There have always been conflicts between religion and politics. These are both fundamental aspects of human existence that aim at controlling political powers. In some instances, religion rules, and in others, politics has the say. One thing is clear though, the world is changing rapidly, and so does societal needs in religion and politics. Both religion and politics work towards the same goal, convincing followers of their superiority. When studying these subjects, or either, it is impossible to go on without considering their meeting and division points. This article presents the three most essential approaches to these relationships. It seeks to answer the questions;
- How and to what extent should religion be accepted and tolerated in society?
- What the liberal approach and its demands on self-understanding?
- What are the religious reasons in Public deliberation?
One of the most prominent challenges religion face is important changes. Hence, the growing plurality of religious beliefs among communities and institutions since the early modern era remains one of the significant social challenges. They make it hard for society to determine to what extent these beliefs should be tolerated.
John Locke is one of the most famous advocates of religious tolerance. Locke, in one of his works A Letter Concerning Toleration, which while he was in political exile, points out three critical issues:
- That trying to coerce belief is vanity since it does not fall in the will of acceptance or rejection propositions
- Where a religious practice does not affect the rights of others, trying to restrict it is very wrong
- Religious prejudice comes about when one religious group is dominant hence allowing a wide range of groups should solve the issue.
Looking at a wide range of issues that come up in history, it is hard to tell whether Locke’s argument is applicable. Consider, for instance, that his argument supports the protestant view that a religious body, as a free society of people who voluntarily joined, opposing the earlier medieval church which had full authority over the people. This view also contrasts with Protestantism whereby atheists and Catholics cannot get involved in society peacefully; the atheist does not answer to any divine call where the later is beholden to a foreign sovereign (Pope). Despite these views, Locke’s message brings out a crucial step towards a more tolerant and accommodative society.
Also, the issues of establishment continue to raise more questions more so in deciding whether people should be allowed to choose a religion to believe in themselves. Well, this issue has not received much attention, perhaps because there is a broad consensus today on the rights of an individual to liberty of conscience. Despite there being freedom for belief, many states still have to answer the question of toleration and accommodation of religious beliefs. There are, for instance, some actions which are not acceptable to specific religious groups, even if it means saving lives. Jehovah Witness, for example, do not accept a blood transfusion. Well, you cannot force someone to undergo even a lifesaving treatment is they don’t want it but is it equally not right denying such treatment to someone in need. In this case, we find three values that demand a more in-depth view: the right to follow one’s desired religion and live within its demands, the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens, and the freedom of parents in raising children as they see fit.
It is therefore clear that religious tolerances do not come as natural subjects. There is a lot therein than meets the eye. There is also the challenge of the religious minority’s actions and commitments as well as addressing literature on education and schooling. There is a religious subject that is compulsory at the early stages of learning aimed at equipping learners with theological ethics. Some parents may wish to reject such moves in governments if they don’t believe in such values.
These are just some of the conflicts erupting between religion and politics. And they extend beyond circular contexts. For instance, France recently banned students from wearing uniforms that explicitly reveal their religious associations. The government defended this move saying it was necessary for separating church and state. Such and many other issues continue to make understanding of political-religious relationships even harder.
How far should specific political theories be accepted from a religious perspective? Apart from toleration and acceptance, this is one of the major issues one needs to look at when studying religion and politics. Among the reasons for this is the emergence of a particular school of thought termed as “political liberalism.” Based on this context, John Rawls (1996) presents and new of looking at ideas he calls “overlapping consensus.” Here, a citizen who holds beliefs in the same doctrines reaches a reasoned agreement based on principles of justice. Hence, a theory of justice should try to create policies that enable each citizen to accept specific ideas from their doctrine perfective rather than being forced to accept a single comprehensive doctrine or liberation.
There are many other conflicting aspects of liberal citizenship with religion. For example, if a person understands of liberal citizenship compels commitment to some belief, whereas faith requires a different, there could be a conflict in such a case. Thus, we can say a religious citizen may feel the pressure of being identified as a citizen and a religious adherent. One argument to solve this suggests that the citizen should make one aspect a priority. But liberal traditions have continuously refused to prioritize one over the other, holding an individual has the right to choose the one more important; which is still hard since strong religious beliefs may interfere with their roles as citizens.
Democracy has become the song of the modern generation. As such, religion and politics continue getting in each other’s way. However, it is crucial to understand these two aspects of life make up what humanity is all about. In studying conflicting ideas, one must be careful to underscore the changing society and the need to adjust.
Apr 30, 2020