Religion and politics are, in my opinion, two sides of the same coin, which is mind control of the masses. Anything which will keep the masses under control, not rebelling, always obedient, paying taxes (or tithes), and marching off to fight the next useless war is a good thing.
What happens in the mind of a subject is, in my opinion, the same process for both religion and politics. Read Eric Hoffer’s excellent book The True Believer for many more details. A certain percentage of the population can always be counted on to become fanatical zealots on any given subject. Religions zealots are called fundamentalist. Political zealots are called campaign workers. In both cases, the lowest level of people in the power hierarchy are totally convinced of the idealistic purity of their mission and of their leadership. The higher up the food chain you go, the less fanatical the people are. Also they are more realistic, cynical, and power-driven, as they realize the idealistic vision is bogus and the whole point of the power structure is power and not the accomplishment of the alleged mission. Both religion and politics use myths, lies, and fear to instill obedience, belief, and submission in the minds of the masses. Religion gives us fear of the unknown, namely what happens to us after death. Politics gives us fear of being treated like a criminal – arrested, incarcerated, and, thanks to our latest national insanity, sent off to some other country where torture is legal.
Political leaders usually cut secret or unspoken deals with religious leaders in order to keep them all in power. Religious leaders invent doctrines to teach to the masses that make them believe in the ultimate power of the religious leaders and also of the state. In the case of Christianity, there are some key verses in the writings of the alleged Paul. E.g., let every soul be subject to the powers that be. Romans 13 comes to mind. God has set up the political apparatus in every nation so that “God’s will” can be more effectively carried out by his chosen people, and so that there will be peace in the land. That means that God set up Lenin and Stalin over Russia so that the Russian people could have more peace, I suppose. Too bad that Stalin murdered from 20 to 30 million of his peaceful subjects. Besides God’s setting up kings so that God’s work can be done in peace, God also supposedly sets up the basest of men as leaders (somewhere in the alleged Daniel’s book, I think). There seems to be a little conflict between these two ideas, in my opinion. History shows, and Hoffer explains why, that the basest of men are indeed usually in charge. This is because once in charge you have all power, people crave power, and the type of person who craves power the most is usually the basest of men who will do anything to get his hands on the power, and decent people do not crave power or strive to be in charge. At the top of almost all power hierarchies there is backbiting, infighting, power struggles, pulling the rug out from under one another, skullduggery, mutual character assassination in private but phony mutual admiration in public, and every imaginable evil.
A good example of the ties between religion and politics is the current national insanity in the USA called “The War on Terror.” The political leaders have, for reasons known only to them, decided to foist the new myth on the nation that international terrorists, most of whom are Moslems, are out to kill us all because they hate us for our freedoms. Various religions in the USA go along with this bogus myth and war, and convince their believing members that God wants us to “xxxxx:” (fill in the blanks with whatever the political leaders want) because it’s His will. Some people need more convincing than others, so there is public debate over the concept of a “just war”. The current war is analyzed to see if it is just, and … SURPRISE! It always turns out to be a just war.
Another clue is that in the USA donations to your church are considered to be tax deductible. This means that the US government is subsidizing churches. If any given church starts to get too rebellious, the IRS can always be induced to threaten that church with losing its tax-free status. And churches are allowed to own property without being taxed on that property.
In the case of the Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church, there was a period of several hundred years in Europe where the political and religious leaders were the same people. After Rome was conquered in the 400-500’s, the political leadership was powerless. The church leaders (popes) concluded that was a golden opportunity to take over the political power of the Roman Empire. So the popes became political leaders as well. They waged vast wars, called crusades, and convinced the masses that God wanted the crusades in order to keep Jerusalem under Christian control, e.g. There were always lofty, idealistic, religious reasons for each crusade. What was really going on was a gigantic power grab and land theft by the popes. They ended up owning most of Europe. They also ended up producing what we now call the Dark Ages, in which the masses were deliberately kept ignorant, in squalor and poverty, under strict control, and always willing to be convinced that yet another crusade was necessary.
Another really good source on the political-religious ties would be Leo Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God Is Within You. In this book he shows how the Russian Tsars were using the Russian Orthodox Church, and vice versa, to keep themselves in power over Russia. The only reason why he himself was not persecuted was because by the time he published this book he had already become arguably the world’s most famous author. The book was condemned in Russia. Seminary students in Russia were required to be able to refute what Tolstoy wrote in that book, but in supreme irony they were not allowed to read it themselves lest they become infected with Tolstoy’s radical ideas.
I doubt that political leaders and religious leaders sit down together behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room and plot together to produce national myths and religious doctrines that mutually reinforce each other’s control over the masses. But that’s the way power has always evolved. Most people do not want to be free. They want someone else to tell them what to do, to make their decisions for them, and to be responsible. Being free means you are also responsible. Almost no one in the USA today craves personal responsibility for his own success AND his own failures.
For more on this same subject, do a Google search for keywords like religion, politics, myth, oppression, obedience, mind control, etc.
“We tread on a faulty premise when we ascribe to politicians a healthier, a more mature, and a less corruptible conscience that is possessed by the people they lead.” [Irvine Schiffer; 1973; Charisma]