Politics and Religion

Politics and Religion

POLITICS AND RELIGION 10

Politicsand Religion

Politicsand Religion

JFK with Catholicism, G.W. Bush with Evangelicalism andObama with Liberationtheology RadicalChristianity and Radical Islam religiousargumentsagainstabortionandlegalization of gaymarriagesamong others.Despite thenumerousstepsthat have been taken,thebloodandinkspilled,therelationshipbetween politicsandreligionin our politicscontinueto elicitheateddebates.Opponentsandproponentsof separatingreligionfrom politicsdebateover theissuewith increasedgusto,with eachsidetryingdesperatelyto maketheir casevalid(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006). Whetherconcerningthereligiousformsof reasoningin politicaldiscourse,religiousinfluenceof electedleadersduring policyformulation orpoliticalaspirationsof religiouscommunitiesandinstitutions,there remainstrongconflictsabout theroleof religionin politics.Opponentsof theseparationof religionfrom politicsbase their argumentson merefactsthatthefoundingprinciplesof theUnited States recognizesanddefendthenecessaryconnectionbetween religionandpolitics,citingseveralinstanceswherereligioninfluencedpoliticsandpoliticalidentityof thenation(Dreisbach, 2002).Theproponentshavea contraryopinionarguingthatallowingreligionto influencepoliticswillinfringeon religiousfreedomof thecitizensin thisreligiousdiversecountry.

However,a majorityof thecitizensare willingto acceptsomeaspectsorreligionin politicsbutremainconvincedthatthere should be a distinctboundarybetween religionandpoliticsto preventdangersthat arisewhenreligionoverly influencespoliticsof a country(Dreisbach,2002).In my opinion,religion and politics should be kept distinctively separate andindependent from each other. Following the separation, religious andfaith institutions should be barred from making political parties orinfluence the political discourse. Thepaperwill approachtheneedto separatepoliticsfrom religionin a liberalperspective,borrowingideasfrom liberalssuchas John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville andBenjamin Constant. Further,thepaperwillexploreThomas Jefferson’s “wallof separation”andusecontemporaryissuesto explainwhyweneedto separatepoliticsandreligionandkeepthetwo significantly independentfrom eachother.

Argumentsagainst Separation of Politics and Religion

Opponentsof theseparationof politicsandreligion,among them Niccolò Machiavellibelievedthatreligionformsthefoundationforstatesandsocietiessince itprovidesmorals that abidepeopletogether(Audi, 2011). Thomas Hobbes wasof theopinionthatreligiondrivespeopletoobeyandmakesthem beconversant with thelawsof theland,allowinga peacefulcoexistence.Montesquieu wasof theopinionthatreligionprovidessocialstability,unityandharmonyin statesandsocieties,hencetheneedto allowreligiousinfluenceon politics(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006).

Lockeandtheseparationof stateandreligion

JohnLocke maintainedthatreligionandpoliticsshould remaindistinctively separateandnone should influencetheother.AlthoughLocke didnotmentiontheseparationof politicsandreligionbutratherseparating the Churchfrom theState, he made significant arguments on the need to separate stateand churches to maintain religious liberty. Accordingto Locke, thechurchandstateare theestablishedinstitutionswherereligionandpoliticsoccurhence,theseparationof thestateandthechurchmeanstheseparationof religionandpolitics.According to Locke, thelackof toleranceamong humanbeingsis themainreasonfortheneedto separatepoliticsfrom religion(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006). Ifacertainreligionisforcedona nation,there would be religiousintoleranceamong thenumerousreligionsin thatcountry.Assuch,allowingreligionto influencepoliticsin theUS leadsto religiousprejudicein a countrywherereligiousfreedomsareenshrinedin theconstitution(Audi, 2011). Locke acknowledgesthepresenceof thenumerousreligiousaffiliationsin theworldandarguesthatitwould be challengingto identifythemostappropriatereligionto influencepoliticsof thenation.TheUS is hometo manyreligionsChristians, Muslims, Buddhists andothers. Allowinganyof theseto influenceour politicsmeansreligiousoppressionof theothers.

Givingthem a chanceto influencepoliticsorgetinvolvedinpoliticsthroughenteringtherealmof politicaldiscoursewill be thestartof religiousbattles,with eachreligiontryingto outdotheother(Sharpe &amp Nickelson, 2014).Thereligiousbattlesin our politicswill overshadowdevelopmentandmostlikelyleadto religiousconflictthat surelywill cripplethisgreatnation.Certainly,Locke didnotacceptthenotionthatthechurchandthestate,in thiscase,politicsandreligionshould be one entity.Hebelievedthatthetwo should be distinctively separate to preventreligiousforcesfrom influencinggovernance. Theabsenceof religiousinfluenceon politicsallowsallcitizens,religiousornon-religious,, to enjoysimilarrightandat thesametimeupholdstheprotectionof thefundamentalfreedom-freedom of worshipandrightto religiousaffiliations(Sharpe &amp Nickelson, 2014).

Constantandtheindependenceof stateandreligion

AnotherKey thinkerwhomadesignificantcontributionsto theneedforseparating religionfrom politicswasBenjamin Constant. Constant wasconcerned about theseparationof thechurch,thestate,andindividualfreedom.Hearguedthatreligionshould not be usedto formbasicmorals, since religionis a personalaffair.Usingreligionto formmorals of thenationwill infringeon therightsof others whodonot conformto similarreligion(Sharpe &amp Nickelson, 2014). Hence,religionshould be distinctively separatedfrom politics,since politicsformspartof ythepublicsphereof theindividualwhilereligionformstheprivatesphere.Constant wasof theopinionthatsince religioninvolvestranscendentfeelings,itshould not beconnectedto politicalmattersof a country.Accordingto Constant,politicsinvolvethemanagementof civilaffairs,while religionrelatesto individualspirituality.Thus, the two should notonlybe separatedbutremainsignificantly independentfrom eachother.Thesesentimentswere later echoed by another liberal theorist, Alexis De Tocqueville&amp Murphy, 2006).

Tocquevilleandtheseparationof stateandreligion

Tocquevilleoutlinedtheneedto separatepoliticsandreligionarguingthatitis not onlygoodforpoliticsbutalsoforreligion.Through studyingtheUS, Tocqueville notedthatseparating politicsandreligionallowsthetwo to developindependently.Theseparationallowspoliticsto promotefairnessandeliminatereligiousbigotryin a nation.Conversely, theseparationallowsreligionreligioussentimentsto arise,unclouded from its truesourceas a constitutive standardof humannature.Without theseparation,politicshasa negativeinfluenceon thegrowthof religion,which contravenesthefreedomof worship(Dreisbach, 2002). Theneedto separatepoliticsandreligionwerealsoechoedby Thomas Jefferson n theDeclaration of independence.Jefferson waspreoccupiedin promotingthefreedomof religionfrom politicsresonating Locke’s, Constant andTocqueville ideas(Audi, 2011).

Theseparation

Despitetheobviousreligiousintoleranceofonereligionover others especiallywhensuchis usedto influencepublicpolicies,Christianity has beenequivocalin influencingUS politics.Thedebateas to whetherreligionshould influencepolicieshasragedon foryearsespeciallyin theeducationsector.However,courtdecisionin theEverson v. Board of educationin 1947 (decisionof Justice Hugo Black), directedthatreligionshould be separatedfrom politicsandneithershould influencetheotherin orderto promoteequityamongst allpeopledespite their religiousaffiliations(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006).Asdefinedby Thomas Jefferson in thefamousletterto theDanburyBaptist, religionis a matterthat solelyliesbetween manandGod, a matterof convictionhenceshould not be forcedon others whodonot conformto similarbeliefs.Imposingreligionwill definitelypromotereligiouscoercion,persecutionandattackreligiousdiversity.Theimpositionwill promotethesupremacyof one religionover others andforcefollowersof otherreligionsto conformto themonopolizedreligion,which is against religiousliberty(Audi, 2011). Religiouslibertydecreesthat religious neutral states should not promote, discriminate, favoror interfere with religious beliefs of citizens. Hence, throughpromotion of religious liberty, the US constitutioncallsfortheseparationof politicsfrom religion(Dreisbach, 2002).

Allowingreligionto influencepoliticswill spark untoldviolenceamong citizensowingto thevariousideological differencesbetween religionsas evidenced by thenumerousviolentreligiousorganizationsin moderntimes.Religioninvolvesbeliefsabout supernaturalpowers,abeliefthat leadsto theformationof a strongrelationshipbetween thefollowersof thereligionanddivinities(Audi, 2011). Asexplainedby behavioral theorists,religiousfollowersdemonstratethe willingnessto goto farthestextremes,oftenresultinginviolenceto promotewhattheyfeelis religiously correct(Sharpe &amp Nickelson, 2014). In mostcases,violenceis takenas a rightandresponsibilityof followersto promotetheir coursethatis a recipeforviolencein politics,especiallyin instanceswheresuchreligionallowstheuseof force.Thoughtheargumentof tyingreligionto violencemay be arguedto be irrational,researchin stateswherereligionoverly influencespolicieshaveshownthatsuch aninfluencepromotesviolenceas seenin Egypt. On theotherhand,secularpoliticsallowsadherentsto measurethevalidityof policiesin their interests,severing actionsthat defytheir expectation, therebysteeringclearfrom violence(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006).

Enablingreligiousinfluenceon politicsleadsto enactmentandimplementation of policiesbased on religiousteachings,which in mostcasescontradictsthelawsof theland.Forinstance,in 2006, Iran, whosepoliticsis overly influencedby theIslam religionexecuteda sixteen-year-oldgirlforcrimesof adultery,which is against Islamic teachings.However,theexecutioncontradictedwith lawsof thecountrythatdecreesthatitis illegalto executeanyone under theageof eighteen (Dreisbach, 2002). Additionally, theclericalcourtthat passedthedecreeto executetheteenageris not answerableto theparliamentbuttotheir supremeleader.Assuch,theparliamentcould not holdthecourtaccountablefortheexecution.Theinfluencemay alsoleadto contraventionof otherbasicfreedoms,forinstance,usingthebibleto determinethathomosexualsaresinnersortheQuran to promotegenderinequalities.Thus,allowingreligionto influencepoliticswill leadtothe formationofreligioninclusivepoliciesin placeof inclusivenormsof thewholecommunity,therebyinfringeon therightsof non-adherents.

ShouldtheUS allowundueinfluenceof Christianity on politics,itwill subjectits citizen(including thosewhodonot conformto thereligion)to policiesthat are influencedby Christianity ratherthan policiesthat are appropriateforthewholeUS community(Sharpe &amp Nickelson, 2014).TheUS should maintainreligiousneutrality,itshould not promotereligion(s)over others, punishorrewardcitizensforconformingto certainreligionorlackthereforeandshould not enactorinterpretpublicpolicieson religiousbasis.Additionally, theUS should not allowreligiousinstitutionsto formorfundpoliticalpartiesoreventsupporta politicalleader.Religionshould not infiltratestateinstitutions,otherwiseone religionwouldacquiremorepowersthan otherreligious,therebypromotereligiousbigotry(Gutterman&amp Murphy, 2006).

Asa religiously neutralstate,theUS will organizeandlegalizethecoexistenceofthenumerousautonomoussub-communities,eachwith its identity,religiousbeliefs,normsandvalues.Theenactmentof publicpolicieswill be forthegoodof thenationbutnot forblinded sycophancy to religion.Maintainingreligiousneutralitywill createa commondenominator, allowingthenationto discussissuesthat arereligiously loadedwithout thediscussionturninginto “whosebeliefsare better’debate(Audi, 2011). Theneutralitywill allowpolicymakersto makecommunity-appropriate policies,therebyreducepoliticalheatandreducetheprobabilityof religiousconfrontationsandviolence.Unlike erroneously perceived,theseparationof politicsandreligionwill not createandimmoralsocietyoreliminatemoralorvalue-baseddecision-making. In fact,theseparationandindependenceof thepoliticsfrom religionwill promotethecreationof nationalvaluesandmorals that arenot basedon religionhencewideadoption(Gutterman &amp Murphy, 2006).

Conclusion

Asfrom theabove,thedebateabout theseparationof politicsfrom religion,orratherthestatefrom thechurchhas beenragingfordecades. Opponentsof separatingpoliticsfrom religionsuchas Niccolò Machiavelliare of theopinionthatreligionhelpslawmakersto formulatemoralandethicalpoliciesas dictatedby religion.Others suchas Thomas Hobbes believethatallowingreligionpromotesobedienceto enactedpolicieswhileMontesquieu arguedthatreligionpromotesharmony,socialstabilityandunityhenceshould be allowedto promotepolitics.However,I am of theopinionthat religionshould beseparatedfrom politics,andneitherof thetwo should be allowedto influencetheother.Allowingreligionto influencepoliticsleadsto thepromotionof religion(s)over others leadingto religiousbigotry.Followersof otherreligionswill be forcedto changeandconformto theadoptedreligionwith a likelihoodof punishingnon-adherents. Thiswillinfringeon therightto religiousaffiliationthatis among thebasicrightsof democracy.

Additionally,religiousinfluencewill spark religiousviolenceas followersstandfortheir course.Religiousinfluenceon politicswill leadtothe formulationof policiesthat infringerightsandfreedomcitizensthat donot conformto theadoptedreligion.Assuch,theUS should maintainandstrengthenthewallbetweenpoliticsandreligion,to promotethegrowthof eachdisciplineindependentlyfrom theother.Theseparationwill alsopromotethecreationof nationalmorals andvaluesthat arenot basedon religion,therebypromotingnationalacceptance.Itwill promotereligiouslibertyandprotectothercivilrightsandliberties

References

Audi,R. (2011). Democratic authority and the separation of church andstate. New York: Oxford University Press. New York: Oxford UniversityPress

Dreisbach,D. L. (2002). ThomasJefferson and the wall of separation between church and state.New York: New York University Press.

Gutterman,D. S., &amp Murphy, A. R. (2006). Religion,politics, and American identity: New directions, new controversies.Lanham: Lexington Books.

Sharpe,M., &amp In Nickelson, D. (2014). Secularizationsand their debates: Perspectives on the return of religion in thecontemporary West.Dordrecht : Springer, 2014.