The Prince

I was dinking around my house the other day, looking for something to read, and I came across my copy of “The Prince”, the 16th century book (my copy is not this old) written by Niccolo Machiavelli.  I pulled it off the shelf, and began the thought process of remembering it’s contents, and also the controversy that has surrounded the book since it was first published.

Like many banned books, it is interesting to read the book, and then spend many hours scratching your head wondering why this book was so controversial.  “The Prince” was so controversial that it was banned by the Pope!  Yet the contents of the book were not shocking.  They weren’t evil.  They weren’t sexually explicit nor violently gory.

As an amateur historian, I find this disconnect fascinating.  What was it about the book that was so offensive that it was considered heretical.  The answer lies in the way that governments were thought of 500 years ago vs. today.

A fairly significant portion of government leaders throughout the history of the world claimed divine appointment to their position.  This is true of the Roman emperors, the Japanese emperors, Genghis Khan, the Aztec empire, the Persian empire, all monarchies, many dictators, etc.  The major difference between elected officials and divinely appointed officials, of course, is their absolute authority.  If you have a direct pipeline to the gods, then what meager human could possibly call you wrong?

Governments were not “by the people, for the people” as we think of them today.  Governments were not groups of our peers working for us, to make a better life for us.  No, governments of the day were though of as supreme people leading the lowly.  Us lay folk were not the constituency, we were the support cast.  We were cogs in a wheel.  Only leaders could rule, and they had the authority to be as rich and extravagant and comfortable as they chose, for the gods smiled on them.

The bible supports this view as well.  It is echoed in Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1, Daniel 2:20-21, Psalm 22:28, Romans 13:7, Luke 20:25, Proverbs 8:15, Matthew 22:17-21, 1 Samuel 8:6-22, and others.  Hell, both 1 and 2 Kings are almost entirely dedicated to god instilling and removing kings from office.

Naturally, the Catholic church (the only christian church back then) was highly motivated to follow this model.  After all, it kept them in power for all those years.  And with a solid biblical foundation, they seemingly had every right to claim as much power as they wanted.  God had willed it to them.

But then, along came Machiavelli.  Machiavelli did not, in his entire book, invoke the power of God as advice on how to do business as a head of state.  New state, old state, large state, small state, internal affairs, external affairs, war, peace, trade, and travel, all issues that could be dealt with by political theory rather than divine inspiration or protection.

Lest I be accused of being Machiavellian (yes, from his name), I would like to note that I am not agreeing or disagreeing with any of his conclusions.  Part of being “Machiavellian” after all, implies a sort of under-handed dealing or dishonesty.  I am not suggesting our leaders be dishonest or scheme to maintain power.

However, for the first time in at least a millennium, the levers of power were put to paper as being something other than divine guidance.  God was not needed.  And this is why the Church lost it’s collective shit.

Fast forward about 270 years, and the United States of America was formed.  Our government does not appoint rulers by divine appointment, they are elected.  Our government does not decide disputes with prayer, prophets, or executive rule.  We have courts.  Our government does not plan zoning, taxation, commerce, war, trade, or treaties in consult with priests.  We have department heads with staffs, and elected governing bodies.  In other words, absolutely nothing about our government today would fly 500 years ago.  It would be considered quite heretical.

It’s stupid enough that many modern Christians believe that the US government was “based on the bible”, despite biblical law and US law having almost nothing in common.  But to illustrate this stupidity, our entire concept of government is completely different from the biblical view.  In my humble opinion, nothing illustrates just how wrong the bible is on governments than the lessons we learn from “The Prince.”

The Spartan Atheist

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40 thoughts on “The Prince

  1. The whole Christian theocracy many religious conservatives seem to want is one thing that separates me from some of my fellow conservatives. I feel our country can uphold traditional value, without appealing to a higher power, or imposing one specific religion on everyone. US history does not bear out the idea of us being a nation of only one belief system, as separation of church and state is enshrined in the Constitution! Not to mention the fact other Christian denominations find it unfair if only one of them is promoted, it’s not just a secular vs. religion issue!
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree. I consider myself conservative, but it’s getting harder to vote that way with the rise of complete stupidity in the GOP.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It goes to show that we live in a world today with more freedom than ever, despite its issues. Imagine a book like this being banned today? it would backfire and would be great for its publishers. Of course I’m excluding certain countries which are still ruled by an iron fist as it were.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The LDS and many others think our elected leaders today are ordained by God to be such. Instead of one claiming authority from god they are claiming it for them. It an odd desire of humans to want a god figure and pathetic presentation of sorts where god, in eons past, arranges the births and deaths to tinker in politics and city councils throughout the world. Hirohito—god. Stalin—God. Before the foundation of the world Trump was our man, celebrated as spirit children in the heavens with Jefferson, Washington, Bill Clinton and Chairman Mau.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that level of stupidity is exposed when I remind them that Obama and Clinton must also be godly ascended.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Just a little off topic, but I read a year or so ago that to move up in rank in the Mexican Mafia, there is a required reading list, and The Prince is on it. All of the books on the list were pretty impressive, really. Not what I’d consider normal prison reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol! Well, as I noted in the article, Machiavelli was a bit cynical. But clearly his understanding of politics in the real world is time tested.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Preventing the people from thinking was one of the ways monarchy lasted long. If the people were allowed to read texts that got them to imagine them being the ones who determined their leaders, it wouldn’t have been good for the catholic church political position

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I recall, God’s desire was not for Israel to be ruled by a king. They wanted what other countries had. God allowed it…he knew they were gonna do that anyway, right. It didn’t change his plans, but Israel suffered a lot because of wanting a man to be king instead of God.

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    1. but Israel suffered a lot because of wanting a man to be king instead of God.

      We don’t know how Israel would have turned out if it did not have a king. It may have been better or worse we can only wonder. Though I think the Israelite could have still sinned against Yahweh with or without a king. Maybe Solomon started the process of leading the Israelite astray but it was still the Israelite who chose to follow Solomon and not Yahweh

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    2. Lol! God could order them to chop their foreskin, how to dress, how to decorate the temple, and how to sell their daughters. But he couldn’t tell them how to organize a government.

      Bible god was either stupid or lazy. Or a drunken slob, I suppose. But certainly not in control.

      For that matter, the entire OT is basically one long list of God’s failures.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Free choice is the way he took.
        Love him or hate him. Your choice.
        I chose the first.
        Never been disappointed.

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      2. Lol! God ordered them to CHOP THEIR DICK SKIN OFF, AND HOW TO SELL THEIR DAUGHTERS.

        Free will? Unless you’re a woman, and then you’re just property of a man.

        You are starting to disgust me with your worthless cover ups for the fucking prick that is bible God.

        You think selling a woman is okay?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think you just provided the evidence you have been asking for.

        You could never hate an imaginary being like you hate God.

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      4. Randy, I hate the fact that despite knowing that everything in the bible is wrong, there are still millions of people that abide by the religion. I HATE that Christians are trying to force children to learn stupid shit in school instead of educating them. I HATE that Christians think their religion deserves a place at the table in government. And I HATE how you personally tighten up your blinders and deflect when I point out quite clear issues in the bible.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. The issues you call quite clear become clear in a completely different way when you know the True God. You say he doesn’t exist, so how could I explain things to you in a way that you would understand? God is a spirit, and, to worship him you have to have his spirit as well. I do. You don’t. The Bible is a spiritual book which speaks on a far grander level than what human understanding can conceive. Arguing is fruitless because you say he doesn’t exist. Do you hate people who deceive their kids with ideas of Santa Claus?
        When you say stuff like God is stupid or inefficient or anything else, you are saying, if he does exist you are better. Sorry. You are not. Me, neither. But…he talks to me. I don’t guess he’s talking to you.

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      6. Blah blah blah blah monkey. Randy, does your god answer prayers?

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      7. Ok, so your God is testable then.

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      8. Except, we are told not to put our God to the test. The life we find worth living is a life of trusting Him.
        A little story for you to mock:

        August 14, I arrived at my first job around 10:00 am. (I am a chimney sweep and window cleaner.)
        I had a text on my phone from a Christian brother who I hadn’t communicated with in any way for over a year.
        “You came to my mind today. Praying for you and your family.”
        Hmm. That’s weird. Of course, I appreciated it. I told him that, and that I had been stuck by a wasp last week and had a very serious reaction.
        I figured that was what the prayer was about.
        About 40 minutes later, I lost my balance as I was climbing onto the roof carrying a second ladder, and fell about 14 feet, landing on my back on the right side, the ladder I was carrying falling on top of me.
        The breath was knocked out of me, and I was hurting, for real.
        Long story, but I will tell you this. I finished the job, in pain, drove an hour to get home, spent the next three days in the hospital with 4-12 cracked ribs, a bruised right lung, a laceration (8 stitches) to my right temple, bruised right thigh muscle, bruised right arm muscle.
        The angle of my fall protected me; frontward instead of backward, two broken arms, feet first, two broken ankles or legs, head first, well I would have proven once and for all that God is real, but you would have never known it.
        So hear I am telling you all about my friend.
        Because a guy was prompted to pray for me on a day that God knew I would fall off a roof.
        How lucky are you?

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      9. Bull-fucking-shit. God gets tested all the time in the bible. That’s a cheap ass way of admitting how dismally your god fails in answering prayers.

        And you fell off a roof and got hurt and had to go to the hospital with cracked ribs- THAT is your proof of prayer working? Are you serious? Read that again, and note just how stupid that sounds, Randy.

        Anyone that falls from that height, we can assume a range of injuries from slight to severe. Completely natural range of injuries based on the scenario. Your injuries were in the middle of that range. This is your proof?

        Seriously???? That’s like me saying it takes 20-30 minutes to drive to work depending on traffic, and today it took 25 minutes, and somebody said “happy Thursday” before I left, so that proves Thor is real! (Thursday is Thor’s-day) Do you see how dumb that is? How utterly anti-climatic? How ridiculous to tie the one event to the other?

        Youre a fucking Christian, for Christ sake! People say Christian shit to you all the fucking time! And the one day you fall and obtain expected injuries from such a fall, suddenly the dude saying something is related to the fall? WTF!

        But if you’re just dead set on tying these together, and pretending your god is real, then it is clear to me that your god is evil! He threw you off a roof! A good god would have caught you!

        Hahahahahahahahahaha! Man, that’s your evidence? Your brain engages in the most ridiculous attempt to justify such a stupid religion. It’s scary. YOUR inability to think like a reasonable person is just another reason for me to keep blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Yeah, I remember what it was like to be there.

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      11. Good for you. And I suppose you think you “matured” now. But no, you associate expected results with miracles. And your being a condecending prick. Show me the evidence or fuck off.

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      12. Okay, Mike. (Can I call you Mike?) The other is so cumbersome. I see that you are passionate about what you don’t believe. I hope you find the evidence you need to see what I see. (No condescension. This life is really good.)

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      13. Your very condescending. You offer up a story where you got hurt when you fell off a roof as somehow proof of your claim, then act like a superior prick.

        If I made such a ridiculous claim, I would be embarrased to show my face in public.

        So maybe what you now have is the ability to say really stupid shit and not be embarrased about it. You, sir, can have it. I don’t want it.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. I guess I don’t get embarrassed that easily. (Walking on sunshine. (Smile))

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      15. And I didn’t tell you very much in my “fall” story, because I didn’t think you had the heart to understand why it meant so much to me. Be happy.
        I am not ashamed.

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      16. It’s not about heart. Your making excuses again. I truly feel bad that you experienced that. It hurts, I know.

        But just because I can sympathize with you on the pain doesn’t mean I’m going to also follow your ridiculously silly conclusions.

        And yes, I know you’re happy with them. You are the very definition of “ignorance is bliss.”

        Liked by 1 person

      17. My last word on this: when I was changed, God began a process in me to mold me into the man I was created to be. I no longer try to decide my own destiny; I now really and truly find joy in the molding process. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but, the results are always good. I make decisions, some good, some bad, but I trust his “correction process”. Sometimes a fall (which most people see as bad or horrible) can introduce a new level of interaction into my life, making my life richer. Honestly, “Mike”, even this conversation with you has made my life richer.

        Go figure.

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      18. Yeah, I still don’t care about your delusions. I care about what is real. You do not. Therefore we will never reach an agreement.

        Bye.

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      19. I’m still troubled by the fact that you guys hide behind pseudonyms.

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      20. I am as well. If it weren’t for Christian backlash, we wouldn’t have to.

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      21. What does that have to do with anything, if you believe that you know the truth? Don’t you know, the early disciples had seen a resurrected Jesus. The world thought they were crazy, deserving of death. To tell the world what they KNEW, would often mean death, or poverty, or imprisonment, or beatings. And yet, they told the world what they knew.
        Something to think about: the very fact that I am having this conversation with you could be evidence that God is real, and that He even cares for you, and wants to give you LIFE, like he gave me.
        Of course, then you would have to worry about your atheist friends.
        You would probably be chosen to tell them.
        Tough life.
        But so thrilling.

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      22. Yeah, Randy, I read the book. We all know what’s in the book. You keep trying to explain the story to me. And once again, you have absolutely no evidence that any of it is true.

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      23. Do you hate people who deceive their kids with ideas of Santa Claus

        But you get to know later in life that santa is not real, it is not the same for god in most cases
        But the stories of santa doesn’t involve him commanding mass genocide

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      24. I’ve heard the arguments before. You guys do not know God. You have such a limited view, limited understanding. I know, because I was where you are. These arguments do no good because you don’t desire to find Him. You prefer to hate him. Jesus even said that the world would hate me (his disciples) because the world hated him first. That is why I don’t hide behind a pseudonym.

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  7. You inspired me to re-read “The Prince” again… after a quarter century sitting on my shelf… and I see it a whole new light. Thanks and peace.

    Liked by 2 people

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