A bank robber. A hacker. A terrorist. A tax evader. A priest. What do all these have in common? They’re all enemies of the state.
Believe it or not, simply having the wrong religious views can get you jail time in much of the world. You don’t have to cause trouble, organize armed resistance, or speak out against a regime. You just have to practice a religion other than that which is sanctioned by the state.
Why is this? Bank robbers steal money, and the job of most governments is precisely to stop this kind of thing from happening. Hackers also harm property the state is supposed to protect, including government property. Tax evaders keep their own money, and governments, much like bank robbers, can only survive by taking from other people by force. But what about the priest? What does the religious practitioner do that rubs G-man the wrong way?
In one word: legitimacy. A repressive government needs to maintain the number one spot on its people’s priority list, and throwing God into the equation adds some nasty competition. Let’s put it into a religious perspective. A person of faith, whatever faith that may be, acknowledges God (or other higher power) as the ultimate authority in life. One cannot serve both God and Man. If your life belongs to the Almighty you are obligated to disregard any laws of the state that go against God’s laws.
From a secular perspective, it’s still all about faith. Let’s face the obvious truth: governments live off the people. They have three paths to continuing existence. These are: brute force, popular support, and ultimate legitimacy. Pure force is hard to maintain, because everything the government has comes from a portion of what the people create, and the people are therefore much stronger collectively than their rulers. Popular support is tricky as well, because in order to maintain it the government has to actually do the job for which it was created, and do so better than the private sector. The last path, that of ultimate legitimacy, convinces the people that the state is either ordained of God, or is otherwise the ultimate authority in all aspects of the people’s lives, by the very fact of its existence.
It is this last path that puts government at odds with religion. Thou shalt have no other gods before the state, for the state is a jealous god. Simply by believing in an ultimate power other than the government, by daring to not have every thought, every action, every emotion devoted completely to the state, a citizen is considered a criminal. His or her god is considered a dangerous “riot god,” a deity demanding the complete destruction of society. Such a crazy fanatic must be stopped.
To all the faithful, take pride in your faith. Whether you believe in a spiritual being, in some other nebulous higher power or guiding principle, or simply in yourself, your belief has marked you a traitor to despotism. Congratulations, you are a hero. Your faith has made you dangerous. Call Him what you may, you serve Riot God.