The Battle for Religious and Political Freedom – Part 1
If you were asked to sum up the Book of Revelation in one word, what would that word be? Perhaps you might choose Jesus, but there is a word that includes Jesus, and yet expresses much more. Perhaps you might choose worship, but the same word includes the concept of worship, and expresses much more. The word that includes Jesus and worship is allegiance.
God has given us free will. From the very beginning, the whole history of God’s people is one of choice, freely exercised. Eve was not forced to eat from the tree of knowledge – Eve did not force Adam to eat the fruit – the both made their choices. The history of humanity, from the time of the Garden of Eden, is a history of choice. The Bible is a history of the choices that nations and individuals have made – it is a history of choices and their consequences. The Book of Revelation is about the end of history (as we now it). Therefore, Revelation is about mankind’s last choices. We can choose the Seal of God, or the Mark of the Beast. We can choose to come out of Babylon or remain in Babylon. We can choose the Lamb or the Beast.
If allegiance and choice are so important in God’s Kingdom, then, this must mean that individualism is also vital. God does not save nations, communities or churches – He saves individuals. He saves individuals depending on the choices they make. Therefore, the status of individuality, has always been under threat. In these last days, it is becoming more and more difficult to live as an individual. However, it used to be even more difficult to live as an individual in the past. But how it was in the past, for individuality, is rapidly coming back, and this assault against individuality features strongly in the Book of Revelation.
Therefore, in order to ‘Unravel the Revelation’ we will be greatly assisted, by first examining the history of choice and individuality. We can call this historical prologue, ‘the Battle for Religious and Political Freedom’.
The Birth Place of Western Civilization
To begin our study, we need to go back in time, to ancient Athens. The time is the middle of the 4th century BC – approximately 350 years before the birth of Christ. At that time something unique was happening in Athens. The city of Athens was governed by a democracy. This was unique because it had never happened before (or at least if it did, we don’t know about it). The government of Athens at this time is the first recorded instance of a functioning democracy in history – and the essence of democracy is choice and individuality.
So, given that Athens was the first democracy that we know of, it is not surprising that Athens is hailed as the birth place of Western Civilization. This is because democracy, is considered the hallmark of Western Civilization – and Western Civilization is considered to be the high-water mark of human development. But this is all subjective of course, not everyone sees things the same way. For example, Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by a British journalist what he thought of Western Civilization, and he replied, “I think it would be a good idea.”
Back to Athens, as it was 350 years before Christ. At that time there were a trio of philosophers living there – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. And because Athens is hailed as the birthplace of democracy, it is generally believed that these philosophers were responsible for democracy, and they are considered to be the fathers of democracy and western civilisation. For example, the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica says the following about the Athenian philosophers:
Plato was, with Socrates and Aristotle, one of the three philosophers of ancient Greece who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Encyclopedia Britannica, art. Plato.
The Founding Philosophers
Of the three philosophers, Plato is definitely the one, that has had the most influence on the religious and political makeup of Western Civilization. As one of his apologists says:
One of the essential ingredients of what we call Western civilization has been a system of thought which is known as Platonism. John H. Hallowell, Plato and his Critics, The Journal of Politics Vol. 27, No. 2 (May, 1965), p. 273.
All good so far, except for one thing. These three so-called founding fathers of Western Civilization all hated democracy. So, here we have a scenario where democracy is heralded as the central pillar of Western Civilization, and the Athenian philosophers are heralded as the founders of that civilization, but the so-called founders all hated democracy.
The reason why they hated democracy is because they lived in a democracy. They considered democracy to be chaotic, ineffective and unnatural. Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is a terrible form of government, unfortunately it is the best form of government we have.” The Athenian philosophers agreed with Churchill about democracy being a terrible form of government, but they certainly did not think it was the best form of government, that we could have.
One could almost say, that the whole purpose of their philosophy, was to establish an alternative form of government to democracy. That is certainly the purpose of Plato in his book ‘the Republic’ – Plato’s purpose in this book, is to promote a form of government, that is as far away from democracy as possible.
Before we look into Plato, we need to look at Socrates, because Plato was Socrates pupil (and Aristotle was Plato’s pupil). Socrates never wrote his philosophy down, so we do not know much about him. However, this we do know, he was condemned to death by the democratic government of Athens. We don’t know exactly what Socrates did to deserve death, but we do know what he was charged with, by the Athenian authorities. He was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens. Therefore, we can be fairly certain that Socrates was put to death because he was preaching anti-democratic philosophy to the Athenian youth. It is a reasonable assumption, to believe he was preaching anti-democratic sentiment, because if he was corrupting the youth of Athens, he must have been preaching against the established order in Athens – and that established order was democracy.
This conclusion (that Socrates was anti-democratic) is further established when we examine the writings of Plato. Plato was a disciple of Socrates and Plato’s philosophy is basically the philosophy of Socrates in written form. And the writings of Plato are anti-democratic, therefore Socrates philosophy was also anti-democratic – and that is why he was put to death. Even those who defend Plato against his critics have to admit that Plato was anti-democratic:
It is quite apparent, and his critics are quick to point it out, that Plato is no liberal democrat. He does not believe that freedom is the ultimate good nor that the principle of freedom itself is an adequate normative standard for choosing among alternative courses of action. He does not believe that the state comes into existence primarily for the purpose of promoting and preserving individual freedom. He does not believe in the unrestrained rule of the majority in their own interest nor for that matter in the self-sufficiency of the democratic process as the best means of determining the requirements of justice. John H. Hallowell, Plato and his Critics, p. 275.
Plato and Atlantis
So, where did the father of Western Civilization get his anti-democratic ideas from? Answer: from the mythical land of Atlantis. We only know, what we think we know, about Atlantis, from Plato – his writings are the original source, for what we know about Atlantis (if it ever existed). So, why did Plato write about a place, that is in all probability mythical? Answer: because it was the source of his inspiration and his anti-democratic ideas (along with what he was taught by Socrates). Plato believed that Atlantis was a real place. He described it as city, based on an island, with three concentric, habitable rings, surrounding the island. Plato claimed that Atlantis was ruled by ten kings, and according to Plato they were not just kings, they were ‘philosopher kings’ – just like Plato, except he was not a king.
In Plato’s perfect world, these kings, because they were philosophers – the wisest and noblest of them all – deserved to rule. The deserved to rule, because they knew what was best for everyone, and they were able to accomplish the ‘common good’ for everyone. No need for messy democracy where the will of the ignorant and lazy ruled. The ‘philosopher kings’ would dictate what should be done and the rest of the people would gratefully comply with their decisions. Please note there is no room for freedom of choice here – allegiance must be given, because it is demanded.
Thus, Plato’s philosophy, which is the basis of western civilization, is based on the political structure of Atlantis. Atlantis was not a democracy, it was autocratic, totalitarian and ruled by an elite class of ‘philosopher kings.’ Atlantis, with its anti-democratic, anti-individualism, and anti-liberty emphasis was the model that Plato espoused. Additionally, it needs to be pointed out, that for Plato the ideal for mankind, resides in the past not the future. To put it another way, in order for mankind to progress towards something better the solution is found in the past, not the future. To make it even plainer, mankind must look to the past, not the future, therefore all attempts at social and political reforms must cease, until they are willing to subjugate themselves to the rule of the wise ‘philosopher kings’ – rule by the wise elite over the ignorant masses. One of Plato’s critics, Karl Popper, summed up Plato’s penchant for the past in this manner:
The analysis of Plato’s sociology makes it easy to present his political program. His fundamental demands can be expressed in either of two formulae… the idealist formula is: Arrest all political change! Change is evil, rest divine. Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, (Routledge Paperback, London, 1999), p. 83.
All change can be arrested if the state is made an exact copy of its original. Ibid. p. 83.
In other words, if we reproduce the ideal society of Atlantis, then we have reached the optimal point of human progress, and we must arrest, stop, prevent and punish any attempt at any more change. Karl Popper, asks the question, how does Plato envision such a society being created? Popper answers his own question:
Should it be asked how this is practicable, we can reply with the naturalistic formula: Back to nature! Back to the original state of our forefathers, the primitive state founded in accordance with human nature and therefore stable; back to the tribal patriarchy of the time before the Fall, to the natural class rule of the wise few over the ignorant many. Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, p. 83.
In other words, a society where the elite rule and the bulk of the people have no free-will and no choices. If one is inclined to believe that Aristotle was more of a liberal than Plato, and perhaps advocated democracy, free will, and individuality, it must be remembered that Aristotle was taught by Plato. The quotation below, demonstrates that Aristotle, adopted the same authoritarian principle as Plato:
But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Politics, Part V.
What do these ancient goings on, in Athens, have to do with the Book of Revelation and end-time events? To answer this question, we need to mention again that these Athenian philosophers (especially Plato) are supposedly the founders of Western Civilization – and it is Western Civilization, that has been dominating the world for hundreds of years. It continues to dominate the world today, and will continue to do so until the end of time. And it is for this reason, that Western Civilization features so strongly, in the Book of Revelation.
However, the western civilization that we enjoy today, is as far removed from the ideology of these philosophers, as the earth is from the sun. How then can it be explained, that these anti-democratic, anti-libertarian, and anti-individuality ideologues, be the ‘fathers of western civilization?’ In order to answer this apparent contradiction/conundrum we need to embark on this historical prologue to the Book of Revelation. The answer has everything to do with humankind’s battle for religious and political freedom.