Throughout history, many civilizations followed theocracy. But the fact that it has no separation between church and state, this practice of governing has been controversial, where laws are typically decided by predominant religious belief and religious leaders are given an inordinate amount of power. While societies are moving away from this system, it has still a considerable number of supporters from all around the world. Now, as with any subject matter that involves mixing religion and government, it can be difficult to come up with a good decision on where to stand about theocracy. That is why it is important to evaluate its pros and cons.
List of Pros of a Theocracy
1. It makes for more obedient citizens.
One favorable argument about theocracy is that the presence of religion in the government tends to discourage discontent within the general public. Generally, it is more difficult for the people to argue with government policies, as these plans of action are seen to be coming from a higher power. Also, it is easier for the government to propose certain compromises to the population, as everyone has the same belief system. Electing a religious leader to rule the country means experiencing minimal push back because his word is also basically accepted as the word of the religious deity of choice in society.
2. It is easy to find compromises within the majority.
Theocratic governments have been observed to bring most of its people together in some form of harmony over the issues facing the country, as they are all basing on a particular “holy book” that dictates their actions and opinions. This also tends to create more unity from a global perspective. As you can see, when this type of governing is in place, then the country would have natural allies as long as they follow the same holy book.
3. It reduces crime in a significant rate.
Under a theocratic form of government, punishments are not doled out based on findings of a legal system, but are rather meted out by a religious leader based on the country’s predominant belief system, where rules make for a disciplinary process that is easy to understand and follow. When a citizen commits a crime, then he acts with the knowledge that his punishment is not negotiable. Also, crimes are not only punishable because it is against the law, but are considered a sin as well. Since these things are not tolerated at any time, there will be lower crime rates in a theocratic society, compared with a democratic society.
4. It allows for rapid change.
It is generally easier to propose changes to the government and have them approved quickly under theocratic rule. Such a society is authoritarian in nature that leaves very little wiggle room for any kind of extended debates among people. For a change to take place, a leader just states that it is the will of god, which is consequently accepted by the citizens as an unimpeachable fact. After all, nobody is ever going to question a deity’s rulings, so anything from infrastructure to social reform can happen in a quick and efficient manner.
List of Cons of a Theocracy
1. It does not heed the opinions of the people.
People who are governed by theocracy generally accept the fact that a person’s opinion is not going to be valued, as the emphasis of society is focused on the greater good. Even though people are given the right to vote, there would still be no difference between the candidates, who typically have similar religious beliefs and ways of governing. In most theocratic societies, a group of elder holy men would decide on the candidates who will be allowed to run for office, which makes it very challenging for the average person to pursue any political dream.
2. It promotes intolerance and some form of selfish gain.
When theocracy is put in place, there would also be intolerance because of the fact that the government and church are considered as a single identity. If somebody were to question their heads’ leadership, it would often be viewed as questioning the supernatural entity, which is also the focus of the ruling party. Even if people believe in an unfailing and perfect god, it is not god who is actually ruling over the citizens, but a group of people who are naturally prone to mistakes, greed and bouts of anger. And when someone is bestowed with the power to rule a wealthy kingdom, even the most devout and holy in a society would naturally fall to temptations of serving his personal needs above those of other people. This is where a theocracy will fail as an effective form of government.
3. It tends to be hypocritical of the government’s views.
Most major religious followings are built on the principles of acceptance, love and peace for fellow men, but a theocratic society tend to hypocritical when it comes to actually living by these views. It tends to go against the true goal of religion, which is bringing people together, by not allowing citizens to worship as they choose and have equal rights while doing so. Also, theocracy makes it difficult for a country to defend against outside threats. While most religions do not tolerate any kind of violence, it does not always work in practice, especially when the long-term welfare of a developing country is at stake.
4. It offers fewer rights to the minorities.
People who fall into the minority would have a disadvantage, as opinions and beliefs in a theocratic society basically align with those of the ruling elite. This means that they will not have access to the same privileges and rights of people whose beliefs agree with the holy men, and those who do not believe what the leaders believe are even not recognized as full citizens. Some theocracies are even stricter about these rules, where people who follow the same religious beliefs, but are under different denominations, might be subjected to poor treatment.
Amidst the praises and criticisms towards theocracy, its pros and cons should be weighed and measured carefully before it is implemented. Only then can we form an accurate opinion on whether it is good for society or not.