From Gary North’s Unconditional Surrender:
In the ancient tyrannies of the Mesopotamian world, kings were said to be divine. The Egyptians believed that their Pharaoh was a divine being, the link between heaven and earth, the sustainer of Egypt’s prosperity. This belief led directly to the idea of a divine State, a political order which could not be challenged by “mere men.” The State, since it was the highest link between man and God, was therefore all-powerful in the theologies of the ancient world.Of course, you can accomplish much the samething by denying that there is any God above the political order. Since the State is the most visibly powerful human institution, atheism removes a concept of some higher court of appeal beyond the State. The State becomes “divine” by default – the highest court of appeal, the highest moral authority. Not every atheist is a statist. But where atheism predominates, the State steadily encroaches on men’s freedom, for they are left with no higher authority to appeal to or to provide them with the moral justification for resistance to tyranny. Where the fear of God is absent, the fear of the State is a convenient and universal substitute.