Tuesday, October 07, 2008
[King Edward VII]
I think most of us understand intuitively the need for government. In places where government is absent, such as Somalia today, Baghdad in April, 2003 or Berlin in May, 1945, conditions are generally not very good. The concept of the Noble Savage seems to be merely a myth, so therefore to rely upon people’s conscience or instincts to regulate behavior would seem to be a risky strategy. In order for people to defend themselves against each other a system of laws, courts and law enforcement officers is necessary.
The question is: Is government enough?
First of all, law enforcement cannot be everywhere all the time. Even with close to a million law enforcement officers, state of the art methods at their disposal and a vast prison system locking up millions of people, we still have quite a bit crime in the United States.
Another problem is: Who governs the government? In other words, what is to prevent the government itself from becoming oppressive or tyrannical? What is to stop the stronger members of society from oppressing the weaker, the majority from oppressing a minority or a big country from attacking a small one? Even democracy is no guarantee of fairness. Take for example Germany in January, 1933 – the Nazi government, surely one of the most evil in history, came to power by basically democratic means.
This is where religion is essential. Belief in God and in a humanitarian God given law can influence people’s behavior even when they know they won’t be seen by anyone. Religion can insure that the government itself is honest and humane. Just like no government-less society has ever been a very pleasant place to live, likewise no God-less society has ever been a very pleasant place to live. It’s true some religions are worse than others, just as some governments are worse than others, however just as anarchy is a nightmare so is atheism when practiced by an entire community. As Abraham expressed it succinctly (Genesis 20:11): Because I thought: Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
I sometimes marvel at atheists – what do they really think the world would look like if tomorrow everyone actually listened to them and would become an atheist? If it would actually be so perfect, why don’t any American or British atheists seem anxious to move to countries like North Korea, or perhaps Vietnam or Russia, which are far more atheistic? I would love to live in a country based on Talmudic law if it would exist anywhere.
Without a belief in a transcendent moral authority, it would seem likely that mankind would not last more than a century. One half would kill the other half, the survivors would not bother to have children and that would be the end of that.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:45 PM