Religion and government – secular views

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.

Lincoln Memorial

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.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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8 Responses to Religion and government – secular views

  1. JdL says:

    Nathan, if I’d realized my queries would provoke an angry rant from you, I wouldn’t have posted them. My mistake. I won’t disturb your serenity in the future.


    • tpolnathan says:

      Sorry if you thought it was an “angry rant” – I don’t think I’ve written an angry rant at TPOL for a very long time and this certainly was not one.
      I am sorry that you thought I was mad at you, simply by responding to you, and in turn being critical of your remarks. Far from it. Feel free to post whatever queries or comments you wish. Believe me or not, you did not “disturb” my serenity! And I welcome critical comments. Even if they are not directly related to the subject of the commentary.
      I am interested in you answering my questions in that “angry” response. Do you think we should only attack actions by governments and other aggressors that are “widespread” and not ones that are “quite rare” ? I don’t really think you do, but it can come across that way.
      Half-facetiously, is it some supposed anger towards government that you think you provoked? If so, I do apologize that I did not make my deep anger towards government evident long ago.
      I look forward to trading barbs with you in the future.
      And one of these days, I might post an angry commentary (or response). I’ll appreciate your thoughts and response to that, if it happens!


  2. tpolnathan says:

    I think you will find that there are many people who are pro-abortion that have a deep revulsion towards “partial-birth” abortion and what amounts to torture.


    • JdL says:

      I think you will find that there are many people who are pro-abortion that have a deep revulsion towards “partial-birth” abortion and what amounts to torture.

      To be sure. It’s striking, though, that you emphasize this kind of abortion as if it were widespread. In fact, it’s quite rare, from everything I can gather. Here’s one site that purports to put forth some numbers: . I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but I’d be surprised if the numbers are wildly off.

      We definitely agree about “dropping smart bombs on the villages and cooking the babies that way in service of the state.” The U.S. government is a rampaging, murderous monster, and I hate it that my tax dollars go to supporting it.


      • tpolnathan says:

        How did I emphasize it, except in your perception? I didn’t say it was widespread. How many does it take to make it wrong? After all, burning children in the arms of an idol of Moloch was probably pretty rare back in Phoenicia of 1000 BC or Carthage of 300 BC, but that didn’t make it any better, did it? Why doesn’t it bother you that I tarred all worshippers of Moloch with offering babies as sacrifices to an idol? I’m sure not every worshipper of Moloch personally tossed a baby on the idol’s red-hot arms. Any more than every worshipper of the state goes out and personally uses drones to kill Afghani babies, a saline injection to kill a baby in the womb, or personally disarms teachers and staff so that schools become free-fire zones.

        And for that matter, I could have added that quaint little Roman practice of taking unwanted infants out to “expose” them and let the wolves eat them, or the honorable Colonel Chivington with his “nits make lice” practice of sabering Cheyenne children, or Janet Reno’s “saving the children” at Waco by burning them to death. And I could have named America’s biggest mass murderer, Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia. He was only convicted of three counts, but reliable sources say that he killed ten thousand or more, with the knowledge of local government and their tacit tolerance. A government that allows a monster like Gosnell (or Reno, or Chivington) to do the evil that they did is less than worthless.

        Again, look at the point I’m making in the article. People, whether they are “believers” or “non-believer” in God, who try to justify the evil of government in any way are wrong. Neither humanism nor religion based on the Bible or other “holy books” can justify the actions of government. Whether those are government’s own murderous actions or allowing murderous actions of people to take place because they are legal.


  3. JdL says:

    unborn babies getting their skulls drilled out so their brains can be sucked out

    Interesting that you should bring up abortion in a column ostensibly about the evils of overbearing government. In your conception of an ideal society, what would happen if it becomes known that a woman has had an abortion?


    • MamaLiberty says:

      What do you think would happen? Would it be up to you, or anyone else, to intervene? How about leaving such things to individuals, families and communities, rather than being “allowed” or “prohibited” (or even encouraged) by statist government? There are so many other options. In my conception of an ideal society, the question would not likely ever come up, since people would not be looking always for more and more ways to control the lives of others and the alternatives would be readily available via voluntary association and cooperation.


      • JdL says:

        What do I think would happen? In my conception of an ideal society, people would mind their own business and not think they have the right to second-guess a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy. I asked the question because usually when people talk about “drilling unborn babies’ skulls and sucking out their brains” they tend to be what I would call rabidly anti-abortion. I’m curious to know what the author’s position on this is.


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