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Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Government and religion

I mentioned something about a religious basis for modern government. I've identified four major varieties of religious belief, the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), Asiatic religions, pagan religions, and secularism.

One of the unsolved problems of political theory is how to balance the roles of religion and government. The solution adopted in medieval Europe was a close alliance of Christianity with government. This led to persecution of heretics and unbelievers, as disbelief in the state religion was equated with political rebellion, as well as a perception of corruption in the church, as high officials accumulated wealth and political power and ignored many of the teachings they professed. The same tendencies are visible in other religions.
In the United States and a few other countries, religious tolerance and pluralism are practiced. The US is constitutionally prohibited from establishing or recognizing a state church. However, this does not and cannot prevent informal mingling of religious and political belief. Social agreement on rights and wrongs of behavior is addressed both by religious belief and law, and on an individual basis, neither clergy, public officials, nor anyone else is in the habit of clearly separating religious from political belief in the areas where they overlap. This has led to a widespread tacit, informal agreement in the US on Judeo-Christian fundamentals, which tolerates secularism as well.
The problems come when atheism, irreligion, and secularism are not recognized as a variety of religious belief. Whether or not those with secular beliefs have an organization comparable to a church, they are just as capable of proposing laws which favor their beliefs as the most fanatical of believers.

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