Religion and Politics Religion Today the Average Thesis

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Religion and Politics

Religion Today

The average day of most individuals is that of waking up early, rushing to work to give 110% of themselves and their efforts and then rushing back home to give another 100% to the family chores. In this dynamic and stressful environment, a question is being posed relative to the role of religion. While some will argue that religion plays a decreasing role in our modern society, others will state that its importance is increasing as more and more people turn to God. The findings actually indicate that the first theory might be more compelling and is supported by the decreasing numbers of churchgoers as well as by the increasing numbers of books condemning religion (such as Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything or Richard Dawkins' the God Delusion), and their growing numbers of buyers.

Despite the statistically-based evidence, Charles Taylor (2000) argues that the role of religion is not decreasing within the overall contemporaneous society, but that it is simply taking a more private and individualistic role. His findings indicate that:

"(1) Our North Atlantic world is and will continue to be more secular and neutral in its public life, that is, that the public sphere is and will have to be more and more "neutral," and religion more and more a "private" affair;

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(2) This world is marked by a more and more pronounced individualism, in all spheres, including the religious; so that large, structured churches will lose members. And the gap will be filled by a less structured spirituality."

Regardless of the stand taken by each researcher or observer, history has shown that religion is a powerful tool. With this realization came the observation of its intersection with politics. Despite the general perception that the two fields are extremely different, history has shown us that they do indeed cross paths at times. The aim of this research is to reveal how religion and politics intersect.

2. Religion and Politics

TOPIC: Thesis on Religion and Politics Religion Today the Average Assignment

In its broadest explanation, religion represents the set of beliefs of a wide group of individuals and mainly revolves around the afterlife of the individual and the existence of a divinity. In some religions, more than one divinities are cherished. To religious people, their beliefs are a way of being and living life. Politics on the other hand is more exact, it represents the means of ruling a country or an institution. It is generally impacted by facts, figures and numbers. However, since religious people are often involved and/or impacted by the political decisions, the two fields come to intersect.

The relationship between religion and politics is obvious at two distinct levels -- first of all, there is the individual level, at which religion influences the approach to politics. This could be obvious in terms of a religious inclination to participate or not in the political act. Secondly, there is the broader level, where religion reacts to a political decision. Examples in this sense include the numerous religious reactions to women's right for abortion or to gay marriages.

In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between politics and religion, it is necessary to reveal several elements at the basis of this relation. These will be addressed throughout the following section and include the impact of churches onto the political act, the evolution of human rights and the role of religious conflicts.

3. Intersections of Politics and Religion

3.1. The Role of Churches in Political Life

A central element in many religions is the church, or the place of gathering and worshiping. In many instances, the church has an ability to influence the lives and decisions of its members. It can send out messages that stimulate people to be kinder, give more or even to protest against some features of the modern life, such as the women's right for abortion. Churches can as such intervene to influence their members in terms of politics as well. "Churches can be understood as institutions that shape their members' behavior. Specifically, different types of churches provide their members with varying behavioral incentives for participation in religious activity, which in turn have systematic implications for participation in political activity" (Campbell, 2004).

At a general level, churches inspire their members to be more active and promote the civic spirits of fairness, liberty and justice. They also promote values such as nondiscrimination or protection of the loved ones. Also, an active political role is revealed by the growing numbers of churchgoers who exercise their voting rights. All these have a positive impact on politics in the meaning that they motivate churchgoers to become involved in the political life and promote these values for the development of a better society. With this recognition in mind however, Campbell focuses on the time it takes for church members to fulfill their church related operations, including voluntary work. He argues that the time spent in church negatively impacts politics in the meaning that the time could be spent in efforts of political development. "For the members of […] churches, the heavy commitment they make to voluntarism within their church is negatively related to political participation" (Campbell).

3.2. Religion and Human Rights

Studies in international affairs reveal that, throughout the fast five decades, more and more emphasis has been placed on human rights. The standards of living and the recognition and respect of basic human rights have increased throughout most of the globe. Simultaneously, the past five decades have also revealed a growing influence of religion within political acts and decisions. Regardless of the form in which they are presented -- religious movements, religious freedom or religious terrorism -- fact remains that religions are have gained an increasing capability to influence political actions, and this was best revealed in the fields of human rights.

Barbara Ann Rieffer (2006) takes the case of Christianity and assesses its role in the development and protection of human rights. She identifies that the values of Christianity are pivotal to the creation and maintenance of a "healthy democratic policy […] and a humane world that values human rights and human diversity. […] Religious ideas can promote democracy, human rights and peace by playing an active role in civil society" (Rieffer).

3.3. Religion and Conflict

Sadly enough, religion has often been assimilated with conflict and this may constitute a reasonable explanation as to why some authors strived to deny the role of religion. The list of examples of conflicts linked to religion is extremely wide and may in it self constitute the subject of extensive research. Some of the most notable situations however include the crusades to the Holly Land of Israel, which strived to restore the power of Christianity over the Muslim religion; the ongoing wars between Israelis and Palestinians for the territory both parties consider rightfully theirs; riots between Hindis and Muslims in India, or the war on terrorism, launched by the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With these conflicts in mind, it becomes harder to disagree with Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels argument that "the specter of religion is haunting the world" (Demerath, 2007).

The breaking of these religious conflicts generally ends with devastating results on both parties, due to the casualties incurred. The simple emergence of the conflicts takes a political turn in numerous instances, such as the creation of a necessity for the international community to take a stand, or even to take action -- a relevant example in this sense is constituted by the U.S.' determination to begin the war on terror and the ongoing disputes with the other international parties, which did not entirely share the American views.

Other political implications of religious conflicts include the necessity for new legislations, the reallocation of national resources to support the conflicts or the fact that threats and effects are common also to those not directly involved in the conflict and not necessarily religious. The case of the United States once more constitutes a relevant example. The determination of the Bush administration to eliminate terrorism has materialized in the death of thousands of American citizens -- the official numbers are not disclosed to the public, but the rough estimate is of 72,000 American soldiers (Bruce, 2008) -- and a sky rocking federal debt, which will require the taxes of three generations to be paid. The reallocation of more of the national resources to the army and defense has translated into fewer finances to improve the infrastructure and public services -- roads, bridges, schools, medical facilities etc. -- and this impacted all individuals living within the United States, not just the religious ones.

4. Conclusions

Religion is a fairly complex subject, having created long lasting disputes and even conflicts. Today, the general perception is that the practice of religion is becoming more personal, leading as such to fewer churchgoers. Nevertheless, the role of religion within the political arena has been met with significant growths throughout the past decades.

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