Monday, July 17, 2006

Separation of Church and State?

A priori, there's nothing wrong with the separation of church and state. If we're going to choose between two slave-masters, your average Western state is less cruel than your average religious fanatic (or in the case of the United States, your average religious imperialist fanatic at the controls of the biggest army of the world). I live in Canada, and I have to say, as far as slave-masters go, it's probably the least damageable to my freedom.

However, when you start to look at the concept more carefully...

Ultimately, I can't see how one can claim to want to separate "church" and "state", when the state itself is a religion, as I've extensively discussed before. In structure, at least, they are the same. Statism has considerably less stories attached to it, and less rituals as well, but statism at its core is a watered-down, culturally-adaptable form of religion.

So the separation of church and state is nothing more than a fight to favour one religion over another, because that religion is less violent than the other religion. That's all well and good, but as an atheist I have little desire to get involved in a purely religious dispute.

The second problem is that the idea of the separation of church and state is not an appropriate answer. Imagine there is a marble corridor where throngs of people walk all the time. Plopped right in the middle of it is a live baby, placed on a column. People always graze the column and the whole thing shakes- numerous babies have been trampled to death in the past. So in view of all this, you decide to... try to stop the rowdiest guests from going up the corridor, and hope that no one else bumps into the column, despite the fact that it's right in the middle.

The obvious solution, of course, is to move the damn baby somewhere else. It's not a perfect analogy (for one thing, the state is an active agent of exploitation, not a passive agent), but I think you get what I mean. You've got this gigantic, parasitic, all-encompassing center of power called the state, that everyone wants to get at and exploit for their own ends. All sorts of fanatics try to get that power. So the solution we find is to try to stop the worst group of fanatics, and hope that somehow no one else will abuse it too much? That seems rather absurd. The obvious solution, of course, is to move power where it belongs- to the individual, rather than the collective.

The absurdity parallels the so-called pacifist liberals who protest against the state. It hardly behooves real pacifists to sanction the incentives that make war possible in the first place. But whoever said liberals were consistent, right?

My position is that we should support freedom from religion... ALL religions.

2 comments:

ryan e said...

"So the separation of church and state is nothing more than a fight to favour one religion over another, because that religion is less violent than the other religion."

I've always heard this about communists, but I never really found out if it's a valid critisism. Do you know anything about it?

Francois Tremblay said...

That communism is a religion? Definitely.