A Perceptual Mapping of the Relationships between
Individuals, Governments and Religions
with a focus on America (not to scale)


Joseph W. Gabriele

     The perceptual map is an attempt to encompass all of the relationships that have existed (and could possibly exist) between individuals, governments, and religions. The only relationship omitted, deliberately, is Anarchy. My reasoning is that government is an organizing principle as in creating a system of courts to enforce laws and contracts. Anarchy is, by definition, the absence of organization, the null case, and as such not worthy of consideration.

     Governments almost certainly began as dictatorships with the physically strongest member(s) becoming the leader(s). The justification for their existence was their own survival and, secondarily, the survival of the other members of their tribe. These follow the two most basic laws of nature: Survival of the individual and survival of the species.

     Religion in the form of witch doctors probably started soon after. Their reason for existence was to explain the unknown and frightening, i.e. lightning, thunder, illness, and death.

     Civilization is a march from Tribalism toward Individualism, from community rights to individual rights. Progress has not been smooth or easy or widespread. Only one country, America, has made it to the point of enumerating the rights of the individual which were placed in the Constitution’s first ten amendments. Their purpose was specifically intended to limit the power of the government to rule the lives of its citizens in the way that King George III of England had done.

     Most of mankind’s governments have been, and still are, based on brute force. These are known by many names, Tribes, Dictatorships, Monarchies, Communism, Socialism, Collectivism, and Pure Democracy - The unlimited rule of the majority. Some of them share power with religious authorities such as the Church of England in colonial times. In rarer cases, the religious authority took over completely such as in present day Iran.

     Debates over the role of the individual in a society had occurred occasionally throughout history, most notably in Ancient Greece. However, despite the ancient Greek’s attempts to introduce the individual into the mix, the power to shape the affairs of an organized society was allocated, in varying proportions, between a secular authority that held sway over this-worldly matters and a religious authority that prevailed in other-worldly matters. The individual was little more than cannon-fodder for the dictates of each. The relationship could be drawn as a straight line with religion anchoring one end and government the other end. The power to rule was shared between the two.


     The single most important concept in the development of individual rights occurred in the thirteenth century in Europe. St. Thomas Aquinas divided Reason and Faith into separate spheres and even though he judged Reason as subservient to Faith, his writings had the effect of loosening the bindings that Religion had placed on men’s minds. He said "What we believe we owe to authority, what we know (understand) we owe to reason" (1)

     Individuals are born with the capacity to use Reason but must choose to use it. Those choosing not to think must accept others' explanations on Faith. The proper use of one’s reasoning faculty depends primarily on the correct processing of the data supplied by one’s senses. Aquinas’ writings set men free to apply reason to the evidence of their senses. The resulting explosion in all fields of knowledge has continued for seven centuries. America’s achievement was the enshrinement of the Individual as having rights no government could take away – including the right to think - and having the power to decide and practice their religious convictions free of any coercion are a direct result of his writings. In the words of Elihu Palmer, a 17th century Deist, "Although we are made capable of sublime reflections, it has hitherto been deemed a crime to think, and still a greater crime to speak our thoughts after they have been conceived." (2)

     By declaring that the Government may not establish a state religion, the constitution effectively thwarted Religion as a potential force in the governance of our society. This prohibition has held for 213 years despite recent attempts to undermine it. The genius of the founding fathers was to re-write the relationship mentioned above with religion being relegated to the purview of the individual. The primary relationship became:


     Therefore, the ultimate struggle in America since 1792 has been between those who want to keep their Individual rights and those who would take them away. The perceptual map exhibits this author’s view as to how various acts and laws have pulled the country between these two poles. Those that, in my view, degrade individual rights are followed by a down ↓ arrow, while those that have expanded individual rights are followed by an up ↑ arrow. Too many acts, laws, and declarations exist to place them all in this limited space.

Notes on the map contents:

(A)     The governments of Iran, Communist China, Nazi Germany, and the USSR are in the map for perspective. While there is no mathematical relationship to their placement, I believe all governments, past and present, would find a place in the schema of the map.

(B)      The three columns to the right follow directly from the writings of Mason, Jefferson, et alia, in that the government they formed was a secular state, a democracy limited by individual rights which implied the right to the private ownership of property. The reason George Mason wrote that men have "certain inherent rights" which cannot be taken away when they become part of a society viz. "life and liberty, with the means of acquiring property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety" (3) was that under the abovementioned King George III those rights simply did not exist.

(B1)     The objection that the constitution permitted slavery is well founded. There is no doubt in my mind that Racism is the worst evil that one human can visit on another. The Declaration of Independence conceptually ended slavery. Unfortunately it took another eighty years and the blood of 630,000 Americans to stamp out the practice. Also noted in the universe of mistakes is the length of time it took to allow voting by women and non-whites.

(C)     The inclusion of the Emancipation Proclamation, Women's right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are self-explanatory, except as noted, as to their enhancements to Individual rights.

(D)     The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was an unwarranted attack on private property based on a spurious notion of competition. It was and is government control in the guise of helping the consumer.

(E)     The Income Tax introduced the concept that our income belonged to the government.

(F)     The 17th Amendment to the Constitution (Direct election of Senators as opposed to having the State legislatures appoint them.) harmed the cause of individual rights by emaciating the ability of the States to act as a counterbalance to the tendency of the Federal government to accrue power to itself.

(G)     Social Security is a pyramid scheme. It should be gradually eliminated.

(H)     The Patriot Act is included as possibly the most serious assault on the Bill of Rights in our history. This act so enhanced police powers that it appears to have come directly from the two predominate totalitarian states of the twentieth century (USSR and Nazi Germany).

(1)      De utilitate credendi, XII, 25 (quod intelligimus); Retractationes I, XIV, 25 (quod scimus).

(2)      The Principles of Nature; or A Development of the Moral Causes of Happiness and Misery among the Human
          Species (London, 1802).

(3)     Virginia Declaration or Rights adopted June 12, 1776 George Mason.

(4)     See (B1) above.

(5)     Except for the degradation of the private property rights of business owners.

Copyright © 2005 Joseph W. Gabriele. All rights reserved.
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