Religion, Police & Functioning of Democracy

Is religion necessary for following societal rules?

Do you agree with Professor Clayton’s argument laid out in the video below? Does it concur or go against the mishna in Ethics of the Fathers that says, “Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, they would swallow each other alive" (3:2)?

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Comments (9)

(8) Fiseha, December 6, 2015 3:58 PM

Beyond the religion of good and evil

The tragedy of those that promote evil is that they never can get the evil going unless they package it with the good and appealing. All worldly religions have to grapple with elements of good and evil. Isn't that the deception we after miss. Evil is packaged with the appealing good. The best of human imagination retains an element of evil. That's exactly why personal restraint makes sense. Restraint that comes from Devine sanction makes more sense. So the essence of the religion of God and evil can be tested by whether it origin is Devine and also that if it creates sanctions at an individual level. The good and evil I see I have no authorityto impose upon others unless the others see it and willingly embrace it. Community of believers is rooted in the self government and acceptance of individual responsibility. If this is so, I humbly submit we can look beyond the religion of good and evil into peace in the land.

(7) Ann Canada, July 30, 2015 12:17 PM


"...because if you take away religion, you can't hire enough police." Such a loaded statement!

(6) JB Destiny, May 18, 2015 9:02 PM

Professor Clayton and our Sages are both right!

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Professor Clayton, like John Adams, is talking about the role of religion in self-government, not of the benefits or detriments of any religion in particular. It's what's called the civil society, that to have self-government, people must first agree to practice self-restraint as individuals. Without that pre-existing civil society, all that is left to restrain the individual's acting on his own desires is the iron fist of government. Individuals must answer to someone, and if not to the True G-d, then it will be to man. And this is why our sages, so recently exiled from a corrupt Jewish regime (including the clergy) to an equally corrupt polytheistic regime, realized that when religion no longer constrains people, only government can. It's difficult in the US, UK and other societies resting upon the Bible to determine whether atheists can maintain a civil society independent of religion, because their own morals were shaped by the greater society of believers, whatever their own beliefs on G-d and religion. (My feeling is no, based on what happened to Germany, Russia and Italy, for example, at the beginning of the 20th Century.) But looking at atheist-based countries like China, which were formed with the belief that there is no higher power than the state, we see that the harsh fist of government does indeed reign where G-d has been eliminated.

Ann Canada, July 30, 2015 12:22 PM

Beautifully said, JB Destiny. B'H

(5) Anonymous, May 18, 2015 4:09 AM

I'm not sure if religion is the true basis of decent behavior

You can find good, decent, loving people who are not religious, and bad, cruel people who claim to be religious.
You can find atheists who obey the law and people who claim to be religious who do not obey the law.

Makes me wonder if the true determinant is how much love and respect the person received as a child.

(4) Emil M Friedman, May 17, 2015 11:14 PM

I suspect it depends on what religion one is talking about.

Some religions influence their adherents to behave properly. Others influence them to kill people who don't subscribe to them.

(3) jacob t chachkes, May 17, 2015 4:56 PM

is crime more prevalent among atheists?

Atheists conduct themselves in socially acceptable ways without religion, church, 'god'. Would like statistics to support or refute your thesis.

(2) Frank Adam, May 17, 2015 4:01 PM

slippery premises

The conversation assumes that religion involves deism but eg Buddhism is religion without benefit of belief in (a) God(s).
Otherwise, I - as a British history major - am always struck by how the USA remains 18th century Whig England both in its politicking and its violence.

(1) Alan S., May 17, 2015 11:31 AM

The Professor hit a home run

I think his basic comment is the underpinning to the mishnah the quote.


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