The Origins of Democracy are Pagan not Biblical

This article is from PoliticusUSA-

America’s Christian fundamentalists are fond of making the claim that democracy is right out of the Bible -from the Old Testament to be precise. This is in keeping with their claim that America is founded on biblical principles. “President” Solomon”? ”President” David? No…not so much.

You won’t find democracy in the Old Testament. That was not the form of government the biblical states of Israel and Judah took. You will find theocracy. You will find kings. You will find a people who see their God as their king, ruling through his priestly (and exceedingly corrupt) agents here on earth. The Founding Fathers, with the more recent (and equally corrupt) example of the Papacy and the Church of England before them, wanted none of this.

Thomas Jefferson:

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” (Letter to o Horatio G Spafford, March 17, 1814)

“The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.” (Letter to Jeremiah Moor, 1800)

James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”:

“Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.” (Letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774)

Look for a moment at a couple of biblical principles that are enunciated still by fundamentalist Republicans:

1 Peter 2:13: “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.”

Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

You want examples? God sent us George W. Bush? God sent the people of Alaska Sarah Palin? If you’re against them you’re against God? That’s the message we’ve been hearing since 2001. If you’re against Bush, they said, you are against America and (since God chose America as his vehicle) you’re against God. Divine Right of Kings? Remember, it was Palin who told us God would choose our president in ’08.

Where does that leave democracy?

Where it leaves us, in point of fact, is in ancient Israel. Where there was no democracy. Where freedom of religion is a bittersweet memory.

Here is a fact these Christofascists do not want, but one their own narrative proves: The true origins of democracy are pagan. It is not monotheism, not Judaism, not Christianity that gave birth to democracy and democratic ideals. It is polytheism, that form of religion so disdained by many Christians even to this day.

It is not a welcome fact, but fact it is.

In 1993 we celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of democracy, dating back to the reforms in Athens of Cleisthenes in 508/7 B.C.E. But as Yves Schemeil writes,

“Although what was explicitly borrowed from antiquity by modern political thinkers looks Athenian, there was democracy before the polis. Egyptian and Mesopotamian politics relied on public debate and detailed voting procedures; countless assemblies convened at the thresholds of public buildings or city gates; disputed trials were submitted to superior courts; countervailing powers reminded leaders that justice was their responsibility. This was not full democracy, but the Greek version was not perfect either.”[i]

As these Near Eastern examples are pre-historical rather than historical – which was a time of autocracy – the memory of democracy rests upon Greek shoulders. The actual word is, unsurprisingly then, from the Greek: δημοκρατία – (dēmokratía) “rule of the people” -from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (Kratos) “power”.

The pagan Romans had some elements of democracy in their system of government too, and a popular assembly. A senate ruled the state; specific office holders were elected to their positions for a set term of office. The Roman people disdained the very idea of kingship and “theocracy” was a thing which never occurred to them…


2 thoughts on “The Origins of Democracy are Pagan not Biblical

  1. Of course, the radical righties hate the term democracy or democratic government, prefering the alternate term Republic…….which is really short for Republican Democracy. The right doesn’t actually trust people to govern themselves.

    Given the stupidity the right demonstrates, that’s pretty understandable.

    Like Christianity coopting Pagan holidays, Christians are thieves who don’t have the integrity to give credit where credit is due.

    I find it doubly amusing given the modern archeological consensus that the first five books of the old testament, aka the pentateuch of Christianity, the books handed down supposedly directly to Moses from God are fakes, false, not real. There was for example no slavery of the Jews in Egyps (and only a very small slavery, as in very few Jews held captive, in Babylonia). Therefore there was no Exodus either. And it does not appear that Judaism was itself always monotheistic either.

    So the claims from the like of David Barton are doubly worth shit.

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