almost tumbled the Qing dynasty. Imagine Jonestown the size of half the country, or the state of Utah passing a constitution contradicting the USA one. Chinese rulers since heeded the lessons and viewed organized religions with suspicion.
Faith is about belief and respect. Religion is about social behavior via organization, morality, and rituals. Government is for the control and distribution of resources. These affect everyone, God believer or not. That's why confrontations and conflicts will never end. Everyone, just chill.