Category Archives: religion in government

What Religion in Politics and Government Gets Us

Whether it be man made statues of wood and stone or a set of beliefs that regulates daily life, man has yearned for evidence of something to believe in bigger than themselves. This ongoing search for an all knowing entity has taken many forms over the centuries. What has not changed are the results of allowing a personal belief system to become a societal requirement.

The problems resulting from allowing or even requiring personal belief systems to be imposed on others have been evident for centuries. Since the invention of the written word, history shows us how one person’s belief system or one society’s belief system can lead to violence when that belief system is imposed on those of another belief system.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world whose beginning was rooted in religious freedom. In the 1947 case of Reynolds v. United States Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.” Even so, some claim this interpretation goes much too far in explaining Jefferson’s original intent. It’s claimed by some, “In its original context, this passage meant that the U.S. would not have an official “state Church” like England. The English government officially supported the Church of England, using taxes to support Anglicanism. The founding fathers, who promoted the Revolutionary War, did not want the same kind of church.  Those promoting a closer relationship between church and state go on to claim, “This is the extent of this passage from the First Amendment. There is nowhere in the Constitution that forbids individuals from mixing faith and politics or from sharing their faith in a state-related function or location. Twelve of the original 14 states required religious tests for those seeking public office.”

A cursory look at present day news, as well as a review of history, is full of examples as to the results of one belief system being imposed on those of another belief system. A prime example of imposing one society’s religious beliefs on others are the “Crusades” sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.  Christians wanted access to the holy places in and around Jerusalem and Muslims stood in the way. The two-hundred year struggles known as the Crusades ended with the fall of the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land at Acre. Even today there is disagreement among historians about the results of the Crusades. Some view”…the Crusades as part of a purely defensive war against Islamic conquest and their belief system being imposed on others. In the 1950s, Sir Steven Runciman wrote that “High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed … the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God“.   The bottom line is that if Christians had not seen anything religiously important about Jerusalem there would have been no Crusades.

Fast forward to the twentieth century and we see another example of how religion can influence and exacerbate war. In a review of Robert McKenzie’s book, “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade”, Philip Jenkins points out, “The details may have varied from nation to nation, but once the shooting started in the summer of 1914, each of the major warring powers wound up embracing the language of holy war. This was more than a little ironic, given that World War I was effectively a civil war among Christians: With the exception of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, all of the leading warring nations shared a common religious ideology. Rather than wrestling with that unsettling irony, however, all sides rushed to condemn enemy nations as ungodly and to “proclaim fellow believers as de facto infidels.”

Robert Tracy McKenzie shows how Jenkins further claims, Examples abound. Russians denounced Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm as the Antichrist. German writers equated Britain with the great whore of Babylon described in Revelation. English bishops informed their countrymen that they were God’s “predestined instruments to save the Christian civilization of Europe.”………..

Robert Tracy McKenzie concludes “A century ago, Christians across the West enthusiastically rallied to nationalistic causes that wounded Christianity and wreaked untold misery. And they did so using the language of religious fervor that we now associate with radical Islam. As we recall the catastrophe of a century ago, The Great and Holy War reminds us “how easily ideas of the church militarist emerge in times of crisis.” May we heed this sobering and necessary reminder.

Today we see the results of intolerable religion in modern day life and government in the form of al-Qaeda and ISIS. The initials ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its stated aim is to have one unified Sunni Islamic state in all areas they control. ISIS compels people in the areas it controls, under the penalty of death, torture or mutilation, to declare Islamic creed, and live according to its interpretation of Sunni Islam and sharia law. The violence is not just directed toward non-Muslims but rather anyone not adhering to the tenants of Sunni Islam.

A cursory review of history and today’s headlines will show that religion has played and will continue to play an enormous role in major wars. With that being a proven fact, when is man going to learn that religion should play no role in public affairs or government anywhere in the world?? When, if at all, will man realize the only governing rule should be, “Treat others as you would like to be treated”?? Then, and only then, can we hope for a fair and non-violent world.

 

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