Two influential people were born this week in history. (Actually, a lot of influential people were born this week in history, but I’d like to focus your attention on these two men for the moment.)
On May 3, 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli was born. (He died on June 21, 1527.) Machiavelli has been called the founder of modern political science. Much of his political activity focused on diplomacy and warfare, warfare being viewed as merely another form of diplomacy, or as Clausewitz termed it, “diplomacy by other means”—diplomacy by threats, or actual use, of force. Machiavelli sought to teach others what he had learned and how to apply those principles in the governing and controlling of people and nations. He even wrote a textbook of sorts on the topic that has been read and studied ever since—The Prince.
Machiavellian principles of governing view immorality, dishonesty, deceit, and even murder, if they will achieve the ruler’s desired ends, as legitimate. That is, the end justifies the means. These characteristics, which many people would call vices if they were practiced by the private individual, Machiavelli considered normal politics. In their application, they make up what has been called realpolitick, and they sound very much like American politics today.
Machiavelli also believed that religion was a useful tool for political rulers. An unbeliever himself, considering religion as merely a man-made device, he nonetheless recognized that rulers could use religion to control people and their emotions and actions, thereby ensuring social order as the ruler wanted it.
Also born this week (May 5, 1818; died March 14, 1883) was another man who had disdain for religion but conceded its political usefulness. Karl Marx was expelled from Germany, Belgium, and France for his anti-government views. As a result, he lived much of his life in England, taking advantage of the benefits of capitalism and a free society while writing to bring about its demise. His books The Communist Manifesto (written with Friedrich Engels and published in 1848) and Das Kapital (published in 1867) did much to bring about socialism and communism in various countries of the world over the next several decades. Many liberal politicians, including some current presidential candidates, are still enamored of his opinions.
Marx believed that religion was “the opiate of the people.” Viewed negatively, that statement could mean that religion was used by the evil capitalists to keep the masses dull and passive, promising the people “pie in the sky by and by” while taking advantage of them and keeping them downtrodden and impoverished. On the other hand, the statement could interpret religion as a tool of Marxists to create in the people an addiction that demanded relief and satiation, which the socialists and communists could exploit by promising fulfillment and thereby gain the support of the masses to gain power for themselves. Of course, they could never deliver on all of their promises because Communism is a morally and financially bankrupting philosophy.
This two-faced attitude toward religion—Machiavellian and Marxist—continues today. Liberal political candidates deride conservative candidates’ addressing religious groups as shameless pandering and a violation of the so-called separation of church and state. Yet they think nothing of blatantly promoting their own socialist agenda in black churches or Muslim mosques to gain those groups’ votes. They are willfully ignorant of their hypocrisy.
Similarly, conservative candidates who give no thought to their own exercise of personal religious convictions any other time, suddenly begin using religious vocabulary, and addressing subjects of religion and morality, when campaign season rolls around. Their hypocrisy shows through just as clearly as that of their opponents.
Why do the candidates behave so hypocritically with no apparent shame? They are merely practicing the principles they learned from the malignant M&Ms born in May—Machiavelli and Marx.