Is North Korea a Theocracy?

In the previous blog entry, someone wrote:

An atheist state? Jerry Coyne claims something different about N.Korea:
“The state is in many ways a theocracy, with its three last leaders seen as gods.”

Yes, buy Coyne is not a credible source on this. First, Coyne has previously opined about a “theocracy”:

Well, we thought we’d seen the last of the theocracy of George W. Bush, but it apparently ain’t so. The Scientist reports (and this has been the buzz for weeks), that born-again Christian and BioLogos Foundation director Francis Collins is likely to be named as head of the National Institutes of Health:

Let’s be charitable and just point out that anyone who a) thinks the USA is 2007 was a theocracy and b) nominating Collins as head of the NIH is evidence of a continued theocracy is someone who plays fast and loose with the definition of “theocracy.”

Second, Coyne is a leader in the New Atheist movement and, as such, has no objectivity on this issue. As an atheist activist/apologist, of course he is going to try to spin things to make it look North Korea is a “theocracy.” In his mind, Atheism = Good and Religion = Evil. Thus, since North Korea is evil, it must also be religious.

But look, I’m not the one who described North Korea as a “atheist state.”

I got that from Wiki. Of course, Wiki could be some kid in a basement. If so, the kid got it from a book as the Wiki article links to its source: World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia. Marshall Cavendish.

It’s short one page article people can quickly read for themselves. And it provides some historical context that Gnu atheists would have us ignore, including:

  • North Korea is a communist state (in other words, an atheist state). When it fell under the rule the communists, most of the Christian community fled to the South – a wise move given the history of atheist communists and their slaughter of religious people.
  • Temples and churches were confiscated by the State and put to secular use.
  • All religions are persecuted and there are no known Catholic priests in North Korea.
  • Any religious person who attempts to proselytize is harshly penalized.

In other words, a standard Soviet-style, atheistic regime that seeks to stamp out religion because religion is viewed as both a competitor and threat to the secular State.  It’s the “opium of the people.”  Y’know, a mind virus.

But what of the views about the “Dear Leader?” Such personality cults/hero worship are common place in secular dictatorships that are reinforced daily with State run media and propaganda. In my opinion, very few people actually believe the demigod stories. After all, these are not myths/stories that spontaneously arise from the people and spread from the bottom-up. They are imposed on the people by a centralized government-run media and there is no freedom to disagree. I think it’s the atheists’s cynical way of controlling and monitoring the religious impulse of the population. They either a) provide the State itself as the Myth/Savior for the people (the official substitute) or b) provide something that is likely to force the truly devout to “out themselves,” as many Christians would have a problem publicly embracing the “Dear Leader” as a demigod.

Big picture, people. North Korea is an atheist state. It’s a Marxist–Leninist state with some exotic, Korean tweaks and a long history of anti-religious persecution. That’s why modern day communists in the West actually defend North Korea:

http://marxistleninist.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/korea-resilient-socialism-in-the-dprk/

http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=619

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13 Responses to Is North Korea a Theocracy?

  1. Crude says:

    I’ve seen this card played before. Dennett did it with Stalin and the other communist leaders – suddenly communism became a kind of proto-religion, and Stalin/Pol Pot/Mao, something like deities.

    The funny thing about this move? It makes calling the New Atheists ‘The Cult of Gnu’ that much more valid.

  2. Jon Garvey says:

    If there’s any religious story here at all, it’s that no atheist state, even based on a “scientific” theory like Marxism-Leninism, seems capable of avoiding creating gods in order to attempt (at least) to harness religious impulses in the “broad masses.” The laughable monsters so produced (from Lenin himself down) show that the religious impulse has been misdirected from whatever its “natural” purpose is.

    And of courese, given the inevitable fall of the regime, it’s immediately redirected towards actual religion once free to do so.

  3. Doug says:

    The irony (referenced by many, including Mike and Crude), is that the *exact same* human impulse that justifies Coyne calling North Korea a “theocracy” is *coveted* by Coyne and his ilk — they want to be seen as gods by their followers! (They would object, no doubt, to the “quantity” of their god-delusion, but they cannot escape the identical “quality”!)

  4. stcordova says:

    Amazing contrast between the GNU “theocracy” of North Korea and mostly Christian South Korea. From a satelite photo one can see which country has a superior electrical infrastructure (hence better use of science):

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2012/12/new-highly-detailed-image-north-koreas-lack-electrical-infrastructure/4201/

    So much for the claim that atheism will lead to some scientific Utopia and religious belief will lead a nation back to the dark ages. The photo tell you which country is in the dark ages…

  5. dan says:

    North Korea is a theocracy. It isnt the god you worship obviously. But its got all the marks of a theorcracy.

    The dear leader is DEAD, yet he remains in power since 1998
    The children in school are taught divine nonsense about the leader making him look like a divinity
    The public are forced to mourn the death of the dear dead leader every year by the thousands upon thousands.

    We atheists that see religions as being entirely man made. As you got no evidence for jesus AT ALL. This regime has the same marks of nonsense found in all religion. Which is to worship without reason and evidence. Just blindly worship rubbish.

    To you Nkorea might seem community, But to them ( the citizens of N.Korea) Its a theocracy. Its all built around worshipping the dear dead leader.

  6. Michael says:

    The dear leader is DEAD, yet he remains in power since 1998
    The children in school are taught divine nonsense about the leader making him look like a divinity
    The public are forced to mourn the death of the dear dead leader every year by the thousands upon thousands.

    Er,….yeah,……I addressed that.

    Its all built around worshipping the dear dead leader.

    We in the West will get to see what that looks like when Dawkins passes away. 😉

  7. Jon Garvey says:

    Definition of a god? Someone whose name atheists feel strangely constrained to start with a small letter. So that’s “kim il-Sung” in this case.

  8. Nick Lynch says:

    Communism tends to imply atheism, that I agree with. Is the reverse true? Does atheism lead to communism? Absolutely not. Just take a look at some of the countries with the highest rates of irreligion – Sweden, Denmark and Norway – some of the most peaceful, happiest nations in the world.

    To use the tactics of the author of this article, lets take a look at the countries where irreligion is least prevalent – you have the middle-eastern countries along with much of Africa. Decimated war-torn areas. A coincidence?

  9. TFBW says:

    @Nick Lynch:

    To use the tactics of the author of this article, lets take a look at the countries where irreligion is least prevalent …

    You seem to be suggesting that this article looks at countries where irreligion is most prevalent, and draws some sort of conclusion from that. I don’t see that anywhere. The short precis of this article is, “North Korea is an atheist state, not a theocracy,” and you agreed with that much. You’re projecting the rest. Why?

  10. Kevin says:

    The only conclusion I draw from any of it is that the lack of religion does not suddenly make the world a better place or people more moral, so atheists harping on religion all the time is really funny at best.

  11. Speedyblupi says:

    You haven’t addressed the point, and neither have the other commenters. Whether north korea is a theocracy or not can only be determined by seeing if it fits a definition of theocracy. An ad hominem and a false equivocation of religion and christianity don’t invalidate the claim.

    (of the fact that Kim Il Sung’s leader cult is the religion which the North Korean government rule in the name of)
    “Er,….yeah,……I addressed that.”

    No you didn’t address it. You mentioned it, then ignored it without giving any explanation of why.

  12. TFBW says:

    Speedyblupi came a year or so late to the party and said:

    Whether north korea is a theocracy or not can only be determined by seeing if it fits a definition of theocracy.

    Uh, okay — Encyclopaedia Britannica definitive enough?

    Theocracy, government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law. Theocratic rule was typical of early civilizations. The Enlightenment marked the end of theocracy in most Western countries. Contemporary examples of theocracies include Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Vatican.

    So, no, North Korea is not a theocracy: the Great Leader recognised no such divine guidance — in fact, the whole concept of divine guidance was antithetical to his ideology.

    The rest of your comment was barely coherent even before your first rhetorical pillar was undermined by Encyclopaedia Britannica, so I’ll just invite you to start over at this point.

  13. FZM says:

    (of the fact that Kim Il Sung’s leader cult is the religion which the North Korean government rule in the name of)

    Well, I guess it’s always possible to make use of either a very broad and general and/or idiosyncratic definition of ‘religion’ to make a case like this.

    One result of this can be the kind of thing Michael pointed out in the O/P:

    In his mind, Atheism = Good and Religion = Evil. Thus, since North Korea is evil, it must also be religious.

    Any bad or undesirable set of ideas/beliefs is necessarily an example of ‘religion’ because all ‘religion’ is really understood to mean is ‘any set of ideas that produce bad/evil/dysfunctional beliefs and behaviours’.

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