Iran's Un-Theocracy

"As I observed their rancorous and loud disagreements in trying to come to a decision, I pitied the nation that was denied God's direct guidance, and thought how blessed was my own land, in living by the laws given by God Himself."
So wrote in a letter home an 18-century Moslem traveler who found himself in London and went to see one of the British capital's main attractions - the proceedings of English parliament.       

I do not remember the title of the book in which I read this quote, obviously given here from memory, a book pulled from a used-bookstore shelf and opened at a random page very many years ago. But I do remember that I laughed at that gullible traveler, closed the book and put it right back on the shelf.

In the hindsight, it is clear that I laughed far too soon, because this is not a laughing matter at all. As shown by the Iran experience, and as we are now finding out in Iraq, such sentiments are still firmly rooted in the Middle East, and are the main obstacle to the spread of democracy in that part of the world.

Why are the Muslims not convinced that democracy is right for them? Because that gullible traveler was essentially right. Theocracy - which in Greek means "the rule by God" - is by far the very best possible form of governance.

Consider this: when God rules, is there a need for an army? Of course not - God provides perfect protection, and no conceivable enemy can possibly withstand His strength. Should one worry about job, or health insurance? Obviously not, when it is God who provides shelter, sustenance, and cure.

But of course, for all that to happen, God does need to be right at the helm. Humans are far from adequate substitutes to God, no matter how grand are the titles that they bear. Being called an "ayatollah" by the fellow-humans does not exempt one from that rule, does not put one in the same class with God.

Ayatollahs not only lack God's powers to protect, feed, shelter and cure, but their knowledge of God's views on the adequate political and social organization of society and on norms of individual conduct of its members is unreliable at best. What they pass for "knowledge of God's will" is unproved and, for that matter, unprovable, and so is at the very best doubtful. For reasons that have to do with fundamental structure of cognition, no one, ayatollahs themselves including, can possibly know whether their rulings are in line with the will of God, or not. In fact no one, an ayatollah or not, can possibly know whether Mohammed was a prophet, or whether Koran was God's word - nor can anyone even know which reading of the Koran conforms to Mohammed's original intentions. What is the true Islam? There are plenty of opinions, all of them felt quite strongly - as Iraq's Shia and Sunni Moslems remind us daily, by daily blowing each other up. Which side - if any - is right, it is impossible to know.

The West learned the hard way - from a very similar experience of her own religious wars that ravaged Europe centuries ago, that the matters of religion should better be left to the believers themselves, not decided by the state, and that the clerics should be denied the use of state-owned means of coercion for the purposes of spiritual instruction. Moslems should better start thinking in that direction too.   

Until it becomes possible to know God's will with absolute certainty - or until we are borne from this abode beyond the great divide, to enjoy God's paradise in the world-to-come - theocracy is impossible, and the old rule of "salus populi suprema lex" has to be followed, with the path to fulfilling the "supreme law" of the "well-being of the people" ascertainable only by the people themselves. Koran or no Koran, mankind - Iraq and Iran including - is better off having the mosque and state completely separated, and being rid of the self-deceiving, idolatrous and blasphemous Iran-style un-theocratic government by the ayatollahs who usurped people's place at the helm - and for that matter, God's place too. Sticking to democracy, no matter how loud, rancorous, and messy it may be, is far better than to live under the godless Iranian un-theocracy.

The pity that the eighteenth-century Muslim visitor to London felt for the merely democratic England was very much misplaced. In the final analysis, he got it utterly wrong: his native land was not ruled by God, nor was England deprived of His blessing. He should have learned from the democratic experience of the English, and brought it back to his native land. We would all have been far better off today, had he done the right thing back than.

But he did not, and the task still needs to be done. God having given this planet for mere people to rule, democracy is the way.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly. His blog is at www.rootoutterrorism.com  
"As I observed their rancorous and loud disagreements in trying to come to a decision, I pitied the nation that was denied God's direct guidance, and thought how blessed was my own land, in living by the laws given by God Himself."
So wrote in a letter home an 18-century Moslem traveler who found himself in London and went to see one of the British capital's main attractions - the proceedings of English parliament.       

I do not remember the title of the book in which I read this quote, obviously given here from memory, a book pulled from a used-bookstore shelf and opened at a random page very many years ago. But I do remember that I laughed at that gullible traveler, closed the book and put it right back on the shelf.

In the hindsight, it is clear that I laughed far too soon, because this is not a laughing matter at all. As shown by the Iran experience, and as we are now finding out in Iraq, such sentiments are still firmly rooted in the Middle East, and are the main obstacle to the spread of democracy in that part of the world.

Why are the Muslims not convinced that democracy is right for them? Because that gullible traveler was essentially right. Theocracy - which in Greek means "the rule by God" - is by far the very best possible form of governance.

Consider this: when God rules, is there a need for an army? Of course not - God provides perfect protection, and no conceivable enemy can possibly withstand His strength. Should one worry about job, or health insurance? Obviously not, when it is God who provides shelter, sustenance, and cure.

But of course, for all that to happen, God does need to be right at the helm. Humans are far from adequate substitutes to God, no matter how grand are the titles that they bear. Being called an "ayatollah" by the fellow-humans does not exempt one from that rule, does not put one in the same class with God.

Ayatollahs not only lack God's powers to protect, feed, shelter and cure, but their knowledge of God's views on the adequate political and social organization of society and on norms of individual conduct of its members is unreliable at best. What they pass for "knowledge of God's will" is unproved and, for that matter, unprovable, and so is at the very best doubtful. For reasons that have to do with fundamental structure of cognition, no one, ayatollahs themselves including, can possibly know whether their rulings are in line with the will of God, or not. In fact no one, an ayatollah or not, can possibly know whether Mohammed was a prophet, or whether Koran was God's word - nor can anyone even know which reading of the Koran conforms to Mohammed's original intentions. What is the true Islam? There are plenty of opinions, all of them felt quite strongly - as Iraq's Shia and Sunni Moslems remind us daily, by daily blowing each other up. Which side - if any - is right, it is impossible to know.

The West learned the hard way - from a very similar experience of her own religious wars that ravaged Europe centuries ago, that the matters of religion should better be left to the believers themselves, not decided by the state, and that the clerics should be denied the use of state-owned means of coercion for the purposes of spiritual instruction. Moslems should better start thinking in that direction too.   

Until it becomes possible to know God's will with absolute certainty - or until we are borne from this abode beyond the great divide, to enjoy God's paradise in the world-to-come - theocracy is impossible, and the old rule of "salus populi suprema lex" has to be followed, with the path to fulfilling the "supreme law" of the "well-being of the people" ascertainable only by the people themselves. Koran or no Koran, mankind - Iraq and Iran including - is better off having the mosque and state completely separated, and being rid of the self-deceiving, idolatrous and blasphemous Iran-style un-theocratic government by the ayatollahs who usurped people's place at the helm - and for that matter, God's place too. Sticking to democracy, no matter how loud, rancorous, and messy it may be, is far better than to live under the godless Iranian un-theocracy.

The pity that the eighteenth-century Muslim visitor to London felt for the merely democratic England was very much misplaced. In the final analysis, he got it utterly wrong: his native land was not ruled by God, nor was England deprived of His blessing. He should have learned from the democratic experience of the English, and brought it back to his native land. We would all have been far better off today, had he done the right thing back than.

But he did not, and the task still needs to be done. God having given this planet for mere people to rule, democracy is the way.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly. His blog is at www.rootoutterrorism.com