Thingish Things

The New Opiate?

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Dec• 27•10

A friend and client, and an overall excellent guy, hit me recently with an intriguing sociological theory about the growth of government in America.  It is novel thinking (as far as I know), and there very well may be something there.

The friend, an evangelical Christian, posits that the expansion of government directly correlates to the decline of religion and spirituality in America.  He notes that government, by its nature, is designed to restrain undesirable behaviors – individual and collective — that Judeo-Christian and other religious traditions have been discouraging for ages.

With the growing secularization of America and much of the Western world, he argues, we have turned from religious tradition to government to identify and enforce moral laws that were once learned in churches and temples, and thus culturally embedded in our society. Examples  include violent behaviors, unethical business practices, drug abuse, bigotry, theft, and basic social conduct, etc.  In the past, he argues, we did not need government to define what is right and wrong.  We learned that on the Sabbath and enforced it in our daily lives.

Our dwindling spiritual foundation, he further believes, has taken a toll on individual acts of generosity and kindness.  We now expect and rely upon government to provide services and right wrongs, rather than taking the initiative to right them or provide them ourselves.

I tend to be more cynical about the growth of government programs – I think political leaders create them simply to buy votes – but this is a notion I am going to think more about.  Especially when I watch Europe’s youth rioting for government largess outside ancient churches that now serve as condominiums for the generation who bore them.

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  1. I just added your blog site to my blogroll, I pray you would give some thought to doing the same.

  2. Nick Viest says:

    Government actions can certainly affect moral behavior. But there is a balance. Weak government can produce anarchy or situations such as the case in Weimar Germany where more aggressive violent forces – Communists and the Nazis – filled the void of what the government should do.

    In America, criminal organizations filled this void especially in large cities created by government corruption which essentially made it weak and ineffective.

    There are also cases in business where individuals cheat and defraud customers in the absence of proper enforcement and that type of behavior has gone on since the beginning of time.

    Smaller societies seem to have had more success in enforcing moral behavior especially where the people are known to each and the individual is subjected to shame when the code of behavior is violated.

    In any case a large intrusive government creates many problems but a weak government can be worse, allowing anarchy and leading to tyranny which is the worst type of oppressive government.

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