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"Separation of Church and State" is always the best form of government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/30/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 441 times Debate No: 102299
Debate Rounds (3)
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Coined by American founding father Thomas Jefferson, the idea of "separation of church and state" has long been a defining factor of modern western democracy. In theory, it sounds like an infallible principle; but like with many such philosophies, there is a fine difference between theory and practice.

I am going to argue that this model of government (where the legislature and religious institution have no influence on each other) is not the be-all-end-all solution that it is praised to be.

As such topics tend to be controversial, and can cause individuals to become emotional and/or attached, I request that my opponent be civil in his/her arguments. This is not necessarily an expression of our viewpoints, but rather a forum for an intelligent debate.

Evidently, I am using the first round for my opening statement, and I expect that my opponent do the same. Thank you, and I look forward to a proper, stimulating discussion!


I accept!

So, you say that there should be an end to the separation to church and state. Firstly, the flaw in your argument is evident when you claim that Secularists view the separation of Church and State as a "be-all-end-all" solution. It's meant to correct a major flaw in governments that was seen up until 1789: the presence of dogma.

If you wish to see historical examples of where there was no separation of Church and State, look to the barbarism of the Middle Ages, where Knights would often rape and murder peasantry[1]. In his book, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith traces the geneology of the guild to the Medieval Burghers, who were commoners put in charge of cities to defend it against their own Knights who would raid the cities whenever their coffers needed replenishing. The knights operated without fear of retribution because the Church was on their side. On must recall that the Church, any Church, is an institution run by men and thus very capable of becoming corrupt. A religious institution quickly becomes corrupt, especially if it is larger, because those who are in charge are held accountable to no one except for their own sense of morality.

If you want to see a modern example where Secularism is not in existence, look to the Middle East, the Islamic State, and Saudi Arabia. There religion is the law of the land. ISIS is currently on a genocidal rampage in the name of religion[2]. Sauid Arabia limits the rights of people based upon the religious laws of Islam. In fact, they tend to try to force their religion into other parts of the world, from neighboring Iraq to Europe [3].

In the end, to abolish Secularism is to abolish Liberty, regardless of what deity replaces reason.

Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, thank you for responding to my debate. However, I specifically mentioned that the first round would be for opening statements and not core arguments, but whatever.

To clarify, I am not of the position that the separation of church and state should end; I am simply arguing that it is not ALWAYS the best form of government, as is written in the topic description.

My main reason for this is that the concept pertains very much to a western ideology of governance. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the concept is not as applicable to other nations, particularly Asian countries.

Theocracy has been around since the earliest periods of human history. The pharaohs of Egypt were believed to be incarnations of gods, the Byzantine empire was headed by Christianity, and the rule of religious scripture goes back to the infancy of Islam.

My point is that theocratic rule as a concept is very intrinsic to human society. The idea of secularism is still relatively recent (first recorded usage was in 1648), and as such it is very difficult, if not impossible to replace the long-standing traditions that have been practiced by governments for thousands of years.

You mentioned several Middle Eastern countries and how they represented theocratic governments. Imagine how alien the concept of a separated government and church must be to many of their inhabitants. In the end, it is all about context; what works in one country with a completely different history, economy etc. does not necessarily work in others.

Like I proposed earlier, it is an example of an idea that sounds great in theory, but is difficult to implement universally.

These are just my preliminary points, respond at your earliest convenience!




Secularism (that is the separation of Church and State) is always the best choice for government.

The reason Secularism has been a defining characteristic and an important factor in the success of Western democracy is because the West toiled for seventeen centuries under theocracy. From the Caesars who proclaimed themselves gods to the Medieval Kings who were ordained as chosen by god, theocracy, whether as an actual institution or as an element, is poisonous to everyone except whoever is on top.

You mention Asian countries: What Asian countries practice theocracy that are actually fine places to live? Could it be North Korea where the people are forced to worship Kim Il-Sung, their country's dead founder?[1] Or China where the teachings of Confucius were outlawed by Mao so that his own Cult of Personality could take the place of ancient philosophy[2]? Or the Phillipines, a very dogmatic Catholic culture[3] where people must primarily depnend on handouts and foreign employment? How should these Asian countries compare with South Korea, which has developed from the third world into the first world over about sixty years, and with one of the highest percentages of Atheists in the world[4]?

And what of the Catholic Church, which still practices priestly interpretation of the Bible, worried that some common people might develop their own thoughts? These are all examples of theocracies. In my first argument I pointed out how the RCC anointed the same barbaric rulers who terrorized their own people to gain plunder and riches. This is the effect of theocracy.

Why is theocracy dystopian? Because of dogma[5]. Societies, whether they are monarchies, aristocracies, democracies, or some hybrid of those three, needs to have inquiry and debate in which there can be no unquestionable truths.

For example, you mention theocracy as something that came with Islam from its cradle. Before 1050, the Islamic world was rife with philosophical and scientific debate between Muslims, Christians and Jews. What happened? Why did the home of Algebra never advance even while their barbaric European neighbors became the rulers of the world? One man. Muhammad al-Ghazali. This man was a Muslim philosopher who preached dogma over debate[6].

You mention the Eastern Roman Empire as well. This was a great empire, and really still the Roman Empire, that continued for nearly another millenium after Rome fell to the Goths. They were very much intertwined with religion, as the Alexiad of Anna Comnena suggests. However, one need examine an even older text, the Secret Histories by Procopious, to see the goings on in the Byzantine court. Justinian and Theodora were far from saintly individuals, and yet it is their images that covers the walls of the Basilica in Ravenna[7]. Clearly, this theocratic monarchy was one where virtue of birth determined saintliness, not virtue of deed. To grant some credence to this, this was the Empire that accomplished little after the Goths invaded the two halves of the Roman Empire. And after the fall of its sister country in Italy, Muslims, Catholics, Vikings, and nomads all chipped away at it. Full of its self, deluded with the grandeur of antiquity and, yes, drugged by the opiate of religion, it could not properly adapt to fight the Ottoman threat. I do not refer only to the events of 1458 when what remained of this once great empire fell: I refer to fact that they had to enlist the aid of neighboring kingdoms like Transylvania and Bulgaria. The fact that they had to employ Vikings as Varangians[8]. The fact that Alexios, Anna's father, had to appeal to Roman Catholics and beg for a Crusade in order to stave off total annihilation for another few centuries[9]. But what is most sad about this example is the poor choice this example gives. There is a reason that most people are taught Assytia was the first Empire in history when it was really Akkadia, why people disinterested in history know of Egypt but not of the Hittites, and why most schoolchildren know the names Julius and Augustus but most adults know nothing of the Byzantines (save for those with an interest in history or a penchant for strategy games): It is because conquest without contribution means nothing.

Most theocracies, whether they are Saudi Arabia or the Byzantine Empire, contribute extraordinarily little to the world. But Secular nations and ideas contribute a great deal. The US was a powerhouse of advancement in the 20th Century, the French Secular philosophers of the 18th Century gave us many of the ideas we still hold today, to include, but not limited to, the Social Contract, universal equality, the Middle Class, Capitalism, and Human Rights.

Even now in the culture war, it is the side that is not dogmatic that is winning. Satire and reason outdo hysteria and outlandish claims each time.

Secularism, first truly conceived by the great Rationalist Baruch Spinoza[10] is the better option every time. Now yes, it is difficult to reach citizens like those in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia with Secular ideas. But it is not because the people are addicted to religion, but that the governments are. Philosophers like Rousseau, Voltaire, and most certainly the Jewish Spinoza are outlawed in those countries. In his book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky notes an aside by one of the men who accompanied President Nixon on his diplomatic trip to China. This judge (whose name I cannot recall right now) asked every member of Mao's government one question: "Why Communism?" And each time the answer was the same: "Marx was the only revolutionary text available to us." Imagine, if you will, what would be in China, Vietnam, and Cambodia if the US had distributed Bastiat, Smith, Hayek, and Rousseau there instead of taking no interest due to racial reasons. It may seem like an aside, but (partly) thanks to a president who believed his god told him to invade Iraq, we now have ISIS. Instead of invading those lands and saying "here is democracy, let our men with guns show you how it works" we should distribute in any way possible the works of Secular and Liberal thinkers to those countries. The Revolutions would then occur on their own and the Middle East could finally shake off the shackles of theocracy.


Debate Round No. 2


Unfortunately, history is on your side for this particular topic, as you are correct in that there are more instances of unjust theocratic rule than the opposite. However, I can still muster a few examples to prove that a by-the-book (or rather by the religious book) government can have its upsides.

The most unorthodox, yet most effective implementation of this is demonstrated by several Aboriginal/indigenous tribes. (1) By definition, a theocracy is, "a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities", or, "a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission." Using this template, one can look no further than the many First Nations people of Canada to see how a governance with divine-induction can properly function.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Aboriginal people lived in accordance with their animistic religious traditions. (2) "They also owned the lands and resources within their territories, and so had property rights, subject to responsibilities placed on them by the Creator to care for the land and share it with the plants and animals who also lived there." (3) Shamans, spiritual authorities of healing, prophecy, and cultural tradition, also played a significant role in their society. The First Nations, who lived in accordance with religion, were a people whom thrived for millennia until the colonials arrived on the scene.

Another more contemporary example on the other side of the world was in Vietnam. During the devastating times of the country's war, many members of the Sanghas (Buddhist communities) took initiative, using their sacred teachings. (4) There were instances of nuns rescuing victims from floods, organizing schools and teachers, and setting up hospitals for elders who had lost their homes due to the ensuing conflict. While not technically an illustration of a strict theocracy, this is an example of a religious institution performing the tasks of government. In this and many other cases, it had positive repercussions.

Your main argument against my position is dogma, and how the integration of religion into governmental affairs will only pervade this. However, as the current political climate of several nations shows, this is not necessarily the sole cause of religion. Dogma can exist independently of any faith-based factors. After all, it isn't the interference of religion into the current U.S. administration that has resulted in a drastic far-right movement.

When it comes down to it, the intertwining of church and state has been a permanent fixture of human civilization. Even in seemingly secular countries like the United States, this status quo has not yet been abandoned (case in point, the President being sworn in on a Bible). While we should acknowledge and implement the concept of a "wall of separation" as Jefferson proposed long ago, we must also acknowledge that this is not the ultimate solution for every government due to context, tradition, and history.

Thank you for a most enjoyable and stimulating debate!






So, I feel I must rebutt your argument in three parts.

Part the First

It is very true that like many primitive societies, First Nations such as the Huron, Cherokee, Sioux, Apache, etc, were deeply theocratic in which priests and shamans held a great deal of political capital (sometimes even more than the monarch himself). This was all well and good, even when the Vikings, another primitive theocratic society, attempted to settle in the New World. The Vikings recorded in their Sagas noise weapons which were launched and erupted upon contact with the earth. (Information can be found in the Saga of Eric the Red). However, when the Europeans arrived with explosives of their own, they met with a people who had not changed much since the Vikings arrived centuries earlier.

It is a shame that a people who could truly give the Vikings a run for their money did not advance as the Europeans did. Whereas the Europeans had advanced in military technology, medical science, politics, and philosophy, the First Nations such as Iriquois, Huron, Algonquin, and Inuits made no real advancements. The reason for this advancement in one but not the other continental civilization in the exact same span of time is the introduction of Secularism. Starting with the Protestant Reformation[1] and the Rennaissance, Europeans began to question the authority of the Catholic Church, which was in a position, up until those events, to keep Europe in a primitive feudal state. In the early Seventeenth Century the Rationalists[2] (of which Spinoza was one) came onto the scene of philosophy. As they questioned, so did other minds who were experts in other places. Science was no longer restricted by the Church, as evidence by stories such as that of Galileo[3]. Meanwhile, in North and South America, the peoples were living in mineral rich lands still living as like it was Neolithic times.

Part the Second

The reason that one advanced due to Secularism and the other did not is simple: dogma. People living in very theocratic societies are made to be afraid not of the priests or of the despot or oligarchy, but of the god which they claim has granted them their power and authority. So the people, even if they see the hypocrisy and debauchery of the monarchs and priests or find the laws to be unjust and amoral, will not revolt. They fear eternity.

You do bring up a point about dogma existing in modern Secular society. Groups like Antifa and the Europa, or ideologies like Feminism, is that they are often called Secular Religions[4]. Although these do not have gods per se, they are just as dogmatic as Christianity or Islam. To allow Secular Religions is just as bad as to allow typical Religions into government (just look at the havoc Feminism has wreaked upon Society).

However, these can still be questioned, as that a Secular Religion only has its most ardent adherents who will never hear an opposing side. For example, Americans, especially women, have been turning away from Feminism in the past few years in record numbers[5]. This is because Feminism threatens them with no spooky afterlife.

Religion with a deity, however, does offer threats of damnation and eternity in torture[6]. So, people will not be so quick as to rebel against authority when those in that authority claim to have received it from a vengeful god. For example, the people of Saudi Arabia have not rebelled even though that country is very much a dystopia. They fear Allah's wrath.

Part the Third

Finally, you give some examples of "religious institution performing the tasks of government". The examples you give are not quite the duties of government, such as defense or law-enforcement, but the actions of humanitarian organizations. However, these were also the actions of individuals, and not entire religious organizations. For example, while many members of the Catholic clergy were risking their lives smuggling Jews out of Nazi controlled Europe, the Pope (a theocrat) was making deals with Fascists. Even today, the Pope uses his pulpit to push a totalitarian agenda.

To grant some credence to this, we see Medecin sans frontieres (Doctors without Borders) and other humanitarian organizations, who often operate without religious intent, performing similar actions, but as whole entities. The Catholic Church, for another example, refused aid to Africans in need up until 2010[7]. The reason? They would dare to use condoms. Dogma even intervenes in their humanitarian efforts.

Good Debate! Very enjoyable.


Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by John_C_1812 8 months ago
Law and religion share one basic principle beliefs used to govern the actions of a public. Secularism is a view on a process of separation it does not describe or share. Which can then be used as a common defense meaning on both sides of an argument of debate.

It would be nice if religion and politics could be separated. The Separation of church and State is a principle of separation based on State. Two points holding a line that can then be shaped twisted and turned to join the two points a one. Forming a State by design.

No self-value is ever lost by abolishing a view of religious separation form factual process of separation as common defense. The issue with the Middle East is not the Islamic hold on the judicial Process. It is the implantation of Rule of Law over Order of Law.
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Vote Placed by missbailey8 8 months ago
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