Religion is closely related to politics in a number of ways. In the traditional society, religious leaders were both temporal and civil leaders. In 1648, a treaty of Westphalia was signed, which separated politics from the Church. However, religion has always influenced policy making process and decision-making in government. In many parts of the world, religious leaders influence political leaders to come up with policies that are in line with the provisions of religious beliefs.
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However, the main question is how religion influences politics. In the United States, there is a clause in the Bill of Rights referred to as the disestablishment clause, which provides that politics must be kept separate from politics. In established democracies, somebody with questionable religious record stands no chance of being elected. The populace believes that a religious leader would always be willing to listen to the wishes of the majority (Settimba 9).
A non-religious leader is believed to be indifferent to the sufferings of the majority in society. In other words, a non-religious leader would fulfill his or her own interests instead of serving those who elected him or her. During campaigns at state level in the United States, local leaders quote the Bible whenever they want to bring out a certain fact.
In human life, each group has a belief system that is established with the help of religious values. These beliefs influence the political standpoint of an individual in a political system. The media will always evaluate the life of a politician using certain religious principles.
These principles are derived from religious morals and beliefs. In this case, a candidate in an election is identified as a Christian or a Muslim. The religion of a political leader determines the number of votes he or she would gunner in an election. In the United States, politicians associate themselves with Christianity because a majority of voters are Christians.
In the Arab world, a political leader must associate himself with Islam because it is a dominant religion in the region. Furthermore, the religious sects must be stated clearly before a political leader is elected. In other countries, religion is the major variable in every electioneering year. It is believed that certain religious affiliations are related to cultural beliefs that affect the performance of leaders in any political system. Recently, the issue of religion emerged in the United States when Obama was said to be a Muslim.
Many people were much worried that Obama was a Muslim. Islam has always been associated with extremism meaning that Muslims are accused of using warped means to attain justice. It was feared that Obama could support Muslims once he became president. However, the president dispelled fears by declaring that he was indeed a Christian. This nearly cost him the presidency (Johnstone 64).
There is a popular belief among Christians that good leaders are usually sent by God. This is based on the Bible whereby many kings and prophets were sent by God to lead Israelites in the times of war and calamities. Political leaders have always presented themselves as leaders sent by God to accomplish certain missions.
Through this, they have been able to ascend to leadership positions. Whenever political leaders make speeches, they quote the Bible to show the electorate that they understand the Christian principles. The idea that political leaders must come up with policies favoring the poor is based on the teachings of the Bible. The Bible and the Koran teaches that people must always be assisted to achieve their potentials in society.
It is not the interest of the ruling class to help the poor. The main aim of the ruling class is to amass wealth and use the proletariat to ascend to power. Political parties that tend to favor the poor in their manifestos have always clinched political power. Social justice ideology is based on the teachings of the Bible because the poor must have equal access to resources including healthcare, education, and employment.
Religious fundamentalism was first used in the United States to refer to those individuals who opposed the principles of the mainstream church. Those who subscribed to the ideas of the Protestant Churches were perceived as religious fundamentalists. In other words, fundamentalism was interpreted to mean diverting from the mainstream faith.
However, what should be clear is that fundamentalists had pertinent issues with the mainstream church since the mainstream church never allowed competition. Religious fundamentalists observed that it was critical to follow the teachings of the Bible instead of subscribing to the interpretations provided by the religious leaders. Religious leaders interpreted the teachings in the Bible to suit their interests.
Many people were not happy with this behavior. The mainstream church interpreted the Bible in accordance to the new dynamics of the modern world. However, fundamentalists were never happy about this. They believed that it would be better to stick to the teachings of the Bible. In the modern society, fundamentalism is used loosely to mean diverting from the normal beliefs and principles of major religions (McGuire 76).
Fundamentalism is a relatively new term in the sociology of religion because it was first used in the 19th century. The modern society is complex to understand because of the changes brought about globalization and technology. Therefore, fundamentalism in the modern society has a different meaning. Religion in the modern society serves a different purpose as compared to its role in the traditional society. Religion is an instrument that brings people together.
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In this regard, it must be used to bring about understanding and unity. This implies that religious teachings are usually interpreted to simplify the complexities in life. Religious fundamentalists do not believe that anything has changed as far as religion is concerned. In this case, modern interpretations must not be accepted because they go against the traditional teachings of religion (Weber 22).
When other people embrace change in society, religious fundamentalists encourage conservatism. To them, religion is absolute meaning that it dictates everything in society. There is a controversy among scholars regarding the use of the term because fundamentalists are perceived as people who are not intelligent.
Others view them as uneducated individuals who believe religion is everything in society. Religious fundamentalists believe that some things should not be allowed to go on in society. For instance, they oppose science, abortion, feminism, the use of family planning drugs, and homosexuality.
Recently, the term has been associated with Islamic extremists who believe that justice should be sought through terrorism and violence. For Islamic fundamentalists, the main problem in the world is exploitation. The west has always exploited people in other parts of the world, including the Middle East. To them, the main issue is that the west has always neglected the presence of Arabs.
Johnstone, Ronald. Religion in Society: Sociology of Religion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.
McGuire, Meredith. Religion: the Social Context. New York: Sage, 2002. Print.
Settimba, Henry (2009). Testing times: globalization and investing theology in East Africa. Milton Keynes: Author House, 2009. Print.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Los Angeles: Roxbury Company, 2002. Print.