Oil and Water
I won't bore you with the details of the dream, but in the end a young ruler who had just taken power over his people, an heir to the throne so to speak, committed an unforgivable act that tribal tradition required him to die for. Actually the unforgivable act was that in his fear he pissed on somebody unintentionally. That somebody happened to be me although I didn't wake with a wet bed, thank goodness. But this was one of those dreams that sometimes try to suggest to me that I need to wake up and go pee.
Back to the story...
The setting for this event was some form of ship, like a combination airplane and old-fashioned steamship. This young ruler and his family were leading their group (tribe or whatever) into an unknown future. His parents and older brother had just been lost overboard if I recall correctly, and there was some sort of threat on this young man's life which caused him to fear. I was sheltering him from danger when the unforgivable event occurred. Older guards had surrounded us and were preparing to carry out the mandated punishment, execution. Suddenly it dawned on me that here was this pioneering civilized people making their way in a perilous world, a people who had just lost their beloved leaders, and they were being forced against their better judgment to execute their leader because of an unfair rule that they felt they had no control over. Where was the love in that?
Why not instead take control of the laws of their civilization and save their leader and themselves from their own foolishness?
At that point I woke up and yes indeed I needed to go pee. But the moral of that story has stuck with me all day today. It's been in the background, but it's been with me. I was telling my wife about this dream at the dinner table, well not the peeing part, but the lesson I learned from it. Then it dawned on me just what this lesson was, what it actually means to me. Suddenly I began philosophizing about it in terms of what has been on my mind for the past several years, the political climate here in the United States. Please remember as you read this that this philosophy is less than a day old. Forgive me if I am not able to completely convey this to you for you to understand, but here goes.
There are two fundamentally different political philosophies that govern societies.
One philosophy says that all law should be based on absolute laws of morality that are derived from a divine source such as God, YHVH, Allah, the Bible, the Quran, etc. Advocates of this philosophy see some God or gods as the divine source of an unchanging law revealed to mankind to govern the lives of all humans on earth. According to this view it is the divine mandate that government exists in order to execute this divine law. When conservative Christians in America say they think the Ten Commandments belong in America's courts, this is what they are talking about. To them, the Constitution exists to assure that Congress, the courts, and the executive branches of government carry out God's will for the United States of America and through us, His will for the world.
The other philosophy recognizes no such divine law. They don't see in the Bible or anywhere else a real divine mandate for obedience to a divine ruler. Instead, what they see in the Bible is the mandate to love one another. In this view it is not God's will that determines the laws that civilizations live by. Civilizations establish their own laws, their own rules of behavior, their own customs of morality, and their own social structures.
These two philosophies are as incompatible as oil and water. They don't mix well at all. I have heard religious people spread paranoia through their congregations trying to convince them that the day will come when they aren't even allowed to own a Bible and I have heard conservatives say they want to obliterate the left entirely.
When the religious right, the James Dobsons and Jerry Falwells of the world, warn against unspoken dangers that will come into existence when gay marriage is accepted in America, these two philosophies rear up against one another. On the one hand you have liberated minds suggesting that society can write the rules of morality however they choose. On the other you have conservative minds fixated on their unchanging moral beliefs based on their interpretation of the Bible. To conservatives there is a moral law that supersedes the laws of civilization. To liberals there is no such law. All there is is love and acceptance. To liberals all that remains if love and acceptance aren't your spiritual guide is selfish ambition.
But there is a serious flaw in the conservative philosophy. That flaw is that there does not exist in the Bible or anywhere else for that matter a divine set of rules for life. Christians imagine those rules from the Bible, but in reality they simply aren't there. These divine rules that govern civilizations are a figment of the conservative religious imagination.
In reality, civilizations do rule themselves because in reality there is no divine dictator, no divine monarch.
There is an odd aspect to conservative politics as it is being practiced in the United States. In the United States, atheists who have essentially no respect for divine moral values make just as dedicated Republicans as devout evangelical Christians. Both groups fit the mold perfectly, but up till today I have been at a loss to understand why this situation exists. Somehow conservative politics serves both interests equally well. But how?
Again, go back to the central reality of conservative religious belief, that God has revealed to mankind a set of moral rules for all people to live by, that there is a God in Heaven who expects obedience from all mankind. Religious conservatives use this as their central tenet for their political philosophy. But it is a false proposition, a fallacy. Religious conservatives base their political philosophy on a fallacy. Why would they want to do that?
They want to do that because the system of government that is practiced here in the United States is not their preferred system of government. Christians prefer monarchy. The Bible is based on the principles of monarchy, a top-down rule where the heads of nations, the kings and lords, are held by common belief to be set in place by God and thus given absolute authority. Since there is no divine mandate over the rulers of the world, since that is a figment of the imaginations of religious leaders, what is left is a system of totalitarian government where all authority and all laws are set by totalitarian fiat.
This system of totalitarian rule perfectly suits self-serving atheists just as conveniently as it serves self-deceiving religious monarchists. The end objective is the same for both groups, a government not in the hands of the common people. In order to maintain its existence, such a government must constantly convince the common man that they exist not for the purpose of establishing the law but for the purpose of following the law.
Liberal government exists for the purpose of overthrowing this totalitarian political philosophy and setting the common man free to establish his own system of rules to live by, a system hopefully governed by love and acceptance rather than by greed.
It dawned on me this evening while I was contemplating this that when the Dobsons of the world warn about gay marriage, they insinuate that accepting gay marriage would only be the beginning of a far larger agenda to destroy the family. For some reason, these doomsdayists don't explain what that larger agenda is, but they have on occasion explained that it would lead to polygamy. That makes sense. If a marriage can consist of two men or two women, then why can't it consist of three men or three women, or for that matter four or five or even more? Why couldn't a marriage consist of six men and seven women? What's to limit the definition if we reject the "divine" mandate that a marriage is between one man and one woman?
There are societies in the world, or at least there have been such societies, where the norm for family structure was not based on one man one woman isolationism. In tribal societies, women may live in one group and men in another. Or a man may have more than one wife. Any number of different social customs might be the norm. But here's the thing. For centuries, Christian missionaries have been on a crusade to destroy all such tribal customs and replace them with one man one woman marital isolationism. Whole societies have vanished as a result of this social engineering by Western culture. In Christian cultures it is illegal to live as a tribal society and practice social norms that vary from those of conservative Christianity.
The real threat to Christianity posed by gay marriage is that in time the ban against tribal customs might cease to exist. Patriarchal rule by monarchy is based on one man one woman marital customs. Bloodline rule depends on it. To challenge that custom is to challenge the entire system of power on which conservative politics depends. Should the common man ever come to the point where he no longer believes in the divinity of monogamy, all hope for totalitarian rule by monarchy would be lost.
That is what the Dobsons of the world fear.