Religion In Politics

By Dr Nicola Davies

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has been in the news this month voicing his opinions on a number of political issues. He criticised the coalition government for burdening Britain with “radical, sale long-term policies for which no-one voted”. He raised concerns over the “extremist atrocities” faced by Christians in the Middle East and also stated that benefit cuts risk dividing society into the “deserving” and “undeserving”. While the Archbishop, obviously, believes religion can guide politics towards the greater good.  Many, on the other hand, want new laws to reduce the influence of religion on issues relating to family and criminal matters.  Lady Cox, cross-bench member of the canadian pharmacy levitra House of Lords, has proposed a bill opposing Sharia law and the belief by some Muslims that it supersedes the law of the land. As a result, British law stands at a precipice as two of its most fundamental covenants the separation of religion and state and the right of religious leaders to freedom of speech are pitted together in opposition. So, does religion have a role within politics?  Is religious input necessary for the greater good of humanity or does Sharia law provide an example of how religious morals should not be allowed to influence secular society? >>


1. The Archbishop is in a position of 50 mg levitra moral standing

IT could be argued that 21st Century society lacks a moral structure.  Indeed, there appears to be a widely held consensus that religion can bring morality to modern society. This is the opinion of a number of prominent public figures, including the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford and author of Faith in Politics? Rediscovering the order prescription cialis Christian Roots of Our Political Values. In particular, Lord Harries believes that religion encourages taking politics and voting seriously, something which is currently lacking within society.  He states: “The Christian faith is not just about what goes on in personal relationships…It actually has something important to contribute to public life, not least helping people to take public life seriously.”

2. Religion has an historic and global link with national governance

IN the 1960s, it was predicted that as western societies progressed religion would disappear.  Yet, this has not been the case and Jurgen Habermas, German sociologist and philosopher, has spoken of the “unexhausted force of religion”. The United States is perhaps the best example of how religion still has a significant presence within society. Despite there being a constitutional barrier separating the church and state, the majority of cialis generic canada Americans want their leaders to be religious. A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 72% agreed with the statement: “The President should have strong religious beliefs.” -It is clear from these figures that the Church represents the views of many people.

3. The Archbishop has the same right to free speech as everyone else

BRITAIN is a nation that supports freedom of speech and equality, and these rights should be extended to the Church. Lord Harries believes that all religions should be treated equally and look there that freedom of speech for religious groups and their contribution to politics “is essential for the health of our democracy.”  The religio-politics blog “Archbishop Cranmer” is all for freedom of speech for religious leaders. It was quick to blog: “Three cheers for the Archbishop of Canterbury… [Dr Williams’] is braving not just Conservative and Lib Dem politicians, but the National Secularists and the British Humanists who believe religion should be eradicated from the public sphere.”

4. Involvement in politics is essential for greater good

RELIGIOUS groups dedicated to ending world poverty, debt and suffering cannot do so without some involvement in politics. The power of faith groups can be seen with initiatives such as the Living Wage, where they successfully lobbied the Government to increase the minimum wage. Furthermore, few would contradict the Church’s view that families are fundamental for a healthy society.  The Mothers’ Union – a religious group that are part of the Church of England – have carried out a number of campaigns dedicated to helping families. Their campaign, Bye Buy Childhood, focused on the prohibition of child access to sexualised media, and their most recent work has been on Let Children Be Children – a report to the UK government carried out by their Chief Executive Reg Bailey.  In the report the Union emphasises their wish to see the end of children being targeted and exposed to “sex sells” marketing.

5. The Church offers consistency

OVER the centuries, the Church has endured every form of civil government known to man. While nations and governments come and viagra legal go, religion has prevailed. Indeed, the Church – the world’s oldest living institution – has a history of maintaining the same hierarchical structure, the same doctrine on faith and morals and the same sacramental system. The core set of beliefs within the Christian religion are the 10 Commandments, which is believed to literally be set in stone. In contrast, the political system is an ever shifting conveyer-belt of policy and legislation, much of which is trial and error.  Few policies ever live up to the rhetoric used to pass them into law.


1. The historic link is less relevant in the 21st Century

THE influence of religion in politics has declined in recent years as society has moved away from the Church for guidance and secular ideas have become more dominant. In March 2011, the House of Lords held a seminar chaired by the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman, on the interaction between religion and politics in the 21st Century. During this seminar, it was argued that advances in science and technology have made religion redundant. For example, historically, people used prayer when confronted with illness. Today, we contact our doctor. We also live in a world of civil rights and free market economics, would we want to have these freedoms curbed by religious institutions based on the rules that they follow?

2. Religious moral positions can be subjective

MORALITY and religion should not be assumed to sit side by side, nor should it be assumed that the values derived from religion are better for protecting the underprivileged or discriminated. Indeed, it could be argued that Sharia law discriminates women by giving a woman’s testimony only half the weight of a man’s. In fact Lady Cox was so concerned that “Muslim women are suffering discrimination” that she proposed a bill that bans this Sharia practice. In addition, many international disputes have a religious factor, including the Middle East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian cabinet minister, claims former U.S. President George W. Bush told him: “I’m driven by a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”

3. There is a conflict between religion and secular values

THERE are a number of important issues whereby religion and politics are directly opposed and cannot reach consensus. For example, in the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey, 71% of religious people and 92% of non-religious people stated they believe in assisted suicide for people with incurable disease.  In addition, 29% of religious people believe pre-marital sex is wrong, compared to 3% of non-religious people. A current example of conflict between secular and religious values is the right of homosexual couples to marry and adopt children – this goes against many of the deeply held views of some religions.

4. Mixing religious belief with political action is wrong

THIS perspective was voiced by Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover, who said: “The primate of the Church of England, and the leader of the 70m worldwide Anglican Communion, should not enter the hurly-burly of politics.” He goes on to state that the Archbishop of Canterbury has created “a storm” that may “harm his office and the Church of England”. Religious beliefs impact upon the actions of an individual by adding an inherently irrational element to their thought process. This is why Tony Blair’s admission  that his faith was“hugely important” in his decisions during the Iraq War garnered so much criticism as it was argued his decisions should have been based on what was good for the country, not on his religious beliefs. We also have to remember that if we open the political doors to one religion, then surely we have to listen and accept practices from all religions? Three political parties bickering over what’s right and wrong is messy enough, but can you imagine if there were eight factions arguing over policy – nothing would ever be achieved.

5. Britons do not want religion to be involved in politics

IN the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey, 75% of respondents said their religious leaders should not attempt to influence their votes, and 67% felt that religious leaders should stay out of all government decision making. Almost half of the British population (45%) took the view that laws and policy-related decisions would be worse if religious leaders were involved. There is also contention around the issue of whether religious faith can lead to intolerance as 73% of Britons believe that “people with very strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others.” Agreement was highest among the non-religious (at 82%), but even 63% of religious people agreed with this statement.



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