Call for Increased Religious Influence in Politics

A recent Pew Survey of more than 2,000 Americans has shown tremendous support for increasing the influence of religion on political and social decision making. An article about this survey (http://n.pr/1ogzRXI) states that many of the individuals reported their belief that religious involvement has significantly declined and have viewed such decline in a negative light.

This idea of religious influence in politics can be related back to the idea of Civil Religions put forward by Rousseau as early as the eighteenth century. Rousseau argued that religion and state cannot be viewed as two separate entities and that one must acknowledge the idea of a religion of a state, encompassing the simplest set of beliefs that will unify the people behind their government. Although Rousseau’s arguments differ from the ideas of this survey in that the American people are not asking for a single religion to unify the state, the ideas relate in that the people of America are also indicating a belief that religion and politics cannot be separated.

It is my personal belief, however, that a mixing of religion and politics is not always beneficial. Many individuals are in some ways “blinded” by their religions and are inclined to make poor and sometimes extremely harmful decisions based upon what they believe to be true. ISIS and what is occurring in the Middle East is an extreme example of this problem. Although many argue that the members of this extremist group are not practicing a true religion, it is true to those individuals. The members affiliated, no matter how obscure the majority of us see their beliefs, have incredible faith in what they believe to be Islam. This can link back to the ideas of defining a religion and what is accepted as a religion. Many scholastic definitions of religion lack the need for them to be “good”. The ideas used to define a religion mean that groups such as ISIS cannot be excluded from such a definition.

Although many religions are good and have been seen to do good things, people have dramatically different beliefs and many individuals follow the ideologies of such institutions blindly and without question, causing such social organizations to be potentially dangerous. If America was to integrate religion more fully into their politics, which religion would they integrate? America is populated by a diverse people and a diversity of religious affiliation. If political decisions were to be influenced by religion, which religion would have the most influence? Whose opinions would be most influential? Would this not create an increase in turmoil, debate and animosity between religious groups? I, personally, do not believe that religion should have a great influence on politics and I believe that the best decisions are decisions made objectively, off pure logic and without the influence of very subjective beliefs.

By: Opinionated349
#349

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13 thoughts on “Call for Increased Religious Influence in Politics

  1. I appreciate and agree with your position. It can be extremely harmful to mix religion and state as can be seen throughout history by extremist movements and religious dictators. A significant problem lies in deciding which religious views are going to be incorporated into politics. No matter what religious views the leader in power holds, not everyone is going to agree and that will perpetuate conflict and animosity between different groups. In a democracy people should be able to choose their religious views and they should not be swayed by political powers.

  2. There needs to be a separation of Politics and Religion. United States at this moment might not have an explicit link of religion and politics based on its foundation of separation of church and state. However, we have seen laws passed by the dominant religion in the us to oppress those who participate in the religion. Decision-making in politics such as the creation of laws needs to be secular and based on rational thinking so that “unbelievers” can have a sense of justice in following the law. Civil religion in the US is not appropriate because the usage of “God” in the political arena is excluding the atheist. The author asking which religion will they integrate needs not to ask because the answer is Christianity. With current issue ISIS and strong feelings of 9/11, we have seen the Republican party in congress become Islamophobic and will create laws to oppress them. We have seen laws passed on religious ground that have been oppressive, and examples would be a ban on abortion and same-sex marriages. United States have religious plurality so it will be difficult to integrate all the religions fairly so on that ground there should not be an increasing influence of religion in politics.

  3. Whether religion should play a role in politics is an extremely contentious issue. When we turn our attention to the problems that have arisen in the Middle East we begin to see various justifications for why politics and religion should not be affiliated. But to use the Middle East, alone, as an example to justify the reduction of religion in politics is of far too limited scope.

    It has been argued in this post that the United States reflects a type of Civil Religion. Civil Religion does not just “encompass the simplest of beliefs”; it encompasses an extremely wide range of religious beliefs by essentially generalizing them. For example: throughout the years presidents in the United States have made religion an integrated part of their political campaign. Presidents such as George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy would often allude to God in their speeches. However, the generalization of a “god” and nonspecific reference to Christ allowed for a general public acceptance of religion in politics. In fact, this type of religious involvement in politics unified the state. No religion was regarded more prestigious than the other and all religious groups, whether or not they were a minority, was able to accept a belief in a “god” figure.

    As stated in the blog, individuals are not asking for greater involvement of a single religion in the state. Thus it could be argued that the electorates are asking for greater involvement of Civil Religion in the state. This encompasses the idea of an all-inclusive religion versus a single religion. If this is the case, no religious group will benefit over the other. In an ideal world, Civil Religion would essentially reflect the diversity of the United States. Essentially, every religious opinion would be equally influential.

    I also find it necessary to point out that perhaps one of the reasons why individuals are feeling a lack of religion in American politics is because the United States is trending towards a more Christian specific religion than its previous civil religious state. This is exemplified most by President Obama’s direct use of “Christ” and “Jesus” in various political speeches. Moving away from a more general religious stance automatically enforces a type of prejudice that excludes a variety of religious groups. This exclusion leads to marginalization and a feeling of less ideal religious involvement in the government.

    Moving back to the idea of politics and religion in the Middle East we don’t see the same civil religious involvement as we do in the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood best exemplifies why we cannot simply justify limiting religion in politics. Many Middle Eastern governments, like the Muslim Brotherhood, attempt to enforce a very specific religion on the states electorates. This therefore causes an automatic marginalization of minority religious groups, inequality between these religious groups, and ultimately an uprising against the government.

    Although I agree that religion should not always play a role in politics, I also believe that whether religion and politics should intertwine is a very subjective matter. It must be acknowledged that Civil Religion has acted as a successful unifying force in the United States as far back as when the first settlers arrived. Thus, if we are to make a successful argument against the involvement of religion in politics we must delve deeper into the subject. This involves demonstrating more than one example of its failures. Furthermore, we should acknowledge the existence of at least one logical counter argument. This will serve to better reinforce the radical conclusion that politics should be secular. Including a counter argument will also help direct the blog post away from a confirmation bias fallacy.

    In conclusion, seeing the success of religion in the United States government makes it difficult to conclude politics should be completely secular. Additionally, we cannot justify any conclusions when we compare the role that religion plays in politics to a nation that is both historically and culturally completely different from the United States.

  4. You make some great points in your blog. I very much agree that people are blinded by religion and often use religion to justify heinous and immoral acts, as seen through the actions of terror group, ISIS. Although most religious groups are far from the extremities of groups such as ISIS, they still do hold strong in their beliefs, and this will inevitably cause unrest should religion increase its presence in politics. As you have said, there is absolutely no way for the government to decide which religion (or religions) should influence politics without causing turmoil, as the discrepancies are far too vast among all religions. Even though the majority of people living in America are Christian, integrating Christian beliefs into politics would oppress the beliefs of the minority, which is not right, as the First Amendment constitutionally guarantees the freedom of religion. Instead of incorporating certain religions into politics, the government should be striving towards universal ideologies in which all people, no matter their religious affiliation, or lack thereof, can benefit and agree upon. While it is undeniably difficult for political leaders who have some sort of religious affiliation to have unbiased viewpoints when it comes to making political decisions, there must be careful consideration for people of all religious backgrounds in making these decisions in order to deflect any possibilities of social unrest and conflict.

  5. I think your stance that religion and politics should remain separate is a very common view, especially in Canada. It is also easily justifiable when you examine the actions of extremist groups and religions, such as the Southern Baptist church, who protest at the funerals of soldiers in order to make a statement against homosexuality. An ideology like that does not have a place in a modern liberal democracy; however, I think it is both unfair and unwise to completely separate religious opinion from politics.
    Not all religious decisions are based on a “subjective belief”. For example, in 2011 the United Church of Canada took a stance against the Northern Gateway oil sands project. Their arguments were based on environmental concerns, as well as the fear of human rights violations in relation to Alberta’s and British Columbia’s aboriginal people. The concerns they raised were both logical and shared with many other non religious groups. Despite that, their viewpoint was discredited simply because they were a religious group and a lot of people thought they had no place in a political debate. How is it fair to consider the opinions of some groups but not others when creating government policy that impacts everyone? I think that it only makes political decisions stronger when the government hears all sides of an issue, no matter how unpopular or subjective the opinion might be.
    It also is not that easy to keep politics and religion separate in Canada, as religion is a protected ground under the Charter. A clear example of this is the introduction of the Quebec Charter of values. The purpose of the Charter of Values was to ensure that religion stayed out of the public domain. However, it was hotly debated and considered discriminatory.
    Clearly, there are positives and negatives to keeping politics and religion connected, as well as separating them. However, since most religious people’s political decisions are often affiliated with their religion and it does not aide a democracy to silence the opinions of religious groups, I think there is a strong case in not making a conscience effort to separate the two.

  6. I found this blog post regarding secularism very interesting. The debate about religious practice affecting politics and social decision has been pertinent for decades and it really seems as though there is no end in sight. I think that secularism within North America is a very important privilege that we must not take for granted, the difference between religious rule and political rule allows for the diverse opinions within Canada to flourish. There are many countries throughout the world that don’t embrace the same religious diversity that we do and I think that this is the root that allows prejudice to grow. I thought it was very interesting that you tried to tie the current ISIS controversy into a blog talking about the merits of secularism. It can be a challenge to relate any of the actions of ISIS to Islamic teachings. ISIS claims the Islamic religion but many of their actions have proved contradictory to their supposed beliefs. Islam rule states that it is forbidden to kill emissaries, ambassadors, or diplomats; this would include journalists and aid workers which have been at the very center of the ISIS controversies. In my opinion even though ISIS may claim Islamic belief their actions show the opposite.

    According to Ninian Smart one of the 7 criteria for a religion to be considered legitimate is it must be “directed at a divine focus.” When you start to apply the methods and ideologies of a religion to politics I think that the aspect of the divine is lost and replaced with something much less powerful. All in all I think this was a very informative blog post, excellent job.

    kmp

  7. I found this blog post regarding secularism very interesting. The debate about religious practice affecting politics and social decision has been pertinent for decades and it really seems as though there is no end in sight. I think that secularism within North America is a very important privilege that we must not take for granted, the difference between religious rule and political rule allows for the diverse opinions within Canada to flourish. There are many countries throughout the world that don’t embrace the same religious diversity that we do and I think that this is the root that allows prejudice to grow. I thought it was very interesting that you tried to tie the current ISIS controversy into a blog talking about the merits of secularism. It can be a challenge to relate any of the actions of ISIS to Islamic teachings. ISIS claims the Islamic religion but many of their actions have proved contradictory to their supposed beliefs. Islam rule states that it is forbidden to kill emissaries, ambassadors, or diplomats; this would include journalists and aid workers which have been at the very center of the ISIS controversies. In my opinion even though ISIS may claim Islamic belief their actions show the opposite. According to Ninian Smart one of the 7 criteria for a religion to be considered legitimate is it must be “directed at a divine focus.” When you start to apply the methods and ideologies of a religion to politics I think that the aspect of the divine is lost and replaced with something much less powerful. All in all I think this was a very informative blog post, excellent job.

  8. A comment that aims to criticize your personal beliefs with my personal belief 😀 :

    My friend and I have discussed once the idea about whether religion is inevitable in one’s life or not. We took an isolated case of a feral child ( a child

    left in the wilderness and raised by its own views away from any human being). We came to the conclusion that, be it personal or shared, religion is

    inevitable because once we get born we all realize at some point that the world is very complex. Even if you are a wunderkind or a mentally challenged

    person, you will seek ways to try to explain all that is happening around you, and try find yourself, and seek to find ways to predict what will happen next

    by exploring the past. Then, later you find more people who may share the same beliefs and little by little organize groups by placing each other under the

    common denominator with the same belief system and try your best to distinguish from the rest based on shared views about the world. But that is wrong!

    Externally, you may share what is to be know from the holly books/scriptures, what the community and parents taught you, but religion and belief are an

    unique experiences for everyone individually.

    Each of us is unique (like snowflakes) on every level internally and physically. One’s truth may not be other’s truth. For example, if you go to Eastern

    Europe and even Asia, you will realize that people eat lots of pork while in many countries in the Middle East that is prohibited. Zooming on a personal

    level, even if you are a part of a religious community, you experience god differently internally from one another, just like in the example about the pork

    I gave you above. Don’t get me wrong, I see science also as a kind of religion, just as is politics and vice-versa – religion as a kind of science (all of

    them on a technical level). There is no ultimate universal truth that applies to everyone around the world in any single moment.

    Let’s say you get born with the mentality that the color blue is the ultimate truth for you once you leave your mom’s womb. Your mind is a homogenous tabula

    rasa that in your lifetime gets influenced from your genes, parents, already established religious groups, or science. These all become factors that

    influence and change your personal color on your journey to find the truth about the world. We all seek ways to find the truth about us and the world that

    surrounds us and ways to survive it. You may accept one truth over another more and/or mix it internally with what already have learned, and get a new

    color. That was a just a basic example. Now take this basic example and imagine that all your beliefs, views, feelings, conclusions have their own colors,

    shapes, weight, and/or any possible human perception, they all placed in a black hole where no laws matter and anything could or could not be interconnected

    influenced, or changed depending on what experience at any part of your life – a complete chaos. At the end of your life, internally, you become a ginormous

    shapeless 3D puzzle with different shapes, sizes, colors and what not and that’s what, my dear human comrade, makes you a human being (IMO off course ) 🙂

    As I said, religion is inevitable, but it must not become one’s sole way of life, nor it should become a justification for violence or even try inspire

    violence. Don’t forget that that you are a human after all. School and education, at least the way I see it, are trying to teach us who we are and past

    mistakes. To help us understand that there are different worlds out there, and different views and solutions as well, and we must accept it. What is

    important in this and any other cases, is to acknowledge your positive and negative sides dictated by the legal and cultural systems within the boundaries

    of the country one lives and try to channel all the grudge, frustration, and hate towards a way that will benefit the entire human kingdom:

    Step 1. Realize and feel what frustrates you
    Step 2. Explain that to your fellows and try to look for a solution
    Step 3. Be open for any feedback
    Step 4. Find a solution
    Step 5. Realize that other people may also share similar frustrations, and share that solution with them so that they could use it to find something that

    may work for them personally within the boundaries of the issue they aim to resolve.

    Do you see any part that may be prone to violence? WORDS and LANGUAGE – a human lifelong investment that ensures that people stop whooping each other with

    bats on the head but sit down and talk through the differences, frustrations, and misunderstanding. Violence comes only when one is unable to explain the

    frustrations.

    As part of my course paper in RELS with Dr. White, I discovered that both religion and science have no proper way of treating the animals with respect. Both

    scientific (incl. politics) and religion use old views and ideals, and none of them have not shown much desire to adopt flexibility, to accept views that

    aim to treat animals with more respect. Have religion and science (incl. politics) have reached the same level of stiffness?

    Within the boundaries of your article, religion and politics not mixing together is impossible today. Actually, it is even important to be mixed. We no

    longer live in a mono dimensional world (we haven’t in the first place). What is important is that it must not lead to violence. People should understand

    and draw the line where their personal beliefs become reason for violence and to to be let to be fully controlled by them. We need to use the beliefs to

    find new ways of understanding between people, so that we all benefit from the knowledge and experience of everyone’s background. Thus, the solution is

    flexibility and open mindedness, not extremism.

  9. I don’t believe that the lack of religious representation in government is because of a fear of extremists or people “blinded” by religion. People can be blinded by anything with that logic from being “blinded” by atheism and “blinded” by liberalism. The second claim about a lack of cohesion and unity in religious groups within America failing to cooperate is a point driven from subjective reasoning as well.

    You are assuming that different religions cannot come together and cooperate, that bringing all the religions of North America together will lead to animosity over who has the right religion. That they will not be able to make any laws unless one religion wins. I strongly disagree with this claim, if we are to believe that different political ideologies such as conservatives and socialist who have such differing points of view can come together and peacefully cooperate within one another within parliament, then why couldn’t religion be offered the same courtesy?

    What people fail to realize is that religions can compromise and come up with moral codes and laws that they can all appreciate and accept. Granted some would be represented more strongly based on population, but that is what democracy is all about. People in North America have spoken and they want the void in obscure and blurred morality to be filled by religion, not one religion but all religions. Denying the will of the majority is an exercise of suppression on the part of government making them hypocrites for preaching democracy and freedom while they employ fascist tactics.

  10. I do completely agree with you on your opinion about religion, and state not being as a whole. But I would go as far as to completely promoting the idea of a complete separation of the state and “church”. I believe there is no room at all for any kind of affiliation between religion and politics. We can recognize that in the past, religion and politics were tied very closely to one another, and as time progresses so does civilization. An array of diversity between cultural, ethnic, racial backgrounds exits greatly than it had ever did before. There is no place for the indoctrination of a state on a particular group of people within contemporary society anymore. Although this may be the ideal case it is not true in some nations all around the world still. Places such as Iran have yet to come to this realization stating to be an Islamic republic, and therefore persecuting minority groups such as the Bahia’s and Kurds. Corruption could be considered a side effect when tying both the state and religion together. This may give birth to the pursuit of political power by a self-interested politician who could care less about the betterment of their society. I would love to hear your take on my views and whether or not they line up with your own?

  11. Call for increased Religious Influence in Politics
    I completely agree with you on the point of religion should not be in politics and the turmoil that would follow if the religions of the world controlled the governments would be really bad and the ideas of blind faith comes out as well with persecution of the minority religions increasing.

  12. I have to agree with Opinionated349 in the stance of secularism in politics. I believe the two should be completely separate entities entirely. This of course is merely wishful thinking.

    There are two major problems regarding religion and politics. People using their religion as a moral guide and which religion would be favoured?

    The problem with religion is that many people associate it to be their moral guide. As the original posters said, ISIS uses their religion to support the horrendous acts they commit, and other religions do the same on a much less extreme scale. Two of the most controversial moral arguments are gay marriage laws and abortion laws. In both of these arguments, there seems to be an overwhelming argument regarding what the Bible says is right or wrong. Many politicians of the Christian faith support and believe this to be an acceptable reason to push bills in favour of what the Bible says.

    This brings me to the second biggest underlying issue. Why should any faith be the one government is based on if any? Their are people of all and no religions in North America, why should on be favoured? If one is to be favoured, which would it be? The easiest and most logical solution would be for none to be favoured. This causes an ‘everyone loses, but no one wins’ situation where no one is being discriminated against for their religion.

    Overall, this trend toward less politics in government is positive. Even though many of the people surveyed believed this is a bad thing, that is simply because they are not considering the other people affected by it.

  13. I found your blog post to be really fascinating and I agree with what you said, as well as the previous comment. Religion and politics tend to be quite sensitive topics for various people and I believe that they do not go together very well either. Like you said, the population is diverse therefore there is a diversity of religions in the United States. Bringing more religion into politics would not be the greatest idea. There is already much tension and I think it would create more tension between the government and the people, especially if the religion that the government decides to incorporate is opposed by other religions. I also think that instead of solving various problems, there will actually be more that arise. There would most likely be more political unrest.

    I agree with your question: which religion would the government choose to integrate? If they were to choose one religion over the other, it would be seen as playing favourites, wouldn’t it? How will they be able to choose without offending other religions?
    Your ISIS example makes sense and I found it to be really interesting too. Overall, I really enjoyed reading your blog post and learning about all of this and getting your opinion.

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