By Nathan Barton
Thomas Paine today is claimed as an atheist, supposedly because he lived before Darwin “proved” that you didn’t need to have a Creator. Before that, we are told, Paine and others were “deists” – those who believed in God, who created the world, but then (once He wound the clock up) did not involve Himself in the affairs of men.
Yet that stands in stark contrast to many of Paine’s writings. Consider this one: “Practical religion consists in doing good: and the only way of serving God is that of endeavoring to make His creation happy. All preaching that has not this for its object is nonsense and hypocrisy.”
This echoes several passages in the Bible, including James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” And Matthew 22:39: “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Hardly the sentiments of a man who believes God plays no part in the world today. (And I challenge those who claim that this remark of Paine’s about preaching is contrary to the Bible. It is about happiness: now and in eternity.)
Contrast this to the view of statists – even those who claim to be religious whether Jewish or Christian or some other faith.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that these people (statists) don’t believe in God – even in the true Creator. It is just that they believe in “God and the State His prophet” like Muslims believe in Allah and HIS prophet (peanuss butter und honig).
(We are sometimes told that Ba’al and Moloch were just different names for YHWH, so that they had the “right person” to worship, just the wrong form. Minor little details like building idols and sacrificing infants to them.)
Let me tell you, I’d much rather be neighbors with Tom Paine or some other Deist (or an outright agnostic or atheist) who submits to the Golden Rule (Zero-Aggression Principle), than with a statist who believes in God but worships Him with human sacrifices – whether it is cooking live babies on the bronze arms of an idol or unborn babies getting their skulls drilled out so their brains can be sucked out – or dropping smart bombs on the villages and cooking the babies that way in service of the state.
Too many who claim to be “christians” have distorted Paul’s reference to “human rulers” as “servants of God” – although the usual translation into English is “ministers” which has a whole different connotation in modern English. This is found in Romans 13:4, a passage in which (many of us believe) Paul is establishing criteria by which followers of Christ are to evaluate human governments – secular rulers. It becomes obvious to those studying this and sister passages that very few (well, actually no) human governments meet those criteria. Therefore, Paul is subtly reminding his readers that human rulers are NOT God’s servants. As the Torah (Old Testament) teaches, human government exists in REBELLION to God.
(I will not disagree that it is theoretically possible for a human government to truly be a servant of God. Just as it is theoretically possible for a human being to live without ever sinning (or ever making a mistake). But none such exist on Earth today, nor do I think any have existed in past history. Nope, not even ancient Israel under King David.)
This doesn’t mean that God does not use government for his purposes. Just as He has always used evil or disobedient men to carry out certain actions.
Now, let us consider government from a purely secular viewpoint (if I can).
Government tries to set itself up as God, whether it admits that or not. It does not even have to be totalitarian or fascist (two different things) to do so. To that end it not only seeks to denigrate religion (either by dismissing it or corrupting and controlling it), it seeks to know everything and do (control) everything. (It seems to me that the major difference between totalitarianism and other forms of statism is whether that control is direct or indirect.) But government is NOT God – and even atheists will admit that government cannot demonstrate the attributes attributed to Jehovah or any other god. Government is not and cannot be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It fails in all areas – no matter how much closer modern technology has let the state strive for that goal.
Or to put it another way: if there IS a God, human government cannot match Him, and therefore cannot replace Him. If there is NOT a god, human government cannot make itself into something which does not and cannot exist. Oh, governments might try, but sooner than later, they WILL fail.