Introduction to Philosophy/Theocracies

A "god" by definition is "that which ultimately calls the shots". The human propensity to ultimately rely on something as a basis for judgment is universal and inescapable. As it is true in every individual life, so it is true in societies as a whole. Some source gives the basis for meaning and the interpretation of reality.

Some countries are very explicit in decreeing their basis, which is religious by nature. Israel is a good example in that it claims Judaism as its "official" religion. Laws, holidays, family structures, education, etc. stem from that faith. So it is with England. England claims to be "Christian" by religion and Anglican by denomination. In Spain, you cannot hold political office unless you are a professed Catholic. These countries and many others declare by edict or law what the religious perspective is, though that in and of itself does not necessarily demand individual subserviance.

The bottom line is that every society has a god as its foundation. It is inescapable. There is an inevitable "theology" that serves as an ethical infrastructure. America originally was an assumed and decreed Christian nation, though the individual states had substantial autonomy. The state of Delaware originally demanded that all elected and appointed officials of the state believed in Jesus Christ and held to the Old and New Testaments. That is perhaps one of the most pointedly self concious civil requirements available in modern history.

However, recognizing that all societies have rudimentary religious foundations does not imply that these foundations are theistic. The former Soviet Union had an atheistic basis. This too is a theological perspective. In philosophical and theological terms, every belief is either theonomic or autonomous (God-centered or man-centered). There is no escape and there are no other options.

For instance, in America we talk freely and routinely about liberty. Liberty is synonomous with freedom. The Declaration of Independence held that rights were originally given by God and therefore, it was wrong for man to take them away. Notice the theological basis for this position. God was the giver, man was the recipient. All through American history there were laws made, wars fought and ethics derived from that basic and foundational theological position.

In France, after the American Revolution, there was a similar revolution. This revolution too was based on a theological perspective. This perspective, developed and purported by Robiespierre, made man his own God and concommitantly pushed Christianity out of the picture. It was a horrible experiment, yet it was clearly theologically oriented. Consequently, it is not a matter of theocracy vs no theocracy; it is a matter of which theocracy. The term "theocracy", like so many other terms in philosophy and theology, is not a happy one. Nevertheless, the term is used repeatedly.