I hope this is the right place to post this... I have been thinking.
What happens when politics and religion come together?
We usually understand politics in terms of governments and people running the country. Most people are familiar with Tony Blair and George Bush and we
are aware that the public are a part of politics, because once every 4 or 5 years, we vote at elections in order to choose who we want to run the
country. So politics is all about the public allowing politicians to be in charge of us by running things like the National Health Service and the
Education System for our benefit.
Politicians seek ‘power’, so it makes sense for the public to consider ‘how’ the use their power. In ‘democratic’ countries like Great Britain, we
vote to remove governments if we feel that they are overusing their power in order to change things in ways the we do not agree with.
Some countries are not democratic which means that people often take power by ‘force’ or ‘inherit’ power through tradition as in the case of many
Kings or Queens. In non-democratic countries, problems can arise if the population starts to disagree with the leaders of those countries. A good
example of this is the case of Zimbabwe in Africa. The President there is unpopular at this time and he is keeping his power and control by force
using the army and police to arrest or attack people who are unhappy with the President’s decisions. This is an ‘abuse’ of power in a country which
says it is democratic but fails to change its leaders even when those leaders are no longer wanted by the majority of the people!
Now, what has any of this got to do with religion?
Well, let’s define religion in the first place. Simply put, religions are ‘belief systems’ which people put their ‘faith’ into, usually in order to
live a happy, well behaved and altruistic life.
Also, religion gives ‘meaning’ to many people’s lives in terms of answering questions like.... why do we exist? Or.... where do we come from? So
religion is a very powerful force in many people’s lives and has been for thousands of years!
So, ‘power’ is an ingredient in both politics and religion with both having a powerful influence over the way we live our lives. The desire for power
naturally leads to ‘competition’ and this takes the form of politicians competing to run countries the way they see ‘fit’ or best. As we said before,
in democratic societies, we can remove the politicians if we don’t agree with what they are doing and we can try out a different set of ideas by
voting in a different political party to run the country.
But, problems can arise in the world when a particular religion decides that it has the best ideas and rules and puts those rules into practice in the
place of elected politicians. Note how Bush referred to the war as a ‘crusade’! Politicians can be ‘pushed out’ and forced to conform to these ways
which are usually very traditional and possibly intolerant of other ways of life. The Taliban in Afghanistan is good example of a religious group of
people who replaced the politicians’ rules with a set of extreme religious laws which were forced upon the population. So, in effect, the religious
leaders mixed both religion and politics in order to satisfy their thirst for power. The took a position where they selected certain ideas from the
Koran and interpreted them in a way they saw ‘fit’ to run the country. Example: females not allowed to attend school! The result of these extreme ways
of thinking led to war which has unfortunately resulted in widespread terrorism in many parts of the world since. The events known as 9/11 are linked
to extreme Islamic ideas about how the world should be run.
It is only a particular version of religious activity that causes a problem when politics and religion mix and this version we call ‘Fundamentalism’.
Now, whether we look at Christianity or Islam, we can identify fundamentalist sections within both. We can tell that that they are fundamentalist
because they believe in the ideas presented in their holy books ad the ‘traditional’ ideas which should guide the way we live our lives and cannot be
changed because they have been given to the world by God himself although written down by man. So they are fundamental ideas which no one has a right
I’ve already mentioned Islamic Fundamentalism by talking about the Taliban but there is a Christian version aswell which is sometimes referred to as
the Christian New Right. This movement is powerful in the U.S.A and often has a strong influence on political decisions in that country. The movement
rejects ‘changes’ in society such as legal abortion, rights for homosexuals and scientific ideas like ‘The Big Bang ‘ theory on how the world began!
So they are ‘looking back’ to old ways of understanding the world and refusing to accept any social changes which contradict the teachings of the
bible as they interpret them.
So, religious fundamentalism then is a reaction against the modern period (Modernity) with its new ways of living and new ideas far removed from older
ways of thinking about and understanding the world. In order to try to return to the old ways it often uses politics to get its message across and
unfortunately this can involve violence as we have seen. Some people believe that the problems between Iraq and the U.S.A are based on religious
difference but it is far to complicated to be that simple!
What do you think?
Is religion combined with politics a force for good or a force for evil?
[edit on 26-6-2004 by happyk]
[edit on 26-6-2004 by John bull 1]