Government Power (Control) and Religious Power (Control)

by Rick Bretz

From the moment you become aware of yourself as a human being, the truth begins to modify your behavior.  What is the truth?

Control, or lack thereof. We realize at an early age during adolescent cognitive development that, although you may have control over when you close your eyes, your parents dictate when you crawl into bed.

As a person matures into an adult, they begin to understand that many people control their lives.  Some of these are high school attendance times, sports practice times, who is first string and who isn’t, college fraternities, corporate hiring and maybe even when to retire.  You can also choose to not follow the accepted rules or laws but these mavericks tend to be either shunned or made an example by being ostracized or incarcerated. Control means power and power is control.  Some people get it through wealth and others get it by office or status. Some use one to get the other.  When someone on the news programs mentions that an official or citizen speaks “Truth to Power.”  What it really means is “Truth to a greater truth.”  Certain Truths are flexible while everyone recognizes Power when it comes for payment.”

So, who has control and why? The Government and Religion.  Those are two monoliths of control that many people do not try to fight against.  If you do challenge them, you may win but the consequences and price may be enough to second guess your decision. The following is a study comparing these two bastions of control.

Government Control Religious Control
Controls Behavior Controls Beliefs and Behavior
Influence Trust and Confidence Influences Spiritual Strength
Created to curb anarchy Created to control fear and behavior
Wealth Generator Wealth Generator
Local, National, International Local, National, International
History of using war for diplomacy History of using war, violence, intimidation
Source for good if used correctly Source for good if used correctly
Erects monuments and buildings to display prestige and power while   demanding respect Erects religious structures and houses of worship for religious   gatherings and inspiration
Promotes public events to promote agenda Invites people to worship and to gather donations
Some see man and woman as inherently evil and need to be governed. Some see man as subject to temptation and need to be guided by rules   and commandments.
First place people look for relief during natural disasters First or second place people turn to during natural disasters and
At least 5 basic government systems (Anarchy, Democracy, Socialism,   Dictatorship, Monarchy) Four main types of religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism)   but as many as 15 or more are practices throughout the world.
If used correctly could save humankind If practiced correctly could save humankind.

Religions

Many theories exist as to why people formed religious beliefs.   A widely held concept states that religion helped people cope with fear and gave them a sense of control over their haphazard environment.  When people began to realize that their lives were finite and that their sense of the earthly world would end, the practice of religion began to take shape and help people cope with what comes after.  The daily tribal existence and group living depended on team work so that food and could be gathered, shelters built, and society fluent so that the clan or community could continue to thrive.

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maslow’s Hierarchy  of Needs begins with the Psychological, food, sleep, and health at the bottom.  It then poses that safety is the next need, getting shelter away from the dangers of nature.  The next couple of needs play into both government and religion but especially the spiritual side.  The psychological need for belonging to a group and receiving love and affection is purely emotional and can be strong.  The other important need but toward the point of the pyramid is self-esteem and esteem from others. The need for respect, value and approval from others plays into controlling people within the community.  The last need at the point is self-actualization or achieving your maximum potential.  Keeping these pyramid of needs in mind, a set of belief systems along with a priest, priestess, appointed or elected head of the belief system goes a long way toward controlling and keeping order.

With sets of rules to govern behavior, fertility and other aspects of tribal and community life, the control and power was firmly in place and remains to this day.  As religion grew and power was taken by force or given by acceptance, religions came to understand that to deal with the other power base, government, other power tools had to be used, money and politics. So the merger and blurring of the religious and government lines is understandable.  Many leaders have seen the corruption of both and have tried to separate them by trying to keep religion on one side of the community aisle and government systems on the other.

One observation about religion.  For something that seems so personal, there are many who need to practice their belief system among large groups of like-minded people.

Government Systems

Government systems formed to provide services that the individual could not provide.  They have been responsible for building roads, providing health care, providing security, developing educational institutions and funding science and medical advances.

There is a huge trade-off for these services.  The power of the government to tax the citizens.  In addition to that power, they also have the authority to punish individuals, corporations and other entities who don’t pay taxes.  Governments inflict several forms of control over lives.  For example, the permission to drive based on taxes, registration, license, and tolls.  One truth also applies to governments, they almost always get larger and more bureaucratic as they develop.  With more government comes more laws-federal, state and local.  With more laws at each level, the public has less freedoms and less control.

What is the answer?  Well, anarchy isn’t the solution.  Restraint with laws and regulations while re-assessing government’s role in taxing and ruling over every aspect of our lives can be the way forward.  It’s good to have some rules to govern and believe in but not at the expense of freedom and lack of control.  A government’s job is to provide national security and provide essential services.  It should not control every part of our lives.  Think about that every time you drive on a toll road or cross a bridge with a toll.

Notable Links:

http://www.wou.edu/~aramoshernandez06/techlesson.html

http://phrontistery.info/govern.html

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/different-types-of-governments.html

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2128.html

http://www.typesofreligion.com/

http://www.religionresourcesonline.org/different-types-of-religion/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2006/02/04/religion-and-political-power/

http://www.libertarian-logic.com/abuse-of-power.html

http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_theory1.htm

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