Let’s look at a fictional leader, Joe Dictator.
Joe Dictator has been ruling our nation since before you were born. Nobody really knows for sure where Joe came from or when, but he says always ruled the country. In fact, he says not only has he always been the ruler of our country, but he founded, discovered, and invented it, too. Nobody knows where Joe was born, but Joe claims he was never born, and has always existed.
Joe Dictator claims to love our people very much. In fact, he claims he’s all loving. He also says he’s perfect in every way. He says that he’s never wrong and he always knows what’s best. He says absolutely everything is part of his “plan.” When bad things happen to the country, and people question Joe’s plan, state authorities say “Joe is perfect. If you think what happened is bad, you simply lack the ability to understand Joe. He is better than all of us.” This may seem contradictory, but whenever Joe does something which is contradictory, he says that it simply cannot be so because he is perfect and incapable of contradiction. Although Joe claims to have a plan that includes everything that has ever happened and everything that will happen, he also regularly casts blame on others. For example, he says he gives people the right to disobey him, but when they do it, he becomes angry and punishes them. In fact, he claims that once he was so angry that people were disobeying him that he once ordered a mass genocide, killing every single person in our nation except a single family.
Although Joe says he’s all perfect (and contradicting this has been a crime against the state, punishable by death, for large portions of history), he is very upset by some things we do. Joe claims to be all knowing, seeing into every home all the time. He has lists of 10 special things that you can and cannot do. The first three things on the list have to do with how to properly treat Joe. For example, even though Joe is perfect, he wants to be worshipped us lesser humans. On Joe’s favorite day. In the house in each town that is designated, “Joe’s House.” Choosing to do work on that day instead of worshipping Joe has been punishable by death.
Joe, and most of the people who have occupied the upper levels of his government, have special contempt for women. Joe blames the first problems of our nation on a woman, and has decried that women should be silent in Joe’s house. He also has said that women are to be always subservient to men. Joe even has alleged that he caused women to suffer under their husbands as punishment for the crimes of their ancestors.
In addition, Joe is extremely xenophobic. Those who follow other dictators, or no dictator at all, are considered to be committing an unforgivable crime and will be punished forever. Even people who grow up in poor regions of the world and never hear of Joe in their lives are still, by his decree, criminals and enemies. Joe says that one day he and his loyal followers will get everything they want and everyone else will suffer forever, and that this is something for every follower to look forwards to.
Above all, Joe wants us to be loyal. To be unquestioning in our devotion and worship of him. To be subservient of him. To carry out his wishes, whatever they may be. Even if we were told by to kill our own children, the highest mark of a believer would be to do it, without questioning, without thinking.
If you think I’m going to say Joe is God, think again. There is a huge difference between Joe and God: Many religious people think following someone like God is the highest moral truth, while following someone like Joe would be reprehensible.
My question to these people is this: Why? What makes a Christian or Muslim God any different than Joe? What makes dictators like Russia’s Joseph Stalin villains, but makes God a hero? What makes your blind, unwavering devotion to God any better than devotion to Joe? How would you convince a “Joe-ist” that he’s wrong? Given the system, is that even possible? What does this say about the nature of blind obedience?