The Unholy Marriage of Politics and Religion | Opinions
If you’ve taken a history class, you’ll probably notice a striking marriage between politics and religion. Since the beginning of history, politics and religion have gone hand in hand, in time of war, in time of peace and everything in between. Open any historical text and you might find references to gods, god, and any host of supernatural beings. Some of the most important religious texts of the modern era, including the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah, have rules and regulations regarding political activity and social and political hierarchies. This is nothing new, political scientists have theorized about the ways in which politics and religion are used in human society, from ancient times to modern years. As students who will enter mainstream society in the near future, understanding the ways in which religion and politics interact and dance with each other is essential to understanding the great forces at play in our society, our politics and even our economy.
“There is nothing more important than appearing religious. “
One of the most important texts that one must read to understand the impact of religion on politics is “The prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli. This text is essential for understanding how religion and politics coexist and regularly influence our lives. This quote and its truth can be seen clearly even through modern days. American presidents like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have all been religious. If they were really religious, we’ll never know. What we can know for sure, however, is that religious presentations are critical from state and local political landscapes. It has been said that in order to gain most political office in the United States, you have to present yourself as a Christian. This is because most Americans are Christians, and therefore their representatives must also be Christians. America is not the only country where politics and religion are undeniably linked.
In much of the pre-modern era, including the 1400s to the 1600s, politics and religion were even more intertwined than they are today. In Martin Luther’s day, there were separate Protestant and Catholic nations. In addition, countries would adopt one of the religions as a method of conflict or peace with other nations. Do you want your nation to become Italy’s ally? Just announce that your nation is Catholic. Interested in angering the Papal States? Just announce that you are now a Protestant King. Politics and religion are found not only married in a Christian context, but also in other major religions.
Take, for example, the pre-modern state of Israel. Read the Torah and you will find stories of God himself choosing kings, as well as rules and regulations for social and political life. Punishments are inflicted on those who do not obey their parents, and religion has played an active role in daily life. Despite Israel’s current claim to the same land in the modern era, the current state of Israel is not the same as the pre-modern state of Israel, based primarily on the fact that the state modern is an explicitly secular state.
The last example I will give is that of modern Arab states, particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that these two states have a terrible relationship, they both based their political environment on their religious ideologies. According to the US Department of State, regarding Iran: “The constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and specifies Shia Twelver Ja’afari Islam as the state’s official religion. It states that all laws and regulations must be based on “Islamic criteria” and an official interpretation of Sharia law. (2) Saudi Arabia is similar because it also bases its political and legal system on certain interpretations of Islamic texts. The United States has this to say about Saudi Arabia: “The legal system is based largely on Sharia law as interpreted by the Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence.” (2)
Based on the information presented, it is clear that from Judaism to Islam to Christianity, religion and politics have been undeniably linked, and the way they influence each other extends well before the modern era. As we continue to shape our political and religious worlds, it is essential that we respect the separation of church and state, and while it may seem impossible, I believe that sustaining a secular state that respects everyone’s religions is the best way to have an efficient society, religious scene, political atmosphere and economy.