Author Topic: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'  (Read 589 times)

xSilverPhinx

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God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« on: August 28, 2017, 01:18:28 AM »
The Prince is a political treatise written in the 16th Century and is considered one of the first books on modern political philosophy, in which observed reality is more important than any abstract ideal. Back when it was published it generated controversy, which persists to this day, with some calling it 'anti-christian' and 'immoral' among other inviting labels. It was added to the Catholic Church's index of prohibited books, making it a must read, in my humble opinion.  :devil:

Anyway, a post on another thread prompted me to start this topic, because I see a few interesting parallels between Machiavelli's Prince and the Christian God.

The whole book is available online for free, I will just very briefly summarise  the chapters which pertain to the Prince's character.

Chapter 14 of The Prince:  The chapter begins with "A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank."

From the Wikipedia entry for Yahweh:

Quote
In the oldest biblical literature he is a typical ancient Near Eastern "divine warrior" who leads the heavenly army against Israel's enemies; he later became the main god of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and of Judah, and over time the royal court and temple promoted Yahweh as the god of the entire cosmos, possessing all the positive qualities previously attributed to the other gods and goddesses. By the end of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), the very existence of foreign gods was denied, and Yahweh was proclaimed as the creator of the cosmos and the true god of all the world.

The Christian god is a war god.

Chapter 15 of The Prince: In this chapter, Machiavelli writes on how princes should act. He doesn't cling to old notions in which rulers are idealised, instead he bases his recommendation on how real people interacting in the real world have gained and held onto power. He recommends that princes or rulers be bad instead of good. If it is necessary to commit unscrupulous acts then do it, because the world is full of unscrupulous people who will do anything to gain power. Power and ability to maintain power also lie in one's reputation, which is affected by the prince's behaviour. Machiavelli recommends that the prince have a...ahem...Machiavellian approach -- avoid vices and virtues that can damage reputation. The ends justify the means.

There are numerous accounts in the Bible (both Old Testament and New) in which god is not bound to the same moral code he expects humans to follow.

Chapter 16 of The Prince: this chapter is on cultivating the public image of generosity and why that is important. If you know how this might apply to the god of the Bible's character please let me know. :grin:

Chapter 17 of The Prince: Machiavelli writes on mercy and cruelty. If one cannot be both feared and loved, then it is better to be feared than loved.

God has done well for himself in this respect, he is both feared and loved by many believers.   

Chapter 18 of The Prince: this chapter is on deceit and the virtues of lying when need be.

The God of the Bible is capable of lying in order to test people. If anyone has some more information I would be very interested to read it.

Chapter 19 of The Prince:the ruler should avoid being despised, held in contempt or be regarded with no respect by their subjects.

I think, in general, the God of the Bible is able to pull this off. Those who believe don't seem to despise him. 

-~-

Well, that's it for now. Sorry for the wall of text. :grin:
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No one

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2017, 01:58:17 AM »

xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2017, 02:05:57 AM »
To qualify that statement I little I believe that the ruling classes "created" (or evolved) god in their image.
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No one

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2017, 02:10:23 AM »
I can say this with 100% certainty, if when I die, I do in fact meet this god character, I will punch it in the face and tell it to go fuck itself!

xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2017, 07:58:02 AM »
What? You do not fear this vengeful god? You know god is perfectly capable of being cruel and has a special place for people who seek to punch it in the face, right?

Spoiler: show


At least as most Christians will tell you.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 05:47:04 PM by xSilverPhinx »
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Dave

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2017, 08:46:29 AM »
Exodus 20

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

So, no omnilove then? Just "Do as I ssy or die."
Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.

xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2017, 08:46:42 AM »
Tl;dr version.

It's been a very long time since I read The Prince but when I did I couldn't help noticing some interesting parallels between Machiavelli's description and advice for princes/rulers, hereditary or not, and the Christian god's "personality". Of course as an atheist I don't believe that that or any gods are real, and that they were all created in mankind's "mental image".

Machiavelli was a realist. He described how politics worked as he saw it in his day, and extracted from his observations the ideals for a perfect, successful ruler. Success being the ability to gain and keep power. The point of this thread is: can the same approach be applied to god?

No one can deny that throughout history god has been successful -- from a small tribal war god to the 'only' god of one of the world's major religions (three major religions if you accept that he is also the god of the hebrews and islam). This god must have gotten something right to hold such sway in the minds of his believers.

I do realise that different people have different mental representations of this god, and that if you take into consideration a lot of people the god character can become very complex, but there are what seem to be constants. Some would say that god is 'love' and none of the evil things, but they're choosing to ignore a lot of what's in their holy book.

I do not think that there was some sort of conspiracy to create god, but instead believe that the god personality evolved through a process similar to natural selection, mirrored on the "personalities" of efficient rulers. Characteristics that led to there being a higher number of believers were selected while undesirable traits or those less conducive to religious power weren't. 

Warlike? Check. Good. The god idea can spread.

Unscrupulous? This god can definitely be. Good. He is not bound to the same moral code that believers say emanate from his person. This god can do what is necessary to hold onto power. 

Merciful and cruel? Oh yeah. I don't think this point needs further elaboration...

Feared and loved? Yes. Perfect! But not hated by most of those who believe. Even better!



I will probably get round to a stl;dr (still too long; didn't read) version :grin:
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2017, 08:53:30 AM »
Exodus 20

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

So, no omnilove then? Just "Do as I ssy or die."

Machiavelli goes into how Christianity with its ideals of love, mercy and meekness has made mankind weaker and that such people would not be able to conquer the world (he looks to the ancient pagan Rome as an ideal). 

I don't know why he doesn't mention all the holy wars and such -- maybe he does but my memory is a little rusty, I shall have to read it again.  :sidesmile:
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Dave

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2017, 08:55:07 AM »
This god thing is just a way to explain and excuse all those traits in humanity, "If it's OK by god it's OK by me!" "In the name of gpd...", "I do god's work here...", "God wills it, it is written..." et bloody (quite often) cetera.
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2017, 08:57:33 AM »
This gid thing is just a way to explsin and excuse all those traits in humanity, "If it's OK by god it's OK by me!" "In the name of gpd...", "I do god's work here...", "God wills it, it is written..." et bloody (quite often) cetera.

Yes, and I always found it rather funny that what god wills seems to coincide with what the person themselves want. If you want to get to know a person, see what kind of god they worship.  ::)
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Davin

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2017, 04:23:01 PM »
What? You do not fear this vengeful god? You know god is perfectly capable of being cruel and has a special place for people who seek to punch it in the face, right?

Spoiler: show


At least as most Christians will tell you.
Fixed the hidden gif.

Interesting thread.

Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2017, 05:46:09 PM »
What? You do not fear this vengeful god? You know god is perfectly capable of being cruel and has a special place for people who seek to punch it in the face, right?

Spoiler: show


At least as most Christians will tell you.
Fixed the hidden gif.

Interesting thread.

Thank you, Davin.

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Ecurb Noselrub

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2017, 11:02:35 PM »
There are other views of the character of God than those expressed here.  Machiavelli does not corner the market in that regard.  I'm curious why you even discuss God's character since you don't believe in him, irrespective of how he might be if he exists.  A text could paint him as the most loving, merciful, compassionate being possible, and you would not believe in him.  So why the effort at defining his character based on one interpretation? 

xSilverPhinx

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2017, 11:40:12 PM »
There are other views of the character of God than those expressed here.  Machiavelli does not corner the market in that regard.  I'm curious why you even discuss God's character since you don't believe in him, irrespective of how he might be if he exists.  A text could paint him as the most loving, merciful, compassionate being possible, and you would not believe in him.  So why the effort at defining his character based on one interpretation?

Machiavelli doesn't speak of the Xtian God, he mentions Christians and Christianity in his book, and not in a favourable light, which is one of the reasons he was banned by the Catholic Church back then and given labels such as "anti-christian". 

Believing is not a prerequisite to trying to compare or analyse. On the conceptual level he does exist to an atheist -- an idea that believers try to "sell" even if they do this by using threats and force. I chose to compare the Christian God to Machiavelli's prince in particular because I live in a mostly Xtian society and that's the concept or idea that one encounters everyday. 

I'm curious why certain beliefs and ideas take root in people's minds. Like I wrote above, I do realise that different people have different mental representations of god. I think that if the idea of god is modeled on something such as Machiavelli's prince then that would be very interesting. Nothing more, nothing less.

Your interpretation does not seem to be the most common out there. Apparently I'm going to hell because I'm an atheist based on what I've been told by a lot of people.
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Icarus

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Re: God's Character and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2017, 01:05:32 AM »
Thank you for creating an interesting and somewhat exploratory thread Silver.

If it is any comfort, a lot of us will be truly pleased to meet you in person. That will be when we are all booked on a cruise ship down the river Styx and onward to the bowels of hell. On a positive note, most of the cruise ships serve pretty good food and there are cash bars too.  Party on!

Now I will have to dig through the library to find the Machiavelli tome. Will Books and Cats need to put the Prince on our reading list?