Religion, as many are aware is a freqent tool of those who seek control. The State has long been argued to be a separate institution. While there are notable differences (for example, ideological supremacy is more highly valued by religions as opposed to physical supremacy, though traditional religion does often seek these things as well where it can). This is most notable today in the so-called third world nations, who are still being sold lies by the various churches that were thrown out in the West 100 years ago.
The State, as an organ, however, shares many characteristics with religion, and it’s useful to understand how they relate.
These are partly visible in the form of laws. Particularly, however, constitutions are rendered as some sort of holy text, above that of ordinary law. What these constiutions actually contain is largely irrelevant. As with relgiious texts, whole passages are often either ignored or glossed over. Barbaric or archaic section which no longer represent the public interest are held aloft as being written in stone. This is most evident in the United States, where the Constitution and many of its amendments are held up as some sort of immutable standard in political debate (particularly by the Right), but similar documents (the Magna Carta in the UK, various laws here in Australia etc.)
This is not to say that these writings were not important markers, nor that all of their content is worthless – indeed, in many cases, the ideas contained in these documents are actually quite worthwhile – but it is not so much the letter of them that is respected or held as holy as the idea of them; they are re-cast by use of propaganda to be what leaders wish them to be, rather in the way that the religious often ignore the live and let live sections of their texts for the “condemn the unbeliever” and “down with the different!” sections.
These are not as frequent in political discourse, but occasionally, a politician will take time out to speak to his/her people. This is most often observed by the leaders of parties; Calls to “God and Country”, “tradition”, “national ethics”, “national security” are frequent; these principles are the lessons they preach from their pulpits, and they preach them well. Much like a pastor, whose sermons are usually prepared with the help of understudies and the like in larger churches, a small army of people are often involved in crafting a speech, and very often these statements are paperings over the speakers actual intent.
Most nations have a single figure that can more or less be identified as a leader (this is not always the one with the most actual influence – it is largely the corporations who bankroll politics with the largest say these days), but usually there is a figurehead leader: A so called “pope of the state”. Most actual leaders aren’t elected; Many are purely ceremonial, but the idea is the same: there must always be a master.
Similarly, there are intermediate clergy – lesser politicians at the higher level, lower governments with their own councils and committees, etc.
Religions traditionally (and most still do) have some kind of method of casting an individual from the community irrevocably; In the case of the religion, this takes the form of excommuncation or incommunicado orders;
In the state, these functions are largely handled by the levers of deportation or imprisonment.
Entreatment to “Keep the Faith”:
Much like a church, a state encourages fealty to its ideas. It uses a variety of means to encourage this; there are holy days (public holidays). There are times set aside to reflect on the “great works” of the state (usually taking the form of the rememberance of some awful war); Most importantly, people are encouraged to express their love of the state (usually covertly expressed as “independence” ceremonies or days).
Lack of Real Foundation:
When it comes down to brass tacks, the main argument that all other religious argument hangs upon is “people need religion, because otherwise they go astray”. This argument is actually almost identical to the one used as the foundation of the state, which can be summed thus:
People need government, because otherwise they will harm each other. There would otherwise be chaos.
This is strongly belied by most people’s first hand experience with most other people. Even many people who hold quite extreme right-wing views are generally quite amenable to agree to disagree under proper circumstances (I have had many discussions with right-wing American gunlovers, and they see many of the problems I see coming from a left perspective, they have just been misled into thinking (by well-crafted propaganda, to be fair) that some combination of government and capitalism is the ideal remedy, whereas I have no illusions that both are not ultimately in the public interest.
As strong as the higher level arguments may be, surely this weak foundational assertion of state legitimacy, coupled with the repeated failures of the state (most notably in the forms of corruption, barbarity, war, and just plain incompetence), surely the state has had its time, and we, the people and workers of the world, should be responsible alone and in common for our own fate?
Beginning to start my hand at writing stuff. I’m quite certain these arguments are nowhere near as strong as they could be – this is very much an early draft; I’ve posted it in hope of getting perhaps a little feedback, help with wording, etc. I am not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination – simply a layman who thinks about things alot (perhaps too much in some cases). It’s just some observations and ideas I had after re-listening through the Librivox recording of Bakunin’s God and the State, which I love for many reasons. I am also certain that there are other analogues between the concepts of the State and Religion.
On the extremely remote chance that people think it’s fine as is and want to use it, that’s perfectly fine by me. No extravagant acknowledgement is necessary (a link back would be nice, though), though I would prefer any derivative work be published under the same terms, to allow the ideas to percolate and be refined. I am a firm believer in the idea that ideas should be open to scrutiny, but also to development; we have been a closed society in this regard for too long, and I am a firm supporter of the open source idea. Ideas are enlarged, not reduced by the attention and refinement of many minds.
It should be noted, the primary aim of this piece is to ultimately form the basis of perhaps some sort of pamphlet, so the relative conciseness of the sections of this are key. I’m quite certain pamphlets dealing with this angle exist somewhere, but I’ve not come across anything, and I feel like many minds would be opened if there was a simpler, more concise introduction to the problems presented by the apparatus of the state, and more importantly, the often unspoken arguments that support them. The religious are being called out on these faulty arguments, the State and statists also should be.
The title is very much a working title; I’m open to alternatives, though I do like the “State as Religion” part, and I would like to keep that.