Theocracy is when the church and the state are one in the same. It can be where the law of the land are based on a particular religious belief or when religious leaders are given power to rule over the people. It was a very common practice historically. The Roman Empire, The Mayans , The Eyptians all had theocratic societies. In today’s world it is less common and separation of church and state is largely the practice in much of the western world but it still exists in several areas.
There are good things (pros) and bad things (cons) about Theocracy. There are some very stable and profitable long term societies that have thrived as a theocracy like Vatican City in Rome where the Pope is the ruler although some would argue that Vatican City is more of a religious commune than an actual city.
There are movements that are pushing for a return to theocracy around the world in pockets but they have yet to pick up enough steam to really have a great effect on politics.
Pros of Theocracy
1. Better Social Obedience
There is likely a more obedient attitude with the public within a theocracy because it is hard to argue a point when it comes from a higher power that everyone in the society has to believe in. When a religious leader is also the political leader it is hard to disagree with an edict.
2. More Compromise in Government
It would be much easier to find the compromise in government when everyone is supposed to be following the same religion. Typically religious sects have conservative views, so it would be safe to say that in a theocratic society there would be no “liberals” to deal with. Finding the compromise to spending, education and even building churches would be easier.
3. Faster Changes
Whether it is social reform or a new traffic light the changes can come quickly because it is an authoritarian society with little room for debate. When the leader says this needs to change based on this religious belief it changes.
4. Less Crime
In Theocratic societies typically the punishment is rather swift when someone breaks the law especially since the laws are based on religious beliefs. Citizens in these societies are not only breaking rules but they are also sinning. Crime is not well tolerated so typically a lower crime rate than you would find in a democracy exists.
Cons of Theocracy
Much like the pros are based on what benefits the society the cons are based on what the individual has to give up to live in a theocratic society.
1. Your Opinion is Not Wanted
In a theocracy what the individual wants/needs is not quite as important as what is for the greater good. Your opinion is not needed in a theocracy. Voting is not really an option because if there is a race for office it is between two people that have pretty much the same view although voting is not typically an option. Political offices are usually granted by assignment to holy men or men that have been approved by the holy men. What the individual thinks about the appointment is not considered.
Justice is swift and punishment typically involves physical punishment or death. People are not permitted to speak out against the leaders unless they are prepared to be punished or killed. It is a strict authoritarian society without a lot of room for dissidents.
3. Minorities Have No Rights
In a theocratic society there are minorities that do not believe what the ruling class believes but they are without rights. They are not recognized as full citizens and do not enjoy the benefits of being a citizen of the society. They are often looked down upon as a lesser class that live under different laws than the ruling majority. In some extreme cases even different denominations of the same religion are not considered by the majority.
4. No Tolerance
There is very little room for diversity. There is no tolerance for different belief systems within the country or outside the country. Freedom of speech is not an option. Different ideas are not encouraged nor discussed. In some cases being different and speaking out can be looked at as speaking against God and is punishable. Innovation is not appreciated. There is no tolerance for doing things differently or for standing out. There is also no tolerance for homosexuality or other behaviors that are considered against the will of the higher power.
5. Hypocritical Views
Most religions are based in peace and love. These tenets can make it very hard for a theocracy to defend its land against other nations without looking somewhat hypocritical. Religious leaders that are also leading countries that ascribe to violent reactions are most likely going against the basic tenets of their religion.