Theocracy is boring (aka my Blog Against Theocracy post)

(Note: For more details about Blog Against Theocracy, click here.)

Theocracy. The very term makes me shudder. Life in a world where religion is law would be incredibly boring. Not just oppressive or brutal or misogynist or unpleasant. Boring.

Then again, maybe I'm basing this on my own churchgoing experiences as a kid. Like most kids, I went to church because my parents said so. They weren't religious, but they wanted my brother and me to be exposed to spiritual life. As long as we were tucked away in Sunday School, we had fun. I don't remember learning much in Sunday School. But I do remember coloring in Bible coloring books. And I remember singing fun religious songs, with such lyrics of spiritual devotion as...

Give me wax on my board, keep me surfing for the Lord
Give me wax on my board, I pray
Give me wax on my board, keep me surfing for the Lord
Keep me surfing 'til the break of day

(Yes, that's a real lyric.)

But the church services themselves? They bored me to tears. They were so boring I'd spend the whole hour following the church program, counting the minutes until the whole thing was over. The service would have the same somber hymns followed by the same somber prayers that we recited week after week. These same somber prayers would be followed by more somber hymns and a (usually) somber sermon. I know we would also say the Lord's Prayer and sing the Doxology. We did that every week. And we closed out with one final hymn.

Why did church have to be so cheerless and soporific? Maybe being Episcopalian had something to do with it. Eddie Izzard has pointed out that the Church of England (from which the Episcopalian Church derives) has really dreary services, despite the country's rich history and achievements. Meanwhile, Izzard notes that African-American church services are the exact opposite, despite African-Americans' sad history. Anyhow, unlike many African-American churches, my church didn't even have much of a choir. Our choir soloists made Sanjaya Malakar look like Placido Domingo.

At some point when I was 14 or 15, my mom finally realized that her kids weren't getting anything out of listening to boring sermons and singing boring songs. So we didn't have to go anymore. It didn't mean the end of my churchgoing life. Since then, I've gone to Quaker meetings and a couple of Unitarian services. But I have had to face facts: I don't enjoy sitting in a place of religious worship for long periods of time. I don't get anything out of it. In fact, I'm flat-out bored by it. Maybe someday, I'll be able to sit in silence for an hour in a Quaker meeting. Someday. Maybe I'll go back to a Unitarian church one day, since every religious quiz I've taken shows that my beliefs are most in line with Unitarian Universalism.

But I have to be honest: the most fun I've had in that Quaker meeting house was volunteering at their homeless shelter. It's a nice, clean, well-kept place. It's perfectly safe. The shelter guests are polite and grateful. The other volunteers are cool people. And I feel like I'm doing something useful. I've come to the conclusion--strange as it may sound to some--that prayer isn't enough. It's what you do when you're not praying that really matters.

Why do I think a theocracy would be a dreary, joyless, tedious experience? Because...uh...well, there's a lot of real world evidence for this. Case in point: you never see any of those Iranian mullahs smiling, do you?

If you look at how theocracies are run, you notice that good works are not high on the list of priorities. Theocrats generally do not spread God's will by opening shelters for needy families. They do not collect clothes to give to poor people. They don't run soup kitchens or teach songs to kids. They don't publish religious story books. They don't do anything constructive or fun. No, theocrats spend a lot of time banning things and punishing people.

You can't fly a kite or buy a record with a woman on the cover. You can't go dancing or swim. You aren't encouraged to mingle with your fellow human beings. In short, your life is likely to be devoid of fun, joy, and all the other things that are supposed to be conducive to a good spiritual life.

Basically, anyone who's force-fed religious dogma is going to be bored and resentful. If you talk to anyone who's sincere and happy with his or her faith, you can see that religion is like comfort food to them. For a theocrat, religion becomes chopped liver. It's supposed to be good for you, but who'd want to eat it?

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