God vs. The State

Religious belief and allegiance to the state can coexist comfortably, or even overlap entirely (as in Iran). But in many instances across history, the two have been rivals, even antagonists.

A sense of political stability provides comforting reassurance that our world is orderly and controlled. So does belief in an all-powerful deity. This puts the two in a seesaw relationship: When one goes up, the other goes down.

That’s the contention of a group of researchers led by Duke University psychologist Aaron Kay. Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they provide evidence of this dynamic and suggest it can be found in Eastern as well as Western cultures.

79 participants read one of two articles ostensibly published in the journal Science. One stated that science increasingly believes in the existence of a God or God-like entity who is “continually making changes to alter the course of cosmic history.” The other explained that while God may exist, the laws of physics mean he could not interfere in man’s affairs.
Afterward, the participants answered a series of questions, including eight that measured their support for the current national government.

“When participants were led to believe that scientists have concluded that God is unlikely to intervene in the world’s affairs, participants showed higher levels of government support,” they report. “When God was depicted as a source of control and order, participants less ardently defended the legitimacy of their government.”



6 Responses to God vs. The State

  1. John Henry says:

    Ha. A co-worker frequently makes the claim that the state is the deity in which most liberals believe. I usually chide him for his lack of nuance, but as studies like this suggest, there is some truth to the observation.

  2. c matt says:

    They actually get funding for this kind of drivel? Did they control for the political affiliations/leanings of the subjects? I would think a liberal would have a different view of support for the government during W’s era than he would have during the O’s reign., and vice versa for a conservative (or at least a neocon). That might have more to do with it. The sample also seemed very small (and they were Canadians).

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “And the might of the gentile, unsmote by the sword,
    hath melted like snow in the glance of Lord.”

    I have never understood the Left in this country in regard to their infatuation with the power of the state. Most Leftists, not all, I have known have little patriotism, and yet view state power as the path to utopia on this planet. I have a great deal of love for the United States and its history, but I am quite aware of the ability of the people who have their hands momentarily on the levers of power within the government to wreak havoc. Confusing the state, or anything else, for God, is a mistake that has led to more heartache and misery on this planet than almost any other error we humans are capable of making.

  4. Joe Hargrave says:

    Of course there’s truth to this observation! Read Leviathan!

    Free societies arose precisely because the Church always served as a check on the state in the West; the constant tension was not a bad thing but a good thing.


    It is easy to understand; the left loves humanity and hates people. They love the idea of “man” but they hate actual men. It’s the philosopher’s conceit, it runs through our intellectual history from Plato to Hobbes to Stalin.

    They truly, honestly and sincerely believe that they know what is best for all men, that the messy problems facing society can be fixed with the right amount of tinkering and fine-tuning, through “education” and various programs. They will never stop trying to remake and reshape man in various ways, because they just don’t like man as he is.

    Only God can transform men, though. Governments can only restrain them.

  5. T. Shaw says:

    In this one, my money is on the Lord.

  6. Joe Green says:

    If you want to get in a bad mood, read Schopenhauer. I thought I was a pessimist but next to him I feel like Mary Poppins. Gotta say, though, even though the old hermit didn’t think man should keep reproducing, he was a product of his age, which in 1815 was in the doldrums. I wonder if there is any correlation with today’s mood of cynicism and skepticism. Had Schopenhauer been born 100 years earlier, he might have had a much different world view.

    Likewise, listen to Goethe, another doom-and-gloomer lumped with Byron in England, De Musset in France and Heine in Germany, who thought the Great Age was over: “I thank God that I am not young in so thoroughly a finished world.”

    As historian Will Durant summed it up, the Napoleonic era left a disillusioned world of intellectuals and philosophers to conclude: “..And in truth it was hard enough to believe that such a sorry planet as men saw in 1818 was held up in the hand of an intelligent and benevolent God. Mephistopheles had triumphed, and every Faust was in despair. Voltaire had sows the whirlwind, and Schopenhauer was to reap the harvest.”

    And so, in this age of tyranny, we are left to cry “How long, O Lord and Why?”

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