by Jim Davies, 12/24/2010
Often on this Zero Government Blog, comments are keyed to some recent news. The following item is not recent; it's a couple of millennia late, and comes from Palestine.
2,010 years ago on Saturday, more or less, a baby was born. His parents lived in Nazareth, but the government of that time forced them to visit Bethlehem to be counted in a census to facilitate taxation, and made no exceptions for pregnant moms. Worse; upon arrival all the hotels were full and at that awkward moment this mom went into labor. So an innkeeper put them among the cattle, for the birth.
Prudes of the time said to each other that if the newlyweds had "waited" until they were married, the birth day would have come later, so the baby would have been born at home. But you know what young people are like, when they are in love and engaged. Mary had felt bad about it, being highly religious, and such goings-on were not kosher, but Joseph reassured her. Anyway, they were well and truly married before the baby arrived. Later on, the baby's biographers gave this matter a different spin.
He was a boy, and grew up to be a fine lad, learning carpentry from his father and studying hard - and, like his mother, being very religious. So much so, by age 12 he was debating theology with leading priests. He also developed a rare ability to preach and attract followers, and eventually he became itinerant, drawing crowds wherever he went. Word of his exploits spread fast, and as often happens, got embellished; he was said to have performed miracles, including raising someone from the dead.
The priests envied his popularity and tried to rein him in; their chance came with reports that he was, quietly but definitely, claiming to be God incarnate. In their eyes that was high blasphemy, so they had him executed by the Roman government. State and religion often do work together, scratching each others' backs. They had to use trickery even so; Governor Pilate was reluctant to execute a harmless man. But he was outwitted.
He tricked them back, though, right after the prisoner was buried; at their request he'd set a guard because the preacher had predicted he would resurrect, and they feared his followers would steal the body and make it look as if he'd done that; but Pilate realized he could outwit and embarrass his adversaries by having his men remove the body and dispose of it elsewhere. It worked; the preacher's followers believed what they saw and began a new religion to trouble the established one, yet the priests could not accuse him of the trick for by doing so they'd have admitted he had outwitted them and gained his revenge.
The preacher's followers really believed Jesus had risen, and made that the cornerstone of the new religion, and it spread widely, person to person, to non-Jews as well as Jews. After less than 300 years, it was the largest single religion in the Empire and the Emperor, who was having a hard time keeping it together in unity, made it the single "established" religion and subsidized its further expansion. One century later the Empire collapsed, but its established church did not; it is with us still - and ever since, the church has continued the tradition of co-operating with the government of each time and place, for mutual benefit; the church blesses the state with exceptions to its teaching about theft, mendacity and murder, while the state favors the church with exceptions to its demands for taxes and servitude. It's a neat, though deadly, synergy.
When government has dissolved in favor of a Zero Government Society, it will be interesting to see how much remains, if anything, of religion.