Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Mark Twain is attributed as having said, "it is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled." I will start by asking you to do some challenging things. I am asking that first, you consider whether or not you can be fooled (hint: you can). The second request is more complicated. I ask that you consider whether or not you have been fooled and, if so, by whom? Should you be willing to take up this challenge, please read on. If you are not up to the challenge, what follows is sure to only anger you. Proceed at your own peril and spare me any vitriol you may be inclined to send my way.
The history of humanity is one of cooperation. While there have been terrible wars and horrific events, many great conquerors ushered in periods of wealth and progress only because city-states flying different banners ceased fighting and started cooperating under a single flag. This fact is characteristic of the United States, where 50 individual states have cooperated to the benefit of all. The original 13 colonies, founded on diverse and often conflicting religious ideals, struggled until they abandoned their religious discrimination. Rhode Island is a shining example of this fact, leading the vanguard of religious freedom in the "new" world. Religious tolerance allowed the United States and many other countries to rise to greatness, mainly by ending the infighting between different religious sects.
The past week's events in the U.S. Capitol Building have brought to the forefront how a minority of people in this country, unable to impose their will through voting, attempted instead to implement it with armed insurrection. These seditious deeds are the responsibility of all Americans. When a man is forced to steal food for his family to survive, he is responsible for his actions. However, society is also responsible for failing him. The insurrection in Washington D.C. highlights the desperation of a minority and the failings of the majority.
President Lyndon Johnson infamously explained, "I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." This divisive mechanism plays on a defect of human psychology. In our attempts to find meaning, people often substitute purpose for the belief that we are "better than" someone else. While Johnson described how southern Democrats played the commoners against one another to retain power, his quote details a process used to subjugate people for centuries.
In British colonies, borders were explicitly created to include several rival sects and factions within a single Crown territory. The British aristocracy's correct belief was that if a colony focused more on fighting internally, they would not uprise against the Crown. It is nearly impossible to find a country founded on British boundaries that does not include several, often combative, sects within its borders. The American colonies were no different, and the effects are still visible today.
The United States carries on this tradition both internationally and domestically. For example, in Iraq, religious groups of Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, and Kurds live in reasonably distinct geographic areas. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, those within these groups preferred to form separate nation-states. The U.S. insisted that they remain as one country instead. The early colonizers drew the original borders, and they remain useful to the West for obtaining cheap oil. Whenever one hears about the CIA funding rebels inside a country, one may be certain this is to create internal strife rather than the spread of democracy. Such divisiveness allows the U.S. to obtain cheap natural resources. Supporting and encouraging internal strife has been a means of population control and exploitation for millennia.
Arriving now at the internal U.S. politics separating Democrats and Republicans, the past year's events have demonstrated that both sides have a capacity for violence. Democrats tend to mock the simple-mindedness of uneducated, religious zealots in the Republican party. Republicans hold open disdain for the ungodly, academic elitists of the Democratic party. Neither side yet recognizes that their hatred for one another is a feature, not a bug. Again, internal conflict is a sign of a defeated population. This fact was at the forefront of Abraham Lincoln's mind when in 1858 he invoked Matthew 12:25, stating, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."
President Johnson recognized the power of telling Southern whites they were better than people of color to get them to open their wallets, supporting the very political machine that was the true oppressor. Many other business, political, and religious leaders have used this same principle to enrich themselves in power and treasure. Donald Trump has been incredibly divisive on the political front, yet Democrats are also victims of his tactics. Social media is flush with people expressing their sorrow and remorse at cutting family ties with Trump supporters or non-supporters. Leading Democrats are becoming more skilled in divisiveness instead of unifying the country. The two major parties are fighting fire with fire, and no one should be surprised that the country is burning.
In the religious realm, the Catholic and LDS churches have become the two wealthiest churches in the world, promising their members salvation while the rest of God's family suffers eternal damnation. Far from the only offenders, mega-churches around America are led by "men of God," enjoying mansions and private jets while their followers plead for God's interventions to end their suffering.
The Bible is clear that we create the world we live in through a three-step process. First, we have an idea. Second, we express that idea to those around us (cooperation). Third, we act on the idea to manifest it in the real world. This process is how ideas are made real. The religious world conveniently forgets the third step, which explains why you only hear about "thoughts and prayers" without the requisite "actions." The Bible does not rail on thoughts as sinful themselves, but only as they relate to manifesting sin in the world. Every sin begins with a thought. However, a thought is not a sin until acted upon.
This process is also why crimes require that one act. Even hate crimes, those crimes that involve specific thoughts or attitudes, still require action. This process explains why U.S. citizens have a constitutionally enshrined right to think what they wish (religious freedom) and speak what they desire (freedom of speech). The vital third step of action is where thought and speech manifest as crime or virtue. One can rail against the government (or anyone else) but has not committed the crime of inciting violence until an act of violence follows such speech.
Were churches and religious institutions to act on the love and charity they profess, you would not find a single wealthy church in the world. This fact accounts for why wealthy churches only advocate "thoughts and prayers" instead of action. It also explains why the members of those churches never receive the blessings promised to them. No action follows the thoughts and prayers.
In 2003, Laurence Britt listed 14 common threads indicative of a rise in fascism. For those who think "Anti-Fa" is terrible, you should know that fascism is a form of authoritarianism and monopoly capitalism, very similar to a theocracy. Fascism embodies all the negative aspects of monopoly power. Anyone shocked at the following should note the similarity between these indications and the characteristics of many religions worldwide. After all, every large Church seeks to be a monopoly, promising that theirs is the only path to God for devout followers (loyal customers, patriotic citizens, etc.).
1. Powerful and continuing nationalism - Nationalism here can be replaced with any group (e.g., Mormonism, Catholicism, Islamism, Republicanism, Democratism). Basically, it is a powerful and continuing belief one's group is better than another (see LBJ's quote above).
2. Disdain for human rights - In the religious world, refer to the treatment of women and other religions. Note the history of child sexual abuse rampant in many religions and the Bible's silence on the subject of slavery. Recall the Spanish Inquisition and the wars fought in the name of God. In the political realm, remember there are internment camps on the U.S.-Mexico border filled with refugees. The U.S. houses more than 20% of the world's prison population despite having 5% of the population. Also note, slavery was enshrined in the 13th Amendment as justified to punish crime (hence, the mostly black prison population). The U.S. never banned slavery, just the private ownership of slaves. Slavery was nationalized in the U.S. at the constitutional level.
3. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause - In the religious world, enemies include Satan and anyone who is not a member of one's sect. Politically, it may be Democrats, Republicans, or some other group, including people of color, women, the educated, the uneducated, immigrants, etc.
4. Supremacy of the military - We all support our troops, right? While the Mormons disbanded their militia over a century ago, most churches still heavily support their own country's military above all others. In WWII, both the Axis and the Allies commissioned Catholic priests to administer rights to soldiers. How many wars have been fought over the past two millennia by the descendants of Abraham?
5. Rampant sexism - One need not look far for examples of sexism in modern religions, where women are often relegated to a subservient role. It is no coincidence that many Republican states are also devoutly "Christian." I use quotes simply because any reading of the Bible will demonstrate that Christ was egalitarian despite Jewish tradition.
6. Controlled mass media - A recent study demonstrated that 64% of people who joined extremist groups on Facebook found the group because Facebook recommended it. Six corporations control the U.S. media. In religious institutions lacking media control, media consumption is controlled from the pulpit. Religious people are instructed not to read particular books, watch specific movies, or otherwise expose themselves to ideas that conflict with the Church's message.
7. Obsession with security - The Vatican is surrounded by a wall, has a Swiss guard, and a bulletproof vehicle for the Pope. The LDS church provides bodyguards for the church leadership. Mega-churches tend to have excellent building and event security, as well as bodyguards for senior leadership. Members are asked to be continually vigilant against "Satan's forces."
8. Corporate power protected - The death of unions in America demonstrates that corporations control the U.S. government already. In the religious realm, a church's power and finances are shielded. Even small mega-churches (small compared to the Catholic and LDS churches) go to great lengths to protect their fundraising and profit-generating activities, as well as their authority over members.
9. Labor power suppressed - Labor is the common person. Individuals' ideas are ignored, and a party line is established. In the U.S., this was demonstrated by the $600 checks "to help" the average person through the pandemic while corporations received millions (see #7 above). In churches, no one is allowed to contradict church leadership. Power is maintained by keeping people too weak to mount an effective challenge.
10. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts - Few churches emphasize education, and the U.S. government has actively been destroying education for decades. As for the arts, churches already seek to control what types of media members consume. The rise of ISIS saw many Babylonian relics destroyed, and the Catholic Church (and others) has a history of missionaries destroying local art and culture. Even in the U.S., Native Americans found their art histories destroyed by those who viewed them as savages (see LBJ's quote).
11. Obsession with crime and punishment - The U.S. has 20% of the world's prison population despite only 5% of the population. "Land of the Free" is sadly ironic. On the religious front, one can hardly make it through a one-hour sermon without hearing about sin (i.e., crime) and the punishments to follow.
12. Rampant cronyism and corruption - Evidence in the Catholic Church is manifold, especially when investigating accusations of pedophilia. In the LDS church, cronyism is no less flagrant. As for corruption, both churches have a long history of corruption at the highest levels. Mega-churches are no different, and many prominent pastors have been jailed for engaging in embezzlement, soliciting prostitution, pedophilia, etc. The presence of a ruling aristocracy in the U.S. is evidence of cronyism in American politics, and corruption has become institutionalized.
13. Fraudulent elections - Whatever your feeling on the recent U.S. election, any computer security expert will tell you that electronic voting is demonstrably insecure. Since the U.S. has been interfering with elections worldwide for decades, it would be surprising if we did not know how to do it at home. As for churches, I am not aware of any that allow members to vote on leadership. Those "chosen by God" are typically selected by church leaders who were not elected by the membership. In the realm of mega-churches, senior pastors tend to be hired based on their ability to generate revenues.
14. Religion and government intertwined - This point is the basis for my entire article, pointing out the similarities both use to control the populace. One would be hard-pressed to find any country or war where the combatants did not believe God was on their side. Even in sports, both teams pray before the games begin. Given the horrific crimes performed throughout history in the name of religion, it should chill the reader when governments adopt their tactics and methods.
If you have remained with me this long, hopefully, you have noticed some of the methods and means by which your government or religious institution may have fooled you. Hopefully, I have raised some questions in your mind about whether these organizations are acting in your best interests. The mechanisms of control are not hidden, yet they are too painful for most people to acknowledge.
In the end, I want to remind you of this: historically, people have prospered through cooperation, not competition. Competition creates scarcity, which engenders more competition. It is impossible to build anything significant when focused on beating something or someone else. While those who invaded the U.S. capital should be tried for their crimes, the more significant issues surrounding their radicalization need to be addressed. The issues of climate change should remind us that we all share the same borderless planet. For the first time in human history, technology has brought us to a point where we no longer need to experience resource scarcity, let alone continue to fight over those resources. A resource-based economy is possible for the first time in recorded history. A better tomorrow is never achieved by fighting. It has only ever been realized by working together.
I hope you will do three things for me.
1. Think about what I detailed here and how it applies to your life.
2. Talk about what these things mean to you and how you want to change the world.
3. Act to make the world better for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren.