Although one underestimates Biblical ignorance at one’s peril, the story of Daniel in the lions’ den is well known to many. Most Christians would interpret Daniel getting pitched into same den as a result of his refusal to worship a god or gods other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
If one reads the text carefully, though, there’s a more subtle point. Consider this:
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. (Daniel 6:6-9.)
Note the fact that Daniel and others were not only prohibited from petitioning God or other gods, but other people as well. That points to a simple fact: the decree was designed to force people to acknowledge that all substance came from the secular ruler and not from another source. It’s true that Middle Eastern societies tended to personalise that source of sustenance in their pantheon of gods, and thus to merge the worship of the deities with the subservience to the state. But that only made things simple: the concept that all that was beautiful and good in life came from above, i.e. the state or the ruler, was firmly entrenched in the mentality of the day.
Today secular states generally eschew the deification of the state (the “atheistic” North Koreans are something of an exception these days) or forcing people to worship state-sponsored gods. But the idea that the state is the source of all sustenance and life is firmly entrenched in today’s mentality towards government. Atheists and secularists who would recoil at even worshiping an idol think nothing of ascribing god-like authority to the state, especially when their funding comes from that source. And they take a dim view of those who think that life comes from somewhere else.
But the Christian should know better:
Do not be deceived, my dear Brothers. Every good thing given us, and every perfect gift, is from above, and comes down to us from the Maker of the Lights in the heavens, who is himself never subject to change or to eclipse. Because he so willed, he gave us Life, through the Message of the Truth, so that we should be, as it were, an earnest of still further creations. (James 1:16-18.)
As modern states, mired in debt and overtaken by multinational corporations and other entities, become more defensive about their position, expect those of us who know this fact will face more hostility and persecution.
As for Darius, he knew a good man when he saw one, and was grieved that his own decree–logical by Middle Eastern standard of the day–was turned against his real wishes (as laws and regulations frequently do.) But God came through for both Darius and Daniel:
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. (Daniel 6:18-24.)