God’s Way or the Highway

I’ve just started watching Diarmaid MacCulloch’s documentary series, “How God Made The English.” The premise of the series is that the one common identifier over the past thousand years in Britain has been religion. I’ve heard good and bad things about it, so I decided to give it a watch.

One of the points he discusses in the first episode is the idea that once we had abolished the slave trade in our own country, we then set about forcing this on the rest of the world. In MacCulloch’s words, we became God’s policemen.

An interesting parellel could be drawn between this and today when the United States, an anomaly in being the only major developed world to contain such high levels of piety, now takes on a similar role perhaps best illustrated in Parker & Stone’s Team America: World Police.

Is there then, a connection between religious devotion and a feeling that you can tell the rest of the world what to do?

Almost certainly. As luck would have it, we didn’t have to work out whether it was wrong or right to go into Iraq and kill a lot of civilians based on some fictional weapons of mass destruction. Why? Because both George Bush and Tony Blair both spoke to God, and he confirmed that that was exactly what he wanted.

That isn’t to say that political positions didn’t play a part in this too. In both cases, we and America not only had the will to enforce our view on the rest of the world, but the power to as well. As the saying goes, power corrupts.

But it is this power, combined with divine right – the knowledge that you are unquestionability doing the right thing because you have God on your side and God can never be wrong, that seems to lead to such totalitarian attitudes towards the rest of the world.

Not that I’m all together against interventionism.



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This entry was posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 12:36 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.