The Five Ways Religion May Affect Politics

People tend to assume that when mixing religion and politics into social issues it is regarding abortion, gay marriages, and contraceptives. When combining religion into politics it often starts at a group level rather than an individual. Ryan LaMothe introduces how religion can affect political beliefs at the individual level. Almost every political figure will attempt to stray away from combining religion into politics, however it can end up mixing. On the political end, religion often plays a part on how an individual will choose to vote or who they will choose to campaign for. On the religious end, people often change their beliefs to accustom their political beliefs. A great example of religion mixing with politics is the current issue with ISIS. The ISIS group are Islamic extremist who induce fear into civilians by using violence. Overall, Islam is a peaceful religion, one of their pillars that is worshipped is charity. Muslims are required to give to those are in need. Also, they have a prescribed charity known as the zakat, where one is supposed to donate two and a half percent of their income or wealth. In daily life, everything that is considered to be harmful either to the body, mind, soul, or to society is haram, or in other words prohibited. ( ISIS has been making headlines because of their beheadings of innocent individuals, kidnapping, looting, and rapes. ISIS is a group who believes in Islamic faith, however, they choose to commit acts that are haram and disregard Islamic beliefs so that they can induce fear and power.

The first way that religion can affect politics is that religion tends to have a ‘lingering influence’ on an individual’s political beliefs. A person who believed in a particular religion at a young age often remembers certain symbols or narratives, even if they no longer practice that religion. For instance, the saying “love thy neighbor” can be translated into political activism for fighting for those who are in need. A political figure could focus fighting for the poor in the same manner he would dedicate himself to a religion.

The second way is the opposite of the first way, where the political figure starts with no religious affiliate but then converts to a particular religion or creates a religion according to their political style. In doing so, the way the go about in their political beliefs shifts. For example, after the First World War the Nazi rapidly emerged. They were a political group who created their own rituals and traditions to accompany their political goals. The Nazi created a religion based off their political movement of attempting to create a pure Aryan race.

LaMothe states that the third way involves no religious conversion. It begins with children who are constantly exposed to their family’s religious lifestyle and apply it to their political beliefs. This can be seen in the liberation theory in South America. The liberation theory is a political movement that was executed by the Roman Catholic clergy in order to improve living conditions in South Africa. The clergy’s political activism was influenced by religion because Catholicism committed them to aid those in need.

The fourth way places primacy on politics instead of any religious affiliation the individual may hold. The individual may practice a religion, however the degree of their involvement is unknown. The person may take some inspiration from a religion which could drive or motivate their political stance. In this case, politic has greater importance than religion, but the individual claims to be a part of certain religion even if there is no noticeable effects.

The last way is contrary to the fourth point, there is primacy on religion over politics. Certain religious experiences can cause an individual to completely reject the political realm. In this scenario, an individual chooses to estrange themselves from politics because of their religious beliefs. An example of this in a group form is the Amish, they are a religious group who choose to exclude themselves as a community from the world.

Religion and politics can coincide without getting mixed and if we combine the two it can lead to many issues for both voters and political figures. Religion can play a part in politics, however the more involved it is with politics the more complications may arise. In the case of ISIS, there are negative remarks being made about Islam, but Islam is completely irrelevant to the criminal acts of ISIS. LaMothe states five ways religion can affect politics but there is no significant benefits to combing the two.

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One thought on “The Five Ways Religion May Affect Politics

  1. This article effectively shows how religion shapes political worldview. It is through politics that individuals can implement or shape the world according to their worldview. Worldview can be defined as “a set of presupposition (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or unconsciously) about the basic-makeup or our world” (Sire, 1988, p.17). The author example effectively shows how a mixture of politics and religion shapes worldview. ISIS worldview mixes religion and politics that promote extreme interpretation of religion that allows religion violence and any opposition to that interpretation means the person is an infidel (including Muslims). Religion influencing vote choice as the author suggests can be seen with the Canadian Catholics overwhelmingly in elections vote for the Liberal parties. The reason we see such link has not been established, and it seems ironic because Catholics are socially conservative, but the Liberal party does not promote it. I am of the belief that religion also shapes a secular government worldview. It is shaped with the worldview that politics and religion should not mix due to its negative consequences, and as the author pointed out, Isis is the biggest example. Her look on political religion is important because it negate the idea that there is a secular state in which religion and politics do not mix. Religion and Politics do not only mix when it involves the dominant Abrahamic religions but also when a state “creates a religion according to their political style.” I have to disagree vehemently with the author that “there are no significant benefits” in combining religion and politics.” The author in her work showed the benefit of mixing religion with politics with the idea of “love thy neighbour” has allowed for political activism in areas of gay rights and to end racial segregation. Mixing of religion and politics is the foundation of the welfare state in Canada; stating that mixing both is not beneficial is not true (Hexham, 2014).


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