Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Power And Obedience

It's about power.

Children have no power. They are utterly at the mercy of their parents, and if their parents refuse to share power with their children, telling the children that only those in authority can have power and those without must submit to those who do, the children will still feel powerless when they become adults. Adults are not powerless but the habit of obedience has become ingrained in their minds. It is the basis for their relationships with everyone else and the rest of the world. There is a power hierarchy that must be maintained, with the Ultimate Authority on top, the Ultimate Authority's representatives below, and everyone else at the bottom. Everyone must know his place and stay in it.

But power is given, not taken. The authoritarian follower must be persuaded to ignore his own wants and obey the wants of the authority. This is easily done with children; they will do anything to gain their parents' love and approval. Children cannot live without it and are terrified of losing it. So children learn to give in, follow and obey, in exchange for love and belonging. But now we have a dilemma: if authoritarian followers have no authority, where does parental authority come from? And this is where God comes into the hierarchy. God gives authority to his men followers, who give authority over children to their women. No matter how weak and powerless one might feel, nobody can refuse to submit to the Ultimate Authority! God wants you to be good because he loves you and knows what is best for you. God wants you to sacrifice your own wants for his wants and in return he will give you perfect love. You might have to suffer to satisfy his wants but nobody said God wanted you to do what you want, think what you want, or believe what you want. You must submit and obey God, or he won't love you anymore and he will take his perfect, eternal love away from you and leave you alone and unprotected against the terrible dangers of the world.

Most people believe this with their entire being.

Rick Santorum is far from alone in professing a belief in Satan. In fact, most Americans believe in the devil too.


While such frank talk about spiritual warfare is uncommon among presidential candidates, surveys over the past few decades have shown that the majority of Americans do believe in Satan.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, seven in 10 Americans said they believe in “the Devil,” while 8 percent were not sure. Twenty-one percent said they don’t believe in the devil.

Eighty-six percent said they believe in God, while 8 percent were not sure and 6 percent said they don’t believe in God.

A 2009 Harris Interactive survey found 60 percent of American adults believe in the devil, while 82 percent said they believe in God.


Santorum on Tuesday defended his 2008 speech.
“You know, I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil,” he told reporters following a rally in Phoenix. “I think if somehow or another, because you’re a person of faith you believe in good and evil [is] a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.”

Snarr said the media is right to dissect the speech.
"Is the media making too much of it? No. He has chosen to make a very public interpretation of the trajectory of the United States (specifically citing an opposition candidate) and his public political theology should be discussed thoroughly," Snarr said in an email response.

She added: "This is not to say, however, that a belief in Satan or even spiritual warfare puts him at the 'extreme' end of Christianity. Belief in Satan and Satan's activity is present in multiple Christian traditions and particularly important for more theologically conservative evangelical believers— of whom there are many in the U.S."

In religion, good and evil mean obedient and disobedient. We are good when we do what God wants, we are bad when we do what we want. Popular myths tell us that Satan was an angel until he disobeyed God. He thought he was "as God." that is, that he could do what he wanted instead of what God wanted.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. Our Lord terms him "the Prince of this world" (John 14:30); he is the tempter of the human race and tries to involve them in his fall (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 12:7).

In his pride he thought his wants were equal to to the wants of his authority.  Obedience to authority is intricately interwoven into Christianity because it is intricately interwoven into the first and most dependent relationship of our lives,  our relationship with our parents. We believe in God because we believe in obedience to authority. When we need an ultimate authority we just make one up.

When you are trying to enforce belief in an authority, you must persuade people to obey. If someone else does not want to obey authority there is no way he can be forced to be obedient.  If someone would rather die than obey there is nothing the authority can do, and the authority's power is exposed as the weak thing that it truly is. Death is the ultimate act of defiance and no amount of authority can force it to submit.  If you believe that you have the same rights as the authority then the authority has no power over you. The authority must convince you that it has authority over you, getting you to voluntarily obey.

He tells you that disobedience is evil and obedience is good. He promises you rewards (love/freedom from death) in return for obedience and punishment (withdrawal of love/death) in return for disobedience. Most especially, he claims ownership of death (and therefore life). It belongs to God and God alone, as interpreted by God's obedient servants, the male clergy. No euthanasia. No pulling the plug. No abortion or suicide. No birth control. Only authority can kill; government can send men to war or lethally inject but individuals cannot kill.

The struggle is not between good and evil. It is between obedience and disobedience. Authoritarians do not want to force everyone to be good, they want to force everyone to obey. Therefore they will never be satisfied with anything else but public displays of obedience and they will never be satisfied with any single act of obedience. The process is what counts; the public act of submission is to authority is what they crave. The love-starved obedient child must obey to feel a sense of belonging and the resentful, angry, obedient child must force others to obey as he was forced.

They will never be satisfied.

If authoritarians are able to outlaw abortion they will try to outlaw birth control. If they outlaw birth control they will try to outlaw premarital sex. If they outlaw premarital sex they will try to control women's clothing. If they control women's clothing they will try to control women's movements. And always, they will try to control women's thoughts, to convince them to voluntarily give up their power in a public show of submission and obedience.

They are nothing but voices. They have no power except the power that we give them.

Never give up.  Never submit.


Anatole David said...

Excellent summation. President Obama crafts his policy based on Scriptures(per latest Prayer Breakfast speech).

Downpuppy said...

People believe a massive amount of stuff, much of it contradictory. Fortunately, even most people who "believe" in devils figure you're crazy or lying if you say you've seen or heard one.

If you laugh hard enough at any specific silly belief, you can often get people to abandon it without putting a dent in their overall worldview.

Anatole David said...

I mentioned President Obama's ludicrous statement because when President Bush made the same type pf statements he was rightfully ridiculed.

The wonderful "progressives" who support Obama defended the sincerity of his "Faith". Ironies abound in partisanry. A man who drone murders hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians in poor Muslim nations citing Scripture is a bit much.(Let alone his reverse Robin Hood economic policies)

Kathy said...

I recall when I was 13-14, sitting in my Dad's chair looking out the window and pondering religion. I mulled whether belief in God was just Grownup belief in a Substitute Daddy. When you're a kid you think your parents really are all powerful and Magical. Then you realize that no, they aren't, and what a shock! But wait, here comes an omnipotent God to the rescue, complete with commandments and prayers and weird senseless confusing contradictory "laws" for our Own Good, that no one can obey. Just like Mom & Dad forcing you to eat peas and carrots and brush your teeth! We'll understand when we grow up. We'll all understand God's will when we're DEAD.

Tommykey said...

“You know, I’m a person of faith."

Well, fuckadoodledoo Ricky Santorum!

This atheist is all for respecting freedom of religion. But one thing I can't abide is when politicians like Santorum wear it on their sleeve and act like it makes them special. More often than not it is used to justify extremist positions. "How dare you attack me, I'm a person of faith!"

nate said...

this comes to mind, for some reason:

I don't presume to judge others beliefs, but I remember being 12 or 13 and sitting in my room alone thinking about Santa Claus (which, embarrassingly, I believed years longer than most of my peers), and suddenly, as if struck by lightning, I realized the exact same trick had been played on me with God. I've been a happy atheist ever since.

Dr.BDH said...

I agree with your assessment of what authoritarians want, but I disagree that children are powerless. They aren't as powerful as adults, but they spend a lot of time trying out ways to overcome the authority of adults, including their parents (each of my three boys said, at about age three, "I'm in charge of this house"). This is normal, even biologically determined, as kids are self-centered and are natural scientists, constantly experimenting to see how the world works (there's a book about child development called "The Scientist in the Crib"). And an important part of the world is parents, especially adults. The struggle for control is uneven but the kids come out ahead surprisingly often. ("And what does your mother do when you refuse to do you chores?" the counsellor asked. "Oh," said the 7 year old with a grin, "she jumps around like a puppet.")

atat said...

If they can make you dance like a puppet, then of course they will, but there are ways to avoid the power struggles you describe. Children will always test the limits, but it takes two to make it a struggle. A child wants and needs answers and reasons, even when their behavior is irrational. They don't want a fight any more than the parent does. But if the parent wants a fight (or if they "dance like a puppet" when tested), then they'll definitely get a fight. Treat it like a battle for power and it becomes one.

Noni Mausa said...

I disagree on one little niggley point -- just because little red devils with pitchforks have not yet been collected and preserved, ["pressed devil collection," soon to replace etchings. Heh.] doesn't mean that there is no demonic activity in the world. There's no such thing as a whirlpool, I can't buy one and have it lodged in the garden as I would a granite boulder. Yet people still fall into whirlpools and drown.

By which I mean, the currents of society which separate people from the fruits of their own hands, reduce them to objects whose value is assigned by others, smother them in nonsense till they cannot escape the whirlpool of tricks and traps -- there dwells the demonic. There, and especially in the people who adjust the river bed to create more and bigger whirlpools, so they may sit on the grassy bank above the swimmers and sip their cocktails.