L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 255, January 18, 2004
"Life Goes On ...."
Government and Religion: the two biggest criminal enterprises in history
Exclusive to TLE
From it's very inception, government is, and always has been, nothing more than organized crime!
Government began when the biggest thieves and liars and brigands in an area began to shake down peaceful farmers and merchants, and realized that it was a lot easier to live in an area where they didn't have to 'work' to steal what they wanted, since the peaceful citizens, those with families and property to protect, gave in rather than fight, and possibly risk losing what they had. When you look at the history of the world, many, if not most of what are today called noble or elite families, began with nothing more than a vicious robber who was smart enough to at least pretend that he cared about the people he was robbing! A man with a horse, a sword, and a small band of followers, who was charismatic, ruthless, and determined could, and often did, make himself a baron, duke, or even a king.
Just suppose for a moment that the tales of Robin Hood have some sprinkling of truth in them. The basics of the story are simple: a man who has violated the law, begins to rob and steal from passers-by near his wooded hiding place. Being smart, he knows that sooner or later, the locals will turn him in for the reward money, UNLESS he does something to counter that possibility. What does he do? He takes advantage of a smoldering resentment against the Norman land owners, the tax collectors, and the church. He begins to confine his violence to those targets, and takes care to use some of the proceeds to help isolated families, always making sure that the news spread far and wide amongst the peasantry. Being charismatic, and a natural leader, he finds and recruits among the more rabid anti-government and church people until he has a strong enough war-band to hold out against organized efforts to crush him, again, always making sure that only the most favorable tales get told. He even has his own PR department, in the form of a wandering minstrel! (Allan a-dale) He is so effective at what he does, that when King Richard returns, he decides that it is better to legitimize this rogue outlaw than to have to fight him, along with all the other, more dangerous enemies. This is a good example of how many early 'noble' families came to be, even though most would never admit it.
Think I'm exagerating? It's happened in our own time, too. What was Hitler? A charismatic, ruthless man, with a small following, until suddenly he was the leader of one of the most powerful nations on Earth!
But that is an isolated example, you say? Wanna bet? I can name many others, one day they are citizens, then outlaws, then by a combination of luck, charisma, opportunity, they rise to power, and affect the lives of millions of people around the world Just in the last 100 years, there has been Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Peron, Saddam, Ayatollah Khomeini, Khaddafi, and a host of others, and NOT ONE of them would look on HIMSELF as a bad man. They would each and every one declare that they had only the best interests of the people at heart. Never mind that it required that they have absolute power to insure that! Never mind that each and every one of them ABUSED that power. After all, they did so much for the people, didn't they deserve a little reward?
The history of the church is similar. As religions became organized, the leaders of those religions became hungry for the power they saw the political leaders wielding. They began to use their influence as the 'go-between' between god and man to acquire that power. This started first with small 'priviledges' for the shamans. After all, since they insured that the gods looked favorably on the village, didn't they deserve a little break? Soon, they didn't have to hunt, or farm, or fight. They were too important for that, and, as long as religion was a thing of clans, or small nomadic tribes, that was okay. Not good, but bearable, at least. Where the problem began was when religion became a thing of state control and power, and prestige for the state. Now, all of a sudden, we have two gangs of thieves and liars competing for power.
Again, think I'm exagerating?
Look at the history of the Catholic Church from the time it got a toe-hold in Rome. For centuries, the church was the single biggest POLITICAL power in Europe, holding the power to make or break monarchs, and maintained that power until the reformation. Even then, people fought over the 'right' religion. Look at the crusades, the 30 years war, the fact that many people came to America for religious freedom! In point of fact, some of my first ancestors in this country came here to escape the violence and religious intolerance of the 30 Years War.
I do not have a problem with ANY person, of any faith, who honestly tries to live a good and decent life, as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on me. I DO have a problem with a religion claiming to be the repository of "Absolute Truth", when NONE of us can know what that is! I do not believe that ANY one of the organized religions has a monopoly on truth. That is simply another facet of the political power play that organized religion has maintained for centuries. I think that EACH of us, in our own way and time, has to decide what spiritual path we will follow, if any. What is right for you, may not be right for me, and vice-versa.
Organized religion, just like government, is a collection of both good and bad. There are people at all levels, in both types of organizations who are sincere in their beliefs that what they are doing is for the good of everyone. There are also people who use the power and prestige of government and religion to acquire personal power, to gain control of the lives of others for their own personal ideals of power, whether that be economic, spiritual, political, etc. Religion, like goverment, is force, and if either gets out of control, you have chaos. Right now BOTH of them are out of control, and the world is suffering for it.