A theocracy is a government which features a religious person, being, or idea as the highest ruler within its structures. The population might elect a President, but the President would be viewed as required to report to a god. This type of structure tends to support the majority position within the country and allow for less overall societal conflict within that majority because everyone believes something similar.
A theocracy can also create discord because it is directly tied to religious beliefs. If someone disagrees with what the government is doing, their own religious ideas or freedoms can be placed at-risk.
Here are more pros and cons of a theocracy to consider.
What Are the Pros of a Theocracy?
1. It operates efficiently.
A theocracy keeps people united under one large umbrella. Because faith is directly tied into government operations, there are fewer delays in the implementation of operational policies. There is rarely an opportunity for debate when new policies are implemented or current policies are changed. The government decrees what needs to be accomplished. Religious institutions then implement this decree from the pulpit, classroom, or other location of influence.
2. Law enforcement efforts are streamlined.
In the United States, there are four basic levels of government: local, county, state, and national. Each has its own form of law enforcement. A community has police officers. Counties operate with a Sheriff’s or Marshall’s office. State law enforcement also exists. A national-level law enforcement entity would be like the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States. In the US, there are dozens of national-level government agencies that employ full-time officers who can make an arrest. Within a theocracy, this would become a centralized structure instead of having each be independent of one another.
3. It is a form of government which has higher levels of societal compliance.
Arguably, the greatest fear that humans have is of the unknown. There is nothing scarier, therefore, than what will happen to someone after they die. The hope that a religion offers for what happens after death can help to take that fear away, which is how compliance throughout a society is generated within this type of government. If a person’s salvation is threatened because they won’t comply with the government, a faithful person may choose to comply to limit their risks of eternal damnation.
4. A theocracy could do amazing things for people in need.
If a theocracy were to follow the edicts of their holy books to the letter, it could change the world in several incredible ways. Hunger could be eliminated because neighbors would share with neighbors. Everyone could have access to proper health care. No one would be living in poverty unless they consciously chose to do so. There would be more helping hands available to those in need.
5. There is no longer a need to find a compromise.
Because the majority is already on the same page for governmental policies and procedures, there is less time spent trying to find a compromise between ideas. Even if there is a “conflict” between two groups, the supreme overseeing the government would have the final say. People would come together, pray or worship, and come away with a common goal.
What Are the Cons of a Theocracy?
1. Minority groups are not often tolerated within a theocracy.
Theocracies demand conformity. One may be allowed to believe in a variation of the overall religious beliefs that form the backbone of the government, but not in something completely different. In a Christian theocracy, being a Baptist or a Catholic might be allowed, but being a Muslim may not be allowed.
2. It is a governmental structure which encourages discord.
In a theocracy, because a religious being or god is the head of the government, discord is invited within the population. These religious ideas are supernatural, even if a human is representing themselves as a god, so it becomes difficult to question the ideas that come from such a governmental structure. If you question the government, you question God – and that’s a battle the faithful within a theocracy will not allow someone to win.
3. Businesses can operate only if they follow the same religious principles.
Hobby Lobby sued the Federal Government over the mandate to provide insurance that included birth control because it went against their organizational beliefs. In a theocracy, the ability to sue would be limited. If a business was not following the mandates of the government, then their activities would be against what the supreme being in charge would want and the government would simply shut the business down.
4. Unique individuals each have their own unique faith.
For this reason, conformity is either forced or impossible to achieve within a theocratic society. Everyone has their own reasons for believing what they do. Their faith, whether it is in God, science, or the lack of a supernatural being, comes from individualized perspectives, research, and philosophical pursuits. An attempt to bind different people together, even when they may believe in the same religious being, will eventually shatter because there isn’t a “group” truth. There is only an “individual” truth.
5. A theocracy alters fundamental religious beliefs.
Going back to the Christian theocracy example, a New Testament command dictates that people should “love God” and “love their neighbor as themselves.” The “sum of the law” is found in these. Is it loving to declare war on another nation? Does one serve God if they exclude one group from healthcare? Is testing for drug use something that is loving when people are hungry and need food, but have been unemployed for a lengthy period?
6. It is selfish.
People within a theocracy are looking out for their best interests first. They want to work on their own salvation before trying to help someone else achieve success. That is why this form of government often fails. The humans at the top of the government have the most power to ensure their own salvation, so they work on that before they help the rest of the people.
7. Facts are ignored if they don’t agree with the holy book.
Imagine if the creationism vs evolutionism debate were held in a theocracy. Would the idea of evolution be able to exist if the process wasn’t outlined in the holy book?
The pros and cons of a theocracy show us that it is an idea that might seem like it can bring people together, but what it tends to do is tear people apart. This is one of the reasons why the United States was founded on a principle of separating the church and the state from each other. Religious beliefs can work with government, but they struggle to be effective when working as government.