God is Not Great - an Appraisal  - Appendix 4


This is the Appendix 4  Page for the appraisal of the contents

of Christopher Hitchens' book, God is Not Great.

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Appendix 4: Totalitarian State versus Totalitarian Religion




Totalitarian State versus Totalitarian Religion


The author of God is Not Great, in chapter 17, “The Case Against Secularism” seeks to make the point that religion is naturally totalitarian and the parallel between religion and totalitarian states is so similar that (implied) it is not surprising there have often been so many links.



A. Totalitarian States & Totalitarian Religion


He defines totalitarian states as those,

“which demand that citizens become wholly subjects and surrender their private lives and personalities entirely to the state, or to the supreme leader.”


It is easy therefore to see the apparent similarities between state and religion. Although he doesn't actually say it, I believe his definition of totalitarian religion would thus be, that:


“which demands that believers become wholly subjects to and surrender their private lives and personalities entirely to God.”

Now at first sight I would have to say, I agree entirely with that definition and suggest that it conforms to both the people of God in the Old Testament and the church, the people of God in the New Testament.


However, the particulars of both definitions reveal that they are incredibly different and that his underlying premise, therefore, is false.



B. The Totalitarian State


Let's observe some of the primary characteristics of a totalitarian state:


1. There is a leader who determines what is right or wrong.


2. This leader obtains support from others in power below him, so that they enforce his beliefs.


3. Citizens of the State have NO option but to comply with the dictates of the State. Indeed mostly those citizens are prisoners of the state, and failure to comply with the dictates of the State produce severe penalties, often death.


4. The requirements on the individual are for them to comply with what the State requires of them for the (theoretically) common good, and they may often, therefore, sacrifice their own wishes and desires to conform to the State. 



C. The Totalitarian Faith


Now let's observe some of the primary characteristics of a totalitarian faith: 

1. There is God who determines what is right or wrong, according to the way He has designed the world to work.


2. God gifts others with the enabling of His Holy Spirit, to serve the rest of the faith community for their good and blessing.


3. Citizens of the kingdom of God are there by choice because at some point in life they chose to become a Christian. They may also walk away from that faith at any time. Their presence in this kingdom is as a response to God's love extended to them. It is a love community from start to finish.


4. The requirements on the individual are for them to receive the love of God and all the good He gives them so that they can become the people they were designed to be, with a sense of well-being, achievement and satisfaction. As they receive this they naturally conform to the design requirements of the Creator, God, and that conformity is pure pleasure.

Now I understand that for many, this description of the church, of the community of faith, is far from anything they have known and experienced, but this IS the Biblical description of the Christian life.



D. Freedom and the Two


In the totalitarian state there is NO freedom. It is a conforming to the State's requirements. You will be what the State wants you to be to conform to their plans.


In the ‘totalitarian faith' there is freedom FROM guilt, shame, ongoing sin, and freedom TO BE the person you wish you could be, the person you were designed to be.


This being free FROM and free TO BE is illustrated in the letter of Paul to the church at Colosse (Col 3:5-14) where he counsels them as follows:


(a) “Put to death….. sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed….. anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language….

(b) …. clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”


Put another way, you have been set free from the first list (a) so that you can be free to now live in the second list (b)

Most people would agree that it would be great to be free from that first list and free to live in the second list.


This accentuates the difference between the two:


The totalitarian state demands your life and requires your submission and takes away your freedom.


The ‘totalitarian faith' offers you a new life of freedom from the things that wore you down, which are replaced by things that build you up. This life wins your allegiance by love.





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