Totalitarian State of Religion
Solemnity is a stamp you’re branded with at birth in some families. Based on my own case, I believe, that it can be disassociated from any specific ideologies. Being solemn has a lot to do with discipline and together they form an independent apolitical trait, which is useful in the actual execution of any ideology, because it involves resisting temptation of whatever comes in the way of productivity.
What would happen if for the sake of argument I considered belonging to a Church as equal to belonging to a nation — a situation bestowing one with similar responsibilities and benefits e.g. defence and pride? Having witnessed intolerance and opinions weighing the current political debate towards austere conservatism coming from religiously devoted people, I became very curious about elements of organisation and structure of an old religious cult such as Roman Catholicism.
Trouble with god
I was existentially challenged by Hanna Arendt’s book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil ‘. It stroke serious curiosity in me and in the end made me watch the trial of Adolf Eichmann — a man known as the ‘nazi bureaucrat’ responsible for executing the logistics of ‘final solution to the Jewish problem’. Among other things, he was the one to make sure that everyone got a spot on the train in time for the deportation. On my way down the past and in the light of the current nationalistic crises, suspension of empathy and economic concerns, which have been surging Europe, one word made me reflect more than others:
It is a cousin of effectiveness. A friend of strict solutions and total plans. It means: to be dignified but conventional, earnest but austere, stern and in a way ascetic. It can transform any instant creative thought into a life-long struggle for ideal efficiency. Thus the same thing that is taught at many (Polish) schools can scare away from ‘learning by doing’ and also — more complexly — from tolerance. I shall explain.
My concerns were triggered when my friend, working as a film director, sent me his research material concerning a documentary film on ‘gender theory’ in Poland. I was asked to be a consultant, thus flattered, I began to watch… It was a 30-minute video, three quarters of which involved spokespeople at a mass event agitating the crowd for action. Putting no limits on the drama and fiery, offensive rhetoric, they egged on active, political resistance to the pro-gender perversion that — they said — threatened to sexualise ‘our children’ — ‘’just as it happened in the west!’’ — many added. At several instances they brought up the christian duty to support the argument.
I was at a loss to define the reason for the Catholics to feel threatened by the news od of self-perceived gender, that opposed the old concept of arbitrary gender — being an externally developed definition assigned at birth. In the end, what they called the stop-gender stand proved to act to the detriment of community’s well-being, which can be evaluated based on the suicide rate among those whose gender identity was beyond the commonly accepted roles. Why would the church people be so anti-human?
References to this part:
Apparently a radical form of anti-humanism has stricken the morality of Catholics.
By anti-humanism I mean disempowerment of individuals — in a sense of not wanting to acknowledge mind’s own responsibility to define itself. The second thought that stroke me, was that aggression towards ‘independent thought’ didn’t seem at all out of character for this religious group, that controversially happens to take pride in its benevolence. Even though their commandments forbid it, the Catholics in question still stood their ground bravely brandishing fists and proclaiming protection of (their own) families. They must have been fighting what they believed was right and — what’s curious — they did not come across as a racist, neo-nazi, controversial types. If anything they just seemed regular and above all so solemn.
This may indicate that, taking radically dramatic action would not strike the alarm bell of their conscience, yet making space for diversity would. Hence, not fighting and not proclaiming contempt becomes their temptation. Subsequently one can derive the following: The solemnly defended rule is never to compromise church’s permanence. Whereas to be good is to always choose the action of highest quality for the cause. The law of god historically tolerates both ignoring the ‘surplus’ needs and sacrifice of individuals to ensure the survival of the ideology. (e.g. One of the most prominent messiahs of the Bible let the capital punishment come upon him only to prove that christianity is ‘the real deal’). The defence of belief is a checkpoint traditionally belonging to everyone’s individual religious quest. However, is there an alarm bell at all? If acting for the survival of church is — in the law of the believers — equal to choosing what’s morally good over what’s morally bad, there is nothing left to discuss.
Jesus sets an unobtainable example of an ideal believer, one that teaches how to ‘suffer’ and not resist. His life was dispensable in the machine of religion. Suffering is trivial because in the end ‘we all do’. There is a greater goal than to put up defences from a bad life — the faith’s continuity. In this scenario, for the religious person the non-suffering becomes something like too much luxury, obscene and perverse — an unworthy temptation. Thus the conscience can sound loud and clear whenever a threat of ‘succumbing’ to the priority of self-defence occurs — in us or in the others.
Total state of belief
Catholic’s sense of duty in society is a solid one, since it’s written down in the world’s evergreen bestseller — The Bible — and because it is believed to be highly moral. The rules provided aren’t only moral responsibilities but also a law of God, that exists above any state law. Thus everything that isn’t included in, goes against or can bring change to that law is a possible temptation from evil forces. Christians have been strictly (and in some cases mercilessly) taught to resist this temptation.
Hanna Arendt had found a name for the pattern of group organisation, which makes use of the reign of duty that is higher than individual person’s life, as a commitment tool. She called it a totalitarian state. This political structure is praying on the attachment of a person to the perceived normality of their environment. In this equation: the state is a source of normality and everything that threatens it, becomes a rightful enemy who is meant for either the re-socialisation or rejection. In this way state becomes an abstract goal detached from people’s needs, whereas people work for its continuity and they do it solemnly, in agreement with the sense of duty.
Of course church is not a state as such, but it is a group that decided to share rules called moral and holy. This becomes a problem when the ideology teaches the masses that humans can be disposable on certain grounds. In a ‘state’, where the law says that all are to be judged, the judgmental discrimination stops being a temptation of evil. Being a duty-detective becomes a normality. On the other end of it the fear of hell awaits only to motivate further. In this way the morality becomes designed for the benefit of keeping the unchanged ideology alive forever.
Thus even when the pope himself said: ‘One can use birth control and still go to heaven’, the faithful believed him to have fallen a victim of temptation. They judged his statement to go against the ‘highest law’ of religion. Yet what is the most troubling for me, is the actual lack of moral analysis to support the solemnity of this or the stop-gender political action. It makes me think that the conscience of a polish Catholic isn’t threatened by evil but by being associated with a non-Catholic lifestyle.
Conveniently for my theory (but not for the world) this religious approach makes political sense — because all in all, being a ‘non-believer’ would be the greatest crime by the law of the unmentionable catholic totalitarian state.
Facts and figures
Problem with religious intolerance in Polish politics
This isn’t to say that Catholicism — and its conservatism — have lost their influence in the country. In fact, it’s the opposite. The church’s strong opposition to in vitro fertilization continues to be a crucial factor in political debates. The abortion law in Poland is very restrictive, and the country does not allow for same-sex civil unions, let alone marriage
In the latest presidential election, voters had a choice of two practicing Catholics: the center-right incumbent president and his more conservative opponent, Andrzej Duda. The latter, whose constituency includes many of the practicing and deeply religious, took a surprising win.
The latest census, in 2011, (link in Polish) shows that 97% out of all those who declared a religion said they are Catholic (which amounts to about 89% of the entire population). But, as the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza pointed out, church numbers (links in Polish) show that in 2013 only 39% of Catholics attended church regularly on Sundays, with only 16% taking communion, the most important Catholic sacrament.