It is quite evident that politics and religion are two integral aspects of human existence. Over the years, politic has interrupted faith as religion has politics, in many instances, working together for a common goal. As such, political philosophy highlights the relation between these subjects as one of the major themes of interest. And despite recent consensus (from political theorist and political contexts), about the right to freedom of conscience, and that there is need to separate the church from the state, the two continue to work hand in hand.
Therefore, there is no denying that politics and religion form an excellent pact for changing human culture and activities. For instance, religion claims to have reign over people’s allegiance. Take Islam; for example, it is a universal religion that influences not only a particular group but people from all parts of the world. However, many times, religious beliefs have supported and even controlled politics.
One good example is the Roman Catholic faith that has, for long, had a strong political influence on world politics. The extent and form of support is a crucial subject in political philosophy as it opens channels for conflict. Also, minority groups have increasingly become a point of interest seeking for their political rights and entitlement. Among many results of this case is the attention given to the specific concerns and needs of minority groups who have the religious distinction as opposed to common ethnicity, gender, and or wealth.
This article introduces some of the philosophical issues that relate to religion and politics. It is devoted to understanding where they intersect; hence, the establishment of a church vs. its separation from the state has been discussed. In addition, we look at toleration vs. coercion of religious orientations and the current conflicts between religion and politics.
The subject of the establishment always has been a huge point of concern in the West for generations. And even though its importance has receded today, it still is a critical aspect of understanding church and state. During the Constantine error, the Protestant Reformation caused European societies to wrestle with a proper understanding of the role of the church and state in each other’s sphere. At the moment, there seemed to be no apparent difference between the two, causing many to be confused about their beliefs and followership.
Hence, the topic of the establishment (for the church and state) becomes critical, and even so today. There were more extensive discussions in the Middle Ages(Dante 1995), but it has become more pressing with the current society. Many don’t seem to understand the role of churches and state, as they seem to be involved in almost the same activities. It could be perhaps because not many discussions arose about the topic since the middle ages; hence, people had forgotten what was realized before, consequently slipping back to the periods of uncertainty.
The word establishment can mean any of the many patterns for religion in the political life of a society. They may include ideas that:
- A religious organization may be a “state’ where it has an exclusive right to practice the faith.
- The government may direct tax support for a church. For instance, the monarch still stands at the head of the English Church, where the Prime Minister has the responsibility to select the Archbishop of Canterbury).
- Particular church officials may have established roles in political institutions, by virtue of their offices.
- A church may have a privileged role in specific public or political ceremonies. As seen in inaugurations, openings of parliament, and so on.
- A state may indulge a particular creed or belief system as its official religion.
These options are not mutually exclusive, meaning a state may use some or all these approaches in establishing a religious body—the important to them to that they confer some official positions. Robert Bellah (1967) describes a weaker type of church establishment as “civil religion,” where a state employs religious concepts publicly, yet there is no official status for any religion or church.
There are many arguments ongoing even today about the establishment of a church. Many emphasize its importance in political systems for social cohesion, which, necessary for ensuring citizens are connected to each. Therefore, instead of focusing on the political benefits of establishment, a different argument could be base on ethical benefits where citizens have an understanding among themselves. In summary, there is no denying that the establishment carries both religious and political meanings where states have control over religious activities and vise versa.
Religious plurality is becoming increasingly imminent in the European and American societies. There are many religious communities, ideas, and institutions coming up now and then. One of the major concerns for this kind of growth is how much such should be tolerated, and it has been so since the early modern era. John Locke is one of the most influential people on this topic. In one of his works, A Letter Concerning Toleration that he wrote while in exile, Locke states that belief does not fall to the will of acceptance or acceptance; hence it is in vain trying to coerce it. He adds that restricting religious practices, especially where they do not interfere with the rights of others is wrong, and allowing many groups will prevent any particular one from becoming solely dominant. There have been issues concerning such kind of tolerance. Consider, for instance, where Protestantism states that atheists and Catholics cannot be trusted to coexist in a peaceful society whereby any religious obligation does not bound the former, whereas the latter holds on foreign sovereignty.
There are so many issues surrounding religious tolerance today. Not much attention has been placed on whether people should be allowed to have their religious orientations. Also, minorities’ actions and commitments (which are unjust) are threatened by social changes, especially when in pursuit of bigger goals. There are too many conflicts that surround the issues of religion and politics. However, understanding that there are issues means the interest to study the subject is lit, which should make the world more human-focused.
Apr 29, 2020