What Does the Traditional Sociology Literature Assert Regarding the Role of Religion and Political Rule?
Sociologists have always recognized the "double function" of religion in the legitimation of power and privilege and in protest and opposition, but theories of secularization and modernization predicted the declining significance of religion in contemporary public life, new approaches to religious activism and legitimation efforts in the United States and in the world-system that stress the interrelatedness of religion and politics.
Questions concerning the place of religion in politics and public life have taken on renewed significance in numerous contexts in the twenty-first century, particularly within the discipline of international relations (IR). Despite the enduring influence of religion in the international sphere, discussion of religion in IR is often still influenced by a notable ‘secular bias’, ‘the unquestioned acceptance of the secularist division between religion and politics’. Yet, the dominance of this secularist bias is increasingly being challenged and scholars are beginning to explore alternative ways of conceptualising the relationships between the religious and the political. This special issue makes a specific contribution to this recent turn within IR by noting and interrogating the multiple ways in which the boundaries between the religious and the political blur in contemporary politics. Our contributors explore the multifarious dimensions of this critical issue by asking whether the relationship between religion and politics has taken on significant new forms and dimensions in our contemporary globalised age or if we are simply beginning to recognise a pattern that has always been present.
Contemporary philosophical defenses of outright establishment of a church or faith are few, but a famous defense of establishment was given by T. S. Eliot in the last century (1936, 1967). Trained as a philosopher (he completed, but did not defend, a dissertation at Harvard on the philosophy of F. H. Bradley) and deeply influenced by Aristotle, Eliot believed that democratic societies rejected the influence of an established church at their peril, for in doing so they cut themselves off from the kind of ethical wisdom that can come only from participation in a tradition. As a result, he argued, such a society would degenerate into tyranny and/or social and cultural fragmentation. Even today, there are strains of conservatism that argue for establishment by emphasizing the benefits that will accrue to the political system or society at large (Scruton, 1980). According to this line of thought, the healthy polis requires a substantial amount of pre- or extra-political social cohesion. More specifically, a certain amount of social cohesion is necessary both to ensure that citizens see themselves as sufficiently connected to each other (so that they will want to cooperate politically).
In summary, 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.
Burtt, Shelley, “Religious Parents, Secular Schools: A Liberal Defense of Illiberal Education” The Review of Politics 56.1 (1994): 51-70.
Callan, Eomann, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997. An exploration of civic education in light of Rawlsian political liberalism.
Coleman, John A., ed. Christian Political Ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Dagger, Richard. Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Eliot, T. S. “Catholicism and International Order.” Essays, Ancient and Modern. London: Faber and Faber, 1936.